At the risk of courting gender stereotypes, there is a congruence between the way a ballerina moves and the music Jane Ira Bloom derives from her soprano saxophone on Wild Lines. To be able to blend refined grace and tensile strength into such an aesthetically pleasing flow requires both painstaking discipline and intuitive freedom. Bloom triumphs here on the straight horn because she is so doggedly enraptured, so coolly sublime.
“Flow” is hardly the first word one would associate with the poet Emily Dickinson, whose work inspired Wild Lines. But within Dickinson’s terse verse is refinement and tension in the service of intuitive observation; Bloom’s improvisation greases the mix. Four of the 14 originals appeared on Bloom’s 2016 album, Early Americans, in trio form, with her longtime cohorts Mark Helias on bass and Bobby Previte on drums. Another old friend, pianist Dawn Clement, is a crucial addition to Wild Lines. By turns dynamic and understated, she is a great foil for Bloom and superb seasoning in the rhythm section.
The second of two discs comprising Wild Lines repeats the 15 songs in a slightly different order, with subtle musical variations. More significant, actor Deborah Rush quietly intones Dickinson’s poetry and prose—from The Gorgeous Nothings and the Roger Lundin book Emily Dickinson and the Art of Belief—at various points. The material functions best if the discs are played back-to-back, ingraining the overlapped sections and putting the differences in starker contrast. The purely instrumental disc lends itself more to that ineffable quality of “jazz,” but the spoken word seems to inspire more dulcet beauty from Bloom and the band—from the stark, flute-like timbre and tone of her solo on the opening title song to the gamboling swing of “Big Bill,” a modal workout that is tagged by Dickinson, via Rush, imploring, “Take all away from me/But leave me Ecstasy.”
Preview, buy or download songs from the album Wild Lines: Improvising Emily Dickinson by Jane Ira Bloom on iTunes.