In addition, his discography numbers more than 50 recordings as either a guest or sideman with leading artists. They include Roy Hargrove, Art Farmer, the Christian McBride Band, Spirit Music Jamia, Red Hot + Riot and the Grammy-nominated Latin pop group, Yerba Buena. Blake has also recorded soundtracks (most recently on El Cantante starring Marc Anthony and Jennifer Lopez). And Blake is entering his third season as a member of the NBC Saturday Night Live Band.
About the new recording, Shayari, Blake says, his record his more introspective than earlier projects. "It's an acoustic collection of trios. Compositionally, it lends itself to some of the ideas introduced on my last recording, Sonic Tonic. I worked with Michael Cain to put this recording together; everything stemmed from us trying to find people to collaborate with to create a distinct aural setting not unlike Sonic Tonic." The origins of Ron Blake's tradition-honed eclecticism can be traced back to the Virgin Islands where he was born and reared.
At age 8, Blake took guitar lessons; then, two years later, he switched to the alto sax in his elementary school band. He loved playing calypso and other music from the region. He graduated from Michigan Interlochen Arts Academy, and later matriculated into Northwestern University in Evanston IL, where he received the Presidential Award for Outstanding Artistic and Academic Achievement. In 1987, Blake's jazz career began in St.
Thomas, where he taught summer music programs. He was introcued by and performed with jazz luminaries Dizzy Gillespie, Bobby Hutcherson and Gary Bartz at the first Virgin Islands Jazz Festival. He later won a National Endowment for the Arts grant to study with Bartz. After his graduation from Northwestern, Blake worked extensively in the Chicago area with the Chicago Jazz Orchestra, performing behind such legends as Louis Bellson, Clark Terry and Nancy Wilson.
He was mentored by many of the Windy City jazz statesmen, inlcuding Von Freeman, Willie Pickens and Bunky Green. In 1990 Blake moved to Tampa FL and began work as an Assistant Professor of Jazz Studies at the University of South Florida, and nurtured his classical interests by performing with the Florida Symphony Orchestra. He would occasionally fly to New York to sit in with Branford Marsalis, Mulgrew Miller and Kenny Kirkland. In 1992 Blake relocated to New York City and joined Roy Hargrove's Quintet, a collaboration that spanned five years. During this period, Blake also worked with dozens of jazz greats including Johnny Griffin, Stanley Turrentine, Roy Haynes, Art Taylor, Benny Golson, Betty Carter, Shirley Horn, Abbey Lincoln and Ray Brown.
In 1998 Blake recorded 21st Century, a unique Caribbean-influenced jazz project, with drummer and fellow Virgin Islander Dion Parson. In addition to his 2000 debut as a leader on Up Front and Personal (with special guest Johnny Griffin), Ron Blake released his first Mack Avenue recording Lest We Forget in 2003, followed by Sonic Tonic in 2005. Also in 2005 Blake was featured in Meshell N'degocello's group Spirit Music Jamia (also featuring Michael Cain), which released a critically acclaimed recording, Dance of the Infidel. Since the year 2000, Blake has been a member of the Christian McBride Band and is featured on McBride Live at Tonic. Blake also put in guest appearances on recordings by Mack Avenue artists Gerald Wilson, Sean Jones and Tia Fuller.
In 2005 he was invited to join the NBC Saturday Night Live Band, in which he plays the baritone sax and flute. In 2007 Blake was appointed to teach in the Jazz Studies program at the Juilliard School of Music. He is currently a member of the faculty at both NYU and the Manhattan campus of Nyack College. Shayari is Ron Blake's most comprehensive and compelling work to date. It is a recording that unveils all of the musical inventions and dimensions of this evolving artist who has inherited the wisdom of the masters, and has captured the attention of today's young musicians.
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