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February 10, 1988 - Image 9

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1988-02-10

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The Michigan Doily

Wednesday, February 10, 1988

Page 9

Bloom launches improvisations





By Mark Swartz
Jane Ira Bloom's unique brand of
jazz may soon be taking off to un-
precedented heights via the NASA
Arts program. Her music, however,
is firmly rooted in the traditions of
her spiritual forebearers on the sax-
ophone, as she will demonstrate
tonight at the Ark.
* The first musician to be recruited
for the Space Shuttle's team of
artists, Bloom is set to compose a
score at the upcoming Summer
launch. The score will be used for a
touring exhibition of multi-media
creations based on the reusable space
"I'll be able to get really close to
it," the Yale graduate enthuses. "It
should be some experience to wit-
ness." The take-off will inspire her

to create a piece of improvisation,
an endeavor in which she excels. A
down beat magazine critics' poll
winner, Bloom produces stunning
soprano saxophone improvisations
which are the centerpiece of her lat-
est album, Modern Drama.
"It's recorded live without any
fancy techniques," says the artist of
her self-produced album.
Coventionally, electronic sound ef-
fects are tacked on in post-produc-
tion. For this effort, however, "live
electronics" were incorporated during
the actual recording sessions, which
took only five days in February of
last year. She explains, "We used
traditional equipment in an untradi-
tional way. The electronics were
triggered, just like a note on an in-
This original procedure necessi-

tated Bloom to invent some of her
own equipment. One of these de-
vices, affectionately dubbed
"Gizzmo," is a "velocity sensor for
the movement of the horn." Wires
hook up the player, her sax, and
"Gizzmo," creates - one imagines
- a cross between Ornette Coleman
and Frankenstein's monster.
Coleman, the pioneering sax
improviser, is obviously a strong
influence on Bloom's work, as are
other masters like Wayne Shorter,
Sonny Rollins, and John Coltrane.
"My improvising comes about be-
cause I feel so impassioned by what
I do," she says.
Accompanying Bloom at the Ark
is the same lineup'used on Modern
Drama: Fred Hersch on piano,
Ratzo Harris on bass, and Tom
Rainey on drums. The quartet will

perform album cuts including the
gentle "More Than Sinatra," a
whirlwind knockout called "The
Race," and an ode to the pigskin
pastime, "NFL." These pieces indi-
cate an impressive compositional
maturity as well as the aforemen-
tioned improvisational passion.
"The orchestration of the composi-
tions is more sophisticated this time
around," she maintains. Bloom also
promises to preview some new ma-
Consider this evening a chance to
catch Jane Ira Bloom before her
music rockets out of the atmo-
Jane Ira Bloom performs two
shows Thursday night at the Ark
(637 1/2 Main Street), 7:30 and 10
p.m. Tickets are $8.50.

"My Improvising comes aboutabecause I feel so impassioned by
what I do," says saxophonist Jane Ira Bloom.

Critic is a welcome alternative to Siskel and Ebert

By Scott Collins
1 ,
"Film criticism is a dying art,"'
claims David Edelstein, and he
should know. During his five-year
tenure at the Village Voice, the 28-
year-old reviewer has watched the
moviegoing public give two big
thumbs up to the vidiot savants of
"gesture criticism," while the audi-
ence for his own brand of thought-
ful, articulate commentary has per-
haps declined. "People don't like
ambiguity," he said in a recent tele-
phone interview. "Young readers
ased to want to write like Pauline
Kael, but now they just sit and
watch the Siskels and Eberts. This is
true decadence - people want deci-
sions made for them, in politics and
in art."
After serving his undergraduate
apprenticeship at the Harvard Crim-
son (where "we did all sorts of
experimental things - college is the
time when you can get away with

looking like an idiot"), Edelstein
moved on to the Boston Phoenix, an
alternative newspaper for the Bean-
town bohemia. There he met and
was influenced by Stephen Schiff,
who later departed to assume the du-
bious title of "critic-at-large" for
Vanity Fair magazine, while Edel-
stein took his current job with the
Voice. "Stephen and I have similar
perspectives; it just so happens that
he writes for an upscale glossy
magazine and I write for a homo-
commie rag," he notes, only half-
While his background and profes-
sional situation might seem to place
him in the middle of the East Coast
intellectual current, Edelstein's
highly personal approach to film
dispels any such uniform assump-
tions. In many ways he can be seen
as an "other," steadfastly maintain-
ing the rhythm of his own prejudice
even as he steps out of time with
those around him. For instance, he's
noticed that "politically, I'm to the
left of most of my friends, but
probably far to the right of most of
the people who work at the Voice."
Then, too, Edelstein expresses a
disdain for certain theoretical ap-
proaches that he feels obscure con-
siderations of merit in favor of ar-
cane exercises. It's fine to dive into

structuralism, he contends, "but just
because you can play that game with
a certain film doesn't mean that that
film is great. I'd like to see more
film schools teach Renoir, but they
won't do that because you have to
talk about a Renoir film like you'd
talk about a great novel." Obvi-
ously, Edelstein could give Voice
colleague Andrew Sarris, a major
film scholar in his own right, a bad
name. But he won't, other than to
disparage (mildly) Sarris' auteur
theory: "we're stuck with it."
That kind of pluralist assumption
hasn't fared well in the academy; the
film theorist Bill Nichols labelled
the gut-response virtuosos
"bourgeois subjectivists" who ignore
methodology in favor of their own
intelligence and verbal skill. Indeed,
Edelstein frequently voices his con-
viction that the film critic should

know more about life than about
film, and write from experience
rather than education. If that type of
criticism is some sort of crime,
Edelstein cheerfully- fesses up.
"Yes," he laughs, "I'm a bourgeois
It might not be overstating the
case to say, then, that Edelstein,
along with his mentors and follow-
ers, sails an ever narrowing strait
through the two towering cliffs of
contemporary film criticism. In re-
cent years academic criticism, in-
formed by structuralism and psycho-
analysis, has become increasingly
inaccessible even to better-informed
filmgoers. Meanwhile the glib
"Katzenjammer kids" have trivial-
ized and levelled critical distinctions,
often celebrating films that merely
bear high-sounding names and noble

For his part, Edelstein is at least
unconsciously aware of his awkward
position. In December he penned a
wickedly funny semiotic analysis of
the fulsomely enthusiastic blurbs of
Joel Siegel and Gene Shalit. The
piece, as Edelstein pointed out, both
revealed the simple-mindedness of a
lot of current criticism, while paro-
dying the pretensions and density of

typical academic prose.
While his writing is
characteristically witty, lucid, and
urbane, Edelstein attempts to balance
style with substance. His taste in
films tend toward younger directors
who depict eccentric characters often
at odds with the materialism of to-
day's society: Jonathan Demme,
See CRITIC, Page 10

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