Matija Dedic – Dedicated
(ears&eyes Records / ee:17-o61)
CD/Digital Release date: February 24th 2017
Croatian pianist Matija Dedic, son of famed composer, musician & poet Arsen Dedic, pays tribute to the memory and influence of his father
One of Croatia (and Europe)’s most prized and influential pianists for almost 20 years
Past records include Larry Grenadier, Jeff Ballard, Scott Colley, Antonio Sanchez, more
“Dedic’s piano jazz can be thought of somewhere between the styles of Robert Glasper and Brad Mehldau, with an overall sound historically reminiscent of Bill Evans.” – Dustin Garlitz, JazzTalent
Matija Dedic – piano/compositions
Chris Cheek – tenor sax (Bill Frisell, Charlie Haden, Brian Blade, Lee Konitz, Carla Bley, Tom Harrell, Wolfgang Muthspiel, Brad Mehldau, Kurt Rosenwinkel)
Noah Hoffeld – cello (Philip Glass, Bebel Gilberto, Brad Mehldau)
Johannes Weidenmueller – acoustic bass (Hank Jones, John Abercrombie, Joe Lovano, Kenny Werner, Brad Mehldau, John Scofield, Dewey Redman, Wynton Marsalis, Joshua Redman)
Bonus track, ‘Afmazur’, is:
Jure Pukl – soprano saxophone (Maceo Parker, Esperanza Spalding, Vijay Iyer, Aaron Goldberg)
Matt Brewer – acoustic bass (Greg Osby, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Lee Konitz, David Sanchez, Terence Blanchard, Vijay Iyer, Steve Coleman, Tain Watts)
Johnathan Blake – drums (Tom Harrell, Kenny Barron, Avishai Cohen)
Tracks/Lengths (quick listens):
Symphoaetetic Waltz 5:00
His Visit 6:53
Return from the Island 2:47
Children’s Song 8:40
South Song 7:23
Meaning of the Blues 10:42
For many professional musicians, there is often a moment in time or an influential person that sets the path for one to take a leap into the long desire and urge to take their craft as serious as need to be to become that musician they so desire. For Croatian pianist Matija Dedic, that moment, that person was his father, Arsen Dedic. It was Arsen’s influence and encouragement that made Matija take that step and it was his gift of a recording of Keith Jarrett’s Koln Concert that put Matija on the path to creative and jazz music. And so it makes perfect sense that after the passing of Arsen, Matija would set out to dedicate a very special set of tunes to the memory of his father. This album, Dedicated, is just that; a dedication to Matija’s father who had recently passed and in turn, inspired this collection of music to remember his father and the importance he played in his life, career, and motivation to be here now-in the now as displayed by his mastery of the piano and the music created in his body and soul.
Though, not necessarily a common jazz-household name in the United States, Matija Dedic has been a dominating figure in the jazz and popular music scene in Croatia and throughout Europe for over 20 years. He has shared the stage and/or recorded with an array of current trendsetters in the world of jazz and creative music including folks like John Hollenbeck, Buster Williams, Alvin Queen, and Martin Drew to name a few. On his last three trio records, he was supported by powerhouse rhythm sections of Larry Grenadier and Jeff Ballard, Kendrick Scott and Vicente Archer, and Scott Colley and Antonio Sanchez. A short list of engagements had him in Turkey, Spain, Austria, Sweden, England, Brasil, USA, and more. As a leader, he has released records on Blue Bamboo, Origin, Dallas and Workin’ labels. Most recently he was featured at the Buenos Aires International Jazz Festival where ears&eyes Records director Matthew Golombisky and Matija grabbed a couple cups of coffee and rapped the jazz scenes in Eastern Europe, Buenos Aires and various cities in the US while also getting really excited about this current release.
Dedicated is both a play on Matija’s last name, Dedic, but more importantly that the album is dedicated to his father. Arsen Dedic played an incredibly important and crucial part of Matija’s pursuit in music, piano and jazz and who in his own right Arsen was an accomplished composer, songwriter and poet.
