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Johnathan Blake: Fascinated by Rhythm

A conversation with the highly in-demand drummer about his creative evolution and most recent album, Trion on Giant Steps Arts

Johnathan Blake (photo by Jimmy Katz)
Johnathan Blake (photo by Jimmy Katz)

Despite his roots in Philadelphia, Johnathan Blake is the quintessential New York City jazz drummer. He’s played with a virtual who’s-who of the jazz scene; the list is too long even for online reproduction but includes Tom Harrell, Kenny Barron, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Pharoah Sanders, Ravi Coltrane, and the Maria Schneider Orchestra. The son of the late violinist John Blake, he grew up in a very musical household and community, nurtured by veteran jazz musicians like Shirley Scott and Mickey Roker, and he established relationships with like-minded artists like Jaleel Shaw and Questlove.

His newest album, Trion, was recorded for the label—or, more accurately, the organization—Giant Step Arts, a not-for-profit created by Jimmy and Dena Katz with an unusual structure through which the artist receives the albums and retains all rights to the music. The album, a two-disc set, was recorded live at the Jazz Gallery in New York and features saxophonist Chris Potter and bassist Linda May Han Oh.

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