Tuesday, February 18, 2014

From Russia with swing!

Saxophonist Lena Bloch unites incendiary playing and cool aesthetics on debut album, Feathery with Cameron Brown, Dave Miller and Billy Mintz - CD Release Concert March 30 at The Drawing Room, Brooklyn


IMG_0732"A very serious and talented saxophonist and composer." - Lee Konitz


"It's a pleasure to hear a committed musician creating her own exciting sound while also digging deep into the less examined wellsprings of the jazz tradition." - Steve Futterman, The New Yorker


"Lena has impressed me as someone in whose person is embodied a true musical spirit. She is a wonderfully creative, unique and imaginative player." - saxophonist Adam Kolker


The acclaimed tenor saxophonist Lena Bloch, a Russian émigré who currently resides in Brooklyn, grounds her music in the fertile soil of the present, while honoring significant, left-of-center innovations of jazz past. Committed to the essentials of swing, post-bop exploration and collective improvisation, as well as an avid interest in the still-visionary music of cool-school titans, Lennie Tristano, Lee Konitz and Warne Marsh, Bloch has created a distinctive instrumental and group approach that sets her apart from her peers.


"Feathery" cover design by Chris DrukkerHer debut album Feathery, to be released March 18, 2014 on Thirteenth Note Records, is a fitting testimony to Bloch's brisk musical evolution and her commitment to productive freedom. Although contributing players Cameron Brown on bass, Billy Mintz on drums and Dave Miller on guitar were not a working unit, under Bloch's supportive direction they melded indivisibly as a resourceful and consistently inspiring ensemble.

Each member of the quartet contributed at least one piece to the album. In addition, the group recorded rarely performed pieces by two of the foremost of Lennie Tristano's acolytes: "Marshmallow" by Warne Marsh and "Featherbed" by Ted Brown. Lena's own "Hi Lee" is a tribute to her own mentor from the Tristano camp, Lee Konitz.

Veteran bassist Cameron Brown, a former member of the now legendary Don Pullen-George Adams Quartet and a current associate of Joe Lovano, brings his clear sonic presence, swinging lines, and melodic inventiveness to the group. Drummer Billy Mintz, a colleague of Brown's for over 30 years, is a master of texture and dynamics whose orchestrations and subtle swing feel significantly contribute to the continuity of the project's challenging material. Dave Miller, a guitarist from Chicago currently living in New York, combines intuition and precision at a level rarely heard among young players today.

"When I decided to record my first album, I had in mind a recording in which the focus would be on collective improvising, group interplay, spontaneity and unexpected turns rather than the usual 'head - solo - head' format," Bloch has said,  "The rapport and understanding among the four musicians was remarkable. We recorded in one day, in one room, without headphones, the album consists almost entirely of first takes. There were no pre-set arrangements."

The result is a recording that reflects an effortlessness, lightness and elegance as aptly described by the title Feathery.

Lena Bloch was born in Moscow and studied music in Israel, Germany and the United States, where she earned a Master's of Music degree in composition at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Since moving to the United States in 2003, Bloch has been a soloist with the Vermont Jazz Big Band, the Ambassadors of Light, the Vishnu Wood Quartet, and the Northampton Jazz Workshop. In 2008 she moved to Brooklyn and has since performed with, among others, Dan Tepfer, Roberta Piket, George Schuller, Frank Carlberg, Putter Smith, Mark Ferber, Sumi Tonooka, Kim Clarke, Vishnu Wood and Vladimir Shafranov as well as several musicians associated with the Lennie Tristano school (Ted Brown, Connie Crothers, Joe Solomon, Bob Arthurs). Bloch has also gained significant recognition in Europe, performing with such diverse musicians as "Embryo", Keith Copeland, Alvin Queen, and Steve Reid.


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