Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Jane Ira Bloom: Early Americans

Outline Records
By Ric Bang
Buy CD: Early Americans

One doesn’t have an opportunity to review an individual who honestly can be described as “the best” at anything. Well, Jane Ira Bloom is the world’s best soprano saxophonist. 

That instrument, a high-register member of the saxophone family, isn’t as common in jazz as the alto, tenor and baritone instruments, but a few musicians have used it. (Remember Woody Herman?) Even so, it’s a tough horn from which to get a smooth, warm, beautiful tone. That’s not a problem for Bloom.

She began playing the drums and piano as a child, then the alto sax, and settled on the soprano at age 9. She earned liberal arts and master’s degrees in music from Yale University. After graduation, she moved to New York City and founded Outline Records, while simultaneously beginning a career of performing with masters of the music world. 

She’s an eight-time winner of the Jazz Journalists Association Award; and has won the Downbeat Critics Poll, the Charlie Parker Award for Jazz Innovation, the Guggenheim Fellowship in Jazz Composition, the Mary Lou Williams Women In Jazz Award, and many others.

In short, Bloom is a phenomenon.

This album, her 16th, includes a baker’s dozen of tunes: twelve of her own compositions plus the Bernstein/Sondheim hit “Somewhere.” All are performed at balladic tempos, and all are simply gorgeous.

She’s backed by bassist Mark Helias and drummer Bobby Previte. With that limited — but definitely tasteful — support, there’s no place to hide ... not that she needs to worry about such things. We’re treated, throughout, to her consummate skill, tone and originality.

What a performance!

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