“Chris Jentsch's seven-part homage to his home borough is at once grandly orchestral and strikingly personal. The entire band seems to radiate from Jentsch's pensive guitar pulse, blending jazz, classical and rock ideas into a multidimensional reflection of everyday life.”
Chris Jentsch is a Brooklyn-based composer, bandleader, and guitarist working primarily in jazz and contemporary improvisational forms…but before all that he grew up in South Jersey...a suburb of Philadelphia…the land of cheesesteaks and hoagies. Formative listening experiences involved strumming a tennis racket principally with Beatles songs and the radio along with being exposed to his Father’s Sinatra records.
Improbably he became the drummer in a guitar/drums duo when early piano lessons didn’t take, but began to sense a shift with his consistent requests to borrow the duo partner’s instrument, so an acoustic guitar was acquired. Skipping a lot…seasons of team sports became years of liberal arts and music conservatories to close out the century.
Based in NYC since August 1999, his main ensemble is Jentsch Group in its trio, quartet, nonet, or large configuration. He has performed at many leading NYC venues, among them the Cornelia Street Café, Barbès, ShapeShifterLab, the Internet Café, Symphony Space, Tea Lounge, The Knitting Factory, The Kitchen, and Greenwich House Music School: The Renee Weiler Concert Hall.
As a composer, he has been the recipient of grants, commissions, or fellowships from the Maelstrom Percussion Ensemble, the Penfield Commission Project, American Composers Forum (3), the Composers Assistance Program of the American Music Center (2), New Music USA, Meet the Composer, New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA)(3), Ucross Foundation (2), The Commission Project, the New Music Collective (2), the Donald Knutson Memorial Faculty Development Fund, and Chamber Music America/Doris Duke New Jazz Works.
As a bandleader and sideman Jentsch has performed throughout the Northeast and Florida, having worked with such diverse musical personalities as George Russell, John Cage, Maria Schneider, and Chris Wood. He appears as a guitarist on the CD John Cage - Orchestral Works I (composer supervised first recordings/Mode Records 41) and is also featured in Scott Yanow’s book The Great Jazz Guitarists (2013 Hal Leonard). An opportunity to combine that liberal arts/history background with his composition métier was his most recent premiere at ShapeShifterLab in Brooklyn featuring Topics in American History, an hour-long chamber jazz work commissioned by CMA/Doris Duke NEW JAZZ WORKS for his nine piece Jentsch Group No Net, with the CD to be released November 9, 2018 and a video of the performance to come.
Jentsch has released five CDs as a leader: Media Event, with his trio (1998); Miami Suite (1999), with original works for large jazz ensemble; Brooklyn Suite (Fleur de Son Records, 2007), which esteemed jazz critic Howard Mandel describes in the album’s liner notes: “Brooklyn Suite [is] Chris Jentsch's sublime set of interwoven themes and expansive movements for guitar and orchestra…”; and Cycles Suite (Fleur de Son Records, 2009), also featuring the large group. About the premiere for the latter, Will Friedwald observed in the New York Sun that "the interesting thing is that he's using avant-garde techniques, but in a traditional framework…” Fractured Pop, a CD/DVD production featuring his jazz quartet was released in 2017.
For the record, Jentsch attended the Berklee College of Music and has liberal arts and jazz guitar degrees from Gettysburg College, the New England Conservatory, and the Eastman School of Music. He earned the Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Jazz Composition from the University of Miami in 1999 and is published by the University of Northern Colorado Press, Advance Music, Fleur de Son Records, and Blue Schist Music. Learn more here or here or here.
“In its scope and detail and eternally recurring inner logic, Cycles Suite may be the Finnegans Wake of big-band jazz. …a moving and elegiac journey through complex emotional terrain.”
- Richard Gehr (from the liner notes)
“It's nice to see that some of that grant-money floating around out there is being put to good use.”
- Graham L. Flanagan (AllAboutJazz)
“Chris has the whole jazz and contemporary guitar scene covered, and is a great composer and arranger as well. ...a thoughtful player like Ed Bickert, only more contemporary. ...creative, fresh, very plush harmonies and new but very approachable melodies. Chris has a wonderful way of being outside but very inside at the same time. This stuff has to be heard and performed.”
- Gene Bertoncini
I find Chris' music to be extremely creative and innovative, cutting-edge if you will, particularly in his singular ability to orchestrally blend the timbres of the contemporary electric guitar with those of the large jazz ensemble. I am not aware of anyone else doing this at this time in this way. Yet, when I listen to how Chris does this, I think “Why hasn't this been tried before?”. I am also impressed by his ability to handle complex thematic material and develop these themes in so many interesting ways. I will also mention that I am particularly pleased at Chris' decision to play his own guitar parts on Brooklyn Suite (as he is) ideally suited to the formidable interpretive challenges of his own music.
- Randall Dollahon (Associate Professor of Music, ret., University of Miami School of Music)
“…distortion with distinction.”
- Karl Stark (The Philadelphia Sunday Inquirer)