This tour de force performance by Juno award winner Christine Jensen has, perhaps better than any other recording, captured the breadth and power of the Montreal Jazz scene. The arresting suite of compositions leap from the disc "HABITAT", and the recording is graced by the best of Montreal, players that saxophonist Jensen refers to as "little diamonds scattered about this city".
"People sometimes aren't aware of the high level of artistry that goes on here", Jensen reflects, explaining that her compositions serve as architectural constructs for the players, the "poured concrete" of her thoughts. According to Jensen, the spaces are inhabited by the artists, who bring them to life with their own color and creativity.
Indeed, the roster of players bristles with unique talent. Christine's well known sister Ingrid Jensen is prominently featured throughout the album, the New York based trumpeter firmly setting the bar with her utterly slick and tasteful delivery. Ingrid and Christine share solos on the album closer, "Sweet Adelphi", letting loose a torrent of magnanimous emotion. "Sweet Adelphi" quickly crescendos in one of the many memorable, and one might say, 'sticky' themes of the album. Indeed, Christine Jensen has drawn deep lines of melody, that are quickly filled with the irrepressible flow of catchy orchestration.
Lined up behind Ingrid are a number of top shelf players, who step forward for memorable, and at times downright iconic solos. Erik Hove, Donny Kennedy, Sam Blais, Jensen's husband and 2012 Juno winner Joel Miller, each stand and deliver. Drummer Rich Irwin's ever present 'forest pounding' draws the band headlong through the arrangements, and trombonist and fellow composer Jean-Nicolas Trottier contributes fittingly to "Tumbledown", a programmatic piece conjuring the Haiti earthquake of 2010.
Perhaps the pinnacle of this recording is lauded tenor man Chet Doxas' feature, "Nishiyuu". The Cree Nation themed piece radiates both a pathos, and conceptual rigor that begs comparison to the most iconic of Jazz recordings. Indeed, the piece grounds the listener in an emotional trap that is poignant, and deeply rewarding.
Miles Davis' "Kind of Blue", Gil Evans' Porgy and Bess, and contemporary work by Maria Schneider and fellow Canadian Kenny Wheeler; these iconic discs should make room in the pantheon of powerful works of Jazz art for "HABITAT". It is one of them.
All music composed by Christine Jensen © SOCAN
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Christine Jensen Jazz Orchestra
A film by Randy Cole
Studio Piccolo, Montreal, May 12th, 2013
All music composed by Christine Jensen (SOCAN)
CD "HABITAT" is available on Justin-Time Records
Christine Jensen - conductor, soprano saxophone
Donny Kennedy - lead alto & soprano saxophone, flute
Erik Hove - alto saxophone, flute
Joel Miller - tenor saxophone, clarinet
Chet Doxas - tenor saxophone, clarinet
Samuel Blais - baritone saxophone, clarinet
David Grott - lead trombone
Jean-Nicolas Trottier - trombone
Muhammad Abdul Al-Khabyyr - trombone
Bob Ellis - bass trombone
Jocelyn Couture - lead trumpet
Bill Mahar - trumpet
Dave Mossing - trumpet
Aron Doyle - trumpet
Ingrid Jensen - solo trumpet
John Roney - piano
Ken Bibace - electric guitar
Fraser Hollins - upright bass
Richard Irwin - drums
Audio engineer and music producer: Paul Johnston
Filmed and edited by Randy Cole
Second camera operator - Joshua Hansen
Third camera operator - Evan Shay