CHRISTINE AND INGRID JENSEN | Montreal International Jazz Festival

Joined by the punctuating guitar of Ben Monder — as featured on Bowie’s Blackstar — Canada’s celebrated Jensen sisters played to a warm, home crowd presenting their new album Infinitude (out on Whirlwind Recordings).

Earlier in the day — receiving the Oscar Peterson Award for musicianship and exceptional contribution to the development of Canadian jazz — Christine mused on a topic touched on by Oscar in a animated short film screened before the presentation: life on tour. For the touring musician, the hardships of constant travel, peripatetic detachment and time away from family only makes sense in the context of what happens when performing. Framed in this way, Christine expressed that on-stage experience as ‘sanctuary’ and in the swirling expression of Infinitude there were moments when each sister took time to step back from the mic and drink in that sanctuary the other was brewing. With charts pieces like ‘Blue Yonder’ and ‘Swirl Around’ we were treated not only to the melodic tumult of the Jensens but also the rock-influenced guitar of Monder, powering the music into a more distorted arena.

Much has been made in other genres of the sweet, intuitive performance of siblings (the folky strains The Staves or Wildwood Kin, for example) while elsewhere familial ties are more of a tempestuous source of creative inspiration (look no further than the Gallaghers and Oasis). The Jensen blend is something of their own. Yes, moments of synchrony where the sax and trumpet speak with a sisterly conspiracy — more interestingly though they afford each other space for individuality without it turning into a battle of the chops. When Ingrid’s at the mic, there’s plenty to be played with especially when she brings the effects board into play. For Christine, there’s a composed quality to her improvisation — a sensitivity for which she received the award earlier today.

After a 6-day tour (and many more years on the road before that) there is a palpable calm about the set that concludes with young family members bounding on stage bearing flowers. A piece of the sanctuary that they seek on tour wafts over the audience, reminding us all of the joy of sharing that tranquility with the ones we love.

Festival international de Jazz de Montréal runs from 28 June to 8 July. You can view the whole programme here.

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