Jazz Trumpet Player Ingrid Jensen of New York City was born and raised in Cedar, Canada ... a bohemian community across the Strait of Georgia from Vancouver. Ingrid Jensen's high school emphasized the arts, especially music. All the music teachers in the district played jazz, and they organized a big band that played Thad Jones and Bob Brookmeyer charts at school concerts and swing dances on weekends.
Jazz Trumpet Player Ingrid Jensen's mother was a pianist who taught Kodaly music in the school. She also had a lot of private students and she played "club date" kind of things, solo piano gigs and musicals. She didn't improvise until she was in her 60s, shortly before she died. Ingrid's mom knew all of the standards. She had old lead sheets and tons of books filled with songs and lyrics all over Ingrid's house in Cedar, Canada. Ingrid learned to read by just looking at the melodies, watching her mother play and then matching up the notes with her fingers. Ingrid's mother started out as a classical musician. Her parents told her, "You can't make a living as a musician," so she had to have another job. She got her university degree to teach in the elementary schools, a decision that kept her fairly miserable and stressed out for years until she remarried. Ingrid's stepfather, Al, encouraged her mother to go back to school and get her degree in teaching Kodaly, so she could do something with music instead of teaching grade school kids. That was a great change for all of them! Ingrid's mom was much happier and was able to bring jazz into the schools, play the kids Ella Fitzgerald and all the stuff they needed to hear.
Trumpet Player Ingrid Jensen states, "I attended a local college for two years, practiced a bit, played gigs (which I'd been doing since I was 15 years old) around town, in Vancouver, Canada and different places on Vancouver Island. At one point, I got a scholarship to the Port Townsend Jazz Workshop, a camp that jazz trumpet player Bobby Shew and other great trumpet teachers were working at. Bobby had heard me play when I was in 10th grade, and he thought I was an old black man. He first heard me from the back of the stage and said, "Who's that old black man playing up there?" I was very embarrassed when he announced that in front of the entire band, later realizing that he was being positive and encouraging and not intending to embarrass me.
Bobby, and many of the festival adjudicators, were always very positive and encouraging to me in my early years. When I went to the Port Townsend Jazz Workshop, I met and hung out with many of my jazz idols like Phil Woods, Tom Harrell, Bobby Shew, Hal Galper, and many more ... making the jazz camp a pivotal experience for me. At the time, I had major doubts as to whether or not I was good enough or talented enough to really make it as a trumpet player. One day, I was playing at a jam session at the camp and somebody said, "Let's play rhythm changes." I had never played rhythm changes; at least I didn't think I had and was pretty sure I didn't know what they were. Someone said, "C'mon Ingrid, just play, close your eyes and listen." So I did. I closed my eyes and I listened really hard, played through the changes, and played what I was hearing. Then, I opened my eyes and the entire Phil Woods Quintet was standing there watching me and nodding their heads.
As the week went on I found myself playing with all of the best student players at the camp and I grew quickly as a result of being around them. Pianist Hal Galper pulled me aside and said, "You know, Ingrid, you should really take your trumpet studies further, go to the East Coast so you can get your education on a whole other level and be around a high level of both trumpet players and trumpet teachers." I thought he was crazy. I thought, "What's the matter with him? Doesn't he hear how bad I am?" Of course I was in awe of him and all the other greats at the camp. I knew their music and loved their personalities, and when they played it just freaked me out. For them to acknowledge me as someone who should potentially pursue what they were doing ... it was a pretty heavy thing. I definitely took it and ran with it. In many senses, they were right. They were hearing much more in my playing than I was hearing. They were hearing this deep influence of great music that my mother had surrounded me with and all these great band teachers had plugged me in to. I just wasn't hearing it because I was struggling."
Trumpet Player Ingrid Jensen went to Berklee School of Music in Boston on a whim. It was August, and by September she was enrolled and sleeping on a friend's cold, dorm room floor! Says Ingrid, "I had missed the housing deadline thanks to my last minute decision. I went to school there for three years and got my performance degree. Being Canadian, I needed a visa, so I had to really finish the requirements so that I could graduate. I didn't really want to graduate, because most of my friends that were players were like, You don't' really need to graduate from this, you just go play and meet people, and all the sudden these people are in Art Blakey's band, or Joe Henderson's band, or whoever. Back in the late 80s that was still possible. These days things have changed a bit.
One of my best friends there was pianist Danilo Perez. I saw saxophonist Donny McCaslin a lot and he was very nice to me. I got to play in saxophonist George Garzone's ensemble and trumpeter Herb Pomeroy's big band. I just met tons and tons of people who were exceptionally great to me. It was also an eye opening experience as far as how the music business works. I had no clue. I saw my peers getting record deals and getting whisked off to private lessons with people I idolized. I saw how things worked and found my way through it all.
The reality of today's world was abruptly thrown in my face when I finished school, because there were no real playing opportunities for me. Nothing. No gigs. No, Come on down here and play in this band. Which is kind of the way it works with music school. You don't get out and get a gig like a lawyer or doctor gets an internship. You have to create that yourself.
