For her 14th album as a leader, Jane Ira Bloom offers pieces—all are original compositions except for one—that might best be thought of as sound sculptures. That description applies even to the sole standard, a closing version of the Lerner and Loewe ballad “I Could Have Danced All Night” that finds Bloom’s graceful and resonant soprano saxophone unaccompanied on the retro melody and adornments. Her horn really is a thing of beauty, dancing through and around the theme and hanging in the air, as if it might be carrying the ghostly remainders of the tune, echoing down through the cavernous great hall of one of those grand hotels where the song once was regularly featured. On repeat listens, it grows even more haunting.
Pianist Dawn Clement, bassist Mark Helias and drummer Bobby Previte, all regular associates, join Bloom on the other 11 pieces, several of which have titles referencing air flight—not surprising from someone who has written several compositions commissioned by NASA. “Wingwalker” finds Bloom climbing and falling over Previte’s artful tumbles and small explosions before the full band begins moving together, slowly and steadily but unpredictably. “Life on Cloud 8” is built on a repeating blues-edged vamp, over which the electronics-enhanced soprano darts around before shifting to a quick leapfrogging riff. “Airspace” begins with several elongated unison lines, each separated by moments of silence, before being driven by Helias’ gritty walking bass.
In addition to the tunes with titles referencing aviation, there are those suggesting motion, and at least one suggesting great heights: “Rooftops Speak Dreams,” which shifts from a free-minded ballad feel to a groove with a punchy backbeat. More often than not Bloom soars, applying a distinctive instrumental voice to compositions that are unpredictable and challenging, and usually quite inviting.