How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
Soprano saxophone virtuoso Jane Ira Bloom's intensely intimate and simultaneously cinematic Sixteen Sunsets is quite different from her preceding albums, Like Silver, Like Song (Artistshare, 2005), Mental Weather (Outline, 2008) and Wingwalker (Outline, 2010). Gone are the edgy flirtations with freer styles as well as the provocative, electrifying compositions. Instead the material is mostly standards and a few originals that are in the essence of those time honored songs, all interpreted with a lush lyricism laced with elegant spontaneous flourishes.
Bloom's horn is the main instrument at the forefront of most of the session with the rhythm section providing reserved and refined support by enriching the sonic environment. The haunting and melancholic "Left Alone," for example features Bloom's agile undulating saxophone echoing against the sparse phrasess of her band mates. She tactfully transforms the tune into a personal elegy of loss particularly as her unaccompanied wail pierces the silence during the concluding minutes.
Subtlety and sophistication are inseparable elements that mark the entire album. On the tangoesque "Ice Dancing (For Torvill & Dean)" her muscular pirouetting tones glide over pianist Dominic Fallacaro
. Wilson's melodic and flexible percussing drives the music with graceful tact while Brown occasionally showcases his sublime con-arco skills. The duo particularly shines on "Primary Colors" Brown's bowing sets a hypnotic atmosphere at the onset that the others fill in with vibrant colors. Fallacaro's thick chords bounce off the Wilson's rapid-fire drums and crashing cymbals. Over these dancing refrains, Bloom's soprano falls and rises in limber, thrilling pirouettes.
On most of the tracks, Bloom's sax is lilting and polished often mimicking a human voice in its delivery of the theme. The classics are handled with deference, and although adorned by her improvisations, they are not radically deconstructed. For instance "Darn That Dream" opens like an archetypal vocal piece with Bloom's saxophone articulating the passionate lines while Brown's deep reverberations echo behind her. Her concluding extemporization is intricate and imaginative but remains firmly within both the structure and the spirit of the tune.
Recorded in stunning hi-resolution, Sixteen Sunsets, is awe-inspiring and mesmerizing to behold. For Bloom, however, it is a departure from her past discs, at least those of the last decade. The sound is definitely more ambient and formalistic. Substance is, to an extent, sacrificed for the sake of form and this may be a source of dismay to some. One thing though is clear, at the hands of a lesser talent the material could have easily devolved into syrupiness. Bloom, thanks to her superlative musicianship (and to those of her sidemen), successfully eschews the saccharine and produces a lovely, captivating record that even fans of her bolder, more provocative work can enjoy.
Track Listing: For All We Know; What She Wanted; Gershwin's Skyline/I Loves You Porgy;
Darn That Dream; Good Morning Heartache; Out of This World; Ice
Dancing; Left Alone; The Way You Look Tonight; But Not For Me; Primary
Colors; My Ship; Too Many Reasons; Bird Experiencing Light.
Personnel: Jane Ira Bloom: soprano saxophone; Dominic Fallacaro: piano; Cameron
Brown: bass; Matt Wilson: drums.