Picks and Pans Review: Slalom
Jane Ira Bloom
Bloom has said that this album is "about jazz without a safety net, improvised music that's poised on the brink of the jazz tradition." That's not only a piece of self-aggrandizement, it's also misleading. One of the more attractive features of Slalom, in fact, is its accessibility, the fact that even when Bloom is taking her soprano saxophone and synthesizers off on an electronic tangent in, for instance, "Light Years Away" or "Blues on Mars," she never leaps too far from the mainstream for too long. (Admirers of more traditional jazz idioms may nonetheless prefer the two nonoriginal compositions on the album, "I Loves You, Porgy" and the Leo Robin—Ralph Rainger standard "If I Should Lose You.") Fronting a quartet that includes percussionist Tom Rainey, bassist Kent McLagan and pianist Fred Hersch—it would be nice to hear more of Hersch, particularly—Bloom plays with an introspective, focused intensity. To place her somewhere among other saxophonists, her deliberate style is more reminiscent of Gerry Mulligan's than of, say, the drive of her contemporary Branford Marsalis or the exuberance and blues sense of Sidney Bechet, the pioneer of the soprano sax. Since this is the real world, it would not be unreasonable to assume that Bloom has gained some attention solely because she is a woman who does something few other women do. But she has also sustained a recording career for 10 years—though this is only her second major-label album—and Slalom confirms that she is no mere spear-or sax-carrier for the women's movement. (Columbia)
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