Any introductory sentence introducing Theo Bleckmann winds up being either underwritten, or convoluted, or a run-on. This is because Bleckmann has his ears and singing voice in so many different fields; he’s like a musical octopus. How do you appropriately sum up a musician who, in the past five years, has toured with trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire, collaborated with Meredith Monk, the New York Philharmonic, the John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble and Laurie Anderson alike, channeled Elvis via Schumann at the Stone, received “Best” labels in both jazz and opera polls…ack, it’s too much.
Bleckmann will bring his multitudes to The Jazz Gallery with a handpicked quintet on October 3rd. We caught up with him via phone, after rehearsal.
The Jazz Gallery: What rehearsal did you have today?
Theo Bleckmann: It was for a guest appearance on Shai Maestro’s gig at the Jazz Standard. I wrote some lyrics to Shai’s songs, and wrote lyrics for Ziv Ravitz, the drummer in the trio. I’m going to perform those tomorrow.
TJG: What will an average working day look like for you? What percent is rehearsing and what percent is composing?
TB: It’s so crazy and unpredictable that usually I’m looking ahead of what I have to do and preparing for the next thing—and then whatever is left I can use for myself. My composing process is very unpredictable and erratic. I’m not a composer who sits down every morning and writes a sketch. When I’m on the road, or when I have a piano in front of me, I get inspired. It’s very unpredictable, and I try to allow for that to not freak me out.
TJG: You’ve performed duos with Ben Monder, and John Hollenbeck, and Shai Maestro, who make up 4/5 of your quintet at your Gallery gig. [Chris Tordini is on bass.] Is it disorienting to play with these guys in this setting?
TB: Absolutely. Because everybody is so complete unto themselves that I have to figure out how to have them shine within the group—just trying to rotate them. All of them can pull out anything at any time. It’s almost an embarrassment of riches. I’m just learning how to use them best in this context, and not to be afraid to have them do less than they do normally.