November 17th, 12 noon at The Public Theater’s Joe's Pub in lower Manhattan, Ma*JiD will be honoring the memory of "The Godfather of Jazz Violin" John Blake Jr. with a performance of Blake’s original music. The concert is entitled “ When Questlove Met John Blake Jr.” and will feature my band: comprised of myself on the violin, piano, bass, drums, a string quartet, a youth choir from Harlem School of the Arts, and a Philadelphia-based conscience rapper named Khemist.
John Blake Jr. was a Philadelphia-based jazz violinist, who made his name playing in the bands of Grover Washington Jr. and McCoy Tyner. While a member of these famed bands, Blake also created original music which also became popular within the jazz community.
My name is Majid “Ma*JiD” Khaliq and I am a New York City-based jazz violinist, 4-time Downbeat Rising Star, Juilliard 02' Alum BM (violin), Van Lier Fellowship Award-winning composer and educator. It was during my junior year at the Juilliard School that I first came across John Blake. At the time, I was studying classical violin as part of Sally Thomas' studio and took private jazz lessons from Wynton Marsalis in my spare time. After being invited to play a master class hosted by Regina Carter in 2001, and after she saw my interest in continuing to study jazz, Ms. Carter connected me with Blake. At the time I knew nothing about Mr. Blake. However, I soon found out that he was the master violinist whose teaching inspired Regina Carter to pursuit jazz violin professionally. Finding out that Blake mentored someone whom I respected so much was inspirational. From that time up until his passing in 2014, I studied with Mr. Blake. He taught me the finer points of jazz improvisation at Queens College, where I earned my Master of Arts in Music in 2010. He encouraged me to take a more compositional approach to jazz performance by learning the piano. I had already been a composer, so John’s tutelage forced my thinking to be even more deliberate. Mr. Blake was a very humble man concerning his personal accomplishments so, I never fully understood his greatness. In 2011, Blake helped produce my first jazz album and soon after completed what would be his final recorded musical album. After the completion of his project in 2013, John fell sick with cancer. A year later he passed away surrounded by loved ones in a Philadelphia hospital. It was a challenge to lose a friend and mentor, but I forged ahead in his name.
A few years later, a respected colleague complimented me after hearing me play saying: I sounded like John Blake. He invited me to play some of John's music with Ravi Coltrane at his upcoming Village Vanguard performance. Though that performance never happened, this prompted me to immerse myself in all things John Blake. While closely studying Blake’s past compositions, I was struck by the inspiration to have my own band present his music. I was inspired to let the world know about the music of John Blake Jr. With the blessing of his son, Johnathan Blake: a well-known contemporary jazz drummer, I continued my research into the deeper history of John Blake and soon found out about his deep educational connection to Philadelphia. In an epitaph written by Questlove of the Roots, a former student of Blake’s, it became clearer to see why Blake made such a profound impact on me. Mr. Blake informed my musical interests: a brand of jazz that fuses hip-hop influences with progressive jazz influences from the creative minds of John Coltrane and McCoy Tyner. Coltrane and Tyner were also some of Blake’s biggest musical influences.
The compositions that we will be presenting at Joe’s Pub are some of John Blake’s most famous compositions.
Motherland and Women of Tomorrow were first recorded on a McCoy Tyner album released 1979 on Milestone Records named Horizons.
Paradise was title track for a Grover Washington album named Paradise released 1979 on Elektra Records.
Movin’ Up was from John Blake’s Gramavision Records album recorded 1984.
Motherless Child was title track for a John Blake Jr. album named Motherless Child released 2010 on ARC Records. This was a Grammy Nominated Album in 2010 which featured Mulgrew Miller and the Howard University Jazz Choir: Afro Blue.
All compositions will be presented and arranged by Majid Khaliq to accommodate a rhythm section, a string quartet and a solo violin. Paradise will have the addition of a rapper as part of its performance. Motherless Child will have a rapper and a choir as an added feature to the presentation.
The personnel are:
Band: Ma*JiD (Violin/Composer/Arranger/Bandleader), Jonathan Thomas (Keyboards), Dezron Douglas (Bass), Norman Paul Edwards jr. (Drums)
String Ensemble: Mayu Cipriano, Hyun-Ju Ji (Violins), Iymanni Hadiya (Viola), Joshua Epstein (Cello)
Chorus: Harlem School of the Arts Choir: The Dorothy Maynor Singers
Rapper: Philadelphia based MC, Khemist
In closing, Mr. John Blake has made a profound impact on not only myself, but many other artists. I hope that you will be able to spread the word about this concert honoring his work on November 17th at Joe's Pub.
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