Jazz trumpeter Ingrid Jensen visits the Eastman School of Music to work with students and perform with the Eastman Jazz Ensemble and Eastman New Jazz Ensemble on Monday, May 1 at 7:30 in Kilbourn Hall. The visit serves double duty for the Vancouver native: she also gets to spend time with her sister, Christine Jensen, who is an assistant professor of jazz saxophone at Eastman.
The sisters were highly influenced by their mother, a talented pianist who exposed them to everything from Rachmaninoff and Chopin to Fats Waller, Ella Fitzgerald, and Louis Armstrong. Music was always playing in their home and Jensen remembers looking through piles of lead sheets in the house of music from the ‘20s, ‘30s, and ‘40s—swing and stride jazz standards.
“Parents feed their kids organic food when they’re young, and then they can’t eat like pesticide vegetables later in life,” Ingrid says, comparing her upbringing. “That’s kind of how we are. We were raised on really incredible music.”
But when it came to choosing instruments, her older sister Janet picked Ingrid’s first choice, the trombone. In an effort for each sister to pick a different instrument, Ingrid ended up with the trumpet.
“I really didn’t like the trumpet,” Ingrid remembers. “I didn’t like the sound of it. It was very brassy. … I gravitated a lot towards vocalists because the sound of a voice, like a low soprano, alto, high tenor voice, really was what I was hearing. So I had to figure out how to change the way I played, or at least get over the sound of it sounding really bright and brassy and having a more warm, vocal quality.”
Ingrid’s warm, vocal quality on the so-called brassy trumpet is what immediate draws ears to her playing. It’s the kind of warmth and lyricism that fit perfectly with Maria Schneider’s band, which Ingrid played and recorded with throughout the first decade of the 2000s, and is certainly a factor in the many collaborations with big names artists she’s been involved with over the years before and after. Ingrid’s personal style is also featured on her latest venture with a band called Artemis. Although all six members of the band are female and the group is named after the Greek goddess of the hunt, they don’t want to be known for their gender.
“We’re just a band that happens to have women in it,” says Ingrid. “A couple of them are, you know, gay, a couple are straight. You know, it’s just a band. We’re trying to get to the point where people don’t use that identifier on us. Because if you see Christian McBride and his band, you don’t say Christian McBride and his all-male band, or Louis Armstrong is an all-male band. It’s just a band, they get to be just a band. We’re wondering why we play on the same level and still are having to be labeled.” Hopefully, she says, “the main message is the music.”
They just released a new album on the Blue Note records label called In Real Time, featuring eight tracks of musicianship that certainly reaches beyond gender descriptions. Artemis includes Eastman graduate Alexa Tarantino ‘14E.
Ingrid’s visit to Eastman also features work with the Eastman Community Music School on Saturday, in addition to time working with Eastman’s college students culminating on Monday’s concert. “I come in with sort of a suitcase full of possibilities. Depending on what they need, I dig in there like Mary Poppins and pull out whatever is available.”
That work will inevitably include body alignment work, which Ingrid is particularly attuned to. “Your body doesn’t move if you’re not from a place of center. So I get them into a basic alignment, and they all start breathing.” And so much of the sound and phrasing in music comes from breathing, even for those instrumentalists who don’t physically use air to produce sound.
Monday night’s concert at 7:30 p.m. in Kilbourn Hall will feature a work by Christine Jensen, Ingrid’s sister. “I love playing her music and it’s been too long,” says Ingrid, citing Covid and Christine’s relatively new position at Eastman as factors in a longer-than-anticipated reunion. One of Ingrid’s pieces called “At Sea,” inspired by a trip to Southeast Asia, will also be on the program. The rest of the concert will feature works by Maria Schneider, Thad Jones, and David Rivello. “It’ll be a potpourri of goodies,” says Ingrid.
Eastman Jazz Ensemble/New Jazz Ensemble | Monday, May 1
Kilbourn Hall, 7:30 p.m.
Christine Jensen, director (Jazz), Dave Rivello, director (New Jazz)
Ingrid Jensen, trumpet, guest artist