Friday, June 10, 2011

Christine Jensen: Treelines

Justin Time Records
By Ric Bang
Buy CD: Treelines

Christine Jensen probably remains under your radar screen, unless you’re a native Canadian, a regular visitor to that county, or a jazz fan who keeps very close tabs on the genre. This native of British Columbia, a graduate of McGill University’s jazz program, has performed extensively throughout the world. She plays alto and soprano sax; she also composes.

Jensen received a grant from the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Quebec, which included a six-month residency in Paris. While there, she sketched many of her compositions before returning to Canada.

Although her initial work was done for small groups — and featured on two previous releases — Treelines is performed by a really big (21 piece) jazz orchestra. Jensen leads the unit and plays soprano sax. Her sister, Ingrid Jensen, contributes trumpet and flugelhorn solos as part of the brass section.

The reed section is six large, the brass section has five trumpet/flugelhorns and four trombones, and the rhythm section features piano, bass, guitar and percussion.

Artists who earn college degrees in music always receive training in composition; that’s a major factor in their ability — and desire — to write their own material. Decades ago, jazz usually was limited to four meters: 2/4 (Dixieland), 3/4 (waltz), 8/4 (boogie woogie) or 4/4 (straight-ahead). As “progressive” jazz entered the scene, we began to hear more complex time signatures; Jensen is fluent in all of them. She also writes for specific musicians; in her own words, she composes in “three dimensions.”

Treelines contains nine of her original compositions, each featuring multiple soloists. This is truly a concert jazz orchestra; the pieces run from seven to 10 minutes in length, and are all theme oriented, relating to various elements of the Canadian outdoors. This is a serious — and swinging — suite that will draw you back for replays, time and time again.

Jensen is a marvelous talent, and she has created an orchestra fully capable of playing her music.

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