JANE IRA BLOOM

Like Silver, Like Song
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Restricted in one way by her exclusive commitment to the soprano saxophone, New York-based Jane Ira Bloom is musically open in every other manner, having composed for film, theatre, dance and even a lighting designer.

Someone who experimented with adding live electronics to her horn before it became fashionable, Bloom goes one step further here by appending electronic impulses to three out of the four members of her band. Bassist Mark Dresser is the acoustic hold out, while Bobby Previte plays electronic drums as well as drums, and Jamie Saft adds electric piano and electronics to his acoustic keys.

The result is as fine a one-hour program as Bloom has produced. Although ostensibly sliced into 14 separate tracks, LIKE SILVER, LIKE SONG is really one continuous composition. Dominated by the saxophonist’s silky, impressionistic textures, its only limitation is an unfortunate sameness of tone resulting from that one horn. However, the others are able to add enough rhythmic, pitch and velocity variations to make several of the pieces outstanding by any criteria.

Centrepiece of the exercise appears to be the poetically entitled “Vanishing Hat” built on a swinging pulse from Previte’s acoustic kit, sudden quick glissandi from Bloom, sine wave oscillations from Saft and guitar-like strumming from Dresser. As the piece evolves, you realize that the descending, slippery echoes delineating the performance arise from Bloom’s electronic interface as much as Saft’s. However, by mid-point unforced, resonating flams and bounces from the drummer plus sul tasto emphasis from the bassist causes the reedist’s output to rev up, exposing more overtones as well as further resonations from the keyboardist. Coda includes a singular bass pluck, a cymbal sizzle and reverberating sax trills.

The rather prosaically named “No Orchestra” on the other hand, includes impressionistic daubs of silvery saxophone accents mixed with low-frequency layering from the piano. As the tonal centre shifts imperceptibly, the bassist moves ahead of the chording piano with double-stopping tremolo lines. Recital-like, he adds an extra glissando while Bloom trills the theme.

Similarly, as Saft shifts to grand piano and the bassist and drummer move to accompaniment mode, the light-textured – though not syrupy – interaction among the four on “Singing in Stripes” is reminiscent of saxophonist Lee Konitz’s work with pianist Bill Evans. Bloom’s strength is expressed through un-Konitz-like flattement and doits, however. Plus, before the piece ends, Previte knocks out harder bounces and rebounds. “Altair 4” is all electronic interchange, with fluttering pulsations rippling from the top of the scale to its lowest point. Horror movie-like crescendos from the keys plus bubbling loops make the piece seem to have begun before the first note is played and conclude after the last note is sounded.

A change of pace, “Magnetic” and “In An Instant” that run right into one another, include a throbbing bass line with R&B overtones, extended with bluesy electric piano fills and Bloom slurring, double-tongued echoing arpeggios. Not only does she multiply her trills with vocalized humming, but also with expanding countertenor-like tones. The mini “In An Instant” is a continuation of that track as buzzy key exercises give way to brush-patterned, faster rhythmic emphasis from the drummer.

Although there are times when it seems as if the languid backing actions and foreground electronic tints are shifting like multi-colored oils in a lava lamp, the final track, a slightly shorter, second version of “Singing in Stripes” completes the circle begun with “Dreaming in the Present Tense”.

Featuring swinging modal-like piano chords plus rumbling and press rolling drum beats, Bloom’s warbling soprano tones make the point that every one of the 14 tunes is a related picture in her aural gallery.

Probably Bloom’s most consistent effort, only the addition of another sympathetic front-line voice could make it different – and perhaps better. But would someone with as powerful an imput as Bloom compromise her distinctive vision?

— Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Dreaming in the Present Tense 2. Unconscious Forces 3. Singing in Stripes 4. Altair 4 5. Vanishing Hat 6. White Light 7. No Orchestra 8. Magnetic 9. In an Instant 10. Mercury 11. Night Skywriting 12. Dark Knowledge 13. I Have Dreamed 14. Singing in Stripes

Personnel: Jane Ira Bloom (soprano sax and live electronics); Jamie Saft (piano, electric piano and electronics); Mark Dresser (bass); Bobby Previte (drums and electronic drums)