Primary Instrument: Saxophone
Dan Blake has been featured as a composer and performer throughout Europe, South America, and the United States, most recently performing at Blue Note, Sweet Rhythm, The Aspen Jazz Festival, International Jazz Festival Peru, and the Scarborough Jazz Festival. At the age of 27, he has already established himself as a positive force in many aspects of creative music. Since moving to Brooklyn in 2006, he has built a strong foundation as a respected member in contemporary music through his many efforts in producing, composing, performing, and teaching new music.
For his work as a composer and performer of jazz music, Dan Blake recently was awarded the 2006 John Lennon Songwriting Contest’s Grand Prize, as well as ASCAP’s Young Jazz Composer’s award of the same year for his debut recording “The Party Suite”. This work was selected by the Boston Globe as 2006 Jazz Pick, and was also critically acclaimed by many New York and Boston area publications. His compositions have been featured by many of New York’s finest chamber ensembles including Duo Diorama, redfish bluefish ensemble, and The Kenners. Mr. Blake’s versatility and eclectic interests have allowed him to develop a career as a performing saxophonist, composer of a wide variety of new music, and producer of community events focused on the presentation of new and experimental music. In February 2007, Dan Blake founded and co-curates “Saturday, New Music,” a concert series dedicated to contemporary music in Brooklyn, currently presented by the Secret Project Robot Gallery in Williamsburg.
Dan Blake came to composition through the realization that a truly expressive music must lie in a unity between his experience as an improviser, and the notation of these ideas through the extended process known as composition. Through intense study under the mentorship of such accomplished improviser-composers as Steve Lacy, Danilo Perez, and John McDonald, Mr. Blake learned many different approaches to developing these two components of creative music. Blake spent years while at New England Conservatory studying Twentieth Century composers such as Olivier Messiaen, Witold Lutoslawski, and Luciano Berio, learning new styles of expressing musical ideas through notation. While pursuing this course of study, Mr. Blake continued to develop his improvisational abilities on the saxophone, leading several prominent Boston-area jazz ensembles, several jam sessions, recording projects, and began The Boston Jazz Collective in an effort to provide a community framework for the emerging careers of young jazz musicians graduating from Boston’s music schools. Blake moved to Brooklyn, New York in 2006 to pursue a Masters in Music Composition under Jason Eckardt and Tania León.
Since moving to New York, Mr. Blake has continued writing for jazz and chamber ensembles, achieving an increasingly unified expression in both improvised and composed idioms. Among his eclectic creative interests, Dan Blake is most engaged when working with improvisers, laying a groundwork through which many individuals can come together, united by a single compositional aim. In this way, Dan Blake hopes to further the long tradition of jazz composition.
In his jazz compositions, Dan Blake seeks to establish a continuum between improvised and composed music that will allow a particular ensemble to maximize its creative potential.
Through his experience writing for many different players with backgrounds ranging from folkloric non-notated music, to jazz, and classical music, Mr. Blake has developed an intimate knowledge of how to express a musical idea to a specific instrumentation. His jazz ensemble writing utilizes the unique ability of the contemporary jazz musician to realize both an idiomatic improvisational vernacular, as well as a notated score.
In addition to his work as a leader and composer, Dan Blake tours quite actively as a saxophonist. He has most recently been featured alongside jazz legend Herbie Hancock on percussionist Richie Barshay’s debut recording “Homework” (Ayva, 2006). He will be presenting Luciano Berio’s sequenza VIIb for soprano saxophone this spring. In addition, his work with various electroacoustic ensembles has lead to the “Blivton” project, a collaborative effort to bring together many aspects of contemporary electroacoustic music.