Ingrid and Christine Jensen with the Whirlwind Recordings Jazz Orchestra(Purcell Room, EFG London Jazz Festival, Saturday 23 November. Review by Mike Collins)
A delicate sequence of chords seemed to seep from the brass players on stage. Christine Jensen’s gestures seemed to usher them into the room rather than conduct the musicians. Ingrid Jensen produced a series of percussive tuned sounds by tapping her distinctively shaped trumpet to punctuate the atmosphere, a seductive ambience that gathered momentum as a rolling groove built up and the sisters introduced the swooping melodic theme of Blue Yonder, a composition of Ingrid’s.
Ingrid and Christine Jensen. Publicity photo
It was an entrancing start and, for these ears fresh to much of the music, promised an expansive palette of sound, inventive, beguiling writing and fluid and passionate playing and improvising . As the evening proceeded it was a promise fulfilled. My ticket had re-named the ensemble the Whirlwind ‘Big Band’. ‘Orchestra’ somehow seemed a more appropriate appellation.
This was the last date of six stop tour for this line up and, as Jeanie Barton reported for London Jazz News, this orchestra of Whirlwind artists comprising some of the finest on the UK scene, were on top of the Jensens’ artful and many-faceted arrangements and in great form for the first gig in Nottingham. Naturally, most of the repertoire in London was the same as that gig, things were flowing like honey and the band playing with freedom and zest.
There were many arresting moments and sparkling performances but one of the largely un-remarked star turns was the writing and arranging. Christine’s pieces always seemed to have a crystal clear animating idea and theme, combining grooves, sometimes urgently shuffling, now funky, then rocky with pin sharp motivic hooks or swooning melodies, commentary and accompaniment bouncing around the sections of the ensemble. Ingrid’s shared many of the traits but were a shade more introspective and yearning in their feel and construction. The combination made for a varied and exhilarating two sets.
A tribute to Kenny Wheeler by Christine, Starbright provided standout moments in the first set. After impressionistic squeals and percussive scampering had given way to an elegant theme, surging to a celebratory climax on a wave of Wheeler-esque harmony, Alcyona Mick produced an electrifying solo at the piano, accumulating energy as shape shifting runs skated over the swaying pulse. And then Ingrid’s trumpet slid and swooped int to spool out fluid melodic lines, a catch-the-breath moment.
There were more such moments and by the time the second set was played out on Christine Jensen’s Wink that seemed to find a different flavoured headlong pulse for each soloist, everyone had had a moment in the spotlight to raise the temperature and due thanks and recognition given to Michael Janisch, Whirlwind mastermind, for conjuring another magical collaboration. This was a fabulous evening of beautiful and enlivening music.
Full Line UpChristine Jensen, Alto and soprano sax; Ingrid Jensen, trumpet
Saxophones: Rachel Cohen, Josephine Davies, Tori Freestone, Alex Garnett
Trombones: Jacob Cooper, Rory Ingham, Richard Henry
Trumpets: Nick Smart, Ryan Quigley, Andre CanniereDavid Preston, Guitar; Alcyona Mick, piano; Michael Janisch, bass; Klemens Marktl, drums
Mike Collins is a pianist and writer based in Bath, who runs the jazzyblogman site. Twitter @jazzyblogman