Jane Ira Bloom Quartet Museum of Fine Arts Houston, TX March 9, 2002
Jane Ira Bloom composed a suite in eight movements inspired by eight paintings of Jackson Pollock. She and her quartet gave the world premiere of the work in Houston at the prestigious Museum of Fine Arts. With Fred Hersch on piano, Mark Dresser on bass, and Bobby Previte on drums, the group awed a sedate crowd with the intricacy of the composition and with the dynamics of the interspersed improvisations. Da Camera of Houston, whose main efforts lean toward classical music, sponsored the concert. I speculated that not many in the packed venue were previously familiar with Bloom's work. To complement the performance, the museum hung Pollock's multi-colored "Number Six" at the rear of the stage. It was a fitting backdrop for the involved music. Titled Chasing Paint, the suite segued through up-tempo composed segments, exciting freeform explorations, and calming ballad-style musings. Bloom frequently displayed her swirling, shifting specialty where the soprano bell alternately moved from the left microphone to the right in dashing form, which was coincidentally associable to Pollock's painting approach.
While loose structure was a natural part of the lengthy 78-minute composition, Bloom encouraged the musicians to respond to images of each of the eight paintings as a gateway to openness and free expression. Dresser was the most aggressive in this mode. He robustly took his bass to strange, exotic places in creating a masterful group of solos. Previte was sensitive initially in adding accents to the movements, but he often exploded with a barrage of sound that made one think of the way color hit the canvas of a Pollack painting. Hersch was more reserved on this occasion, adding the semblance of stability to the piece rather than freelancing, although he had several occasions when he introspectively found the inner core of the songs.
Bloom was the focal point throughout the show. She was tender, passionate, energizing, and stimulating at various points, and she masterfully directed the band through the ever-changing nature of the suite. The varied tempo shifts kept the long performance in balance, but it was the continual reaching of Bloom for new highs on the straight horn that made the project gel. The artistry of the band in performing this serious work did justice to the artistry of Pollack. It was an engrossing event.
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