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Ron Blake

Ron Blake

Juilliard Quintet featuring Ron Blake, Carl Allen, Kenny Barron,
Ben Wolfe & Eddie Henderson
@ Pigeon Island, St. Lucia Jazz Festival
8 May 2008

Click an image to enlarge.

Ron Blake biography

Multi-talented saxophonist Ron Blake, Virgin Islands-born native, is based in New York City. He has recorded three CDs as a leader; in addition, his discography numbers more than 50 recordings as either a guest or sideman with leading artists. They include Roy Hargrove, Art Farmer, the Christian McBride Band, Spirit Music Jamia, Red, Hot + Riot and the Grammy nominated Latin pop group Yerba Buena. Blake has also recorded soundtracks (most recently on El Cantante starring Marc Anthony/Jennifer Lopez). Blake is entering his third season as a member of NBC’s Saturday Night Live Band.

The origins of Ron Blake’s tradition-honed eclecticism can be traced back to the Virgin Islands where he was born and reared. At age 8, Blake took guitar lessons, two years later he switched to the alto saxophone in his elementary school band. He loved playing calypso and other music from the region. He graduated from Michigan’s Interlochen Arts Academy, and later matriculated into Northwestern University in Evanston, IL, where he received the Presidential Award for Outstanding Artistic and Academic Achievement.

In 1987, Blake’s jazz career began in St. Thomas, where he taught in summer music programs. He was introduced by, and performed with jazz luminaries Dizzy Gillespie, Bobby Hutcherson, and Gary Bartz at the first Virgin Islands Jazz Festival. Later, he won a National Endowment for the Arts Grant to study with Bartz. After his graduation from Northwestern University, Blake worked extensively in the Chicago-area with the Chicago Jazz Orchestra, performing behind legends such as Louis Bellson, Clark Terry and Nancy Wilson. He was mentored by many of the Windy City’s jazz statesmen, including Von Freeman, Willie Pickens, and Bunky Green.

In 1990, Blake moved to Tampa, FL, and began work as an Assistant Professor of Jazz Studies at the University of South Florida, and nurtured his classical interests by performing with the Florida Symphony Orchestra. Occasionally, he would fly to New York to sit-in with Branford Marsalis; Mulgrew Miller; and Kenny Kirkland. In 1992, Blake re-located to New York City and joined Roy Hargrove’s Quintet, a collaboration that spanned five years. During this period, Blake also worked with dozens of jazz greats including: Johnny Griffin, Art Farmer, Stanley Turrentine, Roy Haynes, Art Taylor, Benny Golson, Betty Carter and Shirley Horn to name a few.

In addition to his 2000 debut as a leader on Up Front and Personal with special guest Johnny Griffin, Ron Blake released his first Mack Avenue recording “Lest We Forget” in 2003. He was also featured in Meshell Ndegéocello’s group, Spirit Music Jamia (with Michael Cain). Since the year 2000, Blake has been a member of the Christian McBride Band and is featured on McBride’s Live at Tonic. In 2007, Blake was appointed to teach in the Jazz Studies program at the Juilliard School of Music. Currently, he is member of the faculty at both New York University and Nyack College (Manhattan campus).

Carl Allen biography

“My ultimate goal is to get to level like Art Blakey, Art Taylor, Elvin Jones, and Billy Higgins … who every time they sit down behind a set of drums it’s swinging….”

With over 150 recordings to his credit, the gifted Milwaukee-born, New York-based drummer, sideman, bandleader, entrepreneur, and educator, Carl Allen’s profound and propulsive percolations provided soulful and syncopated support for nearly three decades.

Born on April 25, 1961, Allen grew up on gospel, R&B, and funk, but later turned to jazz after hearing an LP by the legendary saxophonist Benny Carter. He studied with drum instructor Roy Sneider and band director Robert Siemele. His first hometown gigs were with sax greats Sonny Stitt and James Moody.

