Friday, October 18, 2013
Jane Ira Bloom's Sixteen Sunsets on Blu-ray Audio
One of my relatives just donated 20 or so unwanted CDs to my collection; it was mostly classical titles, so I figured why not. Amid those classical CDs I found a lone Kenny G CD and I recoiled in horror. "I now have a Kenny G CD in my collection!" I exclaimed, breaking out into a cold sweat and wondering if I should just bury it in my backyard before anyone noticed. I instantly traveled back in time to 1987, when I still lived in Virginia Beach. A friend of mine, upon seeing my eclectic music collection, told me he also liked jazz, you know, "like Kenny G." I recoiled in horror then as well. I'm sure Kenny G is a nice enough guy--he's in one of those funny "feel better?" Snickers commercials and he does that awesome circular breathing thing--but lite jazz is definitely not my thing. I even have a couple of awesome Kenny G jokes at my disposal for when the subject comes up.
I'm only mentioning all this because Jane Ira Bloom is, perhaps, the anti-Kenny G. I've listened to a couple of seasoned musicians discuss why they liked Kenny G so intensely, and one of them mentioned how easy it was to play the soprano sax. "It takes relatively little air to hit the notes," he explained, which seemed to suggest that Kenny G didn't put forth an effort. I don't buy that; it's a matter of taste and that's it. Listening to Jane Ira Bloom will convince you otherwise--she infuses so many complex emotions into her music that you simply can't absorb its sheer loveliness into your being, you have to ponder it deeply. On her new album, Sixteen Sunsets, Bloom tricks you into thinking you're listening to serene, gorgeous selections from the "Great American Songbook" that are meant to be listened at dusk. But the silence that surrounds her gorgeous notes are brimming with an unease and longing you won't discover while listening to something like "Songbird."
In other words, Bloom is the thinking person's soprano sax player. While her playing on Sixteen Sunsets is presented in a pure, straightforward manner, she does have a reputation for manipulating the sounds of her sax through electronic means. She also famous for her novel interactions with the band that surrounds her--in this case it's pianist Dominic Fallacaro, bassist Cameron Brown and drummer Matt Wilson--and she has once said that "Sometimes I throw sound around the band like paint and at other times I play and feel as if I was carving silence like a sculptor." That's a pretty helpful guide to approaching the 14 cuts on Sixteen Sunsets--Bloom constantly moves while she performs, and her performances here were captured in a rare hi-rez 5.1 surround recording session that included an array of microphones placed to track her movements.
That's the real news here. Sixteen Sunsets is a truly 3D sound experience that is meant to elevate Bloom and her band through the latest technologies--Blu-ray, surround, DTS, etc.--without sacrificing the beauty of the core performances. Pure Audio Records, who just released the Blu-ray Audio version a couple of weeks ago and also offers Sixteen Sunsets in FLAC, WAV and MP3 files, is known for employing cutting edge recording technologies. It's a singular thrill to hear classic songs as "The Way You Look Tonight" and "I Loves You Porgy" delivered with such a pristine, magical and downright futuristic presence. If I could travel back to 1987 and meet with my jazz-loving friend from Virginia, I'd play Sixteen Sunsets for him and show him the infinite possibilities of the soprano sax.