A jazz trumpet player is often judged by how fast, high, and loud he can play. Typically, there is a certain swagger to the sound. When the “he” is a “she,” however, we are forced to rethink the criteria by which we evaluate trumpet prowess. Although she is capable of wailing with the best of them, Ingrid Jensen stands out because she brings a softer, more feminine sensibility to this most masculine of instruments. In addition to her own sound, which has been compared to the likes of Miles Davis, Chet Baker, and Woody Shaw, Jensen’s strength lies in her willingness to shun to egotistic mentality ofthe stereotypical jazz soloist. Driven primarily by the search for beautiful blends of sound, she manages to resist an urge that most players with as much talent find irresistible—namely, the urge to show off.
Jensen was born in 1967 in Cedar, outside of Vancouver, British Columbia. Her mother was a working musician, and Jensen grew up listening to her play ragtime and other styles at home. After high school, Jensen majored in music at Canada’s Malaspina College. She then enrolled in the esteemed Berklee School of Music in Boston. After receiving her master’s degree from Berklee in 1989, Jensen moved to New York, the epicenter of jazz in the United States. The New York jazz scene was a bit too cutthroat for her liking, however, and she found it difficult to launch a career in that competitive atmosphere.
The opportunity to escape the Big Apple came in 1990, when she landed a job with the Vienna Art Orchestra production Fe & Males, a project that involved seven men and seven women playing the same instruments: trumpet, trombone, tuba, saxophone, bass, drums, and piano. Jensen embarked on a European tour with the Vienna group, and when the tour ended she opted to linger in Austria. She applied for a position as jazz trumpet professor on the faculty of Austria’s Bruckner Conservatory. Jensen won the job, becoming, atthe age of 25, the youngest teacher at the school.
Europe proved to be a much more fruitful setting than New York for the development of both Jensen’s career and her musicianship. In addition to teaching, she found the time to jam with top European musicians, as well as with many of the prominent U.S. jazz figures who happened to be making their ways across the continent. She collaborated on projects with French bassist Helene LaBarriere, leader of an experimental free-jazz collective called Machination. She also sat in with, among others, vibes legend Lionel Hampton. Her performance
For the Record…
Born Jan. 12, 1966 in Cedar, British Columbia, Canada; daughter of Karen Cormons (a pianist) and Helge Jensen (an electrician and company president). Education: Malaspina College, Nanaimo, BA; Berklee College of Music, MA; studied with Laurie Frink, Freddie Hubbard, and George Garzone.
Toured Europe with Vienna Art Orchestra, 1990; Bruckner Conservatory, jazz trumpet instructor, 1991–94; signed with Enja records, 1994; joined all-woman big band Diva, 1994; released first CD as leader, Vernal Fields, 1995; International Association of Jazz Educators conference, guest artist, 1995–97; performs with a variety of other groups and artists, including Helene Labarriere, Maria Schneider Orchestra, Guillermo Klein, and Magali Souriau, 1995–.
Awards: Juno Award, “Best Mainstream Artist of the Year,” 1995; Boston Globe, number two in Critic’s Choice “Best New Artist of the Year category, 1995; Carmine Caruso International Jazz Trumpet Solo Competition, first place, 1995.
Addresses: Record company —Enja, Matthias Winck-elmann GmbH, Postfach 19 03 33, 80603 München, Germany; office —364 W. 23rd St., Apt. 2F, New York, NY 10011.
with Hampton’s Golden Men of Jazz, and the resulting support from Hampton and bandmate Clark Terry—a renowned trumpet player and bandleader in his own right—eventually led to a record deal for Jensen with the German label Enja.
Although things were going fairly smoothly in Europe, by 1994 Jensen was ready to give North America another try. While attending a workshop in Banff in the summer of 1994, she heard about an opening in a New York-based, all-woman big band called Diva. She auditioned for and won the spot. Jensen has lived in New York ever since. The Big Apple has been kinder to her the second time around. Touring worldwide with Diva, she quickly became one of the group’s most visible soloists. Jensen also began working with another big band, the Maria Schneider Jazz Orchestra. She also became active on the New York freelance circuit, both as a sideperson and as leader of her own groups. Other bands with which she began performing regularly included those led by Guillermo Klein and Magali Souriau.
1995 was a big year for Jensen. Her debut album, Vernal Fields, was released that year. It earned her a Juno Award—Canada’s equivalent of a Grammy—for “Best Mainstream Artist of the Year.” Down Beat magazine’s Thomas Conrad wrote that “Vernal Fields has the fresh energy and affirmation of a young artist in the act of discovering the outer reaches of her talent.” Trumpet legend Art Farmer, one of the players whom many listeners detect a trace of in Jensen’s sound, noted that “her playing contains all of the elements in rich detail that make this music so loved, such as feeling, swing, drive, taste, grace, and lyricism.” Jensen received several other honors as well. She was named “Best Newcomer” al the Cork ( Ireland) Jazz Festival, and a few weeks later she took the top prize at the 1995 Carmine Caruso International Jazz Trumpet Solo Competition held at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo. This wave of recognition led to an invitation to perform and conduct clinics at the International Association of Jazz Educators annual conference.
Jensen’s star continued to rise during 1996. She continued to tour internationally with Diva, the Schneider band, and her own quartet, including stops in Japan, Chile, and various parts of Europe and North America. Back home in Canada, Jensen led her group across the Great White North as part of the 1996 du Maurier Jazz Festival circuit. She also headlined at Toronto’s Beaches Jazz Festival. When she wasn’t performing in some corner of the world, Jensen was in the recording studio, both working on her own project and contributing to those of other musicians. She recorded with Diva and with saxophonist Virginia Mayhew. In September of 1996, Jensen began work on her second Enja CD. That recording, Here On Earth, was released in the spring of 1997. The CD features Jensen’s trumpet and flugelhorn in tandem with Gary Bartz on saxophone, George Colligan on Fender Rhodes, and on two tracks, vocalist Jill Seifers.
Fueled by her second well-received album, Jensen’s career has continued to surge. A committed jazz educator, she conducts clinics frequently. At the same time, she continues to develop her own artistry. For Jensen, maintaining a certain harmony between her life and her music is key. She summarizes this approach elegantly in her publicity material: “I try to keep my life and music on a parallel course and my goal is to be growing in both realms. There are so many elements in music that can be discovered and expressed when we are honest about the direction that our lives are taking us. That’s all I’m trying to do—follow the spirit of the muse and play.”
Vernal Fields, Enja, 1995.
Here On Earth, Enja, 1997.
Something’s Coming, Perfect Sound, 1996.
With Vienna Art Orchestra
FE& Males, Polygram, 1994.
With Helen Labarrierre
Machination, Deux Z.
With Virginia Mayhew
Virginia Mayhew, Chiaroscuro, 1996.
Down Beat, November 1995, p. 52; October 1997, p. 45; December 1997, p. 104.
Jazz Player, December/January 1997, p. 10.
Jazz Times, October 1995, p. 23.
The Times (London), October 3, 1997.
Additional material for this profile was provided by Enja Records.
—Robert R. Jacobson
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