Christine Jensen

Montreal-based saxophonist and composer Christine Jensen has been described as, “an originalvoice on the international jazz scene… [and] one of Canada’s most compelling composers,” by Mark Miller of the Globe and Mail. According to Greg Buium of Downbeat Magazine, “Jensen writes in three dimensions, with a quiet kind of authority that makes the many elements cohere. Wayne Shorter, Maria Schneider and Kenny Wheeler come to mind.” After a performance at the 2006 Montreal International Jazz Festival, Scott Yanow wrote, “She’s rapidly developing into a majo force … as a player and as a writer.”

Jensen took up roots, leaving Nanaimo for Montreal to get her first degree from McGill University in jazz performance in 1994. She followed this up by completing her Master’s in Jazz Performance in 2006. Christine has honed her skills as a saxophonist under the tutelage of an impressive list of leading musicians including Pat La Barbera, Kenny Werner, Jim McNeely, Remi Bolduc, Dick Oatts and Steve Wilson. 

Over the years, she has collaborated with a diverse array of musicians, including Geoffrey Keezer, Lenny, Pickett, Brad Turner, Karl Jannuska, François Théberge, Gary Versace, Donny McCaslin Steve Amirault, Franck Amsallem, in addition to her long-term musical relationships with sister Ingrid and partner, saxophonist-composer Joel Miller.

Composing has been a constant throughout her career — while she was still an undergrad at McGill, she contributed her compositions to her sister’s debut album, Vernal Fields (Enja Records), which went on to win a Juno Award. This early recognition of her talent as a composer spurred her to keep writing. 

Noted for her ability to transfer the intimate sound of a quartet into larger ensembles, Jensen’s music has been performed by ensembles around the globe, including the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, Germany; the UMO Big Band, Finland; and the McGill Jazz Orchestra, Montreal. She was honoured with an Opus Award for Jazz Concert of the Year in 2006, from the Quebec Council for the Arts, for leading the 18-member Christine Jensen Jazz Orchestra, with special guest Donny McCaslin.

Christine Jensen was born in Sechelt, British Columbia, in 1970, growing up in Nanaimo among some of Canada’s finest musicians, including Phil Dwyer, Diana Krall, blues guitarist, David Gogo, and her sister Ingrid. Her pianist/mother raised her daughters on music, exposing them to everything from Chopin to Broadway to Big Bands. Jensen’s first love was the piano, developing an individual style influenced by two greats: “I freaked out over Oscar Peterson and … Bill Evans was a big epiphany when I was a teenager, as a musician who created an impressionistic sound.” Once she started studying the saxophone at age 12, she quickly grew to love it as she realized that she could create her own voice through that instrument.

The past few years have kept Jensen busy on the international stage, taking her music to India, Peru, Argentina, Chile, Denmark, Mexico, Sweden, Turkey, and Haiti. In 2007, she performed with her quartet at Dizzy’s Club at Lincoln Center, as well as at Burlington’s “Discover Jazz” Festival. Jensen is frequently heard across the country live in concert on CBC radio and Radio-Canada's Espace-Musique.