Blake first drew international attention as a sideman in the ground-breaking Grover Washington, Jr. group, the hugely popular "crossover" jazz group of choice in the mid-70s. After three years of recording and touring with Washington, Blake did, for a violinist, the unprecedented: a five-year stint in John Coltrane alumnus and seminal jazz stylist McCoy Tyner's ensemble. Tyner's music has always been some of the most challenging and powerful in jazz, and John rose to that challenge and became one of the strongest string improvisers ever.
In the mid-eighties, Blake made his debut as a band leader and composer with 5 well-received recordings. His sixth recording, Quest, was released on Sunnyside records. That recording featured some of John's more prominent associates: Joe Ford, Charles Fambrough, Ben Riley, Omar Hill, Joey Calderazzo, and Blake's old boss, Grover Washington, Jr, in an intimate and straight ahead homecoming celebration.
Suggested artist to explore: Jordan Hall
As a violinist, Blake has had a deep education. Born in Philadelphia, he began violin in the public school system and the Settlement Music School. He graduated from West Virginia University and the Institute for Advanced Studies in Montreux, Switzerland. John also studied East Indian music on a grant, further widening his musical vision.
Blake has augmented his work as an instrumentalist, composer and producer by becoming an author, teacher and lecturer, passing on his unique and hard-won knowledge. He presents hundreds of workshops annually to musicians on all levels. He has co-written, with Suzuki teacher Jody Harmon, the definitive beginning string jazz method book and CD, in use all over the world. He also lectures on campuses all over the country and is a faculty member at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia and at the Manhattan School of Music in New York, and he has been a guest lecturer at Berklee School of Music in Boston.
Music you may interest: The Jesse Brewster Band
He currently gives hundreds of educational concerts and workshops each year in Philadelphia and New Jersey through an organization called "Strings for Schools." For many years, he has taught at numerous jazz string summer programs such as Jazz in July, String Fling, Montclair University Jazz Camp, Mark O'Connor Fiddle Camp, and Madeline Island String Camp.
He has also been Artist in Residence for the States of New Jersey, Ohio, Nebraska and Pennsylvania. Blake has become a leading voice in jazz improvisation for string players. He is constantly sought after by string organizations such as the Suzuki Foundation in various cities throughout the U.S. and the American String Teachers Association. His concerts, seminars and workshops have taken him all over the United States, South America, Europe and Japan.
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