Arsen’s fame spreads throughout Croatian culture as the creator of Croatian chanson transforming his words and music to use as subtle commentary about political turmoil. Included in this musical family and upbringing is Matija’s mother, singer Gabi Novak who was born in Berlin during World War II and thereafter moved to the island Hvar where Matija spent his childhood summers and composed much of this current album. (Tune ‘Return from the Island’ is a direct reference.) At the Bled Jazz Festival in 1958, Gabi sang a duet with Louis Armstrong. In her youth, she also sang with Phil Woods, Gary Burton, and Joe Turner. In 2003, she received a Porin (Croatia’s most prestigious music award) for “Best Female Vocal Performance” for her performance on the album “The Song is My Life” and in 2006, for “Special Contribution to Croatian Pop Music”. The Dedic family though, on a whole, is among some of the most winning artists since the Porin’s inception in 1993. Arsen received 15 in total including “Album of the Year” and “Best Pop & Classical Music” in 2005, “Best Pop Album” in 2009 and 1998, “Lifetime Achievement Award” in 1999. He also received Jacques Brel Award in France and the Premio Tenco Award in San Remi, Italy. Matija has received 25 Porins, so far, including last year’s “Album of the Year”.
“I was [Arsen’s] personal pianist for 10 years and it was an unprecedented honor and level of happiness for me. Sharing the stage with such established legends and emerging artists is difficult to describe. But the honor came from being able to live, learn and experience this music with my father; my inspiration,” says Matija.
Admittedly Matija’s ensemble of choice is the classic piano, bass, drums, but on Dedicated he explores more intimate textures. Other than the fierce track ‘Afmazur’ featuring Jure Pukl (s. sax), Matt Brewer (a.bass) and Johnathan Blake (drums), it’s a drummer-less album filled with soaring cello melodies. There are touches of both tenor and soprano saxes. ‘His Visit’ is a scaled down trio of piano, cello and bass and creates a mysterious pad of reflection. It’s definitely a “jazz record” with virtuosic solos with heads, piano intros, and complex harmony, but there’s a bigger sense of purpose and direction with this set of tunes. It’s decisive with a clear intention: the memory and thankfulness of a lost friend, mentor and father.
‘His Visit’, which was the original album title documents a moment when Arsen’s health was on a brink of unknown and Matija was making decisions as to whether continue his busy schedule which included tour dates in Spain and Italy or to return home. It was a strange mixed-feeling of fear but also hope that Arsen’s health would turn for the better.
Recorded in Astoria, New York’s famous Samurai Hotel Studio, it’s a clean, crisp sounding recording that allows the listener to feel like they were in the room during the recording sessions. Owner and recording engineer, David Stoller and his studio, are top-picks for many of the big-hitters of jazz including Nicholas Payton, Cyrus Chestnut, Steve Turre, Chris Potter, Cedar Walton and a lot more.
Though ears&eyes Records has found itself releasing mostly Chicago-based artists and groups where we were birthed some ten years ago, we are incredibly excited to welcome Matija to a family that may be based in Chicago but includes all artists with a global presence and self-awareness of connectedness. Join us in welcoming Matija, along with Chris Cheek, Juke Pukl, Johnathan Blake, Noah Hoffeld, Joannes Weidenmueller and Matt Brewer on what will be a record of reflection, not only of Arsen Dedic, but of our own lives and those dear to us, near or far. Enjoy.
(young Matija with Arsen)
Recorded by David Stoller at Samurai Hotel Studio in Astoria Queens, NYC USA
Mixed and mastered by Miro Vidovic at Morris Studio in Zagreb, Croatia
Album artwork by Federico Maksimiuk
Design layout by Matthew Golombisky
ears&eyes Records: www.earsandeyesrecords.com, earsandeyesrecords.bandcamp.com, twitter.com/earseyesRecords, soundcloud.com/earseyesrecords, facebook.com/earsandeyesrecords, instagram.com/earsandeyesrecords, youtube channel
Label / Press Contact:
Matthew Golombisky: [email protected]
“Dedic swings with uninhibited openness…There are several segments with supple developments and a muscular sense of interplay which evokes Mehldau…a slight classical slant, which provides a studied undercurrent. But the rhythm and tempo has a free-floating feel, so the track courses through movements which abound with only some restrictions: there is even a short, free-jazz departure.” – John Sunier, Audiophile Audition, May 2014
“…superb flow with dramatic moments that bracket lithe progressions. Sometimes it feels like a classic ECM piano trio recording and other times Chick Corea. Regardless of what it evokes, it’s clear that Dedic has chops.” – S. Victor Aaron, Something Else Reviews
