Monday, June 20, 2016

Straight Horning: Early Americans - Jane Ira Bloom

Jane Ira Bloom: Early Americans (Outline)
Bloom (soprano sax) Mark Helias (b) Bobby Previte (d)

This weekend's listening has featured the latest release from Jane Ira Bloom. Fans of trio (s/b/d) and the soprano saxophone are well advised to check it out.

On my first listen through a couple of things popped into my mind. "Song Patrol" had me thinking of the Bernie McGann trio and during the solo sax track "Nearly (for Kenny Wheeler)" I was reminded of David Liebman's "Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner." I've played the album a number of times since then and those associations have faded. Bloom is distinctly her own saxophonist and even though I only have heard a smattering of her work (Wing Walker being the only other album and once live in NYC.... she's underrepresented in collection of soprano players) - her playing still is very identifiable. While her tone may seem outwardly more conventional than some other soprano specialists, it has a depth that reflects the decades spent on the straight horn - lots of core warmth and expression plus the control of someone who really knows her horn. And for whatever reason, my ear has been drawn to her vibrato and her subtle dynamic inflections. When she elects to use the electronics, it is done so sparingly and is well integrated into her overall sound and approach (rather than being tacked on for the sake of am effect). Another thing I enjoy about her playing is that streams of 8th notes are not inevitable or used as a fall back. The phrases breathe, and overall it's a melodic, and sometimes quite vocal, approach to her line construction (with a strong rhythmic underpinning). In the saxophone world this is can be a rare quality and it needs to be celebrated more.

Although this is their first trio album together, these three have played together for some time, resulting in a tight knit ensemble sound (Bloom and Previte have recorded together for about two decades, and Helias appears on 3 of her last 4 albums). The album clocks in at 52 minutes with no track reaching the 6 minute mark. While I have nothing against more extended pieces, it can be refreshing to hear a varied, yet concise and well balanced album. Early Americans fits that bill.

Friday, June 03, 2016