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Progressive Rock Interviews

Lena Bloch & Feathery

Interviewed by Gary Hill
Interview with Lena Bloch from 2022
MSJ:

Can you catch the readers up on the history of your involvement in music – sort of a "highlight reel?”

I was born into a family of pianists, started to dance ballet when I was three and to learn piano when I was three. In 16-18 I learned guitar and became a singer-songwriter and an actress in a student musical theater. By 18, I was studying opera and jazz singing and improvising, Two years later I took up a saxophone. Then, after one year I immigrated to Israel and studied saxophone and improvisation at the Rubin Academy in Jerusalem. In 1993 I was accepted in the Cologne Conservatory in Cologne Germany, for Master’s in jazz studies, and in 2003 at the University of Massachusetts (USA) for Master’s in composition and African-American Music. I recorded my first album in Germany in 1999 (and two more after that). My first album in the US was released in 2014. My current quartet Feathery was formed in 2014, and we have released two albums so far, Heart Knows (2017) and Rose Of Lifta (2021), both on Fresh Sound.
MSJ: If you weren't involved in music what do you think you'd be doing?
Hard to say, since I have always been involved, as far as I can remember myself, but I am also very involved in creative writing and translating, so I could have been involved in literature and language, as well.
MSJ: Where did the name "Feathery" come from for your backing group / musical cohorts?
There is one jazz journalist and historian, Michael Steinman, a host of the online jazz journal Jazz Lives - he has been my enthusiastic supporter for a few years, and one of his writings about my music used the epithet “feathery” in regards to my ensemble’s sound. I thought that was a great name for a group.
MSJ: Who would you see as your musical influences?
Speaking of jazz, definitely my early mentors and saxophone influences: Clifford Jordan, Yusef Lateef, George Coleman. Then I met my teacher Lee Konitz, and he introduced me to Lennie Tristano and Warne Marsh.

I am very inspired by classical Middle-Eastern and North African music as well as by 20th and 21st Century art music and baroque music, too.

MSJ: What's the best thing that's ever been said about your music?
It was said by the great Brian Morton, music writer and historian. He said: “Continuous suite of dances and narratives, the voice of someone telling her and their story, arrestingly and thoughtfully. You cannot ask for more in music”.
MSJ: What's ahead for you?
As I continue to practice, write and improvise, I will take whatever comes my way. I am grateful for everything.
MSJ: I know many artists hate to have their music pigeonholed or labeled, but how would you describe your music?
Music cannot be described, it is like describing a color to a blind person or taste of a pomegranate to someone who has never tasted it. The reason why we have music is because it is outside of verbal expression. One can describe artistic concepts or a formal organization of a piece, however, for example, say that it is a symphony or a rondo. My concept that I am attempting to fulfill, is to merge the composed material with improvised material, so the listener hears a piece like a continuous narrative with participating characters (ensemble musicians) and cannot tell (or is not interested to find out) how much is written or how much is improvised.
MSJ: Are there musicians with whom you would like to play in the future?
Yes, first and foremost the musicians I am currently playing with: Russ Lossing, Cameron Brown, Billy Mintz.
MSJ: Do you think that illegal downloading or unauthorized streaming of music is a help or hindrance to the careers of musicians?
Libraries cannot and should not be “illegal." Anyone who wants the access but has no money to pay, must have an opportunity of free access. It is the same with books. People should not pay for music or other art because they are forced to, only because they want to. It is the same with concerts, museums, galleries. Music, art and literature should not belong to a sphere of “business” and should be sponsored by the State. Free access for all - but the artists get paid simply because they are artists, not for their “sales."
MSJ: In a related question, how do you feel about fans recording shows and trading them or posting them online?
I have no experience with that. Never. It is perhaps related to commercialized music.
MSJ: If you were to put together your ultimate band (a band you'd like to hear or catch live), who would be in it and why?
That would be my current quartet, for sure. Russ Lossing, Cameron Brown, Billy Mintz and myself.
MSJ: If you were in charge of assembling a music festival and wanted it to be the ultimate one from your point of view who would be playing?
I probably disagree with the concept of “ultimate." Every festival is just one of the many. I would never attempt to do anything “ultimate." It is like trying to write a masterpiece.
MSJ: What was the last CD you bought and/or what have you been listening to lately?
It was Sonate Di Dresda by Vivaldi, played by Fabio Biondi, Renato Alessandrini, Maurizio Naddeo - such a beautiful piece of work and great playing. I have been listening to Bach, Henze, Scriabin, Naseer Shamma, Andrew Hill, Lee Konitz, Russ Lossing, Satoko Fujii, to name a few.
MSJ: Have you read any good books lately?
Yes, Giorgio Agamben’s Where Are We Now. I am still reading The Myth Of The State by Cassirer, a few essays by David Cayley, The Obsolescence of Man by Gunther Anders.
MSJ: What about the last concert you attended for your enjoyment?
Alan Broadbent Trio.
MSJ: Do you remember the first concert you attended?
No, I do not, I was very little then. I remember the first opera, “The Tsar’s Bride."
MSJ: Have you come across any new gear recently that you love?
No, I am very lucky to have my instruments. Although I recently had a great mouthpiece made for me, by Tommaso Troncon.
MSJ: If you could sit down to dinner with any three people, living or dead, for food and conversation, with whom would you be dining?
With Lee Konitz, the rest is up to him to invite. Whomever he would have chosen.
MSJ: Are there any closing thoughts you would like to get out there?
Thank you so much for having me, the questions were very inspiring and interesting to answer!

Please visit my Bandcamp https://lenabloch.bandcamp.com/

Subscribe to my YouTube channel:

www.youtube.com/c/lenabloch

And check out my page on Medium: https://lenabloch.medium.com/

 

MSJ: This interview is available in book (paperback and hardcover) form in Music Street Journal: 2022  Volume 1. More information and purchase links can be found at: garyhillauthor.com/Music-Street-Journal-2022.
 
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