“If high-talent keyboard jazz is your cup of tea, you won’t get your cup much fuller than the beautiful tunes Matija spins out for your aural pleasure…will transport you into lands you’d never imagined before…this CD gets my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, as well as an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99.” – Rotcod Zzaj, Improvijazzation Nation
8/10 Overall, 8/10 Sonics. – Paul Wilson, Audiophile Review
“…jazz with fire and spice…masterful, his command of his instrument is truly magnificent…a true luminary in the jazz idiom…highly recommended.” – MUSICSCRIBE
“…straight-up, fusiony, avant-garde high quality jazz…demonstrates a quite classicalist sensibility going through non-stop changes before closing out pointillistically.” – Mark S. Turner, Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
“He’s prone to voluble runs and solos, but he also takes pleasure in the art of rumination, chewing on an idea as his mind and hands sort things out in real time.” 4 stars – Dan Bilawsky, AllAboutJazz
“New Artist Radar: …a new modernistic piece that recalls the style of a young Chick Corea but with Dedić’s own natural highly virtuosic touch embossed confidently on it.” – Stephen Graham, Marlbank
“Not quite a young lion anymore, this jazz piano man plays with that special something that attracted you to young Chick Corea and young Keith Jarrett.” – Chris Spector, Midwest Record
“…an on-going stream of frothy formations conjured up by Dedic’s free flowing keys furling with stunning nimbleness…showcases the nimbleness and elasticity of his phrasing and his instincts for forming melodic expressions that pervade a sentimental flare. His affinity for improvisational patterns manifest into a lyrical prose that stimulates and pacifies the aural senses.” – Susan Frances, Yahoo
“Dedic’s piano jazz can be thought of somewhere between the styles of Robert Glasper and Brad Mehldau, with an overall sound historically reminiscent of Bill Evans.” – Dustin Garlitz, JazzTalent
“Hancock’s much-covered ‘Maiden Voyage’ has never been covered better.” 4 stars – Dan McClenaghan, AllAboutJazz
“What makes Matija Dedic special is his touch and the way his poetic concept unfolds and deepens over the course of an album. Dedic is as seductive as Tord Gustavsen.” – Thomas Conrad, Stereophile
“It’s beautiful, pensive, attention-getting and memorable jazz. Dedic is a talent to be reckoned with!” – Ric Bang, Jazz Scan
“Dedic displays a mastery of his instrument. His elegant touch produces a beautiful sound and his fabulous technique permits him to execute phenomenal phrases.” – David Franklin, Cadence
“…phrase after phrase of disparate ideas which he eventually transforms into a solidly functioning intermeshed whole…All of the individual colors of Hancock’s composition, harmonic and melodic, are delicately pulled apart, piece by piece, line by line, in such a sublime manner one would think the three musicians are playing freely throughout.” – Thomas R. Erdmann, Jazz Review
Born in Zagreb on March 2nd 1973 to a highly musically rich family, MATIJA DEDIC started playing classical piano at the age of five. After he finished the Vatroslav Lisinski music-centered high school in 1991, he continued his music studies at the Graz Jazz Academy where he graduated in 1997 under professor Harald Neuwirth and private lessons with John Taylor in Cologne, Hal Galper, Bill Dobbins and Barry Harris.
Since he was raised in the family surrounded by pop and traditional musicians, he began to listen to all kinds of music very early, quickly discovering jazz and finding that it allowed him to express a more personal musical point of view. After returning to Zagreb in 1997, he begun to play more often, and his work is recognized in and out of Croatia.
During those years he played with his own band «Boilers Quartet», with whom he supported the likes of Kenny Burrell, Roy Haynes, José Feliciano and «All Stars Band». Meanwhile he also had a chance to play in in «Tamara Obrovac Quartet».
Over the years he played in Italy, Germany, Slovakia, England, Brazil, Belgium, Turkey, Spain, Austria, Slovenia, Serbia, FYR of Macedonia, France, Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland, Hungary, Greece, Morocco, USA, Czech Republic, Bosnia, Republic of Kosovo, Montenegro, Argentina, Portugal with names like Alvin Queen, Martin Drew, Ron Ringwood, Boško Petrovic, Marc Murphy Band, Patrizia Conte, David Gazarov, Gianni Basso, Miles Griffith, Onder Fokan, J.L. Rassinfosse, Anca Parghel, Tomi Emmanuel, Lenny White, Kendrick Scott, Jim Madison, Jeff Ballard, Vicente Archer, Buster Williams, Larry Grenadier, N.H.O. Pedersen, Ron Mcclure, Tamara Obrovac, Marek Patrman, Salvatore Maiore, Antonio Sanchez, Scott Colley, Gene Jackson, Bojan Z, John Hollenback, Joris Dudli, Rachid Zeroual, Bruno Castellucci, Catia Werneck, Howard Curtis, Melissa Aldana, Johannes Weidenmueller, Chris Cheek, Jonathan Blake, Matt Brewer, Flavio Davanzo, Simone Serafini, Francesco Bearzatti, Carl Nevitt etc.