Allen studied at The University of Wisconsin at Green Bay from 1979 to 1981, and transferred to William Patterson College in New Jersey, where he graduated in 1983 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Jazz Studies and Performance. Allen joined trumpeter Freddie Hubbard a year before his graduation, served as his Musical Director for eight years, and recorded several recordings with the trumpeter including Double Take and Life Flight. Allen also played with Michael Brecker, Randy Brecker, Benny Golson, Jennifer Holliday, J.J. Johnson, Rickie Lee Jones, Sammy Davis Jr., Branford Marsalis, Kenny Garrett, Lena Horne, Ruth Brown, Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Bobby Hutcherson, Mike Stern, Nellie McKay, Terence Blanchard, Phil Woods, Benny Green, Cyrus Chestnut, Joe Henderson, Billy Childs and many others. Allen’s phenomenal sideman discography also includes Jackie McLean (Dynasty), Donald Harrison (Indian Blues, Noveau Swing), Donald Byrd (A City Called Heaven), and Art Farmer (The Company I Keep).

Allen is also an accomplished businessman. He co-founded Big Apple Productions in 1988 with saxophonist Vincent Herring, produced several recordings for several Japanese labels with future stars Roy Hargrove and Nicholas Payton, and created The Art of Elvin, a tribute band dedicated to his two drum influences. He currently leads his exceptional quintet and Carl Allen & New Spirit as well as being the co-leader of the Allen-Whitaker Project with bassist Rodney Whitaker. Allen also produced recordings for pianist Eric Reed, Dewey Redman. Pharoah Sanders, Freddie Hubbard and guitarist Lage Lund, the winner of the 2005 Thelonious Monk International Monk Competition and many others totaling nearly 70 credits as a producer. A talented educator, Allen has served on the jazz faculty at Julliard since 2001 as coordinator of Small Ensembles and drum instructor.

Allen maintains an exhaustive schedule of recording, touring and teaching. He remains active as a leader (most recently co-leading The Carl Allen - Rodney Whitaker Project, leading The Carl Allen & The Art of Elvin - a musical tribute to Art Blakey and Elvin Jones), New Spirit and as an in-demand sideman (recent recordings with Jackie Ryan, Wayne Escoffery, Alex Graham, Barbara King and many others).

Kenny Barron biography

Philadelphia is the birthplace of many great musicians, including one of the undisputed masters of the jazz piano: Kenny Barron. Kenny was born in 1943 and while a teenager, started playing professionally with Mel Melvin’s orchestra. This local band also featured Barron’s brother Bill, the late tenor saxophonist.

By 1959 Barron had worked with drummer Philly Joe Jones while still in high school. At age 19, Kenny moved to New York City and freelanced with Roy Haynes, Lee Morgan and James Moody after the tenor saxophonist heard him play at the Five Spot. Upon Moody’s recommendation Dizzy Gillespie hired Barron in 1962 without even hearing him play a note. It was in Gillespie’s band where Barron developed an appreciation for Latin and Caribbean rhythms. After five years with Dizzy, Barron played with Freddie Hubbard, Stanley Turrentine, Milt Jackson, and Buddy Rich.

The early seventies found Barron working with Yusef Lateef who Barron credits as a key influence in his art for improvisation. Encouraged by Lateef, to pursue a college education, Barron balanced touring with studies and earned his B.A. in Music from Empire State College, By 1973 Barron joined the faculty at Rutgers University as professor of music. He held this tenure until 2000, mentoring many of today’s young talents including David Sanchez, Terence Blanchard and Regina Bell. In 1974 Barron recorded his first album as a leader for the Muse label, entitled “Sunset To Dawn.” This was to be the first in over 40 recordings (and still counting!) as a leader.

Following stints with Ron Carter in the late seventies Barron formed a trio with Buster Williams and Ben Riley which also worked alongside of Eddie Lockjaw” Davis, Eddie Harris, Sonny Stitt and Harry “Sweets” Edison. Throughout the 80’s Barron collaborated with the great tenor saxophonist Stan Getz, touring with his quartet and recording several legendary albums. He also co-founded the quartet “Sphere,” along with Buster Williams, Ben Riley and Charlie Rouse. This band focused on the music of Thelonious Monk and original compositions inspired by him. Sphere recorded several outstanding projects for the Polygram label, among them “Four For All” and “Bird Songs.” After the death of Charlie Rouse, the band took a 15-year hiatus and reunited, replacing Rouse with alto saxophonist Gary Bartz. This reunion made its debut recording for Verve Records in 1998.

