The Ingrid Jensen Berklee Quintet Creates ‘Life-Moments’ on the Road

In May, jazz trumpet virtuoso Ingrid Jensen took four top-tier Berklee students on a five-date tour as part of the third edition of the Masters on the Road series.

July 13, 2015

Early in her jazz career, modern trumpet virtuoso Ingrid Jensen ‘89 had the great pleasure of befriending jazz trumpet legend Clark Terry. For Jensen, knowing Terry gave her a connection not only to the current scene but also a thread to the titans of the genre that Terry had performed with, such as Duke Ellington, Count Basie, and Louis Armstrong. “A lot of it was me sitting in with [Terry] at the Vanguard, just hanging out with all the cats and never giving up,” Jensen says of her early days. “I was very lucky to have that kind of mentorship from the masters.”

In May, Jensen had the chance to keep the chain of history and mentorship going, as she took four Berklee students on a five-date tour as part of the third edition of the Masters on the Road series. Performing as the Ingrid Jensen Berklee Quintet, the band traveled the East Coast starting with a gig at Boston’s Regattabar, playing dates in Washington, D.C., Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and culminating at New York City’s prestigious Jazz at Lincoln Center.

Immersed in the Flow

The show at Regattabar opened with shakers and tambourine, a percussive, frenetic intro to Jensen’s joyous arrangement of Kenny Wheeler’s “Old Time.” Jensen was in constant motion, going from auxiliary percussion, to melodica, to the trumpet, all of which she played with emotive yet casual confidence. Saxophonist Daniel Ko took the first solo, stutter-stepping through energetic runs that seamlessly cut into a smooth, full-band groove. While the skill levels are staggering and heady, the vibe was physical, from the constant grin on bassist Max Salinger-Ridley’s face, to Peter Barnick’s full-body approach to drumming—leaning in for a cymbal grab or an elbow jab to the snare. And while technically these are students taking part in an immersive educational experience, when the music was flowing, one could only think in terms of “band.”

The setlist was, according to Jensen, “epic,” and in addition to arrangements of greats by Wheeler and Oscar Peterson, also showcased the rich texture-collages of her own work (“Journey to Southeast Alaska”) as well as highlighting an original composition ("Friends") by the quintet’s student pianist Zahili Gonzalez Zamora. Zamora commented that it was a huge honor to work with so skilled a player as Jensen, and that through the experience, the quintet was “able to connect musically, heighten our listening skills, and groove with one sole purpose in mind: ‘taking care of the music.’” 

Education Hits the Road

Starting in 2013, the Masters on the Road series, sponsored by Berklee Presents, emerged as a way to increase not only the opportunities for students to learn directly from visiting artists, but also to elongate those experiences into something truly immersive and career-shaping. The multi-date tour is the key focus of the program, but the immersion happens over the course of the spring semester where the student players are selected and placed in an ensemble dedicated to the music of that year’s master.

Rob Hayes, assistant vice president for external affairs, spearheaded the initiative along with Matt Marvuglio, dean of the Professional Performance Division, and Michael Borgida, associate director for marketing and external affairs, bringing in pianist and bandleader Cyrus Chestnut ‘85 in 2013 and saxophonist Donald Harrison ’81 in 2014. Since the series' inception, Hayes describes the experience as “a whole different level of engagement” and one of Berklee’s “most valuable offerings in extracurricular experience for the students.”

Playing into Community

While Jensen teaches at the university and conservatory level, she sees her work with these four top-tier students primarily in terms of coming together as a band “through listening and making up ‘life-moments’ every second with every breath.” During her childhood on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada, Jensen was the daughter of two teachers, but, she says, “my mom was also a really fabulous musician,” and as a result doesn’t view her teaching as divided from her playing. Rather, “the two always went really hand in hand as far as sharing the wisdom that comes with being a player and hopefully creating more of a community out of it.”