Born: February 18, 1965 Primary Instrument: Vocal
This is an experienced singer... and it's the combination of innocence and sexy womanliness somewhere in the timbre of her voice that lets you know it. Shane Nichols - www.allaboutjazz.com, Oct '01
Introducing a versatile singer, songwriter and piano player and recording artist. Born in New Zealand but based in Sydney for many years, Bonnie J Jensen has performed in a variety of musical settings in Australia and continues to spend a large amount of each year working internationally.
February 2007 marked the release of her third album The Sapphire Tree, a collection of songs she says was inspired by the sounds of instrumentalists she works with, and by noticing audiences' reactions to live performances. In 2006 Bonnie started working with Miroslav Bukovsky and the core musicians of his ARIA winning jazz group Wanderlust. Naturally, they are featured on The Sapphire Tree (two of them also played on her previous album) and together they've created a certain warm sound of musical integrity with a contemporary and European flavor. This compliments Bonnie's soulful interpretations well and subtly enhances her unique approaches to this diverse selection of songs, which includes three new engaging originals.
The Australian Weekend Review review in February 2007 mentioned that she draws …on many influences, sounding sometimes reminiscent of Renee Geyer, at others traces of Peggy Lee or Sarah Vaughan emerge….
Bonnie handled the production and arranging of this album mostly herself though she is keen to acknowledge the contributions of the stellar array of musicians on hand. In addition Bukovsky wrote the horn and cello arrangements.
Listeners familiar with her previous work will appreciate Bonnie's signature treatments of classic songs, both jazz standards and pop classics. I love finding a damn good song that's really well loved, blurring the genres, and giving it a reincarnation of sorts, says Jensen.
Here she has reworked U2's I still haven't found what I'm looking for by changing the meter and adding Bukovsky's haunting horn arrangement. Her rendition of Jimi Hendrix's Little Wing, like many of the tracks on this album, displays the wide emotional range of her voice and Bonnie's own Neon Soliloquy is said to be reminiscent of Miles Davis' film sound track for Ascenseur Pour L'Echafaud. Some of her favourite jazz numbers are included to great effect such as Night and Day, Angel Eyes and A Night In Tunisia and the album ends with a beautiful prayer of a song by legendary American drummer Brian Blade who worked with Joni Mitchell for many years.
Bonnie's first notable recognition in the jazz world came in 2001, shortly after the release of her debut CD Lucky So & So, which quickly rose to No. 3 in the Australian Independent Jazz Charts. This immaculately produced recording of swinging jazz standards and two originals places her warm and stylish vocals to the fore, and also features the talents of other leading Australian musicians: Michael Bartolomei, David Stratton, Nick McBride, Steve Brien, Graham Jesse and Casey Greene.
The American music critic David Nathan, who has written scores of reviews and liner notes for luminaries including Shirley Horn and Roberta Flack, wrote the following in his column on www.allaboutmusic.com in July 2001:
… Maintaining the high standards set by the La Brava label with its previous releases, Jensen delivers a scintillating, expressive 55 minutes of music. Possessing a voice with excellent range, she distributes emotions tailored to the message she wants each song to convey to the listener, whether the tune be an original or standard - the mark of a good jazz singer…
November 2003, whilst home in Sydney, Bonnie recorded and co-produced her second CD Blue Joy, a soulful mix of popular tunes, and originals, inspired by her travels.
This album contains more original material, displays her development as a writer and arranger, and was devised with a coherent theme - love's inherent dichotomy of ecstasy and anguish.
Blue Joy quickly climbed in the Australian Independent Jazz Charts' Top 10 and was also immediately repackaged and released in Japan. A feature article about Bonnie appeared in the April '04 issue of Japan's Swing Journal - the magazine for jazz devotees, and Blue Joy rose to No. 8 in their (vocal) charts for the month of June 2004, placing Bonnie along-side well-marketed, non-independent artists such as Norah Jones, Diana Krall, Michael Buble and Keiko Lee. These charts are based on sales of CD's at 9 major record stores in major cities throughout Japan.
Shane Nichols of The Australian Financial Review wrote the following in February 2004:
…Jensen's second album is a confident, bold and coherent statement of a musician (singer, player, composer and arranger) hitting stride. Jensen is that rarest of things - a full blooded, grown up sexy woman unafraid to let her passions and eroticism inform her music in a sophisticated way, beyond the usual raunchy, bluesy stuff….
The official launch of Blue Joy was held at Sydney's favourite music venue - The Basement. where Bonnie and her sextet - a handful of Australia's crack jazz musicians (Lloyd Swanton, Fabian Hevia, Michael Bartolomei, Craig Walters, Jon Pease and Don Rader) played to a full house on a cold, rainy Monday night.
In 2006, the following review of Blue Joy, written by Tony Magee appeared on the APRA website:
…Here is a truly sumptuous album containing beautiful new arrangements of some seriously well- written 70's and 80's classics, plus some excellent original material.
