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Jane Ira Bloom: Wingwalker

Dan Bilawsky By

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The soprano saxophone often gets a raw deal. Many people see it as a relic from the early ages of jazz, a smooth jazz delivery method or a secondary axe that's only to be used when their alto saxophone, tenor saxophone or clarinet needs a break. While these attitudes are prevalent throughout a large portion of the jazz community, a few artists have bravely soldiered on, making the soprano their instrument of choice. Jane Ira Bloom—along with a few other singularly gifted artists like Sam Newsome and Dave Liebman—continues to bring legitimacy to the idea that the soprano saxophone can serve as an artist's primary instrument.

While Bloom has the prettiest tone, hands down, of the three masters listed, she uses it in a variety of manners on this, her fourteenth date as a leader. Several pieces are explorations of serenity ("Ending Red Songs" and "Adjusting To Midnight"), while other songs feature skulking soprano work ("Life On Cloud 8"). Her use of live electronics is tasteful, not tacky, and simply thickens the group sound, occasionally mimicking the presence of another horn moving in unison, or creating a slight tail on her notes.

Bloom's support team is filled with longtime musical colleagues who share her artistic inclinations and help to shape each song in different ways. Drummer Bobby Previte's cymbal rolls on "Her Exacting Light" help to accentuate the positive, and his mid-track decision to rock out on "Freud's Convertible" changes its rhythmic topography. This song, which shows the quartet working its way through a variation on the blues that finds clever disarray toward the end of the line, is a clear album highlight. Bassist Mark Helias delivers paranoid patterns on "Live Sports" and guitar-like strumming on "Rooftops Speak Dreams," always managing to find the right part for each piece. Dawn Clement proves to be Bloom's secret weapon, demonstrating great flexibility in her support. She moves in tandem with Bloom on angular, introductory matters ("Frontiers In Science" and "Rookie), matches Bloom's contemplative mood on the softer material, and delivers scattershot chordal placements on "Rooftops Speak Dreams."

While the saxophonist's companions help flesh out her musical vision, it literally comes down to Bloom's artistry in the end. The final track finds the soprano seductress delivering a delicious solo take on "I Could Have Danced All Night," which proves to be the icing on the cake. The bonus track—an MP3 file attachment that condenses the albums ideas into a single, sub-six minute piece—is an interesting montage, but each song deserves to be heard in its entirety.

Wingwalker, with its positive energy and inspired ensemble connections, proves to be another feather in Bloom's cap and one of the best recordings to surface at the dawn of 2011.

Track Listing: Her Exacting Light; Life On Cloud 8; Ending Red Songs; Freud's Convertible; Airspace; Frontiers In Science; Rooftops Speak Dreams; Rookie; Adjusting To Midnight; Live Sports; Wingwalker; I Could Have Danced All Night.

Personnel: Jane Ira Bloom: soprano saxophone, live electronics; Dawn Clement: Fender Rhodes; Mark Helias: bass; Bobby Previte: drums.

Title: Wingwalker | Year Released: 2011 | Record Label: Self Produced

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