Most artists who record an album as enthusiastically reviewed as The Aquarian Suite (2012), saxophonist Dan Blake’s scintillating up-to-the-minute take on postbop – “one of the most ridiculously satisfying discs we’ve heard in some time,” crowed the Boston Phoenix – would be eager to follow it up with something in the same vein. And that’s just what he’s done with The Digging (Sunnyside Records, 2016), a trio foray that features Eric Harland on drums.
But for the Brooklyn artist, whose ridiculously wide-ranging career has included significant work with great artists as different as avant guru Anthony Braxton and Grammy-winning jazz-pop star Esperanza Spalding, there are compelling reasons to also go in other directions.
The Boston Globe has said Blake “regards tradition as a welcoming playground best approached with a sense of wonder and adventure.” A frequent collaborator in this playground is the protean Argentine pianist Leo Genovese, whose recording Seeds (Palmetto) features Blake, who the New York Times called a “virtuoso.”
One of those reasons is his burgeoning relationship with the Mivos Quartet, a leading new music chamber group for which he was commissioned to composer a new work by the Jerome Fund for New Music, with support from New Music USA’s Composer Assistance Program. The project saw its release at New York’s 2016 “Winter Jazzfest” and is now a feature-length DVD on the Infrequent Seams label. His work with Braxton led to an invitation for Blake to compose for the maestro’s “Tricentric Orchestra”. Blake has also received commissions to compose for recorderist Terri Hron, the Paris-based Spring Roll Quartet, the Dr. Faustus new music series, and the North/South Consonance Ensemble. His works have also been performed by such standout new music groups as the Cygnus Ensemble, the Kenners, Duo Diorama and redfish bluefish ensemble.