Q&A: Ron Blake
The versatile saxophonist Ron Blake has been an impressive and steady fixture in jazz over the past decade. He has worked with notables Art Farmer, Christian McBride and Roy Hargrove and for the past few years has been a member of NBC’s Saturday Night Live Band. We recently caught up with Ron in New York and asked him these five questions.
Who are a few of your musical influences?
That’s the worst question for me! I have so many. But if I had to name two or three from some of earliest playing experiences, they would include:
Von Freeman – He has such a distinct sound & style. Made me appreciate the journey in finding my own sound.
Clark Terry – I played behind Clark in a big band in Chicago when I was…21 or 22. Everything sounded and felt SO GOOD. Again, a unique voice on his instrument, but I especially want to make melodies & rhythms on my horn that evoke that much style and great feeling!
Benny Golson – Composer extraordinaire and saxophone mentor. He really supported me when I first arrived in NYC in the early 90’s. To pen a handful of songs as beautiful as some of his classics would be a huge accomplishment.
When you are performing, how does a live audience affect your improvisations?
The audience affects improvisations a great deal. I’m playing to the audience to an extent, so I’m trying to connect with them even though my focus (musically) is on the bandstand. Sometimes the music has a life of its own, and the emphasis is on living that moment to serve the music and the audience gets to join the adventure. It all depends on that moment, which makes it all wonderful to hear unfold from one performance to the next.
What is the essence of great jazz?
Great feeling. Style. A flair for sharing your story through music. Imagination. Swing. Rhythm. Ok. Maybe great feeling covered that. But in case you were wondering…
What is the best part about playing in the Saturday Night Live Band?
Playing with such a GREAT BAND. Period.
Recommend 1 recording that every jazz fan needs.
Tough question! Tonight I’ll go with anything by Monk. Covers all of what jazz is in his writing, playing. Duke. Bud. Plus…well, ALOT!
Watch Ron blow the tenor sax while playing with the Christian McBride Band.