Arts &
  Arts Culture Analysis  
Vol. 6, No. 2, 2007

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Robert J. Lewis
  Senior Editor
Mark Goldfarb
  Contributing Editors
Bernard Dubé
Phil Nixon
Robert Rotondo
Marissa Consiglieri de Chackal
  Music Editors
Emanuel Pordes
Diane Gordon
Serge Gamache
  Arts Editor
Lydia Schrufer
Mady Bourdage
Emanuel Pordes
  Past Jazz Contributors

Tommy Emmanuel
John Stetch
Susie Arioli
Coral Egan
Diana Krall
Stacey Kent
Carol Welsman
Aldo Romano
Denzal Sinclaire
Madeleine Peyroux
Bireli Lagrene
Sonido Isleño
Provost & Lachapelle
Kevin Breit
Sophie Milman
Annie Poulain
Badi Assad
Donato & Bouchard
Montreal Jazz Festival 2006







Piano Keyboard


by Robert J. Lewis

Featured artist: INGRID JENSEN
© Marcel Dubois

There were no smiles when Ingrid Jensen led her group on stage at La Maison de la Culture Frontenac (Montreal). As the musicians quietly gathered their instruments and thoughts, the audience couldn't decide if it were being put on alert or subtly cued -- for what would only become apparent with the unfolding of the music.

I found myself flashing back to the mid 70s, when I first saw a clip of John Coltrane and his revered quartet. The footage was part of a PBS documentary on the jazz greats. What struck me about the event -- even more than the music they played -- was the gravity of the undertaking as it registered in their faces. The group’s concentration and intent were so forceful, I remember being left with the distinct impression that these were musicians who were absolutely convinced that the act of creation is man’s last defense against civilizations succumbing to their worst instincts. It was as if the 4-some (+ Jones, Tyner and Garrison) had staked its very life on the music where every member was willing to risk everything for it.

Ingrid Jensen’s music is of this kind of seriousness, thrown into bold and unbowdlerized relief by the era of the music video that mostly caters to self-absorbed groups and solo artists -- many of whom do not write their own music -- who co-opt the medium to express, in the case of males, either their extravagant groupie fantasies or multi-race love-ins, and the women, their exhibitionist/seduction fantasies. Without naming names, jazz videos are not exempt from this kind of trivialization which makes some of us, I’m sure, long for days of the corner vomitorium. To whatever degree we rue these developments, they provide the necessary turn-off for us to turn to and embrace Ingrid Jensen and her refreshingly no-nonsense approach to composition and performance.

Jensen’s music is the antithesis of entertainment; it’s the difference between vacation and voyage where the former encourages the obliteration of the self, the latter, the self’s reconstitution. In contrast to muscians for whom making an impression eclipses the making of the music, Ingrid Jensen and her group carry themselves like philosopher kings who have fought hard for their art and who know many battles lie ahead and many hearts to be won.

She introduced her latest CD, At Sea, as a tribute to Miles Davis, perhaps to ready and steady an audience she suspected might not be primed for the challenges and unexpected directions her ambitious music pries open, especially that segment of the audience who would be familiar with her very capable but more conservative sax playing sister, Christine Jensen

Whatever Ingrid owes to Miles and others, her biggest debt is owed to her resolve and refusal to compromise exploratory instincts that make exceptional demands on both herself and her musicians as they go about looking for new ways to shape and modulate sound, which of course risks temporarily stranding even the adventuresome listener in the middle of something not yet fully realized.

Most of the compositions, which average 10 minutes in length, feature a linearity that is purposefully punctuated with vertices and fault lines that suddenly and superbly shunt the listener to different gravitational fields. It’s the kind of music that consciously seeks out those life arresting moments that thrive on instructive disorientation for their euphoric effects. For this and other reasons, At Sea is not for the faint of ear.

Her group includes the always tuned-in Geoffrey Keezer on piano and highly inventive percussionist Jon Wikan, whose concept drumming both enlarges and makes familiar the unmapped, undomesticated musical spaces that are at the heart of Jensen’s journey. The group is unapologetic in its cultivation of those nether regions of sound from which there is no exit until one is spontaneously created, an outcome that depends on precision team work and the players’ having absolute confidence in each other’s musical imagination. During these precarious but precious make or break moments, the intra-group listening is almost mystical in its intensity, where everything is on the line, where the group’s way out becomes our way in. If a typical track begins in the safe zone, we stay the course because Jensen, who despite a not so recessive gene for melody, doesn’t believe in playing it safe; easy gratifications are snubbed for the road not taken, for the sake of the fresh off the press road map that emerges at the end of the hard day’s night of music making.

While sharing generously in the conquest of new musical territory, Jensen leads by example. On a moment’s notice, her trumpet can produce the floral trappings of a summer pastoral and the next, the energy and abstraction of a Jackson Pollack painting. In At Sea, life and music are as inseparable as water and wave. No wonder an Ingrid Jensen concert feels like a voyage survived, one that begs to be done again -- compass verboten.

If most music makes you feel good, Jensen and her inspired musicians make you feel wiser and stronger – and experienced. Are you experienced?

From At Sea, listen to "Tea and Watercolors."


John Coltrane
Miles Davis
Thelonius Monk
Charlie Mingus
Oscar Peterson
Charlie Parker
Dizzy Gillespie
Wes Montgomery
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