REVIEW: Christine and Ingrid Jensen Quintet at the 2017 Montreal Jazz Festival

Christine and Ingrid Jensen, with John Wikan (drums)


Christine and Ingrid Jensen Quintet
(L'Astral. 30th June 2017. Montreal Jazz Festival. Review by Sebastian Scotney)

This was one of those gigs where you check the time when it's over, and - somehow, how did it happen?  - an hour and a quarter has gone by in a trice.

Last year, on the first Friday of the Montreal Festival the Jensen Sisters played, tucked away in the discreet surroundings of the Diese Onze Club. "A gig to remember" I wrote in this REVIEW. The Monday after that 2016 gig they went into a studio in Montreal recorded a very well-received album Infinitude (Whirlwind - REVIEWED HERE).

Last night's gig was the closing of that circle, la boucle bouclée, the final gig of a Canadian tour, presented the material from that album to the Jensens' "home" crowd: composer / saxophonist Christine Jensen is a pivotal figure on the Montreal jazz scene here and earlier in the day she had received the festival's Oscar Peterson Award for her sustained contribution to the Canadian jazz scene in the presence of Peterson's daughter Céline. (picture below).

Christine Jensen reflecting at the press conference on her
Oscar Peterson prize

So where did all the time go in this gig? Trumpeter Ingrid Jensen said in one of her spoken introductions that what they are trying to create is a sense of "music which unfolds organically." And that is exactly what happens. There is the "instant composing" of jazz, but always the idea of composed flow. Perhaps the most perfect example of that was in the tune Garden Hour, which has a kind of wordless recitative section, in which the whole quintet watch each other, wait and listen together, with the aim of finding unanimity outside the confines of a predictable pulse. As a combined act of collective  breathing/thinking it was something very special indeed.

Guitarist  Ben Monder is known as an experimenter with sound but the variety of his contributions to this project seemed almost limitless. His extraordinary fast finger-picking provided a source of harmonic richness in his own composition Echolalia. But he is also a fluent jazz soloist - shut your eyes and Barney Kessel is in the room. The highly impressive and flawless rhythm players Jon Wikan and Fraser Hollins both came to the fore in Octofolk.

The set came to an upbeat close with Kenny Wheeler's cowboy-ish tune Old Time. Both of the Jensen sisters revere Kenny Wheeler, and the whole gig brought out a heartening sense of  community and joy in the shared jazz heritage. That was expressed particularly poignantly when Ingrid Jensen paid homage to what she described as the much-missed Geri Allen's "magic touch". Not just on  the piano, but on "everything she touched, and everyone she met."

The sisters were then joined by their daughters for the final bows and bouquets. This was one of those gigs which didn't just work like a dream musically, it was also a special event.

The final applause

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