Chroma Nova

Michael Blake: Reviews

Dance of the Mystic Bliss (P&M Records) 2023

"transcends his jazz into a gathering storm of funkified fusion, world, post-bop folkloric action that's so damn entertaining and surprising, it's a contender for 2023 Top 10"
Mike Greenblatt, Goldmine Magazine
"Jazz album of the Month - spans funky guitar hooks to Ellingtonesque reveries"
John Fordham, The Guardian
"...intelligent, beautifully played. Chapeau!"
Flavio Massarutto, il manifesto
"Great tunes. Incredible playing"
Dada Strain, Favorite NYC albums of 2023
"It's an album that rewards repeated listening, each spin revealing another layer of depth to its intricate tapestry of sound."
Darnell Jackson, 5 Finger Review
"Chroma Nova has the lightness and flexibility of a dance troupe and they really make the leader's music come to life. This is an album one can listen to many times and always hear something new."
Jerome Wilson, All About Jazz
"New and notable - celebrate life in all it's messiness"
Robert Ham, Paste Magazine
"Shades of loss and sorrow pop up in places but are folded into the ascendant feelings of love, gratitude, and praise. This one is going to get a lot of play in this house."
Mel Minter, Musically Speaking
"...appropriately presents musical textures that have elements of both sprouting and syncopation"
Ken Waxman, Jazzword
"Most of the compositions are multi-partite marvels that make big transitions with utter seamlessness. His music has never been composed and assembled with such breadth and emotional range."
Peter Margasak, Nowhere Street
"All of the songs take multiple directions, making the listener pay close attention to the subtle shifts of ideas and textures. Blake reaches far on this one, and his grasp is a good one."
George W. Harris, JazzWeekly
"Kudos to Blake for venturing out into new territory when he could have stuck to the tried-and-true. Hearing him play within this new context makes for rewarding listening."
Ron Schepper, Textura
"The variety of textures that Blake conjures from this ensemble is magic. The band sounds like a modern tango ensemble, a classical chamber group, a daring freak-folk string band, and a New Jazz outfit all at once or in turns."
Will Layman, Pop Matters
"Blake brings his boundary-breaking approach to new heights on 2023's Dance of the Mystic Bliss. A harmonically shimmering and textural production that showcases his bold arranging and virtuosic improvisation skills. These are deeply interwoven productions where each instrument plays an integral role in the arrangement, encompassing the listener in a kind of topographical map of sound."
Matt Collar, All Music
"Blake traverses all over the musical map here, incorporating bop, Brazil, tango, folk, and other influences into a distinctive blend all his own. Both a loving tribute and an imaginative art statement, Dance of the Mystic Bliss puts Blake on a new plane of creative endeavor."
Michael Toland, The Big Takeover
"Long story short, the Lounge Lizards alum with the boatload of critical kudos can't stop coming up with angles, because his voracious appetite demands satisfaction. Swirls towards the heavens, a romantic revelation."
Jim Macnie, Lament for a Straight Line
"The group is as tight as it gets, with interesting rhythm-oriented foundations and with Blake showing strong melodicism and refined taste all around."
Filipe Freitas, Jazz Trail
"Either let it wash over you as pure music, or follow the context in a dozen directions; there's a deep deposit of satisfaction, regardless of genre tags."
Jordan Enos, London Jazz News
"A deeply warm, melodic and humanistic record. Blake has created a unified, almost cinematic work that is both elegiac and emotionally compelling. It's hard to avoid being overly effusive about this wonderfully arranged record, but it's just that special."
Jim Motovalli, The New York City Jazz Record

Combobulate (Newvelle) 2022

"There's an extra oomph here that makes them exceptional like the other more genre-twisting tunes throughout the album. It's notable that this is an album playing on another level."
Anthony Dean-Harris, Downbeat
"...feels authentic and exploratory, age old and entirely modern."
Robert Ham, Paste Magazine
"This is one of the more interesting sextets you'll hear. It resembles a brass band in some regards but only a couple of the tracks bear the NOLA style. The others are more chorale oriented. Chances are excellent that you won't find many bands with two tubas, thus the interesting arrangements and colours here."
Jim Hynes, Making a Scene

Red Hook Soul (2016)

"Red Hook Soul is a rollicking, joyous bounce. The music just cruises like a partying group of friends barreling down a highway in an open convertible on a sunny day."
Ralph Miriello - The Huffington Post
"Michael Blake's tribute to 1960's pop has great, danceable beat."
Alex Varty, The Georgia Straight, December 2016
"There are legions of still unsung sax players out there whose star nonetheless flickers and shines every so often. None more so than the Montreal born 52-year-old Michael Blake whose new Red Hook Soul is released this autumn. Cue another chance to sparkle."
Marlbank Blog, September 2016
"...a cool bag of finger-snapping originals and new arrangements of classics by Otis Redding, Ray Charles, Lana Del Ray and others."
The Vancouver Sun, December 2016

