In a game of musical truth or dare, Mara Rosenbloom would reveal all her secrets.
The New York-based jazz pianist/composer said she has felt drawn to honesty in her music since she was 13 and heard Thelonious Monk's 1958 album "Misterioso."
Achieving that honesty and giving audiences like the one she will face tonight at Barking Legs Theater a glimpse of who she truly is is the result of a lot of introspection, Rosenbloom said.
"It's a multifaceted process of asking myself daily, 'Why do I do music? Who am I? Who am I in sound?'" she said. "As a composer, that means really sitting with every piece I'm writing and try to wheedle down to a melody that, when I play it, I can feel it, feel like the melody is a part of who I am."
Rosenbloom grew up in Wisconsin as a classically trained pianist. After her exposure to the work of Monk and other jazz artists, however, she began to improvise and felt a distance develop to her classical pieces.
IF YOU GO
What: Mara Rosenbloom Quartet.
When: 8 p.m. today.
Where: Barking Legs Theater, 1307 Dodds Ave.
Admission: $10 in advance, $12 at the door.
Venue website: www.barkinglegs.org.
"[In classical music], I was playing these pieces that were dramatic and ornate, and that wasn't who I was," she said. "I was really trying to put myself into the music, and I was coming up with dead ends."
"As I was starting to pull back from the classical thing, I was developing this other voice and relationship with what would become my own music and improvisation."
After moving to New York to study jazz at university, Rosenbloom naturally gravitated to artists with a similar penchant for soulful, honest music. The other members of the Mara Rosenbloom Quartet - drummer Nick Anderson, bassist Maeve Royce and saxophonist Darius Jones - all attended New York University, Rosenbloom's alma mater.
As a result of their shared goals, Rosenbloom said, she can play with confidence when she takes a seat at Barking Legs' 1916 Steinway tonight.
"I'm very fortunate to play with musicians who are great at what they do and committed to honesty and continuing to grow and stretch themselves," she said. "They challenge me. They hold me to a standard.
"I have to stay on my game, I'll say that much."