Jane Ira Bloom, "Wild Lines: Improvising Emily Dickinson" (Outline, two discs)
What an astonishing figure Jane Ira Bloom continues to be.
Even if her tone on soprano saxophone weren't uniquely beautiful and her technique preternaturally pliable, there would be her longtime connection with some of the greatest players in current jazz to distinguish her – pianist Fred Hersch on so many records (Dawn Clement plays terrific piano on this quartet disc), along with bassist Mark Helias and drummer Bobby Previte.
On top of all that, there is the extraordinary creativity and idiosyncrasy that distinguishes so many of her records. What other jazz musician was virtually adopted by NASA for her love of astronauts and space travel? Who else is inspired by abstract painting on other discs and neuroscience still others? Her last disc "Early Americans" might have prepared us for the glory of this one but it really didn't. It's a jazz tribute to Emily Dickinson based on Bloom's discovery that Dickinson was not only an amateur pianist but was sometimes given to improvisation. Says Bloom "I didn't always understand her but I always felt Emily's use of words mirrored the way a jazz musician uses notes."
Bloom's "Wild Lines" based on Dickinson's poetry was premiered at Dickinson's home in Amherst, Ma. and was subsequently performed at the Kennedy Center. There is no overpraising the exquisite intimacy of Bloom's rapport with her other musicians Clement, Helias and, especially, Bobby Previte who is virtually her heartbeat on their discs together. That's always true of her records but it's especially remarkable here. The beauty of Dickinson as a jazz inspiration is that nothing remotely literal can come from it.
Here are some of the lines that inspired Bloom: "Take all away from me, but leave me ecstasy/And I am richer then;" "One note from/One bird/Is better than/A million words." "We introduce ourselves/to planets and flowers/But with ourselves/Have etiquettes/Embarrassments/ and Awes." The beauty here is that this is NOT a true meeting of minds but rather the capture of a fire from another century that blazed so brilliantly that it took a gorgeously different form in another time. Actor Deborah Rush recites Dickinson too for those who need to hear how the fire began before it transformed itself. She ends it all with a solo reading of Rodgers and Hart's "It's Easy to Remember."
One of the year's great jazz records by one of our greatest jazz poets and the brilliant friends who understand her completely.
4 stars (out of four)