Christine Jensen Jazz Orchestra – Treelines – Justin Time Records JTR 8559-2, 72:45 ****:
Notwithstanding the likes of Oscar Peterson and Diana Krall, solid jazz musicians and composers who toil north of the 49th parallel, not only have challenges gaining recognition in their own country, but are almost completely neglected once they leave it. That is a shame, because listeners are missing out on some real treasures as evidenced by the jazz orchestra lead by Christine Jensen and featuring her sister Ingrid.
For this first big band release Treelines, Jensen brought together a coterie of Montreal-based jazz musicians, who were familiar with her writing style, and who could bring her intricate compositions to life. Developed almost as an extended tone poem, the project is conceived to be evocative of Jensen’s early days in British Columbia where trees and the ocean are such an integral part of life. The first cut “Dancing Sunlight” provides an indication the distinctive spirit and assembly of the music that is to come. "Arbutus" features a luxuriant range of musical sounds through combining the instrumentation of the band to construct a unique consistency. As the bass of Fraser Hollins and the brush work of Martin Auguste lay the foundation of “Red Cedar”, the band then builds the intensity level offering freedom to trumpeter Ingrid Jensen and altoist Erik Hove to fill the gaps.
All Jensen’s compositions are long thoughtful ensemble pieces where the solos are used to tie the various parts together. For example on “Western Yew” which is taken at an intermediate tempo, we can pick up the passionate sonic quality Jensen is trying to convey.” Dark And Stormy Blues” picks up the pace with a double –time dash with guitarist Kenny Bibace particularly effective in his exchanges with the horn section. Throughout all the pieces where she solos – whether on trumpet or flugelhorn – Ingrid Jensen provides her own voice with clarity of tone that engages the listener.
This is a big band that has taken Christine Jensen’s intelligent compositions and arrangements and delivered a compelling album.
TrackList: Dancing Sunlight; Arbutus; Red Cedar; Western Yew; Dropoff; Dark And Stormy Blues; Seafever; Vernal Suite.
— Pierre Giroux