Mental Weather begins and ends delicately, with Jane Ira Bloom’s soprano sax dueting with pianist Dawn Clement, and later standing alone, playing the standard “This Nearly Was Mine” following an original rumination. In both situations, Bloom’s engaging tone and sense of lyricism come across in the first few notes, which indicates why she has been such a highly regarded and lauded musician. And whether the album sticks to that subdued approach or amps things up a bit, the performance keeps the interest level high.
The album marks a return of sorts to Outline, the imprint Bloom launched in the 1970s to release her first two albums. Along with Clement, her group includes the empathetic backing of bassist Mark Helias and drummer Matt Wilson. Bloom kicks on her trademark electronics in various places, adding an otherworldly dissonance to her horn or causing it to harmonize with itself. In “Electrochemistry,” which sounds like frenetic freebop, Bloom’s effects make her notes sound reversed as they spill out of nowhere and end with a sharp attack. The four-part “What To Wear” straddles unison sax and piano melodies with looser contributions from bass and drums and highlights the melodic qualities of the saxophonist’s work.