Jane Ira Bloom

Nearness

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If forced to choose between this eminently thoughtful soprano saxophonist's writing and improvising, I'd have to say it's her original tunes that might keep me coming back. Not that there's anything wrong with her playing. Quite the contrary. She gets a full, gently-inflected, well-centered sound on her finicky horn -- the kind that only a full-time soprano player can produce with consistency. In the past I've found her improvising somewhat mannered; here, however, she's as spontaneous as one could ask. Her ballad playing is especially effective. But I think it's the sophistication of her contexts that fixes her among the modern mainstream's elite. "Flat6 Bop" is typically intriguing; a harmonically ambiguous, medium-tempo ostinato tune with a intervallically irregular melody, it's the product of a methodical and highly creative intellect. Bloom's arrangements of familiar material -- she does heavily re-arranged versions of standards like "Summertime" and "'Round Midnight" -- are just as meticulously conceived, but somehow seem a bit precious to my ears. They are very skillfully done, however. Bloom's collaborators are almost perfectly chosen. Trumpeter Kenny Wheeler, trombonist Julian Priester, bassist Rufus Reid, drummer Bobby Previte, and (particularly) pianist Fred Hersch are well-attuned to the saxophonist's subtle musical gestures.

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