For a few years now, it’s been pedal to the metal for Christine Jensen, the Montréal-based saxophonist, composer and bandleader. Besides splitting her timeChristine Jensenbetween touring and recording sessions, whether with small or big bands, she teaches at McGill University and Université de Sherbrooke, while her compositions are played by musicians the world over. And her work is far from incognito, as attest the numerous awards and recognitions such as a few JUNOs, and the Hagood Hardy Award she received at the 2015 Montréal SOCAN Awards ceremony.

Born in Nanaimo, British Columbia – also home to Canadian jazz greats Diana Krall and Phil Dwyer – she grew up in a very musical family; as a matter of fact, her sister Ingrid is a renowned trumpet player who often shares the stage with Christine. “We didn’t have TV at home, but we had a piano and a record player, and that was our playground,” says Jensen. “We grew up surrounded with music and we shared the same influences, and that created a very symbiotic relationship between us. We understand each other without having to say a word, and we always make music with great pleasure.”

“Music always comes first for me, even it means that I have to take a step back.”

When she started out, she already knew music would be at the centre of her life, but she didn’t think it would be as a composer. Modestly, she pictured herself as a teacher, a role she happily plays nowadays. “I know it’s a cliché, but teaching truly is a learning experience for the teacher, too,” says Jensen. “I’ve never been very academic, but I love being confronted by all those young musicians; they force me to constantly question the way I approach music.”

Besides her penchant for teaching, Jensen has also made more and more time for another aspect of her busy career: composing for large orchestras, and directing them — whether her own, or, on occasion, with the Orchestre National de Jazz de Montréal. “It’s opened so many doors for me,” she says. “I’m mostly from a small-band background, which leaves a lot of space for being spontaneous, and improvisation, and I’ve kept that intimate and spontaneous approach in my compositions for larger orchestras.”

Christine JensenSo, something like a “little big band”? “I guess,” says Jensen, laughing. “A large orchestra offers such endless possibilities! When I compose, I have this or that musician in mind, to the specific vibe they can bring to the piece – and I find that very inspiring. I imagine this or that part played by Chet Doxas, or Joel Miller [her husband], or my sister, and the way they play brings a new layer to the piece.” Fine, but does the composing side of her reserve the nicest solos for her musician side? “No, on the contrary,” she says. “Music always comes first for me, even it means that I have to take a step back.”

If you haven’t yet had a chance to see her onstage, there’s always her impressive discography, starting with Habitat, released in 2013. It’s an evocative, exhilarating record created with her big band, that the prestigious Downbeat magazine rated five out of five stars. It’s nothing short of a love letter to Montréal.

Besides the exceptional quality of her recordings, Jensen believes, like so many of her jazz peers, that the studio experience is completely different and, in some respects, inferior, to the magic of a live concert. “It’s hard, because I compose in a way that leaves as much space as possible to the musicians in order to make sure that each concert is different,” she says. “Jazz is a living matter, and you need to accept that on record you’ll only have but one version out of the infinite possibilities. But if you don’t want to become anxious about the recording studio, all you need to do is let go and live for the moment. What’s beautiful about it, though, is that once you get back onstage, you can go back to creating new moments.”

The way things are going, Jensen will no doubt keep on creating many more magic moments – for both her pleasure and ours.

Vancouver-based artist/songwriter/producer Chin Injeti has worked on three Grammy-winning projects, has two JUNO Awards, and is perhaps best remembered in Canada as a co-founder of the ‘90s R&B trio Bass Is Base.

And in typical Canadian fashion, he’s a homegrown talent who came from elsewhere, and now carries the banner for Canada’s diverse musical mosaic on the global stage.

Injeti came to Canada from India at the age of five. Stricken with polio at a young age, he had spent most of his early childhood in a wheelchair. But his mother, Ellen, was determined that the disease would not get the best of her son, and the family moved to Canada, settling in Toronto so Chin could undergo treatments and surgeries. Injeti eventually walked again, but it was while in hospital that he discovered something that would support him and lift him up for the rest of his life: his love for music.

“We’re more concerned with the quality of the song rather than the temperamental pop culture of what’s going on.”

Chin Injeti

Photo by Robin Miller

He realized then that he needed to make music his life. As he opened up his ears to all kinds of music, it was Geddy Lee’s playing on the Rush album Hemispheres that inspired him to take up the bass. His first success came in the early ‘90s as one-third of the R&B trio Bass Is Base with Ivana Santilli and Roger “Mystic” Mooking (now a restaurateur and Food Network celebrity chef).

Their 1994 debut album, First Impressions: For the Bottom Jigglers, won a JUNO Award. The follow-up in 1995, Memories of the Soul Shack Survivors, included the top 30 hit “I Cry.” But the band ultimately disintegrated, and Injeti headed west to Surrey, B.C. to get a fresh start.

From his new base, Injeti has produced such artists as Esthero, Kinnie Starr, Bedouin Soundclash and The Canadian Tenors. He’s also spent years traveling to Los Angeles to scope out the music scene there.

It was in L.A. in 2008 that Injeti met fellow producer DJ Khalil. The two discovered that they shared many musical tastes. With Khalil often as his production partner, Injeti began working with an impressive parade of A-list artists is the States.

