Pianist Mara Rosenbloom moves freely between musical idioms, yet always showcasing a deeply personal perspective. For over a decade, Rosenbloom has collaborated with musicians across popular, modern, avant-garde, and other cross-cultural jazz styles. Her most recent album, Prairie Burn (Fresh Sound/New Talent) was met with smashing reviews from New York Music Daily and DownBeat.
Rosenbloom’s trio project, Flyways, uses the concept of migratory bird patterns as a metaphor for the interplay between personal confidence and group sensitivity. The trio consists of Rosenbloom on piano, Anaïs Maviel on voice and percussion, and Adam Lane on bass. At The Jazz Gallery, Flyways will perform “I know what I dreamed,” a long-form exploratory piece expanding the text from one of Adrienne Rich’s Twenty-One Love Poems. We spoke with Rosenbloom on working with Maviel and Lane, the ever-important significance of Rich’s poetry, and her process of adapting text to an improvisational trio format.
TJG: Tell me a little about the development of the Flyways trio.
MR: Flyways has taken a few forms. It began, as my projects often begin, with an intuitive, organic feeling about putting elements together that might make sense. Flyways started as a larger ensemble with Daniel Carter playing horns and Jeff Davis on drums. At that point, we were totally improvising, and played a few shows together. I can’t say Flyways will never be a larger group again, but as I began to whittle down and make things more clear, the trio format became a natural fit for me.
TJG: Tell me about Anaïs Maviel. I discovered her through your music, and I’ve been blown away by what I’m hearing.
MR: Anaïs is amazing. She’s a force. The first time I saw her, I was totally blown away. She’s singing on a very high level, and her rhythmic concept is very strong. Anaïs plays the Surdo drum, which most people know from Brazilian Samba. For marching, it’s often a lightweight drum, but hers is a custom-made heavier wooden version that stands on the floor. It’s got a big, warm sound. It’s great in the band. We don’t have a drum set in the group, so the Surdo brings in some of the same texture and rhythmic interplay with a different sort of timbre and space.
TJG: Does she live in New York, or is she just passing through?
MR: When I met her, Anaïs had just moved to New York, and was here for at least a few years after. She’s been touring the world as a soloist and in duos, so we’re excited that she’s in town now. She’s from France, partially of Hatian descent, and she’s in New York now by way of Paris. I met her through the Arts for Art community, the organization that puts on the Vision Festival in New York, now in its 23rd year. Both of my mentors, Connie Crothers and Cooper-Moore, were involved with Arts for Art, along with other musicians I work with, and I’ve steadily become a part of the scene myself. I met Anaïs after seeing her perform at one of Arts for Art’s smaller monthly concerts. She’s not quite sure where she’ll end up next, I think, traveling through music has been good for her. Musical opportunities arise, life pulls you where it pulls you. I reached out to The Jazz Gallery when I knew there would be a window where we could get this project rolling.
TJG: What does Adam Lane bring to the trio?
MR: Adam always brings tone, groove, melody, warmth, and a big sound. His presence really contributes to the music’s cohesiveness. Sometimes, you have an intuitive feeling that certain people will have an affinity, which I had about the three of us working together.
TJG: Is that affinity something you can put your finger on?
MR: [Laughs] Right, these intangible terms. Adam loves to sit deep in a particular groove, which is a good fit with how I play, along with Anaïs’s drum. I’ll say this too: Adam really plays the pretty notes. He’s open, flexible, will take it in any kind of direction, but I always hear the pretty notes. I love that about Anaïs too. She’s fearless, bold, not afraid to take the music in any direction you might call “avant-garde” or “off the page” or “unpredictable.” At the same time, her singing is always beautiful.
TJG: So what’s it like when you hang out? Do you play for hours?
MR: I wish I could say we play for hours and hours, but this is a rare opportunity in New York. It’s a couple hours here, an hour there. I’ll get together with just Adam or just Anaïs. We take advantage of the time we have when we have it. With the piece we’ll be playing at The Jazz Gallery, it’s a long-form piece where I’ve set words to a linear, structured melody. Each phrase, each section, becomes a whole improvisatory section of music. So a lot of what we do is sit in a section for a while and explore how these sections can stretch. We look at how we can blend sections together, where the give-and-take will be, and how the piece will come together as a whole. I think a record will happen: I’m a slow mover with this type of thing. I like to play it, play it, play it, let the process connect us until I get that feeling like “Okay, now we’re doing it.” So when the feeling hits me, Wham, we’ll record it.
TJG: How were you introduced to the poetry of Adrienne Rich?
MR: I can’t quite remember the first time I encountered her writing. I certainly don’t have a vast knowledge of poetry, but her work has always spoken to me. I was searching for poetry to provide the text for this particular project, and I knew that I wanted there to be written lyrics for the project. The lyrics are entirely from the text of the second poem in Adrienne Rich’s Twenty-One Love Poems. It’s expanded into a whole piece, so it doesn’t necessarily read down, Anaïs is free to repeat and stretch words and phrases, and from there we all bring a space to life around the poem’s various sections.
TJG: Can you tell me a little about the poem?
MR: Adrienne Rich, in her own words, was working for the creation of a society without domination. This group is definitely in support of–and works to explore–that idea. With the Love Poems, it’s poetry, so the terminology isn’t black and white. But it examines the difficult work of love, of intimate relationships, and what they require. It’s a series of poems that take you through the progression of a relationship in a way that looks at the very real work involved – between two people, and also in the context of a larger society. The words are Rich’s, but the story could have been mine. That’s important. The narrative is much bigger than one or two people, and yet I could access the material from an intimate personal space. I’m always questioning what it means to be a leader, but also a member of a group that nurtures the freest, truest expression from each person. Rich’s work is an inspiration to continue the work. What does it take to support, listen, hear, understand another person? What is needed for us to really work together? That’s infinitely important for the times we’re in, for any time, really. What’s more important than examining what it takes to connect with another human being?
The Jazz Gallery presents Flyways at The Jazz Gallery on Wednesday, August 1, 2018. The group features Mara Rosenbloom on piano & compositions, Anaïs Maviel on vocals & surdo, and Adam Lane on bass. Sets are at 7:30 and 9:30 P.M. $15 general admission ($10 for members), $20 reserved cabaret seating ($15 for members) for each set. FREE for SummerPass holders. Purchase tickets here.