Jane Ira Bloom
AAJ: I don’t have quite as many opportunities to perform in classical settings anymore, but I have enjoyed the few opportunities where that has happened. I just wrote a string quintet that I was commissioned to do by the St. Luke’s Chamber Ensemble for my Self with String Quintet. That’s a string quartet with bass. And just being with really fine classical players is really exciting to me. Just great music wherever you go.
AAJ: I guess I should have asked how you came to pursue jazz performance as opposed to something else, you know, becoming a doctor or a classical composer?
JB: Well, it’s almost like it chose me. By the time I finished college...after feeling the experience of performance, it was clear to me it was the only thing I could do. It wasn’t like a choice.
AAJ: You know, there are certain questions that I ask almost everybody because it’s so interesting to see the variations, as well as the consistencies...
AAJ: And that’s one of them. And almost everyone says exactly that. ‘It chose me.’
JB: Yes. At least for me, I can remember music being a passion from the minute I was on the planet. You don’t know why or where it comes from. It’s just there.
AAJ: Who were some of the first jazz musicians that your remember hearing, and identifying with. If there were specific people.
JB: Mostly people you’d hear on record. It was the vocalists.
AAJ: Was that as a child?
JB: Yeah, there were some records at home. There were some Ella Fitzgerald records at home, and then when you begin to study your teacher starts exposing you to things.
AAJ: Is there any one in specific?
JB: No, I mean, if I mention one, then I have to go into all of it. It’s just, its all just great music. You’re starting on the path of listening and enjoying it.
AAJ: I wanted to ask a little about your tone, which is always a bit tricky to ask about. But to me it has an immediately identifiable clarity. It’s a very warm, clear sound at almost any register.
AAJ: So what’s the trick?
JB: (Laughter) The trick?
AAJ: Not a trick, what I mean is, it’s very distinct. Not every player chooses to play in that fashion, or maybe they aren’t able to.
JB: Well, its something I just spent a lot of time working on. With this very fine teacher, Joe Viola. I remember he just made the most beautiful sound on that instrument that I’d ever heard. And that same kind of clarity that you can hear from the bottom of the horn all the way to the top. It didn’t matter where it was, just complete fluidity. That was appealing to me. So I worked hard at that characteristic of the instrument. That sound, the nature of the sound, getting the sound that I like.
AAJ: It becomes something so personal. Or at least I’ve always assumed it’s not about playing correctly, not at the level we’re talking about.
JB: No, it’s not about being correct or incorrect, it’s about getting the sound that’s you.
AAJ: Does that have anything to do with a classical background?
JB: I’m not sure. I guess it must. Paying such close attention to your intonation and strength of embouchure. Because again, as we discussed, technically with the soprano the higher you get on it, the easier it is to spread out on you. That’s not a great description. It’s almost like you have to pick those notes out of the air. I think Frenchhorn players will sometimes describe that quality. And trumpet players...
AAJ: A friend of mine who plays in symphony orchestras... often jokes that when the Frenchhorn players have to solo, everyone holds their breadth.
JB: What they’re all telling you is that the music and all the musculature that it takes to play has to be inside you. It’s almost like you pick it out of the air. The instrument just happens to be there. So in a sense you’re singing. You’re singing from the inside...
AAJ: I thought we’d turn now to the Chasing Paint album, which as you know I was immediately fascinated by. I’ve always been intrigued by Pollock’s work, so I was quite amazed by this project. My first question is just how the concept developed, how the album came about?
JB: Well, you know, I was trying to think of when I started getting into Pollock, and you know I recorded that piece, “Jackson Pollock” on I think my second album back in 1981. I’ve always been interested in this guy. I’ve always been interested in modern art, especially Abstract Expressionism, but there’s something visceral about looking into his paintings. Even before I knew what they were, or what it was about, it always interested me. And then as a musician because I’d been so interested in movement and flow—I guess in my sense in terms of melodic line writing—I felt like I could hear it! So its always been there, and it was only recently that I got a grant from the Doris Duke foundation to kind of synthesize this interest and write a whole suite of pieces for my quartet about Pollock. That’s how the music coalesced compositionally. And I was able to have the time to rehearse with the quartet, so the stuff that you are hearing is the result of a good deal of rehearsal and performance. And the culmination of a good period of time.