Jane Ira Bloom: Mental Weather
Jane Ira Bloom (soprano sax, live electronics)
Mental Weather (Outline OTL139)
Jane Ira Bloom (soprano sax, live electronics),
Dawn Clement (piano), Mark Helias (bass), Matt Wilson (drums).
Composed by Jane Ira Bloom.
Recorded: New York, June 1-2, 2007
Rating: 97/100 (learn more)
The words "saxophone" and "electronics" in close proximity normally set off our internal Gimmick Alert! alarm, causing us to scurry for cover. Remember Eddie Harris's summer of '68 "Listen Here," the Varitone sax's one-hit wonder? Or John Klemmer's mid-'70s "Touch," which touched our credit cards with primeval Echoplex effects that led producer Michael Cuscuna, among others, to ever after refer to him as "Klemmer, Klemmer, Klemmer."
Thankfully, Jane Ira Bloom, whom jazz critic Nat Hentoff has called "beyond category," is also way beyond gimmickry in her use of electronics, which is as dazzlingly organic as a painter's swirls, adding colorful touches without ever becoming the central focus. The ingenious title track from her 2008 CD illustrates this approach, building on a bass vamp figure whose time signature, the composer informs us, alternates measures of 4/4 and 3/8. This creates an underlying jitteriness that ideally complements amazing solos by Jane Ira and her remarkable new pianist, Seattle's Dawn Clement, who both swing brilliantly over bassist Mark Helias and drummer Matt Wilson's in-the-pocket groove in a mighty unusual meter.
But "Mental Weather" is not about solos, metrics or electronics. This is a full-fledged four-way exchange between master musicians preternaturally attuned to one another, and it's a delight even for those of us who wouldn't know 4/4 from 6-7/8ths.
When we asked whether it would be off the mark to connect the dots between Jane Ira's present work and the early '60s Jimmy Giuffre 3 with Paul Bley and Steve Swallow—for us, a touchstone in the kind of small- group interactivity that Bloom is so notably exploring—she acknowledged: "Those three artists are all great jazz adventurers." But, she added tellingly, "I think somewhere in the back of my mind Ornette is always lurking."
With Ornette Coleman lurking in the back of her mind, it's no wonder Jane Ira Bloom's "Mental Weather" is so invigorating.
Reviewer: Alan Kurtz