Christine Jensen, Day Moon Review
Christine Jensen’s Day Moon – A Portal to Reflection and Resilience
by Ferell Aubre
The pandemic-era journey of artistry, that peculiar amalgam of loss and rediscovery, has found a compelling expression in Christine Jensen’s new release, Day Moon. This album, released by Justin Time Records on June 16, 2023, emerges from the shadows of isolation and surges forth as a testament to resilience, friendship, and the capacity of jazz to evolve through unexpected transformations. Building on her past orchestral leadership, Jensen’s shift into intimate spaces marks a bold evolution in her artistic journey.
Jensen, the Canadian alto and soprano saxophonist, has been driven into intimate spaces by the world’s challenges. Her path took her to weekly collaborations with longtime piano friend Steve Amirault, delving into a creative relationship that cast aside the mental orchestration that once accompanied her thoughts and focused on the elemental nuances of sound and expression.
The album’s core strength lies in the dynamic interaction within Jensen’s quartet and duet settings. Alongside Jensen, Adrian Vedady on bass and Jim Doxas on drums joined her mask workshop to craft new colors and emotional depths within her compositions. Their journey, as described in Jensen’s liner notes, is a touching tale of empathy, trust, and artistic exploration, enriched by Vedady’s intuitive bass lines and Doxas’s expressive drumming. The music ebbs and flows, now melancholic, now ebullient, each note a testament to their bond.
The title track, “Day Moon,” inspired by a striking daytime vision of a full moon, sets the stage for an album filled with surprises and innovative thinking. Jensen’s saxophones explore the material with spirited inquisitiveness, backed by unwavering support from her rhythm section. The track serves as a prelude to Jensen’s pandemic-induced “otherworldly” reality.
The four-section “Quiescence Suite,” commissioned by the Jazz Coalition of New York, showcases Jensen’s mastery over concept, texture, and tempo. From the Brazilian clave-feel “Tolos d’Abril” (Jensen’s April Fool’s birthday song) to the ambitious range of thematic explorations, the suite stands out as an artistic triumph.
One of the album’s gems, a rendition of Jimmy Van Heusen’s ‘Here’s That Rainy Day,’ captures the profound conversation between Jensen and Amirault. Their emotional interplay evokes the very essence of ballad-playing, reminiscent of Shirley Horn’s unhurried delivery. Jensen’s solo is lyrical and never rushed; she leans into the melodic language of the song, drawing inspiration from jazz blues, bebop, and modern jazz stylings to embellish her elegant saxophone lines. Meanwhile, Amirault’s solo maintains a clear rhythmic pulse, navigating the harmonic twists and turns with finesse while employing logical chordal substitutions and movements that add a touch of sophistication.
A standout feature of Day Moon lies in the inventive artistry demonstrated in tracks such as “Balcony Rules.” This piece, a contrafact on “What Is This Thing Called Love?”, serves as a canvas for Jensen and Amirault’s compositional flair, metamorphosing a standard chord progression into a lively expression filled with swagger and unique character. Both artists perform solos rich in texture and harmonic color, creating fluid and evolving shapes that continually refresh and deepen our understanding of this classic harmonic structure. In this intimate duet, every note resonates with creative exploration, allowing listeners to not merely hear but truly appreciate the innovative musical journey undertaken by the two performers.
Jensen’s Day Moon is an affirmation of musical friendships, a declaration of joy, and a potent reflection of our times. From the lyrical tribute to Jobim in “Tolos de Abril” to the unique transformations of known standards, Jensen’s work is rich with creative insights and skillful musicianship.
For those fortunate to be near Upstairs, Joel Giberovitch’s renowned listening room on McKay Street, you’ll find a shrine of respect for the music and the musicians. Perhaps it’s the perfect setting to immerse oneself in the sheer quality and brilliance of these Montreal jazz stalwarts.
Day Moon is an album of purpose and positivity, inviting listeners to a shared experience of musical exploration and connection. Delivering a fundamental listening experience, Day Moon, a solid addition to the jazz canon, is a reminder that even in the most challenging times, creativity finds its way. It is music that speaks of transformation, resilience, and the undying spirit of jazz.