Winnipeg Jazz Orchestra - Tidal Currents: East Meets West

Jill Townsend represents the east, though based here; BC-raised Christine Jensen, the west

Winnipeg Jazz Orchestra - Tidal Currents: East Meets West
Photo contributed by Orange Grove Publicity

The Winnipeg Jazz Orchestra's latest release, Tidal Currents: East Meets West, is a BC jazz album in disguise. It's a four-track release that alternates between compositions for the large ensemble by Jill Townsend – that's tracks one and three – and Christine Jensen on tracks two and four.

Townsend represents the east because she comes from Nova Scotia, despite being based here; and Christine Jensen represents the west because she was raised here in BC, with the last track alluding to Sechelt, where she comes from.

Jensen's "Rock Skipping Under the Half Moon": that's my favorite track of the four, sporting an intimate quartet moment. All the way down to the acoustic strumming that brings the arrangement to the finish, it's nuanced. Bell tones, an ambient wash, a pedal: it's a landlocked band embodying a coastal mood that feels so much about this coast.

Townsend's compositions are dynamic, soloist-heavy, and have great backgrounds mixed in behind the soloist. The record sounds great – either the production tightened up from their previous release or Jacob Chung has better ears than me, or more likely both.

Doing four compositions and putting it out at that length, which streaming platforms call an EP, is strategic. However, it's no surprise from an ensemble that both wants to accept crypto even though that's too risky right now for CanadaHelps and has a sizable back catalogue of thoughtful recordings.

The drum solo-vamp thing is also one of my favorite moments. Every piece has a bit of something, a hook, before the official melody. Then, those melodies bounce around the band: tight trombone sections, trumpets paired with saxes, a sax soli over a groove switch. As Jensen wins another Juno in 2024 (that's Manitoba's own Juno-winner Will Bonness on piano, too!) and Townsend is leading some Big Band Mondays at Frankie's on top of her busy bandleading schedule, the Winnipeg Jazz Orchestra's collab with these two beloved members of the BC jazz extended family is right on the money.

Tidal Currents: East Meets West cover
Photo: Josh Withers / Artwork: Jon Snidal

released Feb. 2, 2024 / Buy CD (direct) / Buy digital (Bandcamp) / Available on streaming

Personnel (click here to expand):

Christine Jensen - alto /soprano saxophone
Neil Watson - alto saxophone
Niall Cade - tenor saxophone
Monica Jones - tenor saxophone
Kyle Wedlake - baritone saxophone

Joel Green - trombone
Jeremy Duggleby - trombone
Francois Godere - trombone
Isabelle Lavoie - trombone

Shane Hicks - trumpet
Jeni Taylor - trumpet
Richard Gillis - trumpet
Matthew Walden - trumpet

Will Bonness - piano
Karl Kohut - bass
Fabio Ragnelli - Drums
Larry Roy - guitar