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Christine Jensen Jazz Orchestra: Treelines

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Treelines, from Montreal-based saxophonist-composer Christine Jensen and her Jazz Orchestra, is a dynamic recording inspired by eclectic sources-the landscapes of her native British Columbia, Canadian literature and visual art and the songs of Joni Mitchell among them. The project, the Juno winner for Jazz Album of the Year, offers large-ensemble arrangements of compositions (seven by Jensen and one by her husband, Joel Miller) written over the past decade. Sister Ingrid, an accomplished trumpet and flugelhorn player, is featured on most tracks, as are several of Montreal’s finest musicians, notably saxophonists Miller, Chet Doxas and Eric Hove, trombonist Jean-Nicholas Trottier, guitarist Ken Bibace, pianist Steve Amirault, bassist Fraser Hollins and drummer Martin Auguste.

Enthusiasts of the modern big-band tradition will find Jensen walking in the footsteps of Gil Evans, Thad Jones and Maria Schneider, and though comparisons with Schneider abound, Jensen has a unique voice as composer and arranger, the dynamics among instruments enhancing her intricate ideas. “Dancing Sunlight,” the title derived from a painting by Canadian writer and painter Emily Carr, opens this transporting journey into the Pacific Northwest with oscillating tempos and moods. Next Jensen celebrates the “Arbutus,” “Red Cedar” and “Western Yew” through a set of beautifully textured melodies. The lyrical “Seafever” captures her skill and feeling on soprano, and “Dark and Stormy Blues” finds trombonist Trottier extending over a sluggish reggae beat, the tune shifting into double-time intensity with a searing guitar-trumpet exchange.

Jensen’s formidable orchestra is the glistening sunlight, the tranquility and force of the ocean, and the majestic trees that her music imagines.

Originally Published