So I just took off to Denmark when I graduated from Berklee. I had an aunt in Denmark and I stayed at her house for a couple months and hung out with the musicians in Denmark. Bandleader Ernie Wilkins and a bunch of good people. I went to a record store every day and just sat there and listened to music with the guy who owned the store. I transcribed and practiced and sat in with the local guys, which was kind of a perfect experience after college. From then on, things just started rolling.
I moved to New York, played in the subways and got gigs with all-women bands. While playing gigs in New York City ... I played with a wise old drummer in the subways who used to play with Monk. He got on drugs, like many people did back in the 50s and was in rehab for awhile. His name was Eddie, he was about 65 years old. He'd be playing, and he'd yell out, Ingrid! Ingrid, watch the bucket! Ingrid get up on the bucket! It's not exactly what you're trained to do in college, but a pretty important lesson nonetheless! We made a lot of money ... thirty-five, forty dollars, sometimes a hundred as it varied.
Ingrid played with the same band for about a year. They played on the sidewalks, in Central Park and they would play from 10 a.m. until dark. They were playing music for long periods of time, sometimes six or seven hours! Recalls Ingrid, "You would play for an hour, take a break, play some more ... you're getting tired having played for several hours, but then people show up and you just keep playing. Sometimes we would end up playing for an hour and a half or two hours straight. I really, really learned a lot about pacing myself. It was great. Playing over loud noises like honking cars, subway screeching, people yelling, every city noise you can imagine.
Then, while living in New York in the 90s, Ingrid got a gig to play in Austria with the Vienna Art Orchestra. That happened via going to Berklee and then ending up in New York with one of her Berklee friends as a roommate. That got Ingrid back into Europe, but this time in a working situation. Ingrid auditioned for a teaching job and the teaching job landed her in Austria. Being in Austria landed Ingrid in a bunch of different music scenes that were really inspiring and great. Ingrid didn't speak any German and she was living alone and moving every couple of months because she couldn't get a place of her own because she wasn't Austrian. Ingrid spent two and a half years dealing with this teaching situation, which was making her old really fast, and traveling around a lot in Europe. But in the end, being there made one major break for Ingrid, which was when she sat in with trumpeter Clark Terry and vibraphonist Lionel Hampton. When Ingrid sat in with Clark Terry at the Village Vanguard in New York City he really took an interest in her. So did trombonist Al Grey. Whenever they were anywhere in Europe, within train distance, Clark would say, "You come on and sit in. Bring your horn." So Ingrid went and sat in with these guys in their eighties and nineties, and this little blond thing would bop onstage and play a chorus of the blues and everyone would go ... "Whoo!"
When Ingrid moved back to New York City in 1994, she was just getting ready to record her very first album for Enja. Ingrid never thought she'd be in the studio until her mid-forties, but she was 24 or 25 years old. Says Ingrid, "I was sitting there writing a tune and the phone rings and saxophonist Rick Margitza says, Maria (Schneider) wants you to come down and play in the band. Trumpeter Tim Hagans isn't going to be there tonight." I said, "When does it start?" He said, "Ten minutes ago." I said, "Aaaahh!" I had been checking out Maria's band. In fact, the very first time I walked into the club and heard The Maria Schneider Jazz Orchestra play, I said to myself, "I'm going to play with this band. I'm going to be playing in that trumpet section. I don't know how, I don't know when, but I will." "I immediately identified with her music and the sensitivity and the depth and all the elements of her greatness. I wanted to know more." From then on out, Maria Schneider kept calling Ingrid to sub. Says Ingrid, "We've become very good friends. She encouraged me to write more and to trust my own instincts, which was great, because I wasn't writing that much before. To play the trumpet well, you have to practice all the time, so it's a big juggling act between composition and shedding with the horn. I don't think my writing sounds like her, because she has inspired me to be myself."
On Practicing, Ingrid states, "One of the things I love about the trumpet, is that it really challenges me to stay in shape. The more I work out and the better I take care of myself physically, the better I play. I've put in a lot of time on my trumpet playing long tones, working on my sound, and listening to the music and playing with it. Not just flipping from one record to the next, but focusing on one player or one album at a time while listening and practicing. Try to find other focus outside of jazz. Maybe focus on trumpet technique or try writing. Writing is a great way to find a voice. Try to focus on a project and put a lot of time into the concept. There is a lot of information out there. Focus. Spend six months or a year really checking something out. But really give it your all. If you get really good at something it will transfer over to other things. Constantly try to deepen your listening experience and you will get ideas that become your version of something else. For instance, Warne Marsh and George Garzone have influenced Mark Turner. Spend time with the whole boxed set of jazz. Get a vibe for it and from it. Learn tunes by ear. Make the best use of your time ... learn tunes by ear. Try sonic exploration of sounds. Learn tunes one chord at a time. Hold the chord and play over the sound. Hear, instead of Read. Listen to how others play. Then let it go and just play! Play slowly and in TIME. Add sweat and intensity to your music!" Ingrid Jensen's three CD's for the ENJA label and her CD, "At Sea," won her nominations from the Canadian Juno Awards, including an award in 1995 for Vernal Fields.