Elevate Me: Michael Blake's New York World-Jazz
AAJ: I just saw Ken Butler at an art gallery in Williamsburg [Brooklyn]. He makes his own instruments out of tennis racquets, ski poles and so on. It was a phenomenal show. Do you feed off the local scene?
MB: I really focus in on the people whom I hire to do a gig. In every band, I go for personalities. It was funny writing for these guys in Canada; I kept visualizing these New York guys playing it! The guys in Canada hit all the right notes, but I felt, if they could just put some passion into it'. The guys in Vancouver were really overworked, I didn't have the time to get a rapport. In New York I didn't even need to get a rapport. The musicians start playing and they just nailed it, they put so much fire into it. I'm really lucky I live in this town because these guys are so good. It's good to be amongst them.
Ben recently got nominated for 'Jazz Composer of the Year' by the Jazz Journalists Association in New York. He's in there with Dave Holland and Wayne Shorter; he just felt like it was ridiculous. I said, 'You're really representing all of us, you founded the JCC.' It's great to see that, it's encouraging.
AAJ: Is there anything else you'd like to add?
MB: I was playing with Steven [Bernstein] in the Millennial Territory Orchestra at the Jazz Standard. It's '20s and '30s music mixed in with rocked-out grooves and free improvisation, really an ancient-to-the-future concept. The bartender said, 'That's really great, what do you call it?' Steven said, 'Well what do you want to call it?' 'It's kind of like New Orleans, but kind of crazy.' 'Well then call it crazy-New Orleans music.' [Laughs.] He didn't want to scare her away from 'jazz.' You know, call it what you want.
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