Michael Blake Band: "The World Awakes" – A Tribute to Lucky Thompson
Monday, November 8, 8 p.m.| Kate Buchanan Room, HSU
"Blake occupies a quietly admired position in New York jazz circles: somewhere progressive, somewhere just to the left-of-centre, somewhere inspired by every little bit of the genre’s past."
—Greg Buium, Vancouver Sun
"Michael Blake is one of an all-too-common subset of the jazz community: players who create brilliant music while flying largely under the radar of widespread critical and/or popular acclaim."
—Chris Kelsey, Jazz Times
(For music and links, scroll to the bottom of this page)
Canadian-born, Brooklyn-based tenor saxophonist Michael Blake grew up in California and Vancouver, BC. After attending the famed Banff Jazz Workshop, he moved to New York in the late 1980s, where he joined John Lurie’s Lounge Lizards and became a fixture on the downtown scene. While he’s had long collaborative relationships with trumpeter Steven Bernstein, bassist Ben Allison (with whose group “Man Size Safe” he appeared here in 2008), and other members of the Jazz Composers Collective, Blake’s credits also include sideman stints with musicians as diverse as the Gil Evans Orchestra, Pinetop Perkins, Medeski, Martin, and Wood, and DJ Tricky, as well as work for Hollywood (Get Shorty) and TV (Nickelodeon’s The Backyardigans). Recent projects include a trio with Allison and Chicago drummer Hamid Drake and a quartet, “Hellbent,” featuring Bernstein and tubist Marcus Rojas.
Starting with 1997’s Kingdom of Champa, produced by the legendary Teo Macero, Blake has released a series of acclaimed albums on influential indie labels (Intuition, Knitting Factory, Clean Feed, Stunt, Songlines), leading an array of innovative ensembles who, as All About Jazz puts it, manage "to simultaneously embrace jazz history while challenging it head on." That description fits this project perfectly: with members of his Danish quartet "Blake Tartare," Blake pays a moving, tuneful tribute to under-appreciated saxophonist and composer Lucky Thompson (1924-2005), who fell into self-exile, then obscurity, after a promising career in the 50s and 60s. A tenorist who adapted the big, burnished tone of Coleman Hawkins and Ben Webster to the aesthetics of bebop and hard bop (his most famous early sideman appearances were on Charlie Parker’s Dial sessions and Miles Davis’s Walkin’), Thompson relocated to Europe in 1956 to escape the racism of the American music business. His Paris recordings in particular are highly regarded by those in the know, a group whose numbers have dwindled over the years. That’s a trend that Blake—who especially admires Thompson’s pioneering work on soprano saxophone—has set out to reverse. Reimagining some of Thompson’s tunes and adding several of his own, Blake carries the torch for one of his musical heroes. (Another: multi-reedist Rahsaan Roland Kirk.) In its review of Blake's tribute album, Jazz Times concludes that he “does right” by Thompson, a figure “whom jazz history needs to readdress.”
Two of the touring members of Blake’s band also appear on the 2007 recording The World Awakes: A Tribute to Eli “Lucky” Thompson: prize-winning Danish pianist Søren Kjærgaard, who in recent years has recorded with major players on both sides of the Atlantic, and Danish bassist Jonas Westergaard, who like Kjærgaard also plays in rising-star guitarist Jakob Bro’s quartet “Bandapart.” Filling in for “Blake Tartare” drummer Kresten Osgood is Ben Perowsky, an old friend of Blake’s from their Lounge Lizard days and last heard in these parts with the Uri Caine Trio. (In addition to leading record dates of his own, Perowsky has also recorded with John Zorn, Dave Douglas, and Misha Mengelberg, among others.)
Tickets ($15 General Admission, $10 Students & Seniors) are available here at our website, or at Missing Link Records, People's Records and The Works.
The Michael Blake Band will also present a FREE public workshop the following morning, Tuesday, November 9th, at 10:00 a.m. in the Studio Theater (Theater Arts Building, adjacent to Van Duzer Auditorium) on the HSU campus. People of all levels of experience are welcome to attend.
Words & Pixels:
Tuesday morning's workshop is made possible through the generosity of HSU's Office of the President, Office of the Provost, the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, and the Department of Music.