Location, Space, and Women In Jazz

Jane Ira Bloom

Jane Ira Bloom was born in Boston, MA in 1955. At home, Jane Ira Bloom was exposed to music through a grand collection of records consisting of Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington and other songs from the American Songbook. To her parents, Bloom’s career path was a mystery; however, they “were happy that I was doing what I wanted to do” (Bloom Transcript, Line 510.)

Jane Ira Bloom Interview

Bloom was fortunate in that she lived right outside of Boston, and that her family was able to afford private lessons. As a result, she had access to several amazing musical professional who helped her map out her career in jazz.

At 4 years old, she studied piano with Harvey Steinberg, an extremely influential pianist. Bloom credits Harvey for teaching her how to improvise. While working with Steinberg, she created her own tunes and improvising on the piano. “I began early on improvising and not knowing it. And I had a teacher who would show me what chord changes were and how to write things out.” For Bloom, “learning process went hand in hand improvising and studying written form as well...it was just a part of what I did” (Bloom Transcript, Lines 172-177.)


Bloom attended public school in Boston and had a typical experience of learning the sax in the public school system. In 3rd grade, she was offered a list of instruments from which she had to choose from ie. clarinet, saxophone, trumpet, and the flute. Bloom ultimately chose the sax because it was “shiny and different”. After deciding to play the sax, Bloom took private lessons with Joe Viola at 12 years old. Viola’s love for the soprano saxophone exposed her to the instrument at a very young age and Bloom quickly became very interested.

Outside of her home, Bloom constantly reached out to local musicians to come together, play, form bands, and teach each other. In the suburban underground of Boston, Bloom played with friends in their basements, and created local jazz groups. Meanwhile, in high school, Bloom was a music jock, as she recognized herself as being different.

Jane Ira Bloom Interview

Later on, Bloom attended Yale College where she received a liberal arts degree as a music major. Location played a remarkable role in the success of her career when she attended college in New Haven. In the mid 70s, New Haven was a very vibrant jazz scene with highly regarded innovative jazz musicians which provided Bloom many opportunities to train and learn with talented, like-minded, musicians. In New Haven, she took advantage of her surroundings and played in clubs and also put on concerts of original music while at Yale.

Nearly 30 years after her first exposure to the soprano saxophone, Bloom continues to perform and play at an exceptional level while encouraging others to do the same as well. Throughout her career, Bloom has collaborated with several different jazz musicians, such as Kenny Wheeler, Ed Blackwell and Bobby Private.

Her solo as well as collaborative work has painted Bloom as a widely respected jazz musician, regardless of her gender. She has been prized with several awards that highlight Bloom’s unique creativity, as well as her ability to collaborate with others and push the envelope within the industry of Jazz. For instance, in 2007, she won the Mary Lou Williams Women In Jazz Award, in 2007 she won the 2007 Guggenheim Fellowship award, and for nearly six years, she has been awarded the Jazz Journalists Award for soprano sax of the year.

For additional information, here is the full transcript of Jane Ira Bloom that can also be found in the Hamilton College Jazz Archives:

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