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Melody in Mind: Drummer & Composer Johnathan Blake

On individualism, context and the lineage of his "Gone, But Not Forgotten"

Johnathan Blake

A resolving chord rings along the walls of the Village Vanguard. One by one, the players leave the bandstand, vanishing into the crest of a standing ovation, but Johnathan Blake lingers on the floor. Before packing up his cymbals, he pauses. Closing his eyes, he lets the final phrases of the last set echo in his ears, and wonders whether the audience hears them, too. “My goal is to have people walk away singing what I play,” he says.

Sharply focused on melodic expression, drummer/composer Blake plays with an awareness of interactive lyricism. Collaborative comping and spatially sensitive solo construction have become the hallmark of his artistry. He credits his versatility-and penchant for creating melodies out of texture-to his apprenticeship upbringing in Philadelphia. “My father, John Blake Jr., was a violinist and my first teacher,” he says. “He taught me the concept of listening to the melody-being aware of the melody.”

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