One of the most extraordinary musical events of the last year was the appearance in Erie last September of pianist Mara Rosenbloom‘s Flyways with the vocalist Anaïs Maviel and Sean Conly substituting for Rashaan Carter on bass. This concert stood out both for risk taken by JazzErie, the usually conservative presenting organization, and for the quiet audaciousness of Rosenbloom’s music, which cast a spell over the audience at Mercyhurst University. If you want to know more about that occasion, I previewed the concert for the Erie Times here and reviewed it here.
At that concert, she hinted at an imminent release of this music and it has arrived. Mara Rosenbloom presents Flyways: Murmuration, recorded last March and June, presents music of understated audaciousness and captures the often confessional intimacy of that concert.
The centerpiece is the 36-minute-long “I Know What I Dreamed – Our Flyway” a setting of the second of Adrienne Rich’s 21 Love Poems. That cycle describes the difficulties of maintaining a relationship that is not supported by the community, but there’s also a rich subtext about the difficulties of the creative life. This portion of the work, with strong bass support from Carter and subtle, heartbeat percussion from Maviel, begins when she sings “I’ve been writing for days,” interrupting the reverie of the lover’s awakening with music of swirling, agitated obsession. That’s a state many of us know well, and it calls forth some of Maviel’s most looping and soaring lines. Her voice is not large, but it is pure and flexible and she brings a rapt, soft-focus inner glow to the text’s many moments of glowing introspection. It’s fair to say that though most of the work is improvised, it doesn’t sound like jazz, a style in which Rosenbloom and Carter are admittedly rooted. It’s more like a dramatic scena or a monodrama, and it’s quietly dazzling.
The CD’s other 18 minutes consist of five evocative miniatures, “Improvised Prelude – Greetings,” “Bird Migration Theme 2 – Take Off,” “Bird Migration Theme 1 – Murmuration” and “Bird Migration Theme 2 Reprise,” and a further Rich setting, “Dream of a Common Language – Irruption.” That text, from Rich’s Origins and Histories of Consciousness, is about the necessity and anxiety of change. It’s agitated and unsettling and captures perfectly the mood of a society on lockdown.
It’s a high point on a record that defies categorization and ignores genre boundaries. Still, the most touching moment might be the CD’s most conventional: the concluding solo piano take on one of the most familiar of standards, “These Foolish Things.” Rosenbloom dedicates it to her teacher Connie Crothers, a pianist whose stubborn originality kept her far from the recognition she deserved.
Let’s hope that doesn’t happen to Rosenbloom. Flyways: Murmuration is a strong statement about the most vulnerable places with us. It’s a work of rare bravery and candor, an illumination of an inner life to which we are all called to examine, never more so than now.
Mara Rosenbloom presents Flyways: Murmuration
(Fresh Sound/New Talent )
Mara Rosenbloom – piano, compositions
Anaïs Maviel – voice, surdo drum
Rashaan Carter – bass