His work with rapper Eminem includes the Grammy-winning 2010 album Recovery and 2013’s Marshall Mathers LP 2, as well as the track “Survival” from the video game Call of Duty: Ghosts. He’s worked with Dr. Dre, 50 Cent (Before I Self-Destruct), Virginia hip-hop trio Clipse featuring Kanye West (“Kinda Like a Big Deal”), not to mention Toronto’s own Drake on the mega-star’s So Far Gone mixtape/EP. Another album he worked on picked up a Grammy as well – Christian hip-hop artist Lecrae’s Gravity.

Then there’s his work on 2012’s Grammy-nominated The Truth About Love by pop powerhouse P!nk, and the 2014 album Lift Your Spirit by acclaimed L.A.-based R&B/pop/hip-hop artist Aloe Blacc.

“We don’t chase hits. We don’t chase the sound,” Injeti says of his partnership with Khalil. “We’re not the kind of producers where [we say], ‘Okay, this is what’s happening on the Top 10 – go work with those guys.’ We just try to do who we are, and we’re more concerned with the quality of the song rather than the temperamental pop culture of what’s going on.”

Injeti and Khalil sometimes work in the context of the writing/production team Injeti put together called The New Royales, which also features Erik Alcock and Liz Rodrigues. The team’s more recent work involved co-writing for another Eminem project, including the track “Kings Never Die” (featuring Gwen Stefani) from the movie Southpaw, starring Jake Gyllenhaal.

When we spoke to Injeti in late November 2015, he’d just been in the studio with Mr. “Uptown Funk” himself, Bruno Mars, writing and producing a batch of demos for the singer. He wasn’t able to reveal very much about the project, however: “Basically, we got into a studio with him and we just knocked out some ideas, really.”

And even though working with such big global stars south of the border is a Yankee Doodle feather in his cap, Injeti’s take on it shows some Canadian homeboy awareness.

“What I take away from working with those kinds of artists is that they’re incredible, but also from me being from where I am – which is Vancouver and Toronto – that we bring something to the table, too,” he says. “We bring something to the table that’s really our musical identity, which is quite international, I think. So we kind of have our own take and our own perspective on what they do.”

And what is that, exactly? “Just changing the soundscape, I would say; bringing a whole new cultural relevance to it,” Injeti says. “Culturally, R&B music has changed so much in the way that it’s expanding; it’s not just, like, funk and soul – it’s going to so many different places. People are sampling rock records, people are working with artists they would never have worked with before.”

“It’s so amazing that SOCAN has the ability to connect people and it’s really doing that right now. It’s like a dream record company. It’s just really, truly nurturing artistry.”

What he learned from working with these artists is to simply be who you are. He’s quite secure in the knowledge that his homegrown roots and identity are plenty enough to bring to the party.

“Don’t try to be them. Just stick to who you are and what makes you you,” he says. “Before, we used to have to look outside; we used to be like, ‘Gotta go to L.A., gotta go to New York’ to do our thing. But now it’s kinda like, we can do us.”

Injeti got actively involved in “doing us” not that long ago when he joined a gathering of other Canadian songwriters, producers and artists in SOCAN’s inaugural k?.n?kt Song Camp, held this past September in Nova Scotia.

Over the course of a week at the pastoral Shobac Cottages in the town of Upper Kingsburg, the camp brought together experienced songwriters such as Jully Black and David Myles, up-and-comers like Sophie Rose and Levi Randall, and accomplished producers including Injeti and Young Wolf Hatchlings (a.k.a. Jarrel Young and Waqaas Hashmi).

Chin Injeti

Photo by Chin Injeti

The goal of the Song Camp was to provide a fertile environment to cultivate the creation of music and the cross-pollination of musical ideas and skill sets. Each morning the participants received a briefing and group assignments for the day.

“It was incredible,” says Injeti. “We worked daily with each other, and at the end of the day we would present our songs that we worked on with the rest of the camp, and it was an incredible camaraderie that was happening. Just so many incredible artists that I never would have been able to connect with if I didn’t go to that camp.”

On the final day of the camp, about 20 music-industry representatives joined them for a listening party to review the week’s work.

“It’s so amazing that SOCAN has the ability to connect people and it’s really doing that right now,” says Injeti. “It’s like a dream record company. That’s what SOCAN feels like. It’s just really, truly nurturing artistry.”

As for Injeti’s own artistry, he’s recently released a new solo album, The Reverb. In keeping with his diverse tastes, it’s an eclectic affair featuring everything from trip-hop and funk to rock and dreamy ambient sounds. And he’s very excited about a brand new project called The Lifetimes, a band comprised entirely of fellow Vancouver musicians.

“I never get to do this, because I’m away all the time working on other projects,” he says, “but I’m really a fan of working with people in Vancouver, and with this project I get to do that.”

He’ll be going into the studio again very soon with Aloe Blacc, and he’s also scheduled to work on some new tracks for P!nk.

Having grown up in the diverse weave of the Canadian music mosaic, Chin Injeti is continuing to bring that sensibility to the world of global popular music, while also cultivating sounds and visions in his own backyard.

