Michael Blake's Tiddy Boom
Thursday, March 10th, 8 p.m.| Fulkerson Recital Hall
"Blake’s tenor burbles and barks out references to past masters while remaining firmly planted in the present."
—James Hale, DownBeat
Michael Blake may be our favorite unsung hero. Jazz Times tags him as “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.” Back in 2010, he brought his band Blake Tartare to Arcata play “The World Awakes,” his tribute to a kindred spirit, the important but overlooked tenor saxophonist Lucky Thompson. This time, it’s a project inspired by two veritable tenor titans—Coleman Hawkins and Lester Young—featuring hard-swinging tunes that evoke each man’s distinctive sound while somehow channeling both. But don’t get the wrong idea: Blake may honor the ancestors, but as James Hale put it in DownBeat, this music is no “nostalgia trip. Instead, it is more like a quick spin on a funhouse ride, with Blake’s tenor burbling and barking out references to past masters while remaining firmly planted in the present.” Indeed, the project’s original title, Contrasts in Individualism, could just as well describe the range of Blake’s own writing and playing. With an array of innovative ensembles over nearly thirty years, Blake has built a reputation as a daring composer and improviser who, as All About Jazz once put it, manages “to simultaneously embrace jazz history while challenging it head on.”
Now based in Brooklyn, 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 lively downtown scene. While he’s had especially long and productive relationships with trumpeter Steven Bernstein and bassist Ben Allison (he first came to Arcata as part of Allison’s group “Man Size Safe” in 2008), his sideman credits include stints with 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). Starting with 1997’s Kingdom of Champa, produced by the legendary Teo Macero, Blake has made more than a dozen acclaimed albums for influential indie labels like Intuition, Knitting Factory, Clean Feed, Stunt, Songlines, and Sunnyside.Blake and his bandmates are among the music’s prime movers of the past several decades: in the 80s, Ben Allison and Frank Kimbrough co-founded the Jazz Composers Collective, whose members pushed back against the prevailing conservatism of the day and transformed the jazz landscape in the process. Between them—not counting co-led bands like the Herbie Nichols Project—the pair have released over two dozen albums as leaders. Since coming to New York from Denver a decade ago, meanwhile, Rudy Royston has quietly become the busiest drummer in the business, holding down the regular drum chair in the Dave Douglas Quintet and the J.D. Allen trio, as well as filling countless other sideman gigs and leading his own group, 303. (He recorded a smart trio date, Union Square, with Blake and Allison in 2012.) All four men have reached that point in their careers where they’re sounding like old souls themselves: relaxed, adept, sure-footed, nothing left to prove. The album Tiddy Boom was our top pick of 2014. The music is pure joy.
Tickets ($15 General Admission, $10 Students & Seniors) are available here at our website and at People's Records, Wildwood Music, Wildberries, and The Works.
Michael Blake and Tiddy Boom will also present an open public workshop on Friday, March 11th at 11:00 a.m. in Music A Room 131 on the HSU campus (across the walkway from the entrance to Fulkerson Recital Hall). People of all levels of experience are welcome to attend, and admission is FREE.
Words & Pixels:
Video (see also at left)
Audio (see also at left):
Additional support for this show comes from George Epperson DDS, KHSU, Libation Wine Store & Wine Bar, Los Bagels, North Coast Co-Op, Wrangletown Cider Company, and Zwerdling Bragg Maizer & Firpo LLP.