Saxophonist Ron Blake has been an integral part of the New York music scene, performing and recording worldwide, since 1992. The Virgin Islands native has released four recordings as a leader and has appeared on over 60 recordings as a sideman or special guest. Since his introduction to Jazz, Blake began performing in the Chicago area under the guidance of luminaries Von Freeman, Willie Pickens, and Wilbur Campbell. Blake began appearing behind Jazz greats with the Chicago Jazz Orchestra in the late 1980’s, including Clark Terry, Louis Bellson, Nancy Wilson, and Cab Calloway. The list of Chicago musicians that contributed to his development is lengthy, but Blake credits his growth as a versatile musician to his primary teacher, Dr. Frederick L. Hemke, with whom he completed undergraduate studies in classical performance from Northwestern University in 1986.
Blake has performed internationally as a member of the Roy Hargrove Quintet, Art Farmer, Roy Haynes, the Christian McBride Band, Meshell NdegeOcello & Spirit Music Jamia, Yerba Buena, and the Juilliard Jazz Quartet. He won a Grammy for his recording with the Christian McBride Big Band, The Good Feeling, in 2012, and was nominated for a Grammy on Yerba Buena’s debut release, President Alien. Blake is co-founder of the 21st Century Band, alongside fellow Virgin Islander Dion Parson, a Caribbean Jazz band dedicated to combining the essence of jazz performance with the rhythms of Caribbean music.
He is currently in his 12th season as a member of the Saturday Night Live Band on NBC. Always interested in education, Blake often returned to the Virgin Islands to teach in summer music programs during his secondary and collegiate years, and received his first appointment as a saxophone instructor at his alma mater, the Interlochen Arts Academy, in 1986. Other appointments included the University of South Florida, Michigan State University, and NYU. He received an appointment to the faculty of the Juilliard School in 2007. Blake completed his Master’s Degree in Jazz Studies from NYU in 2010. He remains committed to the development of music education in his native VI through his involvement with the VI United Jazz Foundation.
In January of 2014, Blake was recognized for his accomplishments in music performance and education by the Virgin Islands Legislature along with the members of the 21st Century Band.