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Jane Ira Bloom: Sixteen Sunsets / Step Tempest review

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Melodies Like Prayers + Mighty Winds   

Soprano saxophonist and sound sculptor Jane Ira Bloom has been creating fascinating projects for nearly 4 decades.  Her first recording, "We Are", was a duet with bassist Kent McLagan (who now lives and plays in Colorado) issued on her own label (Outline Records) in 1978.  Over the ensuing years, Ms. Bloom has recorded for ENJA Records, CBS Records, Arabesque, ArtistShare, and, in 2008, returned to releasing on her own label.

What has not changed is her commitment to moving forward, to melody, to experimentation, to having a group of like-minded musicians who do not hold back their own creativity even as they support her whole-heartedly.  "Sixteen Sunsets" refers to the number of sunsets astronauts see in a day in space and provides the title for Ms. Bloom's new CD - the program is a collection of 14 ballads, 9 standards and 6 originals (there's 1 track that blends George Gershwin's "I Loves You Porgy" with Ms. Bloom's "Gershwin's Skyline") that finds the saxophonist in the company of bassist Cameron Brown, drummer Matt Wilson and the young pianist Dominic Fallacaro.  Fallacaro is a busy musician and producer based in Brooklyn, NY, who has toured with Kevin Mahogany and Freddie Cole plus producing CDs by younger up-and-coming vocalists.  His work on this album should win him many new fans.

The program opens with "For All We Know", a song first published in 1934 and made famous by Hal Kemp and Nat "King" Cole (among many others).  The interaction of Brown's melodic bass and Wilson's ever-so-quiet brush work with the pianist's impressionistic chords allows Ms. Bloom to not only caress the melody but move freely through her improvisation. That is followed by an original, "What She Wanted" that has a melody line reminiscent of Charles Mingus's "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat"; there's a bluesy quality to her soprano sound and a modal feel in the piano chords that gives the entire song a feeling of being suspended in mid-air.

Every melody is treated with love and close attention to details, whether it's "The Way You Look Tonight" (a duo for soprano and piano), the stunning take on Kurt Weill's "My Ship" (with the bell of the soprano sax pointed into the body of the keyboard) or the Latin tempo that drives "Ice Dancing (for Torvill & Dean)."  "The Way You Look Tonight" is also just piano and soprano; even as Fallacaro creates the lovely lines below the solo, he paints his own pictures.  One feels the longing in the unheard lyrics and the affection in the melody.

"Sixteen Sunsets" is music that serves as a healing balm as the end of a long day or to help through a period of emotional distress.  The sounds caress the listener so, by the time you reach the final track, "Bird Experiencing Light", one should feel as if a heavy weight has been lifted off his shoulders.  Jan Ira Bloom has not produced a "New Age" recording; this is music that blends the search for peace with the joy of "playing." Kudos to all involved! For more information, go to www.janeirabloom.com.

"Sixteen Sunsets" has been nominated for a 2014 GRAMMY (best Surround-Sound recording) and ended up on several prominent critics' "Best of 2013" list.  The digital release was in December 5, 2013 and the "physical" due date is January 7, 2014-Richard B. Kamins