Jane Ira Bloom set her heart on a trumpet when she was in the third when she was in the third grade but her mother wouldn't go along with that, fearful that the brass instrument would leave a permanent indentation on the little girl's lips. "I wanted to play a shiny instrument and the saxophone was the next shiniest," says Bloom, who will be at the One Step Down this Friday and Saturday. So the diminutive Bostonian (she now lives in New York) picked the alto sax, which she still plays, and went on to master the soprano in high school and at Yale.

Although Bloom has had her share of the trials and tribulations of being a member of a minority within a minority -- a jazz musician and then a female jazz musician -- she doesn't think of herself as a woman in jazz. "When I get up on the stage and perform I'm not conscious of being a woman saxophonist performing. I'm conscious of being a musician performing. I think that takes up all my energy." Nevertheless, she's been accorded the ultimate backhanded compliment, "she plays like a man" -- hardly an improvement over its earlier form, the condescending "she plays good -- for a girl."

Now in her 20s, Bloom has collaborated with saxophonist George Coleman, bassist Harvie Swartz, vocalist Sheila Jordan and other long established jazz artists. Prestigious critics, the likes of Nat Hentoff, Leonard Feather and John S. Wilson, have awarded rave reviews to her performances and albums.