Singer, songwriter and arranger Bonnie J Jensen is new to me, but I'm so glad I've found her. Absolutely refreshing to hear intelligent, quality singing and phrasing from one of our own…
While many artists talk about listening to their parents' records when they were young, Bonnie's introduction to jazz was somewhat unconventional. She was in her early 20's following her classical music education when she first encountered the genre that she remains passionately intrigued in. Her initial discovery in the Jazz realm was indeed the music of the Brazilian master, Antonio Carlos Jobim, ironically whilst she was living in Germany. The warmth and emotion of his songs, and the sophisticated harmonies underlying Jobim's elegant melodies captured her and still inspire her.
John McBeath lauded Bonnies songwriting in his February 2007 review of The Sapphire Tree in The Australian: …Jensen's title ballad, an original, displays a talent for both musical composition and poetic lyrics, evident too on Neon Soliloquy: Like a diamond in the river, as precious as the African rain, this glimpse of bliss will sustain you - again and again…
Sunday, April 8, 2007
A Pacific Princess Returns
It’s always a pleasure to welcome a real jazz talent back in town, and Tuesday sees the return of Bonnie J Jensen to the lobby lounge of the InterContinental Hong Kong, where she last appeared in the winter of 2005.
Jensen, born in New Zealand, but now well established on the jazz scene in Australia and Japan, managed the difficult trick during her last residency of creating the intimacy of a small club performance in the vast harbour-view lounge. Rather than admiring the lights, people headed over to the piano to listen to her sing.
In the course of two months, she built up a remarkable rapport with the local musicians hired by the hotel to back her. They’ve been re-engaged for this gig. Guitarist Joel Rasco is well worth hearing.
Her repertoire last time consisted of a mixture of standards, pop and rock tunes given a jazzier twist, and a few of her own originals. Some had been recorded on her first two albums, Lucky So & So and Blue Joy.
These have now been joined on the CD racks by a third album on the LaBrava label, The Sapphire Tree, some of whose arrangements were taking shape during her last Hong Kong residency.
Pianist Alister Spence, who also handles Fender Rhodes and organ, contributes a fine solo to a version of U2’s I still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.
But Jensen takes over the keyboard for one of the better jazz-inflected cover versions of Jimi Hendrix’s Little Wing I’ve heard in recent years (there have perhaps been too many, but she brings something fresh to it), for two of her originals and for the late Irish songwriter Noel Brazil’s Columbus. The best-known version of the tune was previously Mary Black’s.
As always with Jensen, it’s an interesting set of interpretations that pays due respect to heritage in the choice of standards and compositions by jazz musicians, but breaks them up with contemporary composition. Jensen once cited Bonnie Raitt as an influence, and like Raitt she generally chooses, with rare intelligence, songs that suit her voice. Both apply the same high standards to their own compositions.
Her phrasing on The Sapphire Tree puts me in mind of Joni Mitchell rather than Diana Krall, with whom she tends to be compared, and she digs down deep into the blues for Aeroblue.
Her record company’s press release says the other original, Neon Soliloquy, is reminiscent of Miles Davis’ soundtrack for Louis Malle’s film Ascenseur pour L’Echaffaud. It isn’t particularly, although it does feature a muted trumpet played by Miroslav Bukovsky, which was one of Davis’ signature sounds. It also reminds me more of Mitchell during her jazz period, performing songs such as Furry Sings the Blues.
The straight-ahead jazz tunes are well chosen. Dizzy Gillespie’s A Night in Tunisia, when Jon Hendricks’ lyrics, is a vocal tour de force and an instrumental one for the band. Night and Day and Angel Eyes are tastefully interpreted and she revisits her bluesy side with Ain’t No Use, which features some effective guitar from Jeremy Sawkins.
The album concludes with Lead The Way, written by Brian Blade, who has also supplied sympathetic percussion for songwriters such as Mitchell and Bob Dylan.
Jensen is backed by an all-star lineup of Australian jazz musicians: Miroslav Bukovsky, who also wrote the horn arrangements, Alister Spence, Jeremy Sawkins, Craig Walters on Saxophone, Jonathan Zwartz on bass and Fabian Hevia on drums and percussion.
John McBeath THE WEEKEND AUSTRALIAN
February 24 - 25, 2007
About The Sapphire Tree
Sydney vocalist and pianist Bonnie J Jensen retains most of the quality jazz players in this septet from her previous two albums. She's composed three tracks, collaborated on arrangements and plays accompanying piano on several. There are standards, some unusual vocal pieces and one down-home blues number, Ain't No Use.
Her style is nightclub chanteuse, drawing on many influences, sounding sometimes reminiscent of Renee Geyer, at others [times] traces of Peggy Lee or Sarah Vaughan emerge.
Soloists have adequate space: saxophonist Craig Walters contributes sympathetically, Jeremy Sawkins delivers effortless guitar and Miroslav Bukovsky's broad-toned trumpet is super-heated on A Night in Tunisia, a challenging vocal piece, cleverly arranged with unusual variations. Jensen's title ballad, an original, displays a talent for both musical composition and poetic lyrics, evident too on Neon Soliloquy: Like a diamond in the river, as precious as African rain, this glimpse of bliss will sustain you - again and again.
