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Jane Ira Bloom: Sixteen Sunsets

Dan McClenaghan By

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Sidney Bechet pioneered the use of the soprano saxophone in jazz in the early 20s. John Coltrane brought that "straight horn" out of a relative dormancy of use in 1959 with his anthem-like take on Rodgers and Hammerstein's "My Favorite Things" on his Atlantic Records album of the same name. Steve Lacy took the soprano "out there," and Dave Liebman continues to stretch its boundaries.

The name Jane Ira Bloom can be added to that list of icons. For thirty years Bloom has used the soprano saxophone to give voice to fertile and uncompromising artistic spirit. She's broken ground on the introduction of live electronics into her music and has created a singular sound on a variety of multi-faceted projects—including a commissioned work by the NASA Art Program. And (talk about "out there") the International Astronomical Union named an asteroid for her: 6083janeirabloom.

Bloom's work in a quartet setting shines the brightest, on 2003's Chasing Paint (Arabesque Records), a nod to painter Jackson Pollock, 2008's Mental Weather (Outline), or the CD at hand, Sixteen Sunsets, an examination of the ballad form.

For such a forward-looking artist, this is something of a surprise. Bloom explores the standards here, along with four of her own standard form songs, with an extraordinary aplomb and patience. Her tone on the soprano is the purest, richest of sounds—as if her horn were made of gold; and her quartet, featuring Matt Wilson on drums, bassist Cameron Brown and pianist Dominic Fallacaro, play with a delicacy and restraint that gives the sound a feeling of depth and a subdued grandeur.

Bloom says she knows the words to all these songs: "I Loves You Porgy," "The Way You Look Tonight," "For All We Know," "Good Morning Heartache." These are tunes that dip down deep into longing, heartache, loneliness, tender love. Bloom's soprano saxophone is her voice. It's a voice that tells these song's stories with an exquisite grace and understanding of the vicissitudes of the human condition.

Bloom's backing trio rolls mostly in the mode of subtle accompaniment, but when she lays back the trio steps out with a jewel- like elegance, as pianist Fallacaro, with the supplest of touches, wrings every teardrop out of the melody of "Good Morning Heartache," or injects a hopeful counterpoint to the angst of the temptations on "I Loves You Porgy."

Sixteen Sunsets is, arguably, Jane Ira Bloom's most compelling recording. It's certainly her loveliest—no argument there. And the sound quality is out of this world. An asteroid is nice, but it seems a rather small celestial body for an artist that can create something as perfect as this disc. Perhaps a star, a bright one, can be found.

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.

Title: Sixteen Sunsets | Year Released: 2013 | Record Label: Outline

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