The Red Quartets

COMPOSERS: Jane Ira Bloom
LABELS: Arabesque Jazz
PERFORMER: Jane Ira Bloom (ss), Fred Hersch (p), Mark Dresser (b), Bobby Previte (d)
CATALOGUE NO: AJ 0144

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Jane Ira Bloom is arguably one of the most potent talents on the American jazz scene. Now in her forties, she ranks with the greatest soprano saxophonists, and has developed into a superlative small group composer who often experiments radically with structure. She always recruits some of the finest musicians for her projects and this current quartet is among her best.

Her work is shot-through with optimism and humanity, and the opening piece, ‘Always Hope’, is a highly imaginative variation on the Twenties pop song ‘I Want To Be Happy’, which keeps you guessing and concludes triumphantly. The following ten pieces include two ballads, ‘Time After Time’ (Styne & Cahn), and Irving Berlin’s ‘How Deep Is The Ocean’, both of which are given fresh readings, and the other eight, which encompass a huge variety of music, are all Bloom compositions.

There’s a boisterous, dramatic homage to Monk – ‘Monk’s Rec Room’, with dynamic solos from Bloom and pianist Hersch and a crazy, Monkish ending. Her two ballads, ‘Tell Me Your Diamonds’ and ‘Climb Inside Her Eyes’, are exquisite performances by this marvellous quartet – her soprano soars and sings, Hersch coaxes rich piano sonorities, Dresser plays arco-bass counterlines and solos pizzicato, Previte is discreet. ‘Jax Calypso’ is a riotous and risky tour de force, ‘It’s a Corrugated World’ is a medium tempo funk piece with a radically evolving structure, and ‘Emergency’ is a muscular free jazz outing.

The wealth of ideas, and the standard of playing in this masterful album will repay many listenings. Jason Rebello is an exceptionally talented British pianist and composer who surfaced in the later Eighties and, by the end of that decade had an international reputation. By 1994, he was becoming deeply disillusioned with the music world, and, in 1995, sought the contemplative life in the Buddhist Monastery at Bradford on Avon.

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Two years later, he was back on the London jazz scene and now, Next Time Round, dedicated to the memory of pianist Kenny Kirkland, is his best album to date. Nine of the twelve pieces are excellent Rebello compositions, and the other three comprise two standards, and an astonishingly convincing trio performance of a reharmonised version of ‘Jerusalem’. The excellent saxophonist Mark Turner plays on six of the tracks, the rhythm section swings ecstatically and Rebello’s playing is masterly throughout – mature, never faltering and rich in fresh ideas, rhythmic, harmonic and melodic.