He writes music for television and theatre, and also occasionally plays with some big pop names on Croatian music scene. Croatian authors society awarded him for the album «Octopussy» as the best author and best jazz newcomer in the last 10 years!
In July 2002. Matija performed on the Montreux Jazz Festival in France as one of the 11 finalists, that were chosen from more than 400 pianists around the world. His father Arsen Dedic received awards Premio tenco and Jacques Brel and his mother Gabi Novak while her career sang with Louis Armstrong, Gary Burton, Phil Woods, Toots Tielemans, Helen Merrill, Joe Turner.
Born in St. Louis, Missouri, CHRIS CHEEK began playing the alto sax at the age of 12. Thanks to a strong public school music program and a highly supportive family, Chris had good educational and performance experiences from the very beginning. While attending Webster University, Chris played with a variety of local Jazz and Blues bands including legendary saxophonist Willie Akins’ group and the Bob Kuban Brass. Chris went to Boston in 1988 to attend Berklee College of music where he studied with Herb Pomeroy, Joe Viola and Hal Crook.
Chris moved to New York in 1992 and since then has toured and recorded with Paul Motian, Charlie Haden’s Liberation Music Orchestra, The Bloomdaddies, and the Orquestra de Jazz de Matosinhos. Chris has also played with Bill Frisell, Brian Blade, Lee Konitz, Carla Bley, Tom Harrell, Wolfgang Muthspiel, Frank Carlberg, Eliot Zigmund, Brad Mehldau, Kurt Rosenwinkel, El Muchacho and many others!
Cheek also plays with the Brooklyn Boogaloo Blowout, Rudder, Steve Swallow’s Quintet, Guillermo Klein’s “Los Guachos”, and the newly formed Axis Saxophone Quartet, alongside Josh Redman, Chris Potter and Mark Turner. In addition to appearing on numerous CD’s as a sideman, Chris has recorded 4 albums as a leader for Fresh Sound Records. He currently resides in Brooklyn, NY.
NOAH HOFFELD’s synthy rockers and power ballads deliver his message that now is the best time for us to breathe and tune into who we are. In his debut album Play Human, he comes from the heart in eleven tunes that bring that message home. Baeble Music says the LP “brings the best of classical music and modern rock to bear to gorgeous effect.” And Music Existence says “Play Human is a masterfully executed work of art.” The soulful maturity of this rock record belies the fact that Noah comes from a life in Classical Music. But playing Classical was never everything to Noah. Before graduating from Juilliard, he began pushing the limits by bringing rock and pop to the cello and asking questions that would push his career beyond the ordinary.
Noah’s musical life is varied, alternating producing and performing his own music, playing featured cello for the likes of Renee Fleming, Philip Glass, Bebel Gilberto, and Brad Mehldau, recording cello solos for films like The Skeleton Twins (Kristin Wiig and Bill Hader), Experimenter (Peter Saarsgard), A Walk in The Woods (Robert Redford and Nick Nolte) and HBO’s Show Me a Hero, by the makers of The Wire. And he’s a composer himself, currently attached to two indie films in production. His productions recently made him an endorsed artist of Moog Synthesizers. And Noah is a Ricci Artist, playing the World’s finest carbon fiber cellos.
In addition to rocking out on guitar and keys, Noah plays what he calls Cello Rock. He sings while playing cello, creating pulsing, rhythmic patterns on the strings with the bow, and adds vocals to ambient layers of looped cello and drum programming. Baeble Music says “Noah Hoffeld’s “Cello Rock” is the new sound you never new you needed.” And ‘Same Old Song’ – the first single off Play Human- “has an irresistible 80’s feel.” Noah takes us back and lures us into our own musical memories with the infectious beat of this pop-rock tune. Hoffeld performs powerful and intimate solo concerts, singing from the cello, piano and guitar, while incorporating electronics, live looping and beat production, as well as explosive full band shows. All the performances include mesmerizing instrumental numbers plumbing the emotional bounds of his cello playing.
