Treeline.“It took me a long time to get the courage to go into the studio with a large band and really lay it down [for Habitat],” admits Jensen. “It also took me a lot of time in post-production to figure out the sound, because there’s a lot of ways you can go with that many musicians. I ended up getting four extended compositions together, and then added a few from my old repertoire that hadn’t been previously recorded.”
Jensen says that jazz represents her ideal form of expression. “Whether I’m playing by myself or with 20 other people, it’s about communication,” she says. “It’s about putting your own sound on top of a sketch or a lead sheet or an idea from a composer’s point of view. It’s just as important to express myself through the saxophone, as an improviser in the moment. That’s why everyone calls jazz the music of freedom.”
“It took me a long time to get the courage to go into the studio with a large band and really lay it down.” – Christine Jensen
For Ann Arbor, Michigan-born and Montreal-based multi-reed player Colin Stetson, that freedom extends to the physical. His New History Warfare solo album trilogy is inspired by the sweat he pours into his trademark bass saxophone.
Using techniques such as circular breathing and overblowing, Stetson – who’s also played studio musician to Tom Waits, Arcade Fire and Bon Iver, among others – pushes the envelope, uttering drones and Philip Glass ostinato patterns as part of his fascinating sonics.
“The solo writing, though not exclusively, tends to come from the physicality of the instrument,” says Stetson. “It always has to come from there, because ultimately I’m coaxing a certain palette out of it.
“There are times when I have ideas and more fleshed-out themes for full songs. I’ll bring that to an instrument and contextualize it. Ultimately, everything is filtered through the medium of my instrument and the way that I can play it.”
Saxophonist and flautist Jane Bunnett, a Canadian den mother of Cuban musicians, is breaking gender boundaries as well as sonic ones. Her latest album, Maqueque, introduces and earmarks the numerous talents of young female Cuban musicians, a stark counterpoint to that country’s male-dominated music scene.
She discovered them during her annual jaunts to Cuba on behalf of The Spirit of Music Foundation, launched by Bennett and her husband, trumpeter Larry Cramer, to take instruments to the country over the past 25 years.
“We’ve gone into the schools and a good 60 to 70 percent of the audience are young girls,” says Bunnett. “I just found it so surprising that there weren’t a lot of instrumentalists out on the scene.”
Bunnett says she met singer/percussionist Daymé Arceno, 18 at the time, during one of the couple’s Cuban sojourns and was immediately impressed. “She held her own with some of the legendary Cuban guys and I was very impressed by her chutzpah,” recalls Bunnett. “She sang well beyond her years, and I found out she loved to compose.”
Comprised of Arceno and her fellow Cubans Yissy García on drums, Yusa on guitar and fretless bass, Danae Olano on piano and Magdelys Savigne on percussion – all but Yusa in their early 20s – with Bunnett herself on soprano sax and flute, Maqueque is named for a word translates into “the spirit of a little girl.”
“We’ve got this really great combination of instruments and vocals I’ve kept in play,” says Bunnett of Maqueque, which has garnered enthusiastic album and live reviews throughout Canada.
In the true spirit of jazz, and in the true spirit of being Canadian, the frontiers of adventure await.
Given space constraints, it was not possible to mention all of the SOCAN members who are forging new directions in jazz.