Born: May 19, 1964 Primary Instrument: Saxophone
For over two decades the Brooklyn based saxophonist/composer/arranger Michael Blake has presented an array of innovative bands and compositions that display a keen ability to simultaneously embrace jazz history while challenging it head on.
His relentless output of late has lead to a number of impressive releases. Last year he released his second self-produced recording with Blake Tartare titled More Like Us (Stunt Records). This incredible band is driven by three of Denmark’s most prominent young jazz musicians: Soren Kjaergaard, Jonas Westergaard and Kresten Osgood. On this outing the brilliant singer/songwriter Maria Laurette �Friis joins the troupe. Last year his Blake Tartare CD (Stunt Records) earned the group a 4 star review in Downbeat Magazine. On Right Before Your Very Ears (Clean Feed) he plays mostly free form trio music with long time cohort’s Ben Allison and Jeff Ballard.
Michael will release a number of new albums in 2007. Songlines Records will debut his Amor de Cosmos project, which features an impressive Canadian lineup including Brad Turner and Dylan VanDerShyff. The album is Michael’s first concept album since 1997’s Kingdom of Champa. Amor de Cosmos is drenched in a similar mysterious spirit. This spacious, high-resolution recording finds Blake focusing on the political, social and cultural history of 19th century British Columbia. His third release with Stunt Records is a tribute album devoted to the under-appreciated saxophonist/composer Lucky Thompson. Plus he’ll be making his recorded debut on alto sax with drummer Kresten Osgood on their duo album Control This (Clean Feed).
Michael’s 2002 disc Elevated (Knitting Factory Records) received rave reviews in Downbeat, The Village Voice and Time Out NY. His ambitious effort on Drift (Intuition) was awarded Critics Poll “Best CD of 2000” honors by Jazzthing Magazine. His critically acclaimed debut CD Kingdom of Champa (Intuition), produced by the legendary Teo Macero, is often hailed as one of the most memorable world-jazz albums of the last century.
From Soul and Reggae to traditional African and Vietnamese music � Blake is always exploring music that inspires him while staying true to himself. One of the best examples of this is the unique group effort of the co-operative band Slow Poke. In 1997, while playing in the Lounge Lizards together, Michael and slide-guitarist David Tronzo shared a similar aspiration to perform a reflective repertoire of American roots music. Who better to grab then the Sex Mob/Bill Frisell bass and drum team of Tony Scherr and Kenny Wollesen? It wasn’t long before the quartet was recording Slow Poke at Home in Tony’s living room. A year later they toured Canada and recorded Redemption for Michael’s German based label Intuition Music. After being out of print for over 5 years Slow Poke at Home will soon be available again on Palmetto Records!
Michael’s group Free Association received a grant from the Doris Duke Foundation’s New Works for Jazz Program. In 2002 he was recognized in Downbeat Magazine’s 50th Annual Critics Poll in the Talent Deserving Wider Recognition categories for tenor sax, soprano sax and jazz artist of the year. Michael was also sighted as a new jazz star in the July 2002 issue of US World News Report. He has also received various grants from The Canada Council for the Arts for private study, composition and tour support. In 2003 he was commissioned by visionary composer John Korsrud to write and arrange 3 new compositions for his 18 piece Hard Rubber Orchestra. The Canada Council for the Arts awarded both travel and composition grants to Michael for the premiere performance at the 2004 Vancouver International Jazz festival.
Michael is actively involved in the New York City music scene. His tenure with John Lurie and the Lounge Lizards spanned over a decade that involved record dates, TV appearances, a live concert film and film soundtracks like the Grammy nominated score for Get Shorty. Blake was a Composer in Residence in the Jazz Composers Collective, a nonprofit, musician run organization dedicated to presenting the original works of composers. He continues to contribute to many Collective activities, including Ben Allison’s Medicine Wheel and Peace Pipe as well as the popular Herbie Nichols Project. Currently the Collective is touring Internationally, presenting their music in concert halls and conducting workshops.
Along side writing and performing in the jazz idiom, Michael is equally adept working in other medium. He contributed music for HBO Films drama Everyday People and wrote theme music for the Newport Film Festival and the Sundance Channel's Conversations in World Cinema. Most recently he enjoys composing underscores for the hit Nick Jr children’s show The Backyardigans. As of fall 2006 his tenor sax can be heard on Ray Lamontagne’s new hit album “Till the Sun turns Black”.
2006 "More Like Us" (Stunt Records)
2005 "Right Before Your Very Ears" (Clean Feed CF044)
2005 Blake Tartare (Stunt Records)
2002 "Elevated" (Knitting Factory Recosds KFW-304)
2000/2001 "Drift" (Intuition INT 32132)
1999 Slow Poke "Redemption" (Intuition INT 32602)
1998 Slow Poke "Slow Poke at Home" (Independent)
1997 "Kingdom of Champa" (Intuition INT 31892)
Recordings with the Jazz Composers Collective:
2004-Ben Allison "Buzz" (Palmetto)
2002-Ben Allison "Peace Pipe" (Palmetto)
2001-The Herbie Nichols Project "Strange City" (Palmetto)
2001-Ben Allison and Medicine Wheel "Riding the Nuclear Tiger" (Palmetto)
2000-The Herbie Nichols Project "Dr. Cyclops Dream" (Soul Note)
1999-Ben Allison and Medicine Wheel "Third Eye" (Palmetto)
1998-Ben Allison & Medicine Wheel "Medicine Wheel" (Palmetto)
Recordings with John Lurie and the Lounge Lizards:
2000-"The Legendary Recordings of Marvin Pontiac" (Strange and Beautiful Music)
1999-"African Swim" (Strange and Beautiful Music)
1999-"Fishing with John" (Strange and Beautiful Music)
1998-The Lounge Lizards"Queen of all Ears" (Strange and Beautiful Music)
1998-Soundtrack "Excess Baggage"(Prophesy)
1996-Soundtrack "Get Shorty" (Verve/Antilles)
1993-"The Lounge Lizards Live in Berlin, Vol.II" (Intuition Music)
1991-"The Lounge Lizards Live in Berlin, Vol.I"(Intuition Music)
Recordings with other artists:
2001-Chris Brown and Kate Fenner "O Witness" (Independent)
2001-Richard Bliwas "Walk the Bike" (Rising Rose Records)
2001-Richard Bliwas "Compose Yourself - Ten Improvisations" (Rising Rose Records)
2000-Tony Scherr "Come Around" (Independent)
1999-Chris Brown and Kate Fenner "Geronimo" (Independent)
1999-Steven Bernstein's "Diaspora Soul" (Tzadik)
1998-Tricky "Angels with Dirty Faces" (Island)
1998-Walter Thompson Orchestra "The Colonol" (Nine Winds)
1998-Tim Otto's Pink Noise Saxophone Quartet "The Jig is Up" (Pink Tomato)
1997-S'killit "Blue Fever" (Moon Street)
1997-Joe Gallant's Illuminati "Blues for Allah" (Knitting Factory)
1997-George Kilby Jr. and the Coolerators "Spell it Out" (Independent)
1997-London McDaniel "Anatural Aphrodisiaca" (Nubile)
1996-Roscoe Gordon "Let's Get it On" (Studio One/Coxsone Music)
1995-"The Repercussions" (Warner Bros.)
1994-Rusty Cloud "Walkin' the Night" (Moon Street)
1992-Justin Warfield "My Field Trip To Planet 9" (Warner Bros.)
1990-"Rock, Love and Understanding" (Electra)
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