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Jane Ira Bloom: Early Americans

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Jane Ira Bloom
A "playfully cerebral approach": Jane Ira Bloom (photo: Johnny Moreno)

How in the world is this Jane Ira Bloom’s first trio record? Nearly 40 years and now 16 albums into her career, the soprano saxophonist has the pellucid tone and timbre that merit the sunlight and scrutiny of a spare ensemble. Yes, there are two duo recordings on her résumé, from 1978 and ’84. But with two longtime cohorts this time out-drummer Bobby Previte and bassist Mark Helias-Bloom has recruited a dynamic pair consonant with her conceptual smarts. Their textural splendor glistens the seams of the stitched-together melodic riffs that frequently comprise her impressionistic compositions.

Bloom’s playfully cerebral approach allows for a wide spectrum of moods and tempos. “Nearly” is a short but luminous tribute to Kenny Wheeler, enhanced by electronics that create subtle, ghostly aftertones on her clear soprano. “Other Eyes” leads with a deliciously supple bass vamp from Helias and recalls a Bloom comment about “carving silence like a sculpture” on some of her songs. But “Hips & Sticks” canters with a West African groove and “Rhyme or Rhythm” locks into a Latin blues-funk amalgam, both tweaked by the trio’s jazz sensibility. Helias, who has known Bloom since the ’70s, is piquant both thrumming and on arco, while Previte provides the intimacy of brushes and hand percussion along with big beats and angular accents. Bloom again asserts her status as the preeminent soprano in jazz, via such highlights as the birdlike modulations of “Dangerous Times,” the dulcet, low-end cooing that initiates “Singing the Triangle,” or her solo tour de force on the closing track and lone cover song, “Somewhere,” from West Side Story.

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