Christine Jensen Jazz Orchestra – Habitat – Justin Time JTR 8583-2, 67:00 ****:
It takes just two fingers to count the number of large jazz orchestras that are lead by women and which have a consequential measure of creativity attached to them. Maria Schneider (the musician) is the first name that is readily recognizable, and the other, less so, Christine Jensen. That Christine is Canadian, based in Montreal Quebec, has much to do with it. However regardless of nationality and location, the music that Christine Jensen has composed and arranged for Habitat should bring her the international acknowledgement that her music deserves.
The music is not without its challenges. The pieces are essentially extended compositions that are harmonically intricate, densely arranged, with a sleek blending of color and texture. For the most part, the members of the band, are musicians from the Montreal area but their names would not be recognizable beyond those individuals who follow the band from close proximity. There is one exception, in that trumpeter Ingrid Jensen, Christine’s sister, does marvelous solo work on several of the compositions. Ingrid is widely known in jazz circles as a proficient hard-bop trumpeter, influenced by Miles Davis and Art Farmer, who tours regularly with her own group.
“Timelines” starts the proceedings and is a work that was commissioned for the University of Nebraska-Lincoln jazz orchestra and features Ingrid Jensen on trumpet and Donny Kennedy on alto sax. Describing the music and the manner in which it lays out is fraught with word difficulties. Suffice it to say there is a musical statement of purpose, filled with tension, and Ingrid Jensen’s trumpet finds a way to bridge each tonal section in stellar fashion. “Tumbledown” which follows, was written with Haiti in mind after the earthquake which devastated its capital Port-au-Prince. Capturing this tragedy in music is no small feat but with a contrapuntal expressiveness and precisely measured lines, Jensen brings this story to life. Throughout the balance of the album, whether it is the big-band style of “Blue Yonder” or the waltz-influenced “Sweet Adelphi” the talents of the Jensen sisters are abundantly clear and Habitat adds to the reputation each rightly warrants.
TrackList: Treelines; Tumbledown; Blue Yonder; Nishiyuu; Interaction; Sweet Adelphi