Saxophonist Christine Jensen’s compositions for 19-piece jazz ensemble are all about place, travel, and impression. Her liner notes give a definitive view into her thinking as well as her craft. “Treelines” was written with a vision of West Coast forests, though it was commissioned for the University of Nebraska - Lincoln Jazz Orchestra and had its premiere on a snowy, windy prairie night. But its grandeur, much of it imparted by fanfares and a breezy solo from trumpeter Ingrid Jensen, the leader’s sister, combines with swaying rhythms to suggest the stateliness of trees everywhere. The tight phrasing and exchanges between instrumental sections on “Tumbledown” were inspired by the 2010 earthquake in Haiti; the Afro-Peruvian rhythms of “Blue Yonder” influenced by a visit to Lima. Jensen’s pieces stray from the traditional big-band mold, employing cross-rhythms, unusual orchestration, and themes that sometimes move in ways not easily pegged as swing. At times, the arrangements played by brass and reeds sound as if they were written for strings. Jensen also reimagines the jazz solo, pairing two soloists to improvise at once, as she does with fine results from tenor saxophonist and trombonist Jean-Nicolas Trottier on “Tumbledown.” Her own soprano work on “Sweet Adelphi” is warm and embracing, the accompaniment behind her sensitive and sweeping. Jensen, always respected for her fine instrumental play, has marked herself as an ambitious, expressive composer who writes like no one else.
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