Christine Jensen L'Astral, Montreal QC, July 1
Published Jul 02, 2013Saxophonist Christine Jensen should be better known in the jazz circuit. Her sister Ingrid is a bigger name internationally, but Christine won a Juno a couple of years ago and is considered to be one of this country's finest jazz composers. This show turned out to be somewhat evenly split between her and her sister. Maybe it's a cliché to say that the sisterly bond caused their front line communication to be extremely intuitive, but this was the outstanding feature of the show. Often they would toss around appealing bits of melody to create much larger statements, which created a bigger sound than just two instruments. Then again, Ingrid was cheating, in a manner of speaking, by using a loopstation very effectively making it hard to tell when ghosts of riffs past would sneak into the proceedings.
I didn't even realize until halfway through the show that loops were even a factor — then again, the packed house at L'Astral made it tough to get close. Musically, this was straight-up jazz, no hyphenations with other genres. This music had conventional instrumental roles, with drums, bass and piano in largely supporting roles (though often the piano would act as a bridge between songs) but each was tasteful and occasionally inspired. Waltz times appeared frequently and there was an undercurrent of funk in some numbers as well (one tune sounded like a long lost Strata East jam), but it was very well incorporated.
Given the amount of Wayne Shorter love around the festival this week, it would seem impolite not to name check him as a reference point. As a player, Christine has an understated fluidity with a penchant for a mellow tone and a tendency to dwell in the lower register of her alto with trills and arpeggios. Together with Ingrid's more forceful trumpet, this seemed to push her into the background a bit, but it was a good team effort rather than a sibling struggle. Indeed, Ingrid's tunes took up almost half the set but the compositional affinity between them made it all fit together quite well. This was a fine display of contemporary composition and performance while remaining accessible to mainstream jazz lovers.