Saxophonist, composer, band leader, music educator, based in New York
Born in Moscow, Russia, Lena Bloch immigrated to Israel and moved to Europe in 1991, where she became a part of the European jazz scene (Germany and Holland) for 12 years, finally came to the United States, earning Master's Degree in Composition and moved to Brooklyn, NY in 2008, where she quickly became a contributor to one of the most fertile and interesting jazz scenes of recent memory.
As a long-time disciple of Lee Konitz, Lena is an improviser, dedicated to spontaneity and precision. She has collaborated with former students of Lennie Tristano: Connie Crothers, Ted Brown, Harvey Diamond, Joe Solomon, Charles Sibirsky, as well as with younger players like herself, who are contributing to the development of the tradition of spontaneous improvising and open musical communication: Roberta Piket, Dan Tepfer, Brad Linde, Sarah Huges and others.
During her first years in Brooklyn Lena was featured in the Four Extraordinary Women In Jazz workshop/performance (with Connie Crothers) and in the Lester Young 100's Birthday Concert (with Ted Brown and Chris Byars, Smalls Jazz Club). She was a frontman in Vishnu Wood Quartet (2008-2014) and performed with this group at several festivals (with Vishnu Wood, James Weidman, Bertha Hope, Makaya MacCraven, R J Miller). Lena has been a part of Lady Got Chops festival (NY State) with groups led by Mala Waldron, Sumi Tonooka, Kim Clarke. Other musicians Lena has worked with, are Arturo O'Farrill, George Schuller, Putter Smith, Bill Wurtzel, Scott Wendholt and many others.
In 2014 Lena Bloch was invited as a soloist with New York Chamber Players Orchestra, performing the concerto for alto saxophone and orchestra by Eric Koenig at the Merkin Concert Hall.
5 years ago Lena's own project came to life, when she met the nucleus of her recent quartet: bassist Cameron Brown and drummer Billy Mintz, both stellar musicians with tremendous experience and deep understanding of music. With these colleagues and a very talented young guitarist from Chicago, Dave Miller, Lena recorded her first album as a leader. The album Feathery was top-rated in Downbeat Magazine, Pop Culture Classics, Jazz Inside Magazine, New York City Jazz Record, France Musique, Canadian Audiophile, Music Charts Magazine – and was voted the best debut release of 2014 by Dan Morgenstern, as well as one of the top 10 Jazz Albums 2014 (Just Jazz, USA) and top 50 Jazz Albums 2014 (JazzLinks, Austria-Germany).
After Miller's departure from NYC, Lena's quartet took a different turn, when in 2014 pianist and composer Russ Lossing joined the group. Lena Bloch Quartet, called Feathery, has been performing regularly since then, presenting original music, written by Lena and Russ. The quartet has performed in various New York City and Brooklyn concert spaces and jazz clubs, has released its album Heart Knows in 2017 (Fresh Sound Records) and was selected to perform at the showcase for the 40th National Chamber Music Conference in NYC (2018). More to come...
Lena's inspirations and interests come from her musical experience and study with masters. She studied with Yusef Lateef in Massachusetts, Kaveh Dalir-Azar from Iran in Germany, David Liebman in his European workshops, Dave Holland and Joe Lovano in Banff Canada, and, most notably, with Lee Konitz, whom she met in 2001 in Cologne. She acquired her Artist Diploma from Cologne Conservatory (Germany), where her teachers were Keith Copeland and John Marshall, with whom she also performed with her quartet. In Europe Lena Bloch has met and performed with fabulous jazz musicians and masters, such as Mal Waldron, Johnny Griffin, Horace Parlan, Alvin Queen, Jurai Stanik. In 2000-2002 she was the saxophonist and composer with the legendary jazz percussionist Steve Reid (album Live In Europe”, MSI 2001), along with Boris Netsvetaev and Chris Lachotta.
In 2003, graduate school followed - Master's Degree in Composition and teaching assistantship at the University of Massachusetts Amherst - study with Salvatore Macchia and Jeff Holmes. She played the first tenor chair in the Jazz Ensemble and got a “Downbeat Student Award” 2005 and MENC Award 2004 in Minneapolis.
With her unique cultural background, Lena is working in a singular manner (as Mark Keresman of NYC Jazz Record puts it), towards an original style and very personal expression. Her inspirations range from Eastern European and Middle Eastern tradition to 20th-21st Century and Western classical music.
Lena is also an active instructor and clinician, teaching woodwinds and improvisation, member of Jazz Education Network, New Music USA and Chamber Music America. She served as a panelist for National Endowment for the Arts in 2015. Currently a faculty member at Slope Music, Brooklyn.
My Jazz Story
Published on: 2017-11-18
First time I met Lee Konitz, my mentor who completely changed my life, in 1992. He was giving a masterclass at the Cologne Conservatory (Germany) where I was a freshmen (with playing experience around three years total). He saw an alto sax on my neck and said: "Hey, how about you there, would you like to play something for us?" I played a piece with the piano. "OK," said Lee, "how about you play something unaccompanied?" Oh yeah! I was deep into transcribing Sonny Stitt and pretty much into playing as fast as possible as many right notes as possible. So I played "Oleo" in about 300 beats per minute and was very proud of myself. Lee was tapping his foot all the way through. "Hmm," he said, "that was in time and all that..." (I thought - yeah, of course, haha!) and then he said, "You've got a lot of quantity, how about quality?" It took me 15 years to realize what he meant.