Jensen was supported by the other two members of her trio, bassist Fraser Hollis and drummer John Wikan. In addition to this formidable unit, the group featured two very special guests, Professor of Music Dana Gooley (piano) and Director of Jazz Studies Bruce Diehl (alto and tenor sax).
Hailing from a small town north of Vancouver, Canada, Jensen first became interested in jazz when she heard her mother playing stride and ragtime piano. She proceeded to pursue her jazz studies at Berklee College of Music in Boston. Since then, she has toured the world, playing with a large and diverse group of musicians. “Music is a channel through which we collectively communicate with each other,” she said. “It’s about human energies interacting spontaneously, creating a universal language which I love to take part in with both musicians and audiences around the world.”
That kind of energy and communication was certainly evident during Friday night’s show. The performance began with a trio version of Wayne Shorter’s composition “JuJu.” It was clear that all three players were listening to each other closely and were responding to each other’s musical ideas. Another highlight of the show was the group’s take on Steve Swallow’s “Babble On.” The tune began with Jensen and Diehl having a somewhat humorous dialogue on their respective instruments-hence the name of the song, “Babble On.” Another dialogue between bassist and drummer drew a strong response from the audience.
Jensen cites many influences on her playing, among them Woody Shaw, Miles Davis, Freddie Hubbard and Clark Terry. It was Terry who initially saw what immense talent Jensen had and helped her gain recognition while playing in Vienna and subsequently in New York. Though you can hear elements of these other players’ styles in her playing, Jensen has forged a distinct style that is all her own.
On Friday, the group performed two originals written by Jensen’s sister Christine. The mellow tones and lush harmonies of “Sylvan Vale” evoked the region where Ingrid grew up. “Sweet Adelphi” was a dynamic composition that began with an intro by pianist Gooley and then built to a tremendous climax. Gooley’s own composition, “Waiting,” was also featured during the performance.
Curiously enough, the encore was the only tune the group played from Jensen’s latest album, “Higher Grounds.” The album includes a mix of originals, standards and some obscure modern jazz tunes. Jensen’s first album, recorded back in 1995, won accolades in Canada, and her playing at festivals following the release of her record garnered her even more recognition.
Jensen’s albums reflect her immersion in the modern jazz vein. In terms of approach to the music and what music she chooses to play, she’s not a trumpeter like Wynton Marsalis, whose controversial traditional opinions about jazz have set him apart from other jazz musicians. Jensen has a more open attitude to the music.
In addition to the concert, members of the five-college community were lucky to have Jensen and her trio lead several coaching sessions this past Thursday and Friday. Jensen, Hollis and Wikan all gave helpful insights and advice to students. On Thursday, Jensen led a discussion and performed for students in classes on jazz at Amherst. Later that night, she lent her expertise to the members of the Smith College Jazz Ensemble.
It was clear that Friday night’s performance was a most enjoyable experience for both the performers and those who had the pleasure of hearing their music. The Amherst community was lucky to have such a talented artist come here to share her insight and her music.