Jane Ira Bloom – Wingwalker – Outline OTL 140, 57:44 ****:
(Jane Ira Bloom – soprano saxophone, live electronics, producer; Dawn Clement– piano, Fender Rhodes; Mark Helias – bass; Bobby Previte – drums)
Saxophonist Jane Ira Bloom should need no introduction. Since the mid-1970s the icon and iconoclast has produced progressive, original music highlighted by typically thoughtful soprano sax and understated use of live electronics. Bloom has written for NASA (she was the first musician commissioned by NASA and has an asteroid named after her), curated discussion/performance series, collaborated with choreographers, scored film soundtracks and won several prestigious awards for her ongoing creativity and vision, including the Mary Lou Williams Jazz Award and a Guggenheim Fellowship.
Bloom’s latest album, Wingwalker, owes at least part of its formation to the Guggenheim presentation, because it afforded Bloom the time to compose and record new tunes: 11 originals and one cover.
Bloom’s fourteenth release – and second on her reconvened Outline label – comes after her last project, Mental Weather, which came out in 2008. Although Wingwalker has an individual personality, it shares some commonalities with Mental Weather and other previous Bloom CDs. Wingwalker, for example, features Bloom’s lyrical, steadfast and flowing soprano sax, which often has a voice-like quality. There is also a vivid rhythmic core, characteristic of many Bloom outings, which is carried forward by the same quartet Bloom had on Mental Weather: drummer Bobby Previte, keyboardist Dawn Clement – who exhibits agility in her supportive role and frequently follows Bloom’s shifts in tone or style with tandem sharpness – as well as bassist Mark Helias, who contributes in interesting ways throughout.
There are numerous moments that reflect Bloom’s application of space and subtle intricacy. “Ending Red Songs” is a sensitive ballad heightened by Bloom’s perceptive, controlled solos and Clement’s complimentary piano. “Adjusting to Midnight” similarly progresses, with Bloom’s crystalline soprano front and center along with more of Clement’s sublime acoustic piano lines. The most beautiful interval, though, is the solo sax rendition of Lerner and Loewe’s “I Could Have Danced All Night” that closes the program. Bloom’s tone is as expressive as a violin and her improvisation proves to be seductive and savory.
Bloom, however, can also swing with abandon, which is apparent on the open-road piece “Freud’s Convertible,” which starts out in mid-tempo blues territory but then intriguingly alters when Bloom applies electronics to go into a cosmic terrain and later a funky groove. The foursome go further outside the norm on “Airspace,” which interleaves electronics, a bounding bass and a darting empathy between Clement and Bloom that showcases their ongoing amity. One other notable cut is “Life on Cloud 8,” which begins with a graceful bass phrase that is also augmented on piano. The tune then evolves to a faster tempo section where Bloom utilizes electronic manipulations to cause her sax to sound like two horns at once, but with an assured, light approach where the sax performance remains the central appeal, not the effect used.
Audio engineer Jim Anderson maintains a warm, representative ambiance that allows Bloom’s music to slowly reveal itself. This is material intended to be listened to attentively: the receptive inventiveness is rendered in indirect ways, meant to be heard with explicit concentration. Mentioning concentrated ideas, Bloom has added the six-minute CD bonus “Wingwalker Singularity,” a unique, high quality MP3 file that compresses the album themes into a condensed event similar to an astrophysics singularity where space and time are combined into a single continuum.
1. Her Exacting Light
2. Life on Cloud 8
3. Ending Red Songs
4. Freud’s Convertible
6. Frontiers in Science
7. Rooftops Speak Dreams
9. Adjusting to Midnight
10. Live Sports
12. I Could Have Danced All Night
— Doug Simpson