Canadian jazzbirds have on occasion been found to migrate south in the spring and summer. This gave the Discover Jazz Festival audience a choice opportunity last night to show up and actually discover something new.
The Christine Jensen Quartet instantly became a quintet with the participation of sister Ingrid Jensen, perhaps already known to some as a member of the Maria Schneider Orchestra. Christine on alto and soprano saxophones, and Ingrid on trumpets turned out to be a striking pair, bold and energetic in performance and intricate in their interactions. Supported by an able rhythm section with--heresy--a Vermonter, Dave Restivo, on piano, they spun out a program of original compositions to what this listener found to be an inordinate length.
Despite colorful moments and spirited interplay, I felt the music at times failed to move forward. Instead of progressing toward new ground, much of it at times sounded too similar to some of what had preceded. But here I feel I'm missing something, and should back off before falling into the Pit of Subjectivity.
I can conclude though, without any reservation, that these sisters from British Columbia have solid chops. (And where the hell have I seen bassist Fraser Hollins before? Hours later, it's still driving me crazy.)
Quebec's wonderful Bourassa/Tanguay/Derome trio showed itself to be adept at breaking every mood they created in their riveting set. A lot of their music depended on quick changes and surprises, with wit and brio. ("That wasn't very good," said drummer Pierre Tanguay after the opening piece, "but it was exciting.") Derome at one point explained that he loves to compose his tunes on airplanes, and if that enables him to avoid boredom it certainly shows in his music. There were two covers in addition to several originals, one by Ornette Coleman, the other Billy Strayhorn's lovely "Isfahan" from Elllington's Far East Suite. This was a high point, a rare exploration of one of the most poignant songs in the Ellington songbook, and Derome and associates delivered in full its breathtaking poignancy.
Pianist Francois Bourassa proved to be as snug and cozy with Derome and Tanguay in trio formation as was bassist Normand Guilbeault. Derome is a monster on both alto sax and flute, and Pierre Tanguay on drums is a sort of French-Canadian Han Bennink. Please, Discover Jazz Festival, bring them back and also give us a chance to hear master guitarist Rene Lussier and clarinetist Francois Houle and whoever they choose to bring through customs.