Sunday, August 24, 2014

John Blake

John Blake (John Edward Blake, Jr.) was an American jazz violinist, teacher, composer, arranger, writer, and band leader, born (in Philadelphia) on July 3, 1947.  Although thoroughly trained as a classical violinist, he gravitated toward jazz early on in his career.  He first came to the public’s attention in the mid-1970s as a member of ensembles headed by other jazz musicians, Archie Shepp and Grover Washington, with whom he recorded and toured extensively for several years.  Afterward, Blake performed with a wide variety of artists, including the Duke Ellington Orchestra, the Billy Taylor Trio, the Turtle Island String Quartet, Quartet Indigo, and Didier Lockwood.  He later released six CDs of his own, beginning in 1984.  He was 37 years old.  Blake began his violin studies in Philadelphia at age 9.  He much later studied at West Virginia University and in Switzerland at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Montreux.  Here is a YouTube video in which he appears with Billy Taylor, Chip Jackson, and Winard Harper.  In addition to being a guest lecturer on university campuses around the world, Blake taught at the Manhattan School of Music, the University of Arts in Philadelphia, and at East Tennessee State University.  He also co-wrote the best-known string jazz method book in use today.  His best-known pupil is probably jazz violinist Regina Carter.  In fact, he produced one of Carter’s CDs (Reverse Thread), prior to which she had been awarded a MacArthur Genius Grant (2006.)  Blake died on August 15, 2014, at age 67.  

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