Foundry 616, November 3
Here was an inspired pairing on the part of the Sydney International Women’s Jazz Festival. Sophisticated compositions, open-ended improvising, rampant imagination and gritty emotions defined this collaboration between Canada’s Jensen sisters – Ingrid (trumpet) and Christine (saxophones) – and Sydney’s Mike Nock Trio. Although learning the Jensens’ music in one rehearsal must have challenged Nock, bassist Brett Hirst and drummer James Waples, the upshot allowed all parties – including the compositions – to shine.
Two members of the same family being exceptional players is not uncommon, but also being such distinctive composers sets them apart. The writing of both largely eschews cliche in favour of striking textures, harmonies and structures, so their pieces lived in the memory after only one listening.
Christine’s Sea Fever communicated a deep sense of yearning, the cries of her soprano saxophone as desolate as those of a lost gull. By contrast her Gardener was underpinned by quirky humour, and Swirl Around harked back to early 1970s Miles Davis, offering one of several opportunities for Ingrid to flirt with looping and electronic effects on her trumpet.
Whether treated or untreated this was a searing device. Ingrid Jensen is not going to die wondering what might have happened had she opened her heart in her music, and her slicing sound and fervid ideas were gripping at every turn. Similarly Christine’s startlingly robust alto sound with its eerie upper extension was used to deploy some scorching lines, and her soprano was at least compelling.
The wonder of Nock’s brilliance at the piano is that he could absorb all this new music, and then unleash a level of invention that no one on the bandstand could better. Hirst and Waples traversed the Jensens’ multifaceted and sometimes sharp-edged rhythmic terrain like two hovercraft, the former offering some typically arresting solos and the latter his trademark restraint. Perhaps some more explosive moments were a missed option.
Kristin Berardi was a worthy guest in this company, singing two songs including a delightfully playful Just Squeeze Me (But Please Don’t Tease Me).