Sound It Out: “20 Questions” #4 — Mara Rosenbloom

Another installment of the recurring “Sound It Out: 20 Questions” feature on, with an artist answering a survey inspired by the famous Proust Questionnaire…

(Mara Rosenbloom, performing in Valencia, Spain. Photo: Antonio Porcar,

Mara Rosenbloom, born in 1984 in Madison, Wisconsin, made a mark with her recent trio album Prairie Burn, earning a profile in The New York Times that declared the disc as “inserting her into the conversation alongside heavyweight contemporaries like Craig Taborn, Kris Davis and Matt Mitchell,” going on to describe her playing as marked by “rugged, two-handed counterpoint; dense smashes of harmony; and simmering blues improvisation.” Prairie Burn – featuring her alongside bassist Sean Conly and drummer Chad Taylor – is her third album, following two releases with her quartet (which included saxophonist Darius Jones). Mara studied with influential pianist-pedagogue Connie Crothers, along with benefiting from mentoring by piano sage Cooper-Moore. In that New York Times profile of Mara, Cooper-Moore said: “Playing with her, I heard how quickly she responds: grabbing new ideas, without ever getting away from herself. That made me very happy. It’s rare that I go home after playing a gig and say, ‘Wow’.” Mara made her Sound It Out debut in December 2016, leading her trio with Conly and Taylor. She returns to help launch the sixth season of the series on September 22, 2017, performing in a double-bill: first, in a duo with Cooper-Moore; and then in a new quartet with Cooper-Moore, cellist Nioka Workman and drummer Michael Wimberly. — BB

  1. What was the first jazz album you fell in love with and stayed in love with?

Criss-Cross by Thelonious Monk

  1. What do you think is one of the most overrated jazz albums ever?

I support jazz albums getting high ratings, period. 

  1. What’s one of your all-time favorite non-jazz albums?

What Cha’ Gonna do for Me by Chaka Khan. 

  1. What’s the last album you listened to from beginning to end – and did you like it?

Live at 475 Kent by Connie Crothers & Michael Bisio – so good. 

  1. What’s your favorite film score?

Fried Green Tomatoes by Thomas Newman.

  1. What was the most recent concert – of any genre – that made you fall in love with music all over again?

The duo of Angelica Sanchez & Pheeroan Aklaff at Korzo, Brooklyn. Although I had not fallen out of love with music, it was that kind of energizing. 

  1. What’s your favorite quote about music?

Words, truth, beauty, love – they merge. And when they do, we are free. That’s freedom. When we create music, it’s always from love. We don’t need to think about truth, we don’t need to search for beauty; it’s all in that love…” — Connie Crothers

  1. If you could have a drink with any artist of the past (beyond music), who would it be?

Poet-essayist Adrienne Rich. 

  1. What are the top three tools of your trade?

Lungs, left hand, right hand. 

  1. What’s your most indispensable piece of technology that isn’t music-oriented?

My stovetop Brikka espresso pot. 

  1. What are your top media sources of writing/opinion/news about music?

It’s mostly word of mouth for me on current music. But Unnameable Books in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, always has great books popping up on their used music shelf. I first grabbed Amiri Baraka’s Blues People there, along with a great biography of Muddy Waters, Ben Sidran’s book of interviews with jazz musicians, an out-of-print book of blues melodies with amazing photos, a compilation of essays by and stories about Paul Robeson, a very interesting study on the role of country music in rural communities…

  1. What non-musical/non-technological quality is most important to being an enduringly creative musician?

It’s all musical. Love.

  1. What living person do you most admire – and what’s one quality he or she has that you most admire?

I can’t say most. There are so many people I admire: artists, activists, kind hearts, teachers, scientists, gardeners, people who make delicious foods – anyone working to make this world a more open, joy-filled, love-inspired place. 

  1. What living person do you most despise – and what one quality he or she has that you most despise?

I wouldn’t use the word despise. I feel heartsick for people who have become so consumed by fear and greed that they disseminate and incite hatred in the world. Sexism, racism, domination, violence – I despise these things yet still believe that all individuals are capable of letting these things go. 

  1. What’s your favorite place in the world?

Probably sitting at the piano, or anywhere with my wife. In three words, I would describe the feeling as “where I belong.”

  1. If you could live in another time period, when would that be?

I wouldn’t want to live in another time period. But I would love to just go back 20, 30, 40, 50 years in New York City, to see what the scene was like when some of the artists who inspired me arrived here. I’d like to meet those people right at that time.

  1. What book would you most like to read again?

Probably every book I’ve ever read about history – I wish I retained this information better. Also Skin by Dorothy Allison. Somebody has my copy of this book… 

  1. What film haven’t you seen that you feel like you should?

Dancer in the Dark.

  1. What aspect of the past do you miss most – and what’s one thing you look forward to about the future that doesn’t yet exist?

I miss, maybe, the carefree feeling that comes with innocence; but I look forward to the openness that comes with wisdom. 

  1. What would you like your last meal to consist of – and cooked by whom?‎

Breakfast – sourdough toast, sautéed greens, cherry tomatoes, fried egg over easy and a double espresso. I’d make it myself.