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Mara Rosenbloom, Darius Jones, Brian Drye: Brooklyn Artist Snapshot

Seton Hawkins By

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To even the casual observer, Brooklyn has incubated an extraordinary new generation of talented jazz artists. While the Borough is certainly renowned for a vibrant jazz community, and indeed has been since the mid-twentieth century, this latest cohort of artists is nevertheless worthy of a particular spotlight, not only for being a gathering of tremendous performers and composers, but also in many cases for emerging as entrepreneurs who have successfully challenged the difficult economics of jazz with creative solutions.

To help shed some light on Brooklyn's creative community, three exceptional Brooklyn- based artists—pianist Mara Rosenbloom, saxophonist Darius Jones, and trombonist Brian Drye—sat down to chat about their individual projects, their mentors and collaborators, and their deeply felt Borough pride.

All About jazz: Can you talk about your musical upbringing, and your respective decisions to relocate to Brooklyn?

Brian Drye: I moved to New York 15 years ago, and right away was constantly going to Brooklyn to play music, so it really was a no-brainer to move there. There were so many musicians here that I wanted to play with, so it just made sense to be in Brooklyn, rather than Manhattan.

Originally, I'm from Rhode Island, and my dad's a jazz saxophonist who taught at the Berklee College of Music. I had a lot of jazz in my upbringing and I went to the University of Miami to follow that passion, which in turn led me pretty much directly to New York. I realized that the music I wanted to play was in New York and I just fell in love with the city and knew I needed to stay here. I then slowly immigrated to Brooklyn, which led to all the other work I do here, like IBeam [a multi-arts performance, rehearsal, and education space in Brooklyn founded by Drye in 2008] and my teaching work.

Darius Jones: I grew up in Virginia, and went to college in Richmond. A lot of my friends moved to New York—not necessarily to Brooklyn—and I was listening to the music that was coming out of the city. What happened to me was that I began to take a few lessons from guys who lived in Brooklyn, like Andrew D'Angelo and Bill McHenry, and I remember the first time I took a lesson with Bill. It was the first time I took the subway to Brooklyn and when I got off the subway I was like "Oh, I can do this! I can live here." And again, a lot of the people I really liked—Steve Coleman, Jim Black, Chris Speed—all lived in Brooklyn. There are a bunch of cats here, even Branford Marsalis lived here for a while, so for me it was totally musical and it was affordable, as least when I first moved here!

Mara Rosenbloom: I'm originally from Madison, Wisconsin, and I came to NYU for college. That was a semi-spontaneous decision: I didn't know too much about New York at the time, though I had heard some of the new music coming out of the city. My dad was a big jazz fan and brought back some of the music he heard when he'd visit here.

So I knew the music was here, and when I arrived and started seeing bands, I thought, "Oh wow, this is it!" I started hearing things that I had never experienced in music before. Initially, I was in Manhattan for two years, and was unsure if it was the place for me, given the cost and the stressful, fast-paced feeling. So I moved to Brooklyn, first and foremost, because it was more affordable. In fact, I had a similar experience to Darius, as when I got off the train I realized that this was a place I could stay in for a while.

To me, Brooklyn feels almost like an in-between place of Manhattan and where I grew up. It's a little quieter, a little more livable.

AAJ: Can you talk about some of your mentors in music as you were developing your styles?

DJ: It's hard in this music for these mentorships to not occur, given the nature of this music and how it was passed down from musician to musician. For me, my purpose in moving to New York and ultimately Brooklyn was really about getting better and becoming a better artist. I don't even look at it as "career"; it's more of a lifestyle for me. I think when I was making the decision to come to New York, it was solely to have the experiences of sitting right in front of artists like David S. Ware and being able to speak with him and learn from him. Same thing with Oliver Lake, those opportunities to chat with these artists were what I came to New York to get. Whether they were brief or lengthy, it didn't matter, and I feel very fortunate to have met and even played with these artists that I admire so much.


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