70. BEST SURROUND SOUND ALBUM
Sailing The Seas Of Cheese (Deluxe Edition)
Signature Sound Opus One
Jim Anderson, surround mix engineer; Darcy Proper, surround mastering engineer; Jim Anderson & Jane Ira Bloom, surround producers (Jane Ira Bloom)
Label: Pure Audio Records
Jane Ira Bloom - Sixteen Sunsets
(Outline Records. OTL141. CD Review by Sebastian Scotney)
So there she is. Boston-born soprano saxophonist Jane Ira Bloom, now in her late 50s, the winner of many annual jazz polls on her chosen instrument, is up there for a 2014 Grammy next weekend. The nomination is not in any of the jazz categories, but "Best Surround Sound Album". That's the same category as the mighty Sir Paul McCartney, no less.
Somehow a win feels unlikely, but one wants this giant-killing act to happen, not least because Bloom's narrow-bore soprano saxophone is up against some very big guns indeed. If it is successful, this will have been one of the gentlest, softest and most lyrical assaults on the Grammy citadel in history.
The title of the album Sixteen Sunsets is evocative, if slightly obscure. It refers to a passage written by the 1980's astronaut Joseph Allen to describe what happens when orbiting the earth: “You see at least eight bands of color come and go, from a brilliant red to the brightest and deepest blue. And you see sixteen sunrises and sixteen sunsets every day you’re in space. No sunrise or sunset is ever the same.” Jane Ira Bloom likes that concept, and has recorded fourteen tunes in the spirit of it.
The core vibe of all the tunes is very gentle indeed, with tempi typically from slow to moderate. If you're waiting for the toe-tapper, then you will wait over 77 minutes in vain. There are moments in this collection of lived-in, honestly delivered standards plus a few originals when the passion is ratcheted up, notably in Good Morning Heartache and Left Alone but calm and equability are always restored by the end of a tune.
Bloom is a massively fluent, inventive, experienced and thoughtful improviser who knows how to let a story unfold slowly. The opening colla voce exposition of The Way You Look Tonight played as a duo is unhurried bliss. Bloom's pianist Dominic Fallacero accompanies deftly throughout, and handles his moments in the limelight, notably the piano (in both senses) postludes, carefully and thoughtfully. Drummer Matt Wilson is particularly effective giving the colour of a cymbal shimmer to Out of This World. Bassist Cameron Brown only rarely steps into the foreground, but anchors tunes such as Ice Dancing (for Torvill and Dean) impeccably.
Good luck to the good spaceship Sixteen Sunsets and all who travel in her for next weekend!
Jane Ira Bloom explains the concept behind the album and the Surroundsound process here