Made in China (2016)

"The cohesive trio sounded vigorous and articulate and showed a perfect understanding of one another in their vivid interactions"
Jazz Trail

Fullfillment (2016)

"Best of 2016. Saxophonist Michael Blake‘s 2016 release is astonishing, exploding with intricate details and unleashing one grand statement after the other. Everything about this album indicates a sound and vision steps ahead of the music of today."
Dave Sumner, Bird is the Word
"This is a soundtrack to an imaginary film that takes the listener on a voyage of the mind through a raw part of Canadian history that still resonates with current events in the world. All the variables of the natural world, all the subtleties and all the extremes, are intricately sculpted into a moving human drama lovingly constructed in sound."
BC Musician Magazine
"incredibly inventive use of technique and emotion with an astuteness that ought to be the envy of musicians everywhere"
Jazz da Gama
"one of the most challenging and ambitious works since the first CD under his own name, the great Kingdom of Champa from 1997"
All About Jazz Italia

Tiddy Boom (2014)

"every track rethinks its influences through the voice of a mature, individual player"
Pop Matters - Will Layman
"this is music unbound in time...perfectly executed"
DownBeat - James Hale (381k TIF)
"these guys have progressed to a level of musical sophistication that has reached beyond their masters"
The Huffington Post - Ralph A. Miriello
"flush with creative twists and dynamic alterations"
The New York City Jazz Record (817k PDF) - Andrey Henkin
"not only is it one of the year's best jazz albums, but it's another gem in a career filled with them"
Chicago Reader - Peter Margasak
"My top pick this year...there because it is an exceptionally entertaining and well played recording"
Jazz Chronicles - James Hale
"...this is not a tame rehash by any means"
Jazz Talk - Tom Storer
"You're not gonna go wrong scooping this one up"
Wondering Sound - Dave Sumner
"Tiddy Boom is an absolute gem"
The New York City Jazz Record (934k PDF) - Terrell Holmes
"Personalized flair throughout this sprightly excursion"
All About Jazz - Glenn Astarita.
"A reciclagem da mainstream"
Jornal Do Brasil - Luiz Orlando Carneiro.

Tiddy Boom on Best of 2014 lists

Hellbent was selected as Best of 2010!

Hellbent was chosen as one of the Best Albums of 2010 by All About Jazz NY (755k PDF).

Control This (2009)

"Vibrant, jovial and filled with affable communication, Control This is a sterling example of the endless possibilities of the duo format."
- All About Jazz NY

Recommended by the New York Times

Nate Cichen asks for more committed listeners, so come on down.

Slow Poke at Home and Amor de Cosmos (2007)

"Panoramic imagination"
The New York Times

More Like Us (2006)

"...a unique sound and experience driven by a unique saxophonist"
All About Jazz - Michael McCaw
"...the group has developed cohesion, easily maneuvering the circuitous compositions on the disc."
All About Jazz - Sean Patrick Fitzell

Blake Tartare (2005)

"With every album under his own name, saxophonist Michael Blake has artfully carved out a creative space for his music. The tendency continues on his latest albums. Four stars."
Downbeat - Peter Margasak, February 2006
"Blake Tartare organically covers a range of stylistic territory, unfolding narratively through the course of the CD. It is another convincing musical statement, well supported by Blake's finely chosen cast."
Sean Fitzell, All About Jazz, June 2004
"There's something lusty in the horn lines of the Brooklyn saxophonist, and if a Danish rhythm section can't bring it to the fore, who can? Don't buy into the "raw" aspect of the moniker, they are well seasoned."
Jim Macnie, The Village Voice, October 2003

Right Before Your Very Ears (2005)

" uptempo, highly energized melange of hardcore, free bop, and more"
All About Jazz - Glenn Astarita
" can hear Archie Shepp and Lucky Thompson and Coltrane and Dewey Redman in Mr. Blake, and the group sounds great while playing what it wants to"
The New York Times - Ben Ratliff
"Michael Blake is a New York-based saxophonist, once a member of the Lounge Lizards, and "Right Before Your Very Ears" (Clean Feed) is the forthright, off-the-cuff new album by his trio, with the bassist Ben Allison and the drummer Jeff Ballard. Some of it is completely free, some dependent on small written motifs; there's also a cover of Duke Ellington's lovely "Mount Harissa." It is rhythmic and nuanced work by a modern mainstream jazz musician playing free jazz as a choice; you can hear Archie Shepp and Lucky Thompson and Coltrane and Dewey Redman in Mr. Blake, and the group sounds great while playing what it wants to."
The New York Times - Ben Ratliff, September 25, 2005
"It's basically impossible not to enjoy Michael Blake's Trio. The tenor and soprano saxophonist gives his incisive lines a chatty demeanor, making the music seem casual, inviting. It's smoke and mirrors though. The craft behind the whole thing is deep"
The Village Voice - Jim Macnie, December 2004

