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Interviews

Christine Jensen: Impressionism

By Published: October 25, 2013
CJ: As the composer, I am not the one to judge how the listener embraces the work. I write for myself first, and then hope the musicians add to the life of the work. Again, it's about having the freedom to put it our there on so many levels, with the end result being that hopefully the audience is able to gravitate toward listening to it for there own reasons. I am a lover of so much music with melody, from the Police, to Antonio Carlos Jobim
Antonio Carlos Jobim
Antonio Carlos Jobim
1927 - 1994
piano
, to Miles Davis
Miles Davis
Miles Davis
1926 - 1991
trumpet
, to people on the fringe that influence me know such as Guillermo Klein and Bill Frisell, not to mention Chopin, Stravinsky, Barber, Copland, Bjork, Dirty Projectors, and Django Bates. Very random list, I know, but they all compose melodies that stick with me, and a lot of it has to do with interval choice and rhythm.

GC: That's a wide range of influences to be sure. There is so much great music out there. Sometimes I feel like students are sort of pushed into a box where all they listen to is hard bop. While I feel like students need to listen to jazz, I don't ever discourage them from listening to anything. Sometimes I ask them what I need to check out! So even though the music of yours that I have heard is definitely jazz, could you say that you have a multitude of influences outside the so-called genre of jazz?

CJ: I am very influenced by what the people around me are listening to, whether it is the musicians that I am working and touring with, my sister, or my husband especially. We live in a very picky household for music listening! I know when I was a student I was obsessed with Blue Note recordings, Miles' classic quintets, and Bill Evans
Bill Evans
Bill Evans
1929 - 1980
piano
doing anything. Evans was a master sculptor of creating a really well placed thought out solo. It makes sense as he devoted his life to capturing a perfect sound on the piano and with his trio. Funny, one of my favorite albums is Bill Evans' We Will Meet Again (Warner Bros, 1970). It is just full of great solos by him plus the added sax and trumpet of Tom Harrell
Tom Harrell
Tom Harrell
b.1946
trumpet
and Larry Schneider. It was like he went one step further near the end of his life to transfer his sound into a front line. Anyway, I still write with jazz in mind as I love the idea of being able to instantly be in a moment with the musicians that I am performing with. I am just so lucky to be able to play with some great musicians who get excited to try out my new works, or equally when we tour a lot with my repertoire. It excites me to know that every time I get together with like-minded jazz musicians, that there are so many surprises to discover through playing in the moment. I get the most satisfaction when we can use my compositions as a base for our explorations, and come up with new directions that are off the page. It really takes a high level of artistry, along with trust throughout a band for it to happen though. I am lucky that I have been able to experience it in both my small and large ensemble projects. The great thing is that it inspires me to continue to write and perform.

GC: Your alto playing has a great presence. You play with a rich, thick tone. I am a huge fan of the alto, but there are some alto players— remaining nameless— who annoy me because I can't stand their tone. I would put you in the sort of post-modern alto category, leaning towards two of my favorites, Steve Wilson
Steve Wilson
Steve Wilson
b.1961
sax, alto
and Jon Gordon
Jon Gordon
Jon Gordon

sax, alto
. My wife was listening to your CDs and she compared you to a tenor player named Bill McHenry
Bill McHenry
Bill McHenry

saxophone
. Who are your biggest influences on the alto, and do you really feel like an altoist, or do you just think of yourself as a musician who happens to play alto. Also your soprano playing is really nice, any influences there?

CJ: Well, I work hard on sound development. Ingrid also got me into that as trumpet is all about maintaining a sound. I also had some great teachers who gave me exercises including Steve Wilson
Steve Wilson
Steve Wilson
b.1961
sax, alto
, George Garzone
George Garzone
George Garzone
b.1950
sax, tenor
, and teachers here in Montreal including Janis Stephrans and Remi Bolduc. I also got into transcribing Gary Bartz
Gary Bartz
Gary Bartz
b.1940
sax, alto
, who you hipped me to. He has one of the most modern sounds going I think. Anyway, long tones along with centering pitch is what I am a stickler for. In fact, Ingrid and I still work on a few routines whenever we get together, which helps to bind our sound together. Soprano —I don't even think about so much, as I find alto such a difficult instrument to control, in comparison to soprano. Some alto saxophonists think the opposite I am sure.

I love Charlie Parker
Charlie Parker
Charlie Parker
1920 - 1955
sax, alto
, Julian "Cannonball" Adderley
Julian
Julian "Cannonball" Adderley
1928 - 1975
saxophone
}, and Sonny Stitt
Sonny Stitt
Sonny Stitt
1924 - 1982
saxophone
, not to mention Johnny Hodges
Johnny Hodges
Johnny Hodges
1907 - 1970
sax, alto
! I find that Hodges and Parker the hardest out of all of them to emulate.


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