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Review: "Sixteen Sunsets" by Jane Ira Bloom '76BA, '77MM

The Buffalo News
By Jeff Simon

Jane Ira Bloom: Sixteen Sunsets
Review: Four stars

You can’t beat the timing. One of the very best jazz records of the year came out just before 2013 was about to become a memory.

Not only is this one of the best jazz discs of the year, it’s, without doubt, one of the most beautiful records soprano saxophonist Jane Ira Bloom has ever made in a recording life that has been replete with the sublime.

It is, mostly, a quartet ballad disc with bassist Cameron Brown, drummer Matt Wilson and pianist Dominic Fallacaro in the chair that had so frequently been occupied by the great Fred Hersch, who recently performed in the irreplaceable Albright-Knox Art of Jazz series.

All you have to do is hear the opening measures of the disc’s first cut, “For All We Know,” to understand that Bloom’s beauty of tone and melodic purity on this disc is almost preternaturally beautiful.

It is, nevertheless, immediately apparent that what she’s doing here is devoid of risk taking. Far from it. The way she’s bending tones into coloratura high notes on her saxophone is nothing if not risky, but she’s doing it with so much grace and plump, gorgeous tone that she is getting away with everything.

There is some uptempo playing here, but for the most part this is as exquisite as slower ballad playing gets in jazz. And no small part of it is Fallacaro, who is absolutely on the level with the best pianists Bloom ever had, and that is a kind of who’s who of living jazz pianists under age 60.

It’s long been known that Bloom is all but obsessed with NASA and what it does (it has made her its artist laureate). The title here comes from a quote from astronaut Joseph Allen: “The sun truly ‘comes up like thunder,’ and it sets just as fast (in space). Each sunrise and sunset last only a few seconds. But in that time, you see at least eight different bands of color come and go, from a brilliant red to the brightest and deepest blue. And you see 16 sunrises and 16 sunsets every day you’re in space. No sunrise or sunset is ever the same.”