Elevated (2002)

"The more refined Blake becomes as a horn player and recording artist, the more he learns about finesse. Ultimately Elevated is about his move towards gracefulness. This group is terrifically tight and as each piece presents itself, a great creative thrust is achieved. I haven't spun a more perfectly titled disc in along time."
Jim Macnie, Downbeat, June 2002
"This tenor saxophonist likes to sit on the fence between tuneful simplicity and a wilder, more avant-garde bent. Here he comes off the fence and lands squarely on the side of melody. To draw a comparison between two excellent saxophonists, Blake is the anti-Chris Potter: no virtuoso, he prefers to score points with tone and tune. In this, he's much like Miles Davis, and if a fan of Kind of Blue were to ask me why nobody's making albums like that anymore, I might make Elevated my rebuttal. Tempos are slow to medium, the mood is contemplative, structures are sometimes arcane but never at the expense of lyricism."
Paul Wells, National Post, September 2002
"Blake has climbed to the top tier of jazz artists with a bold curiosity that sees him criss-cross the musical map for ideas and inspiration."
Paul Luke, The Province, June 2002
"Elevated is more of a saxophonist's CD. He doesn't parrot or parody anyone, though; he's much to thoughtful and disciplined a musician for that."
Mark Miller, The Globe & Mail, May 2002
"If musicians like Blake can rescue the real mainstream from the hands --and mouths -- of re-creators, they can continue to prove that there's still a lot that can be created from evolutionary, as well as revolutionary, music. Undoubtedly this CD is exhibit A for the defense."
Ken Waxman, Jazz
"Unsurprisingly, Blake continues to complement his already estimable legacy, with this wondrously gorgeous follow up to the large ensemble recording, "Drift." Whether performing on tenor or soprano saxophones, Blake inadvertently reemphasizes his status as an emerging stylist who possesses a warm and sometimes whispery tone. No doubt, "Elevated" should find its way on quite a few top ten lists for 2002. Strongly recommended!"
Glen Astarita, All Music Guide,
"Michael Blake's quartet put on a fine show; alternately playful, sophisticated and richly melodic, the music on Mr. Blake's new album "Elevated" warmed the chilly room and left us hungry for more."
The Wall Street Journal - Phil Connors, March 2002

Drift (2001)

"...soulful and buoyant, Blake's tunes draw passionate performances from his group, many longtime cohorts and friends. Complex and emotional journeys provide these open-minded talents something worth reaching deep inside for. What they come up with is a very visual, cinematic-sounding record."
Josephine Ochej, Coda, Issue 300/301, 2002
"...exotic, sensuous. He's assembled an exuberant group of emerging New York players...their diversity emphasizes the saxophonist's versatility and flair for melodic improvisations."
Jon Andrews, Downbeat, August 2001
"Exquisitely crafted compositions, which are sometimes exuberant, sometimes dark and radiant, but always evocative of jazz history, both recent and ancient."
Neil Tesser, Jazziz, June 2001
"Neither reverent nor self-consciously ironic, Blake borrows whatever he needs from either extreme to synthesize an impressive and original voice."
Steve Smith, Jazztimes, June 2001
"Rarely has contemporary large-group writing sounded so effortless and free from the page."
Nate Chinen, Shwann Inside, June 2001
"More than anything, the music heard on Drift is jazz created in the moment."
Steve Graybow, Billboard, April 2001
"He eschews cleverness for the sake of cleverness and his sense of humor is free of cynicism; his intentions seem to be nothing more than exploring the pleasures of making music."
Mark Miller, The Globe & Mail, April 2001
"Lucky for us, he knows how to make the familiar sound fresh."
K. Leander Williams, Time Out NY, Issue# 291, 2001

Kingdom of Champa (1997)

" astonishingly mature and original debut CD. The music here falls provocatively beyond categorization. It's Blake's concept, not his cast, that makes Kingdom of Champa so impressive. He has written a gorgeous, seven part suite inspired by a month long sojourn in Vietnam. A CD worthy of someone like Henry Threadgill - lofty company."
Mark Miller, Globe & Mail, May 1997
"An arrestingly beautiful and imaginatively expressive showcase for his multi-reed and composing talents. This electro-acoustic theme album, an extended tone poem that recalls later Gil Evans, is, in total, a magnificent artistic achievement that transcends category."
Gene Kalbacher, CMJ, June 1997
"Blake's vision bristles with colors, textures and mystery."
Neil Tesser, Playboy, October 1997