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Jane Ira Bloom - Wild Lines, Improvising Emily Dickinson / STEP TEMPEST review

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Soprano saxophonist and composer Jane Ira Bloom released "Early Americans" in 2016, a trio date with bassist Mark Helias and drummer Bobby Previte, both of whom she had recorded with extensively.  Her new project, "Wild Lines: Improvising Emily Dickinson" (Outline), brings back pianist Dawn Clements who recorded with this ensemble on 2011's "Wingwalker" (the pianist is also featured on Ms. Bloom's 2008 album "Mental Weather" with Helias and drummer Matt Wilson!) Ms. Bloom's latest adventure came about when she discovered that Emily Dickinson (1830-1886) was a pianist and an improviser, a quality the composer could see in the poetry.  After receiving a commission from Chamber Music America/Doris Duke New Jazz Works, Ms. Bloom put together the program that one hears on these two CDs.  There are 14 original compositions plus a solo soprano saxophone reading of the Rodgers & Hart classic, "It's Easy To Remember." 

One might be tempted to start with CD 2 because you hear the lines of Ms. Dickinson's that prompted the compositions. Read by actress  Deborah Rush (Broadway and television), most of the pieces are read before the pieces (there are several exceptions).  But you really can hear how pieces like "Emily & Her Atoms" and "One Note from One Bird" (excerpt from "The Gorgeous Nothings") are built from the poems and poem fragments.  The latter tune does open with one note from the piano before Ms. Rush intones "One note from/ One Bird/ is better than/ a million words/...A scabbard/ Needs/ has - holds/ but one/ sword"  - listen to how the quartet expands that one note and those words outward away from its simple center into a musical meadowland with a sweeping melody and roiling drums.

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