©Brett Delmage, 2011
©Brett Delmage, 2011
Christine Jensen, John Geggie, Maggi Olin
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Café Paradiso

The music was generally in a minor key, but the audience reaction was majorly positive when Montreal saxophonist Christine Jensen brought Swedish pianist Maggi Olin to Cafe Paradiso.

This was both a new and an old combination: Jensen has played with Olin for more than half a decade, particularly in the quintet Nordic Connect. Jensen has also played with bassist John Geggie. But although the three had never played together, they easily worked together to produce an evening of melodic and flowing jazz.

The music primarily came from albums by Nordic Connect, which also includes trumpeter Ingrid Jensen (Christine's sister), drummer Jon Wikan, and bassist Mattias Welin. The group put out one album (Flurry) in 2006, after which it played at the Ottawa Jazz Festival, and has just released its second album, Spirals (2011). The Ottawa gig was sandwiched between larger events featuring the entire quintet in Quebec, New Brunswick, and the northern United States.

The trio started with a romantic ballad, "Beatrice", in which Jensen's clear alto sax overlaid a full rich piano and deep bass, with lots of room for all three to improvise – and Jensen showed her aplomb and didn't miss a note in her solo as her entire set of scores cascaded in slow motion off her music stand. She joked  afterwards that "As you can see, we have a lot of music", and then left it on the floor for the remainder of the evening.

©Brett Delmage, 2011
©Brett Delmage, 2011
They then moved to originals for the rest of the night. Highlights included Jensen's "Sea Fever", where alto sax, piano, and bass played simply and thoughtfully.. "Hej Blej" (a tribute to Paul Bley) by Olin flirted with grooves while still keeping a long controlled melodic lines. Jensen's "Margareta" (a tribute to  Olin) was melodic jazz one could appreciate both emotionally and intellectually, with questioning and curlicuing soprano sax lines over clear resonant piano.

Perhaps inspired by his concert with Susie Ibarra a few nights previously, Geggie bowed his bass more than usual, melding with both sax and piano. In Olin's  "Ballad North", the resulting sound reminded me of a particularly deep cello and contrasted well with the initial slow march and later brilliant flurries of notes on piano. The evening ended with Jensen's "Cowboy", a faster and more syncopated piece than the rest of the evening's repertoire, where smooth and disjoint alternated, and then abruptly ended.

Given how well Jensen's orchestra and Nordic Connect have been received at the Ottawa Jazz Festival, it was disappointing that the show was not packed (even on a Tuesday  night). However, the jazz fans who did attend applauded enthusiastically, and got to hear some excellent, full-bodied music that worked particularly well in the coziness and intense quiet of Café Paradiso that night.

    – Alayne McGregor

See also: Christine Jensen Jazz Orchestra at the Ottawa Jazz Festival