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.
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)