“Come on, people, seriously,” was Ingrid Jensen’s reaction when she recently googled her name and found herself described as ‘Hard Bop Trumpet Player.’ Both Ingrid and her sister-saxophonist Christine have been pushing against assumptions and stereotypes throughout their brilliant and ever-changing careers. Through Infinitude, their latest release, the Jensens endeavor to give a sound to “the concept of boundless possibility.” With raw, empathetic interaction, the Jensens have created a powerful quintet, rounded out by Ben Monder on guitar, Fraser Hollins on bass, and drummer Jon Wikan. The Jazz Gallery recently spoke with Ingrid over the phone, who was returning from an educational tour and a residency with the Purdue University Big Band. We discussed her and Christine’s vision for the project, their expansive collaborative sound, and the nature of their musical relationship.
The Jazz Gallery: How did a quintet come to mind? Is five the ideal number for the kind of interaction you were envisioning?
Ingrid Jensen: Nope. A trio is the ultimate [laughs]. Or even a quartet. But in this case, because of who we are together, it can feel just like that, a trio. Or a big band. Because what Christine and I have is one voice that branches out into two. Or three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine. A lot of sounds come out of what we do. A lot of possible ideas can turn into a unison sound or a full orchestral sound, because of where our minds and ears can meet up in relation to the incredible trio playing with us, Ben, Fraser, and Jon.
TJG: Over the years, how have you and your sister worked to cultivate this unified voice?
IJ: It’s a series of relationships, layered on top of one another. Christine and I have a long relationship, many years of hanging out, listening to music, talking and sharing advice. My husband is on drums as well. There’s just a lot of stuff we don’t have to talk about when we play together, because it’s already there. There’s an inevitability. We know something’s going to happen, but we don’t know what. There are stakes, there’s a layer of trust within whatever direction we choose to go as an organism. It’s about what the muse decides to do when we start playing together. The choices are wide, but there’s a little bit of direction and orchestration.
TJG: Was that trust uniformly present on the album while you were recording in the studio? Or were there moments when you had to talk about some things more than others?
IJ: There were little organizing moments, like “Oh, let’s add another four bars here so when you guys trade it works out more evenly,” little things like that. Rarely were there discussions like “No man, that’s not the groove,” or “Hey, I think I want more of this.” That never happened. It was just, “Wow, that was that tune. Let’s try the next one and see what happens.” A lot of the album was first takes, maybe second. It was one of those records where at the end, even though we were exhausted because we did it all in one day after touring, we felt like we had more than enough material to choose from, even too much. It was a good problem to have.
TJG: While drafting the album and thinking about what you’d play, what you’d write, the other musicians, how did you maintain such a unified voice while drawing compositions from different sources?
IJ: It just happened. The tune of Ben’s we really wanted to do was something we had heard on Ben’s record, which has a vocal part. Christine and I took over the vocal parts with our collective sound. We recreated another version of an already-great tune. That’s probably what we put the most time into, in terms of how to adapt and play the vocal part without ruining it. It’s just a great tune. The rest of the music, I had been working on the rest of the music, and I felt it was time to try it, especially because the band was so open. It fell into place. And then the Kenny Wheeler tune. It all just really organically fell into place without much discussion at all.