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Fresh Breath

Ingrid Jensen Sextet charms crowd at Steel Recital Hall

Review by P. Wentworth Baker

The Ingrid Jensen Jazz Sextet performed in March at the Dr. Steel Recital Hall at the University of Prince Edward Island. The concert was presented as a fundraising event for the Chris Driscoll Scholarship Fund, which was founded in honour of the late Island jazz drummer.

I’ve been to clubs in Toronto, Vancouver and New York, including the legendary Village Vanguard where I remember enjoying a packed McCoy Tyner show. I might have been too young to enjoy the historic significance of this show, although, growing up, I heard a lot of the recording Coltrane Plays the Blues which included Tyner. And I’ve nearly worn out my Miles Davis recordings. I think that Jensen’s sextet presented work that began somewhere around where these jazz giants’ work left off.

Jensen’s sextet demonstrated inspired writing and playing. The members include leader Ingrid Jensen, trumpet and flugelhorn, Christine Jensen, alto and soprano sax, Joel Miller, tenor sax, Fraser Holland, bass, John Wikan drums, and New York musician Jeff Keezer, piano and keyboard.

These musicians play with the ease and togetherness—they were really tight, with perfect timing and very polished chops. As it turns out they are kind of a big family as Ingrid explained. She’s married to John, Christine and Joel are a couple,and Jeff is a close friend and associate. They spend time at work and play together and quite often work with Fraser who is from Montreal. They must put many hours of practice in together; they make it look easy, playing long, involved charts. And such beautiful, sophisticated compositions—all written by members of the group.

Right from the start, with barely an intro, they played music that takes you on a ride, tells a lovely story and leaves you in a new place. Ingrid’s piece “At Sea” is a boat ride with wind in the rigging providing. Christine’s piece “Red Road,” apparently inspired by the PEI landscape, was a real jaunt. My 11-year-old son, a music student who came along, thoroughly enjoyed “Cap’n John” an energetic, energizing piece featuring some terrific drumming. Ingrid’s version of “Moon River” is wonderful and fresh, a few notes into the piece I realized I’d been marvelling at it recently while listening to the radio. It was followed by a neat, quirky piece called “Moon People” written by Joel Miller. The group played music like they would never stop, and the full house really appreciated the performance.

At one point in the second set, the late Chris Driscoll’s grandfather got on stage to speak of his great appreciation of the musicians’ performance in support of the scholarship fund. He also gave emotional thanks to the sextet, which illicited a spontaneous hug from Ingrid, and thanked Dr. Ian Reed and Ian Thoms for organizing the event.

At the concert I picked up Ingrid’s latest CD which is produced by Ingrid and John. Ingrid remarked in her introduction to one tune that she is now operating as a proudly independent musician after years of receiving the short end of the monetary stick from record companies. She now sells her CDs online from www.ingridjensen.com.

 

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