Habitat (Justin Time Records)

Christine Jensen Jazz Orchestra

Released October 1, 2013

DownBeat Five-Star Review






Christine’s latest ‘opus’ is a labor of love …

“Every time I do a large ensemble thing like this, it’s not a short event.” Explains Christine from her home in Montreal.” There are a lot of pieces that have to be put in place which includes writing the music …”

An album this size takes Christine about three years to complete. Eighteen musicians take part in what Jensen describes as short stories. Each song has a different theme and they all contain spontaneity. Slightly organized tunes which contain great rhythms – something which Christine adores …

“This is Jazz.” Says Christine.” It is so different than most types of music. I have to structure everything down and when we go to record we get about two days in the studio, as opposed to what may sound like months and months and months. Just to do the live stuff – it’s all about capturing the live element of the music.”

Christine Jensen is foremost a Saxaphone player and a current Montrealer. Originally from Sechelt, British Columbia, she grew up in Nanaimo and learned her craft among some of Canada’s finest crop of musicians. Diana Krall, David Gogo and her sister Ingrid to name but three. Once in Montreal, Christine obtained her Bachelor and Masters degrees from McGill University. She has studied with Pat LaBarbera, Kenny Werner, Jim McNeely, Remi Bolduc, Dick Oatts and Steve Wilson. People who have taught Christine well in the city she calls the greatest in the world for musical talent…

“We have our struggles in this Province…” Admits Christine. “But those struggles also help us to band together. The struggles add to the dimension for this need of creation here.  There is no better place than Montreal.”

Habitat is the second disc of such magnitude for Jensen. Treelines (released in 2010) won Christine a Juno award yet the new album was much easier to complete. Christine’s experience from the first – enabling an ‘easier’ go the second time around.

The new album from The Christine Jensen Jazz Orchestra, is composed of six parts, all arranged and composed by Jensen and dotted by the places that inspired her. From the Prairies to Port-au-Prince, Peru to Brooklyn; Jensen’s new album is the most inspired project she has released. Particularly the song; ‘Nishiyuu’. One of six tracks on the album ‘Habitat’.

“This is my most political piece although it is not political per say…” Explains Christine. “It’s about the march the Cree young men took from up North this past winter to Ottawa. It took them three months through the winter. I thought it was a beautiful and a hopeful journey they went through. If I had undertaken something like that, I liken it to climbing Mount Everest – I’d probably get a lot of satisfaction from it. Like you went somewhere on your journey. These young men went through some deplorable situations to send a message.’

Jensen came up with the name for her album for a reason. Her ‘habitat’ is a concept as an artist thinking in architectural terms as a place where her songs can live. Her ‘children’ – safe for now as Christine tends to live in the moment. Each older piece from ‘Treelines’ – safely and respectively placed in the past. Jensen does not write things in an hour – the most recent compositions are loved the most…

Christine is also a world traveler. She has played all over the world and those experiences have taught her ‘global’ lessons in music. ‘Academic’ truths based in ‘Alchemy’…?

“It’s funny – every Country has it’s own flavor when they approach music.” Explains Jensen. “There remains a common underlying theme. We are all well versed in what I call ‘Big Band writing’ in terms of executing and interpreting it. Yet there is always a different sound with each band. I am sure in Classical music it’s the same. If you play Beethoven’s 9th Symphony in England or Spain – you will get a different interpretation of it …”

One thing which does not need interpretation is Christine’s view on the new age of selling records. The new age of the record industry. An era which Christine believes is good and bad …

“Technology has a changed a few things … I find it is so hard out there to crack open, to get your music out there.” Explains Jensen.

“You have to find every opportunity to do that. The game has a changed a lot over the years. To do large ensemble compositions takes a lot of time and energy and you have to want to do the other side of the business as well. It is a huge investment to do this type of thing. I hope there is someone out there who can help a little bit. My thing is to tell people to buy hard copies of musicians’ works. It’s the only time we see money.”

