Home » Jazz Musicians » Michael Blake

Michael Blake

An enduring presence for the last 30 years, saxophonist, composer and bandleader Michael Blake has built his reputation playing jazz and creative music in New York City. This visionary composer and arranger has produced a cornucopia of recordings that vary in context and mood. He has played tenor and soprano saxophone with a diverse range of artists including Lounge Lizards, Charlie Hunter, Henry Butler, Steven Bernstein & the Hot 9 and Ray Lamontagne.

Michael was born on May 19th, 1964 in Montreal, Canada. In the late 60’s his family moved across the continent to California’s Bay Area where the indelible sounds of Psychedelic Rock, Funk and Soul would have a huge impact on his young ears. After resettling in Vancouver, Canada, he picked up the clarinet at 14 and a few years later the tenor saxophone, studying both with David Branter, a disciple of renown saxophonist and teacher Eugene Rousseau. Michael credits his brother for bringing jazz records into the house and his parents for taking him to concerts where he heard Count Basie, Ella Fitzgerald, Benny Goodman, Read more

" data-original-title="" title="">Oscar Peterson, Dave Brubeck and Miles Davis.

Michael Blake graduated from High School receiving the Music Award and enrolled in College. Disenchanted with school he cut his teeth at jam sessions and learned the music of local trailblazer, trombonist, pianist and composer Hugh Fraser. He formed his first group with fellow saxophonist Phil Dwyer and pianist Ross Taggart and freelanced in an array of bands. In 1984 & 1985 Michael participated in the Banff School of Fine Arts Jazz Program where we studied with bassist Dave Holland and saxophonists Steve Coleman and David Liebman. Michael received a grant from The Canada Council for the Arts to further his studies in New York City and relocated there in 1987.

His tenure with John Lurie and the Lounge Lizards lasted from 1990-1999 and includes numerous recordings, TV appearances, a live concert film and film soundtracks such as the Grammy nominated score for Get Shorty. During the ‘90’s he was a Composer in Residence in the Jazz Composers Collective and a member of Ben Allison’s Medicine Wheel. Flaunting a stellar cast of downtown musicians, Michael’s group Free Asociation portrayed his restless spirit for adventure, collaborating with rappers, dancers and using unconventional instrumentation.

Michael’s multifaceted process is quite evident on all fifteen of his records. His first release Kingdom of Champa is a beautifully complex reflection of post war Vietnam that earned him high praise and critical acclaim. Michael sites his sidemen, producer Teo Macero and engineer Scott Harding for bringing his vision to life. Every album since has proven to further highlight his mastery of creating kaleidoscopic music. Whether tackling an ambitious new score or facing jazz tradition head on, Michael’s saxophone always plays a center role in the mix. He takes a wily approach on every horn, favoring a variety of timbres that may evoke an elder, snap at a riff or blast off to the interstellar.

Michael has scored and arranged original music for film and television, big band and string ensemble. His work has been premiered and performed around the globe at major jazz festivals. He has received commissions from Chamber Music America, The Canada Council for the Arts, The Doris Duke Foundation and The BC Arts Council. He is a respected teacher and has conducted workshops and classes in the US, Canada, Mexico, Demark, Italy, Brazil and Thailand. He was on faculty at the Fondazione Siena Jazz Summer Workshop from 2009-2013.

Among the many artists he has recorded and performed with are Steven Bernstein, Stefano Bollani, Nicole Mitchell, Oliver Lake, Grachan Moncour III, Medeski Martin & Wood, Enrico Rava, Kresten Osgood, The Gil Evans Orchestra, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Jack McDuff, Ben E. King, Chubby Checker, Neil Sedaka, Natalie Cole, Martha and Rufus Wainwright, Nick Cave and Pinetop Perkins. He has worked with such luminary producers as Teo Macero, Tricky, Prince Paul, Hal Willner and Sir Coxsone Dodd.

Awards

2017 Best Album Cover, “Red Hook Soul” (New York Jazz Record)

2016 Albums of the Year, “Fulfillment” (Bird is the Worm)

2014 Best Album of the Year, “Tiddy Boom” (Jazz Chronicles)

2014 Albums of the Year “Tiddy Boom” (Chicago Reader)

2014 Albums of the Year “Tiddy Boom” (Downbeat Magazine)

2010 Albums of the Year “Hellbent” (All About Jazz NY)

2008 Rising Star Category, Soprano Saxophone (Downbeat Magazine)

2002 Rising Star Category, Artist of the Year (Downbeat Magazine)

2002 Rising Star Category, Tenor Saxophone (Downbeat Magazine)

2002 Rising Star Category, Soprano Saxophone (Downbeat Magazine)

2000 Album of the Year “Drift” (Jazzthing Magazine)

Show less

Tags

Album Review
Radio & Podcasts
Read more articles
"This is music unbound in time...perfectly executed" DownBeat - James Hale

"Not only is it one of the year's best jazz albums, but it's another gem in a career filled with them" Chicago Reader - Peter Margasak

"Panoramic imagination" The New York Times

"Saxophonist Michael Blake‘s 2016 release is astonishing, exploding with intricate details and unleashing one grand statement after the other. Everything about this album indicates a sound and vision steps ahead of the music of today." Dave Sumner, Bird is the Word

"Incredibly inventive use of technique and emotion with an astuteness that ought to be the envy of musicians everywhere" Jazz da Gama

"You can hear Archie Shepp and Lucky Thompson and Coltrane and Dewey Redman in Mr

Read more

Primary Instrument

Saxophone, tenor

Location

New York City

Willing to teach

Beginner to advanced

Credentials/Background

University of Calgary (Calgary, AB)

Poznan Music Conservatory (Poznan, Poland)

Rhythmic Music Conservatory (Aarhus, Denmark)

Oxford University (Oxford, England)

University of London (London, England)

University of Southampton (Southampton, England)

Centro Cultural Vila Flor (Guimaraes Portugal)

Souza Lima (San Paulo, Brazil)

Koninklijk Conservatory (Antwerpen, Belgium)

Capilano University (Vancouver, Canada)

Vancouver Community College (Vancouver, Canada)

Brown University (Providence, RI)

Humboldt State University (Arcata, CA)

Penn State University (University Park, PA)

Cornish College (Seattle, WA)

Clinic/Workshop Information

Read more

Photos

Album Discography

Recordings: As Leader | As Sideperson

The Normyn Suites

Sunnyside Records
2022

buy

Kimbrough

Newvelle Records
2021

buy

Marbles

Consolidated Artists Productions
2020

buy

Red Hook Soul

Ropeadope
2017

buy

Fulfillment

Songlines Recordings
2016

buy

Videos

Similar

Get more of a good thing!

Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories, our special offers, and includes upcoming jazz events near you.