Bassist JOHANNES WEIDENMUELLER has been a first call performer with a long list of jazz greats since settling in New York City 20 years ago. He has been a member of the Hank Jones trio, Ray Barretto’s New World Spirit, the Carl Allen-Vincent Herring quintet, the John Abercrombie quartet, the Joe Lovano trio and the Kenny Werner trio. Other associations include Brad Mehldau, George Benson, John Scofield, Dewey Redman, Randy Brecker, Kenny Wheeler, Toots Thielemans, Wynton Marsalis, Joshua Redman, Gary Bartz, Jonny Coles, Clifford Jordan, Joe Chambers, and many others.
His warm full sound, his mastery of time and his flexibility and openness have made him one of most sought after bassist in a wide variety of musical settings. He has collaborated with the National Orchestra of Spain, the Balthasar Neumann Orchestra and choir, flamenco musician Chano Dominguez, the Indian music ensemble of Gaurav Madzumdar, tabla virtuoso Ty Burhoe, New Orleans keyboard legend Dr.John, and singer Madeleine Peyroux.
Born in Heidelberg, Germany Johannes was introduced to music early on. He started playing cello at the age of 6 and kept a busy performance schedule throughout his high school years, participating in many local and regional chamber music and orchestral events. After switching to the double bass at age 16, he went on to study jazz bass at the Conservatory in Cologne and soon after made the move to study at the prestigious Jazz and Contemporary Music program of the New School University in New York. Here he was able to study with jazz greats such as Ron Carter, Dave Holland and Buster Williams. In 1991 he joined the trio of legendary pianist Hank Jones and performed with him throughout North America. Playing with Hank Jones paved the way to becoming a full time professional bass player and countless performances with many other jazz greats have since followed.
While being busy performing over 200 concerts a year around the world, Johannes is also a committed educator. He has been on the faculty of the New School’s jazz and contemporary music program since 1997 where he teaches bass and ensemble and ear-training. He also is in demand as a clinician, teaching workshops and clinics at the Banff Center for the Arts, NYU, New England Conservatory, U of Green Bay, the Amsterdam Conservatory, U of West Virginia, U of N.C Chapel Hill and many others. In addition he is also the author of two bestselling books on metric modulation published by Mel Bay.
He has been the recipient of numerous awards and grants including the young European jazz artist of the year award in 1993 and 1996, the Hennessy jazz prize 1996, grants from Arts international and the New School faculty development grant.
JURE PUKL is one of the most prolific and creative saxophonists of the younger Slovene jazz generation, Pukl obtained university education abroad. He studied classical saxophone at the Vienna Music Academy, and jazz saxophone in Vienna as well as at the Haag Conservatory of Music. Jure then won a scholarship to the Berklee College of Music, where he pursued his studies with masters such as Joe Lovano and George Garzone. He completed his masters degree in music at the Graz Academy of Music. Throughout his studies Pukl performed and recorded extensively, being engaged in his own projects, as well as working with a number of European and foreign jazzmen, such as Maceo Parker, Esperanza Spalding, Vijay Iyer, Damion Reid, Joe Sanders, Aaron Goldberg, Marcus Gilmore, Jeremy Pelt, Jamire Williams, Howard Curtis, Johnathan Blake, Renato Chicco, Bosko Petrovic, Francisco Mela, Miles Griffith, Aruan Ortiz, Jason Palmer, Mike Janisch and orchestras like Big Band RTV Slovenia, European Jazz Orchestra, European Movement Jazz Orchestra, Vienna Saxophone Quartet, Nouvele Cousine and many others. He has been touring extensively throughout USA, Asia and Europe performing in venues such as Blue Note, The Jazz Gallery, Ronnie Scotts, The Vortex, Pizza Express, Porgy & Bess, Stadtgarten and festivals like Moers Jazz Festival, Vienna Jazz Festival, Muenster Jazz Festival, Berlin Jazz Festival, Jazz a Vienne to name a few. His music has won him many awards; among others the 2005 first Jury Prize and Best Composition Audience Award at the Jazzon International Music Workshop and Festival in Novo mesto, Slovenia. In his auctorial projects, such as the Virus quintet (receive rave reviews, among others on the influential Allaboutjazz Web portal) Pukl dedicates himself to modern interpretations of jazz. What he creates is a unique type of modern jazz, avantgarde, free jazz and impressionistic contemporary music performed with a great deal of knowledge and love, giving prominence to the interplay between band members. He already published 6 CD’s under his own name. The last one called Abstract Society was recorded in New York with some of the finest musicians and got rave reviews all over the globe and features Vijay Iyer, Damion Reid and Joe Sanders.It has been released by the oldest european indenpendet jazz record label Storyville Records from Denmark.He is also featured on more than 30 CD projects as a sideman.