Jensen also believes we live in a ‘fast’ throwaway society, especially when it comes to music. Guys like The Beatles and Michael Jackson – may not be as huge today because of the nature of speed which artists disappear.

Christine’s personal choices as ‘idols’ are vast and somewhat universal. Charlie Parker, Myles Davis and Coltrane. Jensen believes the trick is to find an individual voice when choosing an instrument. Something which she believes takes a long time, self – analysis and focus. According to Christine – Jazz is much like Classical in the way that the goal is to be individualistic within a group. Alone but together.

Track Listing:

1. Treelines 11:39

2. Tumbledown 10:28

3. Blue Yonder 7:53

4. Nishiyuu 14:57

5. Intersection 11:32

6. Sweet Adelphi 10:24


Christine Jensen: conductor, soprano saxophone (solo on 6)

Donny Kennedy: alto saxophone (solo on 1), soprano saxophone, flute

Erik Hove: alto saxophone (solo on 5), flute

Joel Miller: tenor saxophone (solos on 2, 5), clarinet

Chet Doxas: tenor saxophone (solo on 4), clarinet

Samuel Blais: baritone saxophone (solo on 3), clarinet

David Grott: trombone

Jean-Nicolas Trottier: trombone (solos on 2)

Muhammed Abdul Al-Khabyyr: trombone

Bob Ellis: bass trombone (1, 3-5)

Jean Sébastion Vachon: bass trombone (2, 6)

Dave Martin: tuba, euphonium (1-4)

Joceyln Couture: trumpet

Bill Mahar: trumpet

Dave Mossing: trumpet

Aron Doyle: trumpet

Ingrid Jensen: trumpet (1, 3, 5, 6, solos on 1, 5, 6)

John Roney: piano (solo on 5)

Ken Bibace: electric guitar

Fraser Hollins: upright bass (solo on 5)

Richard Irwin: drums (solos on 3, 5)

Dave Gossage: native flute (4)

Recorded May 11 – 12, 2013, at Studio Piccolo, Montréal QC, Canada

Produced by Christine Jensen, Paul Johnston

Recorded and Mixed by Paul Johnston

Mastered by Guy Hébert

Photography by Mathieu Rivard

Graphic Design: TagTeam Studio


Christine Jensen—Montreal-based composer, arranger, conductor and saxophonist—has created something special with Habitat, her second large-ensemble album. The follow-up to 2010’s questing Treelines (which won a Juno Award, Canada’s Grammy, for contemporary jazz album of the year), Habitat is orchestral jazz on par with the textural-lyrical magic of Kenny Wheeler and Maria Schneider—though with an earthy dynamism more akin to Wayne Shorter and a sense of bittersweet melody all Jensen’s own. This album feels of the moment yet timeless; big-band clichés are avoided, but beauty is paramount. There’s a subtle cry to Jensen’s music that gives Habitat emotive resonance. Born in 1970 in British Columbia, Jensen is younger sister to New York-residing trumpeter Ingrid Jensen, who adds liquid tones to the excellent Habitat ensemble. (The sisters also play together in Nordic Connection, a kindred-spirit band with Swedish pianist Maggi Olin.) Tenor sax soloist Chet Doxas imbues “Nishiyuu”—a piece inspired by an epic protest walk by Cree natives in Ottawa— with cries and whispers. Cascading brass choirs beguile the ear in “Tumbledown,” as do Richard Irwin’s dramatic drumming and the pensive wail of tenor saxophonist Joel Miller. The composer’s soprano sax flies like a ribbon in the breeze during closer “Sweet Adelphi.” Habitat feels utterly of a piece, with the improvisations woven from threads of the compositions, the melodies and countermelodies flowing holistically. The recorded sound conveys Jensen’s artful blend of 20-some instruments with warmth and immediacy. The cumulative impact is more than impressive; it’s moving.

Bradley Bambarger (DownBeat)