Ingrid Jensen is busy pulling together a blizzard of last-minute details before packing up her trumpet and heading off to the airport for an early-morning flight to Minnesota with the Maria Schneider Big Band. This time it’s a two-week tour before she returns to New York and the home she shares with her husband of two years, Jon Wikan, who also plays drums on Jensen’s recent ArtistShare debut, At Sea.
They share a three-bedroom apartment in Astoria, Queens—roughly 2,400 miles away from when she grew up in Cedar by the Sea, a picturesque town on Canada’s Vancouver Island. After going through several different living situations since moving to town 12 years ago, Jensen has finally settled into a comfortable place in this spacious old prewar apartment located just across the East River from Manhattan.
“For my first five years in town, I shared a loft on 23rd Street with some other musicians,” she says. “That was a really important place because it was cheap and central to all the clubs and we could play sessions there. After that, I moved to Brooklyn to a one-bedroom apartment in Fort Greene that was not rent-stabilized, and I just got priced out of it. It was one of those old crack houses that they transformed into yuppie living, but the rent kept going up and up until I couldn’t afford to live there anymore.
“Then I was homeless for about a year. That was cool,” she says. “During that period I put all my stuff in storage and just lived all over the place: went to Europe, stayed with some friends, lived out in Portland with a friend for a while. And then I moved up here to Astoria into Kim Nazarian’s place, the singer from the New York Voices. She had a place down the street from here and needed a roommate. She later got married and moved to Pittsburgh, so I took that place over and it worked out for a while, but then the neighbors didn’t like the music.”
No one has complained thus far about the music in Jensen’s current pad. “I can play music here 24 hours a day,” she says. “I can play my trumpet, bang on the piano; we have cajon jams going sometimes. We had these guys from Peru staying here for a week and it was just like cajon central—drumming, dancing—and no one ever complained. Because it’s a prewar building, the walls and floors are super-super thick, so no one hears us and I don’t hear anybody. And it works great because it’s close to Manhattan and the airports and we have a rehearsal studio down the street with a Rhodes and a drum set where we can practice and do sessions.”
One of the three bedrooms in their apartment has been converted into Jensen’s music room. She does all of her composing on an old upright Steinway B piano that she bought upon arriving in New York with the money she won from a trumpet competition. Also in the room is her Dell Inspiron 4150 laptop computer on which she runs the Finale music-software program that stores and prints out her original music. A nearby Apple G4 computer contains all the business aspects of her musical life. “I can’t seem to get management at this point, so I’m doing all the bookings that come in,” she confides. “I don’t really go after them. They come in and I keep those going as well as trying to work on a few gigs with my band between all the tours with Maria right now.
“I definitely want to simplify more, and that’s why I’m starting to get assistants working for me rather having management. I have people come in and I give them a list of things to do that would take me a couple days to get around to, which then frees me up to write.”
The Personal File
“Jon and I try to get out at least once a year to go camping, hiking and fishing, usually in Alaska where he’s from or British Columbia where I’m from. We’ll bring back a freezer full of organic wild salmon and halibut and live off that for a year.”
“When I’m on the road I do the martial-arts practice of chi gong every day. I can get into a space wherever I am and do these different motions before the gigs. I’ll do that instead of warming up on the trumpet because it gets all the chi flowing and you can really get in touch with the movement of your energy overall.”
“I used to love the fancier countries like Switzerland and upscale Italian and Portuguese cities. But now, after going to South America, I have to say the Latin American countries are the ones that I find I want to go back to more than ever; especially Peru, mostly because the people are so unpretentious there. They’re living so hard and there’s so much soul in that culture. I want to go back to study the percussion tradition there. I’m fascinated by the way these very sensual Afro-Peruvian lando rhythms connect to the African music that comes into the jazz language via swing. It’s all in there. Afro-Peruvian music, to me, seems to have a real mystery and flexibility in it that certain other Latin styles don’t seem to have.”
“We bought a Subaru last summer in Seattle and drove it cross country to New York, stopping off at Yellowstone National Park along the way.”
In Praise of Slowness: Challenging the Cult of Speed by Karl Honoré. “It’s helping me to slow down and just realize that it’s all manipulation of the outside world that makes us speed up. It’s about embracing the slow movement and seeing how the quality of life goes up when you do. Being half European, I was taught as a child to just really enjoy life and not rush through it with too much caffeine. Reading this book has affected my playing too. It really helps me to adopt that mindset of the importance of what happens from here to here and how much use you can make out of that space if you just listen and enjoy.”
“Because I have long legs I usually find my pants in places where I’m genetically from, like Sweden and Denmark. Most of the time I don’t have time to shop in New York anyway so I tend to buy my stuff elsewhere. I love shopping in Vancouver, actually. You find a lot of good deals there because the Canadian dollar is sometimes on our side. I like to shop in Germany and Switzerland, too. I like good-quality clothes that last and are good to travel with.”
“Organic food is something I like. Where I grew up, my parents had a garden, so I kind of know how food is supposed to taste. It’s hard for me to eat a lot of the stuff that’s full of chemicals and wax and crap. So I like to cook fish and cook vegetarian.”