MATT BREWER was born in Oklahoma City but spent most of his youth in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Born into a musical family, Matt was surrounded by music from an early age, both his father and grandfather being jazz musicians, and his mother an avid music lover and radio DJ (who, even before Matt was born, would play classic jazz albums for him). After graduating from the Interlochen Arts Academy, Matt attended the inaugural class of The Juilliard Jazz Program and studied with bassists Rodney Whitaker and Ben Wolfe. After spending two years at Juilliard he decided to leave school to make time for his busy touring schedule. Since then he has worked with artists such as Greg Osby, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Lee Konitz, David Sanchez, Terence Blanchard, Antonio Sanchez, Vijay Iyer, Adam Rogers, Steve Coleman, Dave Binney, Aaron Parks, Jeff “Tain” Watts, and many others. He recently recorded his second album as a leader on the Criss Cross Jazz label. He is an adjunct faculty member at The New School, and has been a frequent guest artist/teacher at the Banff Center.
JOHNATHAN BLAKE, one of the most accomplished drummers of his generation, has also proven himself a complete and endlessly versatile musician — “the ultimate modernist,” as John Murph of NPR has dubbed him. Blake’s gift for composition and band leading, so ably demonstrated on his 2012 recording debut The Eleventh Hour, reflects years of live and studio experience across the aesthetic spectrum.
Through years-long memberships in the Tom Harrell Quintet, the Kenny Barron Trio and other top ensembles, Blake has reaped the benefits of prolonged exposure to the greats of our time — arguably of all time. Through his powerful, evocative drumming and fully rounded artistry, he’s also left a huge imprint on the music of such rising figures in jazz as Hans Glawischnig, Alex Sipiagin, Donny McCaslin, Avishai Cohen, Omer Avital, Patrick Cornelius, Michael Janisch, Shauli Einav, Jaleel Shaw and more. To date, Blake has appeared on over 50 albums.
Born in Philadelphia in 1976, Johnathan Blake is the son of renowned jazz violinist John Blake, Jr. — himself a stylistic chameleon and an important ongoing influence. After beginning on drums at age 10, Johnathan gained his first performing experience with the Lovett Hines Youth Ensemble, led by the renowned Philly jazz educator. It was during this period, at Hines’s urging, that Blake began to compose his own music. Later he worked with saxophonist Robert Landham in a youth jazz ensemble at Settlement Music School.
Blake graduated from George Washington High School and went on to attend the highly respected jazz program at William Paterson University, where he studied with Rufus Reid, John Riley, Steve Wilson and Horace Arnold. At this time Blake also began working professionally with the Oliver Lake Big Band, Roy Hargrove and David Sanchez. In 2006 he was recognized with an ASCAP Young Jazz Composers Award, and in 2007 he earned his Masters from Rutgers University, focusing on composition. He studied with the likes of Ralph Bowen, Conrad Herwig and Stanley Cowell.
Deeply aware of Philadelphia’s role as a historical nerve center of American music, Blake has immersed himself in the city’s storied legacy — not just jazz but also soul, R&B and hip-hop. In many ways he’s an heir to Philadelphia drum masters such as Philly Joe Jones, Bobby Durham, Mickey Roker and Edgar Bateman, not to mention younger mentors including Byron Landham, Leon Jordan and Ralph Peterson, Jr. Today Blake is himself an exponent of the Philadelphia sound, described by Aidan Levy of JazzTimes in a review of The Eleventh Hour as: the vertiginous sensation of being both slightly behind the beat and hurtling into the next measure.
Approaches like this, one might add, can only be learned by sitting at Mickey Roker’s right hand and absorbing exactly how the ride cymbal is struck. Such is the painstaking firsthand exploration that undergirds and informs Blake’s musicianship.
Blake’s playing helped the Mingus Big Band land Grammy nominations for the albums Tonight at Noon (2002) and I Am Three (2005). It has also earned Blake spots in groups led by Russell Malone, Randy Brecker, Joe Locke, Ronnie Cuber and other seasoned jazz veterans. As trumpet great Brian Lynch has said: Johnathan Blake is without peer among young drummers for the clarity of his beat and the incisiveness of his swing.
His forward-thinking vision as a leader, moreover, and ability to harness the varied talents of his band mates, makes The Eleventh Hour one of the strongest debuts in recent memory, and surely the first of many fine efforts to follow.