Kenny Barron’s own recordings for Verve have earned him nine Grammy nominations beginning in 1992 with “People Time” followed by the Brazilian influenced “Sambao” and most recently for “Freefall” in 2002. Other Grammy nominations went to “Spirit Song”, “Night and the City” (a duet recording with Charlie Haden) and “Wanton Spirit” a trio recording with Roy Haynes and Haden. It is important to note that these three recordings each received double-Grammy nominations (for album and solo performance).

In 2005 Barron was inducted into the American Jazz Hall of Fame and won a MAC Lifetime Achievement Award. He is a six-time recipient of Best Pianist by the Jazz Journalists Association and was as a finalist in the prestigious 2001 Jazz Par International Jazz Award. Whether Kenny Barron is playing solo, trio or quintet, he is recognised the world over as a master of performance and composition.

Ben Wolfe biography

“Ben Wolfe swings with authority.”
Wynton Marsalis

Bassist-composer Ben Wolfe’s work is a true ensemble – expressed in the group sound, rather than dominated by extended solo compositions. Chamber Music America awarded Ben the 2004 New Works: Creation and Presentation Program Grant, funded through the generosity of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. As a result of this award, Wolfe was able to compose his extended composition “Contradiction: Music for Sextet”. Ben also recently made his mark as a film composer, working with Matthew Modine on the film short, “I Think I Thought.” At the 2008 Tribeca Film Festival.

Born in Baltimore, Maryland and raised in Portland, Oregon, Wolfe has gained a large following from his performances with Wynton Marsalis, Harry Connick Jr. and Diana Krall. Early on in Wolfe’s career, he formed a Duo with Harry Connick Jr. and went on to record over a dozen albums and soundtracks. During his five years with Connick he performed on numerous world tours as musical director. He then joined the Wynton Marsalis Septet and remained until it disbanded. Wolfe also became an integral part of Diana Krall’s touring band and played on many of her recordings, including the Grammy Award winning CD, “When I Look In Your Eyes.”

As a member of The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra (JLCO), Wolfe has performed with Joe Henderson, Doc Cheatham, Jon Hendricks, Harry “Sweets” Edison, and Billy Higgins. He has also recorded with artists such as Branford Marsalis, James Moody, Eric Reed, Carl Allen, and Benny Green.

As well as touring and recording, Wolfe is currently on the teaching faculty at The Julliard School: Jazz Division.

Eddie Henderson biography

Edward Jackson Henderson initially trained to be a doctor before turning his attentions to the trumpet. He studied trumpet in his hometown at the San Francisco Conservatory Of Music. Henderson went on to work with the likes of Tyrone Washington, Joe Henderson and John Handy. Further exploration and recognition was gained while working with the Herbie Hancock Sextet (1970 - 1973). Henderson’s own releases utilised musical electronic advances of the time and leaned towards a more commercial flavour. Hancock’s sextet went there separate ways after financial difficulties, but Henderson was able to fall back on his other trade (medicine), which he practiced on a part-time basis 1975 – 1985. He also teamed up with Mick Nock and Art Blakey to insure some memorable performances. Henderson was still eager to explore, he led a rock-oriented group in the late 1970’s, but returned to playing acoustic hard bop in the 1990’s. He toured with Billy Harper in 1991 while working as a psychiatrist.

Henderson has always placed Miles Davis, Freddie Hubbard and Lee Morgan at the forefront of his many influences. He was fortunate to have been able to practise with Hubbard and Morgan at the beginning of his journey and shared Miles Davis’ love of Ferraris!

Henderson’s continues to release many innovative and memorable recordings. Many of his earlier recordings on vinyl are highly collectable and fetch relatively high prices at fares and specialist outlets.

Ron Blake

Ron Blake

Ron Blake & Eddie Henderson

Ron Blake & Eddie Henderson

Carl Allen

Carl Allen

Ben Wolfe

Eddie Henderson

Eddie Henderson

Eddie Henderson

Juilliard Quintet


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Veiwing

Click Eddie Henderson's image to view his photographs at the Pizza Express, London...

Eddie Henderson in London (Click to go to his page)

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