Friday, March 18, 2011

Jane Ira Bloom: Wingwalker

Outline Records
By Ric Bang
Buy CD: Wingwalker

The soprano saxophone is an honored member of the reed family, although it’s heard more often in classical orchestras than in jazz groups. One of the few exceptions to that rule is named Jane Ira Bloom, a composer and true master of the instrument.

Bloom began her musical education playing the piano, then drums and tenor sax, but finally found her "sweet spot" with the soprano sax. She plays what only can be identified as "classical" jazz; her tone and technique are pure — what one would expect to hear in a symphony orchestra — but her "feel" is true, beautiful jazz.

Her expression of that genre begins with creation: She composes the vast majority of what she plays. She's world famous and has won more awards than any musician I'm aware of.

In Wingwalker, her 14th album as a leader, she features a quartet: bassist Mark Helias, drummer Bobby Previte and pianist Dawn Clement. All are excelent artists.

Only one of these 12 tracks is a standard — "I Could Have Danced All Night" — which Bloom performs totally unaccompanied: not a sound to hide behind, or mask any fluffs. Her tone is simply gorgeous.

Her own compositions (and their titles) reflect her mindset, interests and thoughts. She's an obvious fan of space and sports, and is an avid reader. Most of the tunes are balladic in nature, and it’s evident that every note is written for each member of her group; very little is extemporaneous. The result swings, and it's definitely jazz.

The rhythm section is exceptional, and I’m particularly impressed by Clement’s keyboard work.

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