JANE IRA BLOOM CONSIDERED (2017): An artist going beyond place and time

 |   |  2 min read

One Note From One Bird
JANE IRA BLOOM CONSIDERED (2017): An artist going beyond place and time

Even in the broad church that is jazz, soprano saxophonist/composer Jane Ira Bloom from Boston has stood out.

The early Eighties, for example, found her beginning her explorations of electronics as applied to her soprano, and later in that decade she was the musician commissioned by NASA Arts Programme for which she wrote and performed three pieces across which she deployed sax, tapes, electronics, a chamber group and a wind ensemble.

Perhaps it's no coincidence then that an edition of the Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD singled out her version of Lost in the Stars from her '83 album Mighty Lights with Charlie Haden, Ed Blackwell and Fred Hersch for special attention.

Or that in the early Nineties she did a terrific album (with Kenny Wheeler among others) entitled Art and Aviation, a conceptual series of pieces about flight which also closed with a version of Lost in the Stars where she again utilised electronics to achieve a distinctive tone.

Not that Bloom has her head in the clouds, so to speak.

Her crisp soprano tone can be unwavering and clear, at times almost glacially unemotional (deliberately so) or appropriately astringent, and at others quite romantically touching.

She also thinks beyond the standards – although is utterly accomplished on them – and into other synaesthetic relationships between the arts. For example, in 2003 her Chasing Paint album was subtitled “Jane Ira Bloom Meets Jackson Pollock”.

1600x1600rgbHer most recent album Wild Lines also looks to another art form for inspiration, in this instance the poems of the 19th century writer Emily Dickinson. Two years ago she won a prestigious award from Chamber Music America to create this large and integrated, and the result indicates their faith and investment in her was well placed.

Wild Lines comes as two discs, the first the pure instrumentals with her superb band of bassist Mark Helias, drummer Bobby Previte and the excellent Dawn Clement on piano.

The second comes with recitation of lines from Dickinson's poems by actress Deborah Rush in words and observations which which can be dry, thoughtful and sometimes ironic, as in the piece entitled Singing the Triangle in which the narrator reads Dickinson's joyful excitement at the arrival of the circus in her small town of Amherst, Massachusetts, an enthusiasm undercut by the observation that in this place “every little happens to distract us from our work”.

Bloom captures the playful spirit of the circus, but also seems to keep in mind that line so behind the smile of the clown there is an emotional uncertainty in the mood she creates (that yearning, almost yowl, she drops in), and an even more uneasy mood explored in the downbeat and emotional standout Mind Grey River where the stalking bass and piano provide a brooding backdrop for her spare saxophone lines. It is chillingly full of tension . . . before she deftly softens the mood. And then they all take it back down again, even further.

Some of these pieces can also drive with passionate intensity (the cascading drumming of Previte propelling Cornets of Paradise and being ridden by the others into a swinging bop), arrive as sprightly tunes (One Note From One Bird) or convey a sense of quietude and elegant thoughtfulness (the delightful Say More).

Now in her early 60s, Jane Ira Bloom has been an educator as well as a performer and recording artist (for close to four decades) and, in a very real way, she is star.

The evidence is on Wild Lines and even further out . . . in the deep cosmos is an asteroid named 6083 janeirabloom.

Share It

Your Comments

post a comment

More from this section   Jazz at Elsewhere articles index

Charles Lloyd: Sangam (ECM/Ode)

Charles Lloyd: Sangam (ECM/Ode)

The return of saxophonist Charles Lloyd to the frontline in the early 90s after almost two decades away has been one of the most enjoyable in jazz.  If you want to hear downright beautiful and... > Read more

Broadbent, Gibson, Smith: Together Again (Ode)

Broadbent, Gibson, Smith: Together Again (Ode)

The title of this album might better be Together Again . . . At Last because it has been far too long since LA-based pianist/composer Alan Broadbent and bassist Putter Smith recorded with Auckland... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

Belvedere Estate, Republic of Ireland: When families fall out

Belvedere Estate, Republic of Ireland: When families fall out

When posh people fell out in the old days they often did it with a grand statement. Not for them cutting up the clothes or taking a key along the side of the car. They went for the big gesture... > Read more

Neil Finn and Jim Carter: Blue Smoke (2015)

Neil Finn and Jim Carter: Blue Smoke (2015)

When the recording of Blue Smoke by the Ruru Karaitiana Quintette was released in February 1949, the Second World War had only been over for around three and half years. The memories of loved... > Read more