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Jane Ira Bloom: Sixteen Sunsets / Jazziz review

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Jane Ira Bloom says she grew up listening to standards, knew their lyrics by heart and internalized them to the point that "playing them is like breathing." And there's no reason to doubt her. Sixteen Sunsets is the veteran soprano saxophonist and composer's 15th album. The instrumental ballad standards here reveal an astute singer's interpretive grasp of the vocal line.

Bloom is known for her compositional experiments with live electronics, as well as multimedia presentations and her association with the NASA Art Program.

In fact, this album concept comes from astronaut Joseph Allen's comment that while orbiting the Earth, one sees "16 sunrises and 16 sunsets every day." However, the performances are rooted in terra firma. Bloom presents her music in the unadorned format of the acoustic quartet (pianist Dominic Fallacaro, bassist

Cameron Brown and drummer Matt Wilson), focusing on what trumpeter Ruby Braff called "the adoration of the melody." The leader demonstrates breathtaking mastery of her horn - sans electronic effects - especially in the upper register, where she maintains a purity of tone even when she's hitting the equivalent of a

piano's top keys. It's not just a technical trick. Bloom structures her solos around a song's melodic core. And when she reaches for those top notes, as in the opening "For All We Know," she delivers an emotional payoff. Even at the slowest tempos, as on the usually upbeat swinger "The Way You Look Tonight," Bloom never loses the tension of the narrative line. Fallacaro's contribution proves invaluable in that regard. A couple of faster numbers round out the program. Bloom's "Ice Dancing (for Torvill & Dean)" is a gliding bolero, and her Latin-flavored "Primary Colors" is positively up-tempo. But the saxophonist's slow-tempo compositions are of a

piece with chestnuts such as "I Loves You Porgy," "Darn That Dream," Good Morning Heartache," "My Ship," and Billie Holiday and Mal Waldron's "Left Alone," all of which she interprets here. In fact, Bloom's originals are ready for lyrics of their own.
- Jon Garelick