Jane Ira Bloom
AAJ: And the grant was to work specifically on the Pollock pieces?
JB: Yes, to work on Pollock....the premiere of that was actually at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston. That was so cool.
AAJ: That must have been incredible.
JB: We played in front of—I think it was “Canvas Number Six”. They were the only place that would allow us to do that. They set it up right above the bandstand and we played in front of it. It was great. I was so thrilled.
AAJ: Have you done anything similar to this before?
JB: Yes, I’ve always been interested in cross-disciplinary thinking. Years ago I did music with NASA, then I started playing music in planetariums. For me, improvised music is a way of finding my way into all kinds of things.
AAJ: Do you paint or practice any other kinds of art-forms?
JB: Boy, I wish I could! I really wish I could. I do dabble in photography a bit. Actually, have you seen the album Red Quartets?
AAJ: Yes, I’ve seen the cover.
JB: That’s a blow-up of a section of one of my photographs. In a sense, I wish I could paint like that.
AAJ: I guess it’s a truism, but it seems that there are basically two types of artists, the ones who think across mediums, and those who choose to focus more on one mode, or method, and really seal themselves inside that. It seems you like to explore a lot of different areas.
JB: That’s right. It keeps things interesting. It provides inspiration. You get inspiration from the world of ideas wherever it appears.
AAJ: I’d also like to talk specifically about a few of the compositions on Chasing Paint.
AAJ: You said you had already written “Jackson Pollock”. Then there was the suite. Which paintings did you actually use?
JB: Well, I think all of them were really food for the process, but I remember writing “Jackson Pollock” after first seeing “Autumn Winter”. “White Light” and “Alchemy” are kind of clear. And I was also using “Number One”, which is one of my favorite canvases.
AAJ: Can you describe the process of how you responded to the paintings?
JB: Well, when I was composing the music I had reproductions on the piano with me. I also made reproductions of many of the pieces for the musicians to put on their music stands when they were playing. It’s about getting in touch with a different part of your brain that just feels the visual impulse. It’s not something that you can talk about... Each musician is just allowing the information in to express what they think about it in whatever way they wish. In much the same way, as you mentioned in your review, that Pollock listened to Dixieland and Billie Holiday, but now does his music look like that? It’s what it makes you feel. Artistic thought transforms and mutates; merges and grows into whatever it does.
AAJ: There’s often a pitfall of literalism in this kind of work.
JB: You know, like yourself, to me Pollock has just been a tremendous source of inspiration. He’s like a clarion call to freedom. What form that freedom takes must be in your own language. You can’t imitate what he is, its just the spirit of what he does that motivated me. I was able to do things with this music, and with this ensemble, that I was never able to do before.
AAJ: It’s really interesting that you use the word freedom. That’s always what I’ve felt about jazz itself. That seems to be such an integral part of jazz’s history and nature.
JB: Absolutely. At the same time—have you read any of the articles on Pollock and fractal theories, Richard Taylor’s work?
AAJ: Yes, a little.
JB: I actually communicated with Taylor about that. As a counterpoint to the very thing I’m saying about freedom, even in Pollock’s own description of his process, it was something that was so deeply natural. And the studies that show how the contour of the arcs of paint are so rhythmically routed in a structure, whether conscious or not, as compared to those who tried to make imitations of a drip or action painting. And they found that technically it’s not the same.
AAJ: Right. It seems like it was almost a meditative process that he was going through, and you can’t imitate another person’s meditative process.
JB: Yeah, it’s incredible. It’s like the branches of a tree. It’s a beautiful thing to look at and inspiring. I think people get hung up on the mental problems he had in life, and linking them to what he produced as an artist. I think what he produced was the greatest beauty that was in him.
AAJ: I think that sort of biographical analysis is always a type of short-cut.
JB: Yeah, yeah, I sense that you were kind of thinking about that.
AAJ: I also wanted to ask about your work with Fred Hersch. You’ve worked with him before.
JB: My goodness, I’ve worked almost exclusively with Fred since 1980!
AAJ: He’s just a tremendous improviser.
JB: He’s just extraordinary. And we share a lot. Someone you can truly call a soul-mate like that, on a musical level, is a very, very special relationship to me. I feel very honored.