Blake heats it up

The next installment of this year’s Hot Jazz series features one of the most versatile players on the New York jazz scene.

Jazz 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Jazz 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Over the last couple of decades, 40-year-old British-born Canadian saxophonist Seamus Blake has made a name for himself as one of the most adventurous and dependable jazzmen around. Next week (February 21-26) he will perform here with longtime cohort, drummer Rodney Green, together with two New York-based Israeli musicians, guitarist Assaf Kehati and bass player Noam Weisenberg.
It is hard to keep up with all Blake’s artistic endeavors. He is just as at home playing straight-ahead modern jazz as mixing it with funky groovedriven acts. He first came to notice while still a student at Berklee College of Music in Boston when veteran drummer Victor Lewis spotted his talent and asked Blake to join him on a recording.
By the age of 23 Blake felt ready to put out a record of his own and, a year later, the prestigious label Criss Cross released his debut album, The Call. Since then, he has put out five more CDs under his own name and collaborated with scores of other musicians as a sideman.
His artistic terrain stretches from lyrical bebop explorations to his work with the Bloomdaddies band, which has been described as a “funky, alternative grunge jazz band that employed electronic effects.”
Although Blake will play solely on tenor saxophone here, he devotes much of this time to examining the possibilities offered by electronic instrumental enhancement and also plays electronic wind instrument (EWI), which is something of a cross between a plugged-in flute and saxophone.
In 2002 Blake won the prestigious Thelonious Monk jazz competition which, besides the kudos and cash prize, gave him the opportunity to perform with jazz icons saxophonist Wayne Shorter and pianistkeyboardist Herbie Hancock.
Meanwhile, Green started playing drums almost as soon as he was big enough to hold drumsticks in his hands. His father was a preacherorganist and his mother sang in church, and young Green began drumming from the age of three.
He received his first formal training at the age of 14 from percussionist Scott Robinson, who took Green under his wing and taught him for free. His musical education was extended by an older cousin who introduced him to the delights of albums such as A Love Supreme by legendary saxophonist John Coltrane, as well as funk and soul music.
Green hit the New York jazz scene at 17 and was soon gainfully employed by all manner of bandleaders, including trumpeter Tom Harrell, pianist Mulgrew Miller and stellar vocalists Diana Krall and Abbey Lincoln.
During their six gigs next week, the quartet will play a wide range of material written by such artists Monk, Duke Ellington, Coltrane and Kenny Barron, who played at the first Red Sea Winter Jazz Festival in Eilat last month, as well as some original material written by Blake.
The Seamus Blake-Rodney Green Quartet will play at the Einan Auditorium in Modi’in on February 21 at 9 p.m., Gerard Behar Center in Jerusalem on February 22 at 9 p.m., Zappa Club in Herzliya on February 23 (doors open 8:30 p.m., show starts 10 p.m.), Tel Aviv Museum on February 24 and 25 at 9 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. respectively, and at Abba Hushi House in Haifa on February 26 at 9 p.m.