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Jane Ira Bloom: Early Americans

Mark Sullivan By

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Saxophonist/composer Jane Ira Bloom is one of the few jazz players to concentrate solely on the soprano saxophone. In 35 years she has recorded sixteen albums as a leader, most often in a quartet with piano. This is her first trio album, in the company of longtime playing partners bassist Mark Helias and drummer Bobby Previte. Their high level of communication is evident on a tune like "Singing the Triangle," which features a recurring theme that is clearly stated by all three instruments in unison (with Previte using his toms melodically). Both the head and the band's approach recall the late Steve Lacy, another soprano saxophone specialist and experimentalist. The start-and-stop "Gateway to Progress" has a similar feel (it also demonstrates how hard this band can swing). Bloom definitely has her own sound, but Lacy is the closest comparison that comes to mind.

The aptly-named opener "Song Patrol" demonstrates just how tuneful Bloom's composing can be, a fact that may be obscured by the avant-garde tag she is sometimes saddled with. She has long had an interest in live electronics and sound design, which first appears here in the panning between the left and right stereo channels on "Dangerous Times." I believe this particular effect was achieved the old fashioned way, by simply moving the horn between the pair of stereo microphones—there is a photo in the CD liners showing her playing in the studio with tape on the floor to mark the mic placement. Bloom also employs some discreet electronic processing on her saxophone. It's especially noticeable on "Rhyme or Rhythm," which also features overdubbed hand drums and agogô bell from Previte, creating a denser group sound with a latin flavor.

"Other Eyes" goes the other way, paring things down to a gentle saxophone/bass duet. Bloom closes the album with a beautiful solo rendition of Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim's "Somewhere." The whole program is full of variety, beautiful and exploratory at the same time. The trio format works so well that it is surprising that Bloom hasn't used it before. I'd love to hear more from these three.

Track Listing: Song Patrol; Dangerous Times; Nearly (For Kenny Wheeler); Hips & Sticks; Singing the Triangle; Other Eyes; Rhyme or Rhythm; Mind Gray River; Cornets of Paradise; Say More; Gateway to Progress; Big Bill; Somewhere.

Personnel: Jane Ira Bloom: soprano saxophone; Mark Helias: bass; Bobby Previte: drums.

Title: Early Americans | Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: Outline

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