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Christine Jensen: A Shorter Distance

Oh those Jensen sisters. When they were growing up in a musical family in British Columbia, older sibling Ingrid (now a 36-year-old trumpeter) recalls, “We just wanted to be Miles and Cannonball forever.” Christine, now 32, focused on reeds. Well, nothing is forever. They’ve led separate, successful careers, recording their own CDs. This collaboration shows how they have transcended their early idols, and it’s due mainly to the compositional skills of Christine, who also accounts for the album title: a salute to the harmonic conceptions of Wayne Shorter.

Jensen’s writing concentrates on a colorful front line consisting of herself on alto and soprano; Joel Miller, tenor; and Ingrid, trumpet and flugelhorn. Various doublings, whether unison or in harmony, reveal unusual timbres, and Jensen often adds passing tones and contrapuntal passages for added tension. She seems to favor ostinato figures in the rhythm section of guitar, piano, bass and drums. And she’s meticulous about dynamic shadings. The resulting sounds are refreshingly modern and tenaciously tonal.

Despite that formula, one of the highlights is the free frontline jam that closes out “Just Last Week.” Other highlights: the rhapsodic, weaving lines of the title cut; the tight clusters of the Jensens and Miller over the guitar’s Charleston jabs on “Chelsea Rain”; Christine’s plaintive soprano wail on “I Loves You Porgy”; the tinkling piano intro to Christine’s soprano on “Red Roads,” doubled at first by either bass or guitar and later by Ingrid’s muted trumpet.

With few exceptions, the whole project manages to swing so serenely. Oh, those Jensen sisters.

Originally Published