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Music, at its best, is about seeing and feeling things that are well-known in a new way, making them pleasing to the intellect and heart. It's about placing familiar things in an unfamiliar context.
Taking the cover to Wisconsin-born pianist Mara Rosenbloom's album as an example, School of Fish is adorned by a fish painted on woodwork with the eye of the fish being a part of the wood's natural texture. Here, an aquatic animal is taken out of its natural element and placed in a different context and it works: the fish is seen in a whole new and humorous way.
Just as the cover plays with the well-known perception of how things usually are, Rosenbloom renews the trite formulas of jazz with sparkling compositions that are both lyrically contemplative and rhythmically pulsating.
It is easy to follow the melodic thread of her thought, and yet there are constant and unexpected detours, making the music both accessible and intellectually satisfying. As a player Rosenbloom is equally fascinatingchanging tempi, using rollicking licks and blocks of chords. There are traces of her former teacher Kenny Werner as well as McCoy Tyner, but the final expression is all her own.
Bloom has enlisted a top-notch team of young musicians who understand how the music works and are able to follow every twist and turn. Bassist Isaac Jaffe has all the groovy elasticity necessary to encompass the melodic complexity of compositions like the opening "Arrival" and "Passage," with their bouncing rhythms. For that purpose, drummer Nick Anderson is also the ideal timekeeper with his light, sophisticated playing making the music dance.
Darius Jones is an instrumental master; from the velvety vulnerability of "Subtle Pressure" to the intense climax of "Six," he plays across his saxophone's entire register.
This quartet plays music that renders believable the future of jazz. As both a player and composer, Rosenbloom is already singular and ahead of those players satisfied to reside in the dull water of familiar elements.
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.