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Artist Profiles

Michael Blake

By Published: November 29, 2003
"It's real interesting right now," Blake said. "There is a huge surplus of creativity and great musicians and no means to distribute that music." In the last two years Blake has recorded music for projects called Blake Tartare and Mr. Carefree. "I think I've written like twenty to twenty-five pieces the last few years and I don't know if any of it is ever going to get released," he said. Blake Tartare, which recently completed a four-night run in Copenhagen, exemplified a less structured and more improvisational approach for Blake. Conversely, Mr. Carefree explored song-oriented tunes and included a vocalist. It was funded by a grant Blake received from Chamber Music America.

Similarly, the music for the Eulipion Orchestra was originally commissioned for a Canadian big band and has not been released. For the Standard gig, Blake will pull together a 15-piece band that draws players from across the different scenes - Uptown and Downtown. Blake was pleased with the group's New York debut during this spring's Collective series at the Standard, and this will be only the second performance of this material in the U.S.

Blake will close his Standard residency with a modified version of the beloved band Slow Poke, which will not include slide-guitar wizard David Tronzo. "I like the vibe of the band so much, and it won't be the same without Tronzo, but it's worth trying out a different line-up," Blake said about the variation. Instead, Slow Poke bassist Tony Scherr will play guitar, his collaborator Tim Luntzel will fill in on bass, and drummer Kenny Wollesen will round out the band as usual. The original band recorded two CDs, At Home (independent release) and Redemption (Intuition), and built a strong following from their frequent appearances at Tonic and their relaxed, mellow groove that evoked a late night at a smoky, roadside joint.

For those unfamiliar with Blake, the gigs at Jazz Standard will showcase his many different sides and will also hint at the future. "I want to try to create a music that is really pushing my self-expression - pushing my music a little more into something that makes me start to articulate more complex things," he said.

Taking cues from saxophonist Ornette Coleman's Prime Time band and the concept of Harmolodics, Blake wants to create music completely new to him with lots of rhythm and multiple keys. "I want to make more of an 'art' record and less of a 'jazz scene' record," he said.

Blake is also interested in doing more commercial and film composing. He worked on successful soundtracks like Get Shorty and Excess Baggage with Lurie and composed several themes for the Sundance Channel. "I love writing catchy music", he said about wanting to do more of this work.

While Blake forges his new paths, he shrugs off the troubles he has encountered. He reflected, "I think the music is ultimately the most important thing and that you just do what music you believe is your thing and don't worry about the other stuff."

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