With the opening of a dedicated studio at 604 Records’ latest digs in Vancouver’s Railtown district, Jonathan Simkin (head of 604 Records, Light Organ Records and Simkin Artist Management), has realized his longtime dream of providing his artists with a truly multi-purpose space that speaks as effectively to the present state of the music industry as to its future.

The facility was inspired by an experiment at their former offices. “We bought this new building a few years ago and moved in around Canada Day 2014,” Simkin says, “but we’d had a smaller space before that. Basically, a band on the label, The Organ, had made a record, but weren’t happy with it. They came to me and said, ‘We want to re-do our album. We know you’ve spent a bunch of money, but you’ve got this space in the back of your offices. We could record there and it won’t cost you anything.’”

This was before the bottom dropped out of the studio business, when costs per day still ranged from $1,000 to $2,000 in some rooms, he adds. And, based on the success of the record and the ongoing use of that first room by other 604 artists, Simkin decided he’d like to do more recording in-house.

“I’ve been telling the artists, ‘Look at it as a blank slate; it’s up to you to create the work and use the space creatively.’”

“It got used a lot, especially by our ‘baby’ bands, which was nice because they could take their time,” Simkin says. “And I liked that we were making music in the building and our staff could hear it and become a little closer to it,”

Ideally, however, he wanted to create a studio space from the ground up, one that was properly isolated and constructed and would allow 604’s roster and third-party clients to create, record and distribute a diverse array of content, in keeping with the evolving appetite of fans.

Enter former Simkin management client Carly Rae Jepsen and “Call Me Maybe,” the success of which made the idea more feasible. “We were going to do this sooner or later,” Simkin says, “but ‘Call Me Maybe’ sped up the process.”

The location of their existing building was already heavily developed, so Simkin searched up-and-coming areas for the right space; one large enough to hold offices and the studio, and that would be a solid investment.

“That left Chinatown and Railtown, which has become the hottest part of Vancouver,” says Simkin. “Three years ago Railtown was still pretty run-down, but it’s changing rapidly. It’s like there’s a restaurant or condo going up every day, and property values have exploded. That wasn’t the reason we did it, but it was a nice side effect. And it didn’t seem like a big deal. It seemed natural. I’d been thinking about it for so long that when we had the resources I was, like, ‘Okay, let’s go find a building.’”

In addition to functioning as a recording studio – with two production rooms, a control room and a live room – the facility has a green screen, infinity wall and makeup bar, making it ideal for photo and video shoots. The centerpiece of the control room is a vintage SSL console that formerly resided at Vancouver’s Little Mountain Studios, which was used by the likes of Bon Jovi, Motley Crue, Aerosmith and Nickelback. “That’s how Chad Kroeger came to acquire it,” says Simkin. “And when I told him what I was doing, he said, ‘The board’s sitting here and if you want to refurbish it, you can keep it at 604.’”

The first streaming event held at the studio was the Oct. 23, 2015, release of the Marianas Trench album Astoria, which included a Q&A with the band, a performance of four songs, and additional content streamed live. “It was a bit of a guinea pig,” says Simkin. “We weren’t sure if the site was going to crash, so we were kind of mellow on the promotion.” Still, the event attracted 11,000 viewers. “And that’s amazing, the power of social media, of going straight to fans and having 11,000 people show up with very little advertising. It was exciting.”

Highly flexible, 604 Studios offers multiple means of monetizing content – none of which involve physical product. A small paid audience (roughly 25 people) can see the show live, and the event can be recorded and offered as a paid download, video-on-demand, or streaming.

Admittedly, building the space was an aggressive move, but the expense, Simkin says, was building the space and acquiring equipment: “Now the bleeding’s over and we’re reaping the benefits.”

The only time Simkin had second thoughts was when Josh Ramsay (lead singer, principal songwriter and producer for Marianas Trench) took a tour of the facility. “Josh didn’t say much,” says Simkin, “which freaked me out because he usually has something to say. So I was, like, ‘What do you think?’ He looked me right in the eye and said, ‘Simkin, you’ve got the biggest balls of anyone I’ve ever met.’”

That made Simkin wonder if he’d made a horrible mistake, but Ramsay says, “I thought it was a bold move, and I think you’ve got to be bold. Having a record label where you can record your album, shoot your videos on a soundstage, do live streaming – that all-encompassing entity – is a great concept. It’s set up for where the industry is going. I think what Jonathan has done here is taken an honest look at the future and adjusted for it in a really intelligent way.”

Anything that reduces the time, money and hassle of getting content from band to fans is a good thing. Down the line, as an investment property, it’s solid, and it’s a window for fans to see the creative process for themselves. Says Simkin: “I’ve been telling the artists, ‘Look at it as a blank slate; it’s up to you to create the work and use the space creatively.’”

And they are: one of 604’s bands wants to use the space to do a weekly TV show. Additionally, it’s a rental space, which has already been used for photo shoots, third-party videos and by the TV show The Flash. “It was built primarily for our artists,” says Simkin, “but if we can rent if from time to time, we’d be silly not to do it.”