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Jane Ira Bloom - Wild LInes is an exemplary album of poetry-inspired jazz / New York City Jazz Record

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THE NEW YORK CITY JAZZ RECORD | DECEMBER 2017

Wild Lines: Improvising Emily Dickinson
Jane Ira Bloom (Out-Line) 

by George Kanzler 

Essentially, this is two CDs of (largely) the same music. The first is instrumental, delivered by soprano saxophonist Jane Ira Bloom with pianist Dawn Clement, bassist Mark Helias and drummer Bobby Previte. The second CD revisits the same tunes, in slightly different order, edited and expanded to include the words of Emily Dickinson, recited by actress Deborah Rush. Enhanced winningly by the words, which reveal Bloom's inspiration for the music, the music on the second CD is more enjoyable with Dickinson's words and Rush's masterful delivery illuminating it. 

Dickinson's poetry was a harbinger of modern free verse, often very short, neither rhymed nor in a regularly perceived meter, although the longest poem here, "A Star Not Far Enough", does have five stanzas of four metered lines, the second and fourth of each one rhyming. It is spoken, unlike the other 12 tracks with words, at the end of the music, in this case a lyrical, semi-rubato ballad by the duo of Bloom and Clement. The music reflects the bucolic nature of the poem and other tunes find references for the music in the words. "Singing the Triangle", a poem about a circus parade on Triangle Street in Amherst, Massachusetts, elicits a marching beat and bright, piping tune over syncopated rhythms. "Cornets of Paradise", from lines in another poem, conjures martial "Drums of the Phantom Battlements", casting the words over toms that usher in soprano evoking said cornets over an accelerating tempo, saxophone and piano trading solos as if in a race. "Mind Gray River" lays a somber ostinato bassline under the words, the band following up with the same pattern under yearning saxophone and piano soloing over and interacting with Previte's toms. 

Bloom is inspired by the poetry to create singular song forms beyond usual 12-bar and 32-bar AABA forms, stretching the structure of "Say More" with unison lines and ostinati sprinkled with thematic solos. Two of the most striking and successful pieces-both as instrumentals and with poems-are "Alone & In A Circumstance" and "One Note from One Bird". The former is a fanciful depiction of a spider interrupting the poet's "circumstance"; the music, with dance- march drumming, interrupted by abrupt turnarounds during saxophone and piano solos. The latter, inspired by a very short poem (the first half is "One note from/ One Bird/is better than/a million words") has a knotty line reminiscent of Thelonious Monk, at his favorite tempo, with angular chords flirting with dissonance, prodding Bloom and Clement to their best solos on this exemplary album of poetry-inspired jazz.