The spare, evocative poetry of Emily Dickinson has inspired no shortage of musical interpretation — notably by classical composers ranging from Samuel Barber to Aaron Copland to Elliot Carter. But the soprano saxophonist Jane Ira Bloom finds a new register for this impulse with Wild Lines: Improvising Emily Dickinson, originally released on Outline Music last fall.
The album features an ace rhythm section of longtime Bloom collaborators: pianist Dawn Clement, bassist Mark Helias and drummer Bobby Previte. Joining them at times is the Broadway, film and television actress Deborah Rush, who gives voice to Dickinson’s verse.
Wild Lines, which Bloom composed after receiving a 2015 Chamber Music America / Doris Duke New Jazz Works commission, had its premiere the following year, in Dickinson’s hometown of Amherst, Mass. There have been subsequent performances at the Kennedy Center and the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.
Earlier this spring, WBGO was proud to present Bloom and her collaborators — with Allison Miller subbing in for Previte on drums — in a concert at the Yamaha Piano Salon. And we’re pleased to share the full performance here, complete with an introduction by WBGO’s Michael Bourne.
At once exploratory and grounded, the performance evokes the intrigue in Dickinson’s poetry, quite intentionally. As with Bloom’s acclaimed 2003 album Chasing Paint, a tribute to the Abstract Expressionist hero Jackson Pollock, the music enacts a leap of imagination and a feat of translation.
Note the handful of moments when Bloom — who has just been recognized as soprano saxophonist of the year by the Jazz Journalists Association — sweeps the air with her instrument, creating a Doppler effect. In much the same way that Dickinson reinvented space and syntax on the page, Bloom reshapes the air as she states her case. And it’s no stretch to suggest that this music dwells in possibility, just as the poet once declared.