Jane Ira Bloom

The Red Quartets

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Sporting the most distinctive soprano saxophone sound in jazz (save Steve Lacy) and concentrating on her own written music, Jane Ira Bloom hits a career high point with this remarkably consistent CD, The Red Quartets. The tracks operate in a flip-flop mode -- every other cut is either lush and introspective or quirky and searching. It gives a good indication that at least two of Bloom's sides are well represented, be they tender or intellectual. Touching on elements avant and mainstream, she lovingly molds music that is truly all her own. Bloom's musical voice on her instrument is slightly shrill, pretty and plaintive, singing and soulful. She is able to manipulate shrieking or pulsing sounds by waving the saxophone in front of the mic, a technique fans will recognize. When she wants to come over the top with waves of energy, as on "Emergency," she becomes possessed and gargoyle-like. Fred Hersch's piano comes alive in tandem with Bloom, particularly on their several duo spots, the finest of which are "Tell Me Your Diamonds" and the revered standard "Time After Time." The two work in perfect symmetry; the pianist's cascading runs, searing unison lines and complementary chords are as much an anchored center for this music as Bloom's haunted melodies. Herky-jerky, dancing phrases contrast with the exquisite, doleful ballads that show up every other cut. There's a multi-time groove number called "It's a Corrugated World," while "Monk's Rec Room" cops the characteristic twists of master jazz thespian Thelonious Monk, piano and soprano powerfully punctuating those angular accents. And don't tell anyone that "How Deep Is the Ocean" was followed by the Bloom composition "Five Fathoms Deep" accidentally. A stroke of purposeful genius, something few musicians think of in ways of programming. Strong musical content, firmly rooted in thoroughly modern, contemporary, creative jazz values, sitting on a foundation thick as granite, Bloom's music should prove to be universally appealing. These Red Quartets, as spirited a music as you will find, will likely keep jazz lovers' karmic accounts on the plus side for many years to come.

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