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Ingrid Jensen

Trumpet virtuoso Ingrid Jensen and I both dissolved into laughter as she responded to my question concerning how much of a role she played in the production of her new CD At Sea. "I paid for it all," she says and then there is this big pause. Jensen continues, "There would have been no product had I not opened up my bank account." Again we both start to laugh.

With At Sea Jensen is flying solo. She became her own label, producer and bandleader. She had great help from hubby Jon Wikan who incidentally is also her drummer. The two were married one and one half years ago. She says, "Jon is a guru. He helped with the mixing, post production, putting things together and finalizing all the details. I chose all the music and musicians." She laughs again as she says, 'I think our marriage will be fine. We went though producing a record our first year."

At Sea had its coming out party on January 19th at the 55 Bar in New York City, a venue Jensen describes as, " A little prohibition era bar that has been around forever. It doesn't have really high ceilings, big fancy tables or anything like that. It's just an underground bar. It's a home environment for me. It is one of the first places I played when I moved to New York fifteen years ago. It's a very special room. I have played there maybe 150 times since I have lived in New York."

55 Bar in bygone years has been home to artists such as Brian Blade and Norah Jones. The New York Times noted in their review of the CD release concert that it was evident that Jensen was in a relaxed environment and gave her high points for her musicianship.

"That night was a more exciting night then I have ever had playing," Jensen notes, saying that it represented the culmination of the entire project which she had coordinated and financed from start to finish.

"It has been a lot of work to do the whole CD project myself. In the past I have recorded for a label and someone else was taking care of the details. I just had to think about the music and playing. This project has been a lot more personal and a lot more special because every detail from me hiring the band, paying for the studio, deciding where I was going to mix and master it, and who the photographer was going to be (were arranged by me). From the musical side and the business side it is all my baby."

Jensen says, "Playing is my first love. Playing my own music with my own band is a total high. It is a total rush when it all comes together. I feel like I am starting to compose more now. I just turned forty and I am starting to feel the flow of writing as opposed to when I was still developing on the trumpet. It is becoming more enjoyable every time I play with my band."

She says, "It's a really incredible feeling when you connect (with your audience). You feel the energy of the audience come along for the ride. When you are playing from the deepest, most free space you can get to in your soul and the band is also coming from that same space people really do connect." Jensen maintains that when you remain true to your own individuality and just play the music for music's sake is when an artist rises to their best performances.

For Jensen the best rush comes when, "(I am) feeling that admiration from complete and total strangers. It (may be) about something they barely know. They may think, 'I don't know if that is a five four or seven eight or key of G sharp minor, I like it and I felt something connect there."

"On the other side is the thrill that I get when I see students who get excited about the music and learn about themselves through playing music," she says. For Jensen it is not about whether or not her pupils become professional Jazz musicians but in watching them grow as artists and individuals. She is highly regarded for her work with young talent. "I see sparks go off and I see kids come up with their own individual thoughts that have nothing to do with what they have seen on TV or (feeling pressure) to be like (somebody else)."

Jensen credits her childhood for sowing the seeds of creativity. "I grew up in such a lush environment where I enjoyed seasons and enjoyed doing many different things. As a child I rode horses, recited poetry and I played music. Having that kind of stimuli and doing all those things as a child set me up (so I) never want to be bored. I find I am constantly challenging myself to evolve in different areas."

"I am constantly raising the bar because I want to be challenging myself with different levels of players and musicianship so I don't become complacent in my craft. That is one of the reasons I live in New York and feel that I can't move away from here. The level here is so high; the bar is always being raised. There is always the young trumpet or piano player coming in who just blows your mind. (You go) wow where did this guy come from! I better go practice and write more. A big part of living in New York is just enjoying that challenge."

Now an established artist who is revered on virtually all the continents Jensen finds herself cast in the role of mentor to many young women who aspire to be Jazz musicians. "I have a lot of email pen pals who are young women trumpet and saxophone players. They write me and ask my advice. I do my best to try and give them some encouragement. I just listen to what they have to say. Again I didn't have that when I was growing up. It was definitely not an option. I didn't know any women who played trumpet, especially any women who improvised on trumpet," she says.

Whether she is playing her 1940's New York Bach trumpet or her Quesnon Flugelhorn Jensen says, "I am really truly honored to play anywhere with my own band and to play my own music. It doesn't really matter if it is in a little jerk dive club down in the village or if it is in a major concert hall in the middle of Zurich."

With more than two decades in music and still only forty years old as Ingrid Jensen reflects she says, "As I look back I don't really see this life as being hard or difficult. It is definitely challenging and it is the kind of life that requires a lot of energy and a lot of focus."

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Ingrid Jensen
  • Interview Date: 2/1/2006
  • Subtitle: A Mentor To Young Women In Jazz
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