Ingrid and Christine Jensen with the Whirlwind Recording Artists Jazz Orchestra
(Jazz Steps/ Bonington Theatre, Arnold, Nottingham. 14 November 2019. First night of tour. Review by Jeanie Barton.)
The night was very wet but few theatre seats were left unfilled for this gig, which was a breath of fresh air. As a big band lover I did not know what to expect and went in green; subsequently I was astonished by the sonic and structural range presented by these 16 specially selected musicians who are all on double bassist Michael Janisch’s Whirlwind label. This was not Basie or Ellington; it was unique and new, complex yet digestible and truly moving. You know you’re listening to something special when top professionals like trumpeter Hugh Pascall and pianist Nikki Iles have come just to listen.
Up front, the Jensen sisters; Ingrid (on trumpet with effects pedals) from the US and Christine (on alto and soprano sax) from Canada, led the band (who only met two days prior) between them, using a series of semaphore-like arm and hand signs – all appeared to work seamlessly.
From a sumptuous brass intro of growing horns with layered percussive effects (by the bass plus Ingrid tapping her trumpet mouthpiece into a mic with added effects) Blue Yonder grew forth. I was struck by the fantastic all-female front line; alongside the sisters are Alcyona Mick on the grand piano, Rachael Cohen on alto saxophone plus Josephine Davies and Tori Freestone on tenors – Alex Garnett is snuck in at the end on baritone. He takes the first solo on what develops into a modal piece with a ’70s-style cinematic groove; the trumpet’s wah wah pedal plus guitar effects from David Preston adding to that vibe. The score’s rhythms and meter stand out to me; there are fluid shifts in tempo, time signature and groove, which are hard to pinpoint and must be very tricky to hold together in this, their first performance; however, no cracks show. Janisch, originally from the US, and Klemens Marktl, from Austria, on the kit are completely solid together, like a strong rudder steering the ship on its maiden voyage in uncharted waters – we are in at the deep end. Others of the sisters’ compositions are about travel including At Sea and Wink.
Josephine Davies steps up front to conduct her composition Eos (goddess of the dawn); Ingrid jokes that this is only after coffee. It has a blistering build and jumps between time signatures, it also speeds and slows in tempo – the full power of this ensemble is unleashed. The trumpets on the back line are Nick Smart, Ryan Quigley, from Scotland, and Andre Canniere, originally from the US; trombones are Rory Ingham, Jacob Cooper and Richard Henry on bass trombone – together they really pack a punch. Each gets the chance to solo throughout the evening and bring their individual style to the fore.
The dexterity with which Ingrid plays belies the skill and effort required to swoop between the very low and very high notes she achieves; her face does not alter but her legs sometimes lift rather like a dressage horse – she tells us she is a passionate rider back home and Hope’s Trail on the album Infinitude describes the aspects she enjoys out on the ranch – it’s filmic quality reminds me a little of John Barry’s The Beyondness of Things.
Christine, more urban perhaps, wrote and leads a fantastic number called Intersection, which I assume is about traffic and features the horn section making stabs rather like car horns interspersed with wild solo lines; it builds then suddenly stops to go out of tempo entirely for more solos by the rhythm section as well as Nick on flugelhorn up front. She too is effortlessly dexterous and has a highly rhythmic solo style.
Do catch them on tour if you can – it’s a unique and powerful experience.
REMAINING TOUR DATES
15 Nov: Turner Sims – Southampton
16 Nov: CBSO Centre – Birmingham
18/19 Nov: Crane Lane Theatre – Cork, Ireland
21 Nov: Seven Arts – Leeds
22 Nov: Sheffield Jazz – Sheffield
23 Nov: Purcell Room EFG London Jazz Festival – London
Categories: Live review
I was also at this concert and support wholly what has been written here. I was amazed that this was supposed to be their first gig. Highly recommended, even if you are not a great fan of traditional big-band music. I am looking froward to their first CD/LP.
Thoroughly agree for me the highlight of the year. An awesome experience
Commenting a bit late here – saw them at the Birmingham gig at the CBSO Centre, as we had been unable to get to the Nottingham gig. Birmingham yielded a rather small audience (50 tops) which surprised me, as there is a sizeable jazz audience in and around B’ham – those not there missed a treat! Maybe it was an experiment to put a jazz gig on at the CBSO Centre, but the excellent acoustic meant that the detail of this fascinating, moving music was laid out perfectly for the audience. The band played a single, extended set because of issues for some of the audience regarding late trains, and the music was brilliant, beautiful and interesting from start to finish. At times some of the textures reminded me of the Maria Schneider Orchestra, but make no mistake – this was very much the Jensen’s own band and approach. It was a concert that richly rewarded those who made it to the gig, and I can only hope that it presaged some time in the studio for this excellent big band – or maybe even a live CD, culled from recordings of the tour.