Saxophonist Dan Blake's acclaimed 2012 jazz album, The Aquarian Suite, greeted by the Boston Phoenix as "one of the most ridiculously satisfying discs we've heard in some time," inevitably created expectations for more of the same. But Blake is by nature so ridiculously wide-ranging, having worked with great artists as different as avant guru Anthony Braxton, Grammy-winning jazz-pop star Esperanza Spalding and Grammy-nominated guitarist Julian Lage, his urge to take on something different keeps him in motion.
A collaboration with leading new music group the Mivos Quartet involving improvising and 3D graphic animation "is stretching me to the end of my creative abilities," he said. That's a good thing for an artist who thrives on testing himself as a writer of chamber works (with support from the Jerome Fund, New Music USA, ASCAP and others) and jazz composer as well as a tenor and soprano saxophonist.
Dubbed a "virtuoso" by the New York Times, Blake has devoted himself to exploring the solo saxophone in performance (inspired by his former teacher, Steve Lacy). He also recently released the freewheeling duo album, Sometimes is Like That, with protean Argentine pianist Leo Genovese. "Collaborating is the single most important thing to me," said the New Jersey native, whose PhD dissertation was based on interviews with outstanding improvisational musicians including Mary Halvorson, Ricardo Gallo, Peter Evans and James Ilgenfritz. (He was supported by the Baisley Powell Elebash Fund for ongoing research into New York's improv music scene.)
"When you work with people, you inhabit some sort of world together, this feeling of connection," Blake said. "It's not about imposing an aesthetic ideal. Music represents the value of those relationships. It makes a powerful ethical statement."