Jane Ira Bloom is one of only a handful of artists who make the soprano saxophone their main axe. But unlike David Liebman, whose expressionist bent is an acoustic concern, Bloom innovates by seamlessly and organically blending real-time electronic processing. That's not to say the sounds she coaxes out of her instrument are necessarily natural, but her command of the various devices she uses is so well integrated that it feels like a logical extension of her instrument, rather than simple gimmickry.
After a string of acclaimed recordings on Arabesque, Bloom has taken the same route as guitarist Jim Hall and composer/arranger Maria Schneider by releasing her latest album, Like Silver, Like Song, on the ArtistShare imprinta unique model that brings artists and fans together to participate in the creation of new recordings.
Featuring keyboardist Jamie Saft, bassist Mark Dresser, and drummer Bobby Previte, Like Silver, Like Song captures the quartet in the studio following a couple of live dates. Like the performances, the fourteen compositionsall by Bloom, with the exception of Rogers and Hammerstein's "I Have Dreamed and "Altair 4, an improvised electronic workout between Bloom and Saftrun continuously, lending the entire disc a imaginatively visual arc. By repeating the early lyrical "Singing in Stripes at the end of the programme, Bloom creates a narrative with a definitive flow.
The music is a curiously accessible yet adventurous mix. Bloom's debt to Wayne Shorter is clear; in fact, the opening tracks, "Dreaming in the Present Tense and "Unconscious Forces, suggest how Weather Report might have sounded had it continued in the vein of its first two releases rather than moving in a more groove-centric direction. Like Shorter, Bloom is lyrical yet carefully considered; there's a cerebral nature to her sound and concept that manages to remain emotionally rich and completely captivating.
Even on pieces like "Vanishing Hat, with its curiously accelerating motif tying together more freely improvised segments, there's a sense of space and logic, that keeps the music accessible. Dresser and Previte make a perfectly sympathetic rhythm section, with the ability to interact on pieces that range from the rubato "White Light to the almost funky "Magnetic. Dresser's arco is still one of the richest around, and is featured liberally throughout the set. Saft is a master at creating texture and ambience, whether on acoustic or electric instruments.
Bloom has her own take on experimentation, which remains spacious and somehow soft, even at its most extreme. Like Jan Garbarek, she seems more concerned with the purity of her tone, the sound of each note, than in demonstrating her technical prowess, although she clearly hints at it from time to time. But hers is a warmer-toned alternative to Garbarek's Nordic cool.
Like Silver, Like Song is another highlight in a career filled with high points. With a distinctive language made all the more unique by the blend of players, Bloom's work remains daring yet completely approachable.
Visit Jane Ira Bloom on the web.
Personnel: Jane Ira Bloom (soprano saxophone, live electronics), Jamie Saft (keyboards, electronics), Mark Dresser (bass), Bobby Previte (drums, electronic drums)