Shane Nicols Australian Financial Review website
Blue Joy. Bonnie J. Jensen (La Brava) 8 stars:
The Sydney-based singer is hardly advanced in years but has passport pages full of foreign gigs to her credit. It was timely, a couple of years back, when her debut album was released - a calling card to announce her presence and show off the wares. Among the impressive run through of jazz standards were a sprinkling of her own compositions which pointed to a seam of talent that should be developed further. Her second album is that leap - a confident, bold and coherent statement of a musician (singer, player, composer and arranger) hitting stride. Jensen is that rarest of things in Australian singers - a full blooded, grown up sexy woman unafraid to let her passions and eroticism inform her music in a sophisticated way, beyond the usual raunchy, bluesy stuff. She's a nightclub singer who belongs in gowns, not jeans, and harkens back to a school and a style that is both timeless and increasingly rare. Performing with her on a selection of her own tunes and such wonders as This Masquerade, Every Breath You Take and Just The Two of Us are a crack line-up of jazz musicians that frame this music in just the lustrous and vivid colours it needs. It's a very even album, with no missteps, beginning with Bonnie's own Tokyo Skies, a remarkably frank and modern exposition of desire and neediness, plumbing a well of lonelines in Sharing The Night With The Blues, Good Morning Heartache and Baby Come Home - canny choices all of them - and topped with a radical reworking of Stevie Wonder's Creepin (hear the jukebox), replete with Jensen's own rap fantasia at the close. Her reharmonisation of Sting's classic is beautiful and logical, finding new layers in a tune that always hinted they were there. The album is out in late February.
Kevin Jones THE AUSTRALIAN (Weekend edition)
February 9 - 10, 2002
It's easy to see why this CD is riding so high in the Independent Australian Jazz Charts. Not only is Bonnie Jensen an excellent singer and arranger - she has a hand in the charts for all 12 tracks - but there is an easy intimacy between her and the other musicians, especially pianist Michael Bartolomei, a consummate and perceptive accompanist and imaginative soloist …
David Natham AMG, USA, (www.allaboutmusic.com)
… Maintaining the high standards set by the La Brava label with its previous releases, Jensen delivers a scintillating, expressive 55 minutes of music. Possessing a voice with excellent range, she distributes emotions tailored to the message she wants each song to convey to the listener, whether the tune be an original or standard - the mark of a good jazz singer. Thus, Waltz for Debby is tender and a bit wistful. Teach Me Tonight imparts a sense of urgency as she staggers space between words and lines to make this oft-recorded song come across somewhat differently than one usually hears it. Her own Reality is more contemporary music and comes wrapped in a Brazilian beat. Jensen also recognises the importance of imaginative arrangements to make sure that the proper combination of instrumentation is used to help her meet her performing objectives … she displays a vocal instrument power and clarity combined with a sense of intimacy that makes the session work. Recommended.”
Disclaimer: All About Jazz is not responsible for the accuracy of the discographical data at the website(s) provided. If a link is no longer valid, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you.
Willing to teach:
Bonnie provides a supportive learning environment, teaching people of all ages and abilities, from absolute beginners, to professionals who wish to fine-tune their skills or prepare for recordings. Having produced 3 of her own (4) albums, Bonnie is also able to lend her arranging, songwriting and production abilities to your project. Lessons are tailored depending on your goals, experience and current ability and can cover: building a healthy technique, stage performance, fundamental vocal anatomy, tone development, pitch and ear training, interpretation, fundamental keyboard skills, harmony and theory, chart writing and transposition, transcription and improvisation. Bonnie can provide coaching in almost any genre of contemporary music including Jazz, Funk, Latin, Pop and R & B. Bonnie has performed extensively in Australia, at dozens of festivals, exclusive venues and events, including The Basement, Thredbo (2012) and Manly (2009 & 2001)Jazz Festivals and she has appeared on numerous international stages in Japan (most recently 2012), Mongolia, New York, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Seoul, Italy and Sweden. Possessing an extensive repertoire and a voice that segues effortlessly through different genres, Bonnie sings and leads various ensembles and her own band features luminaries of the Sydney Jazz Scene. An experienced teacher and performer of a wide variety of contemporary musical styles, her early classical musical studies in piano, voice and clarinet morphed into an interest in jazz and Bonnie has since developed a prolific career as a Singer/Songwriter, Pianist and Recording Artist. She presently has 4 well-lauded albums to her name and her recordings sell worldwide and have maintained frequent airplay on the ABC and community radio waves nation-wide. As well as maintaining her own busy singing career, Bonnie has taught privately and at high schools, including SCECGS Redlands where she was appointed as a consultant classroom teacher and private vocal tutor in 2010. Lessons are booked on an appointment basis, allowing students to learn at a pace that suits their learning style. Some students may choose to attend weekly or fortnightly, while for others, only a few lessons may be required to attain the desired results or to deal with specific concerns. Weekly lessons however, are recommended in most cases. Many of Bonnie’s high school students have gone on to win singing competitions and adult students frequently report that fulfilling their life-long ambition of learning to sing, has indeed proven to be a confidence-booster and a fun, life-enriching experience. For prices, further information and bookings, please email: email@example.com