In today’s jazz scene it is a rare occurrence when a musician is truly versed in a myriad of styles, from the earliest New Orleans traditions to the modal jazz of the 1960s and 70s. Dan Block is one of those rare individuals fitting like a chameleon on a host of instruments into a host of musical genres. He persistently searches for connections in the history of the music and finds his style, and to quote one of his favorite authors Kurt Vonnegut, remains “unstuck in time”.
A native of St. Louis, Block took up the saxophone just short of his fourteenth birthday, trumpet soon after, and clarinet the following year. An indelible memory was hearing Eubie Blake at the St. Louis Ragtime Festival and being exposed to the music of John Coltrane for the first time all in the same week. Classical music and Great American Songbook standards were constantly playing in his home and he was deeply influenced by both. As his clarinet studies progressed he settled on becoming a classical player, but could never leave the realm of jazz. While at Juilliard he had an opportunity to play on Charles Mingus’ last album which featured a ‘who’s who” of saxophonists, trumpet players, trombonists and rhythm section players. He explored the loft scene, and played jam sessions with many of the up and coming musicians as well as the veterans. As a student at Juilliard he worked with the legendary guru of the saxophone, Joe Allard, and was coached in chamber music by the great oboist Robert Bloom. As a member of the Juilliard Orchestra he was fortunate enough to play under the baton of Leonard Bernstein, George Solti and Zubin Mehta. A friendship began with Wynton Marsalis who also was a student there at the time, and that friendship continues to this day. Dan works frequently with the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra. After graduating, he found himself working with Haitian musicians and discovering the roots of jazz in this West Indian Diaspora. The popular music known as “Compas Direct” has the same beat and bass line as traditional jazz and in this genre Block found his true style. He became famous in that community as a player and arranger on some fifteen different record albums (not included on the discography), and traveled extensively in Haiti, Martinique, Guadeloupe, France and Quebec. After leaving the Haitian scene, Block continued to hone his skills as an arranger, writing for various chamber groups in both classical and "jazz crossover" genres, most notably a suite of four Monk compositions commissioned by the New York Saxophone Quartet, and recorded on their release "Urbanology". At the same time he began working with Vince Giordano’s Nighthawks, probably the most authentic repertory band of the 1920s and 30s in the world. Over the years he has continued with Vince, appearing at such venues as the Newport Jazz Festival, the 92nd St. Y and Jazz at Lincoln Center. He has become well known in traditional jazz circles, playing with luminaries like Ralph Sutton, John Bunch and Warren Vache, and in more modern circles working with Bennie Wallace, Tom Harrell, Howard Johnson and Dave Leibman His conservatory background enabled Block to supplement his living working in Broadway pits and freelance orchestras, including The Orchestra of St. Lukes, The New York Chamber Symphony, Orpheus, The New York City Ballet and The New York Pops. He has been heard on numerous television and radio commercials as well as motion picture and television soundtracks. Most recently Dan’s clarinet and saxophone were heard extensively on the soundtrack to the new HBO series “Boardwalk Empire”. The compilation CD from the show just won a Grammy award. Block’s playing has a thematic quality that has proven valuable to singers, and he has worked with quite a few of them including Rosemary Clooney, Michael Feinstein, Bobby Short and Catherine Russell. As a frequent contributing artist at jazz parties such as Atlanta, San Diego, Chautauqua and Norwich, Block has formed a strong working relationship with likes of Bucky Pizzarelli, Scott Hamilton, Dan Barrett, Jake Hannah and Joe Wilder. At various festivals and venues he has found himself sharing the stage with people such as Clark Terry, Roland Hannah, Lewis Nash and Benny Green. He received four stars from Downbeat for his most recent CD "Duality, and placed fourth for clarinet in the Downbeat critics poll. Currently Dan is playing the Broadway show "After Midnight", the critically acclaimed musical featuring the Jazz at Lincoln Center All Stars, a band handpicked by Wynton Marsalis. What Block enjoys most of all though is communication. Weaving contrapuntal lines with a like minded instrumentalist is the most challenging and to him the highest form of jazz music. Playing collectively with guitarist Joe Cohn or fellow reed player Scott Robinson provides a kind of real intimacy among musicians, the kind of meeting of the minds that takes place when real musicians talk to each other, not just peddle their wares and show off their chops. As a teacher of jazz history Block stresses these connections throughout the story of this hundred year old art form, condensing it into one language. We cannot remain separated in our own musical cliques for music to move forward; we must come together and talk to one another.


Education
Indiana University 1974-76
Juilliard School BM 1979, MM 1980

Teachers
Ben Armato (Metropolitan Opera)
Earl Bates (St. Louis Symphony and Indiana University)
Leon Russianoff (Juilliard)
Joseph Allard (NBC Symphony, Bell Telephone Hour, Juilliard)
Jazz studies with Steve Grossman

Big band work
Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra
Toshiko Akyoshi Jazz Orchestra
David Berger Jazz Orchestra
Maria Schneider Jazz Orchestra
Ken Peplowski Big Band
Vince Giordano’s Nighthawks
Mingus Band
Gerry Mulligan Concert Jazz Band

Small groups
Frank Wess
Jerry Dodgion
Richard Wyands
Marty Grosz
Tom Harrell
Harry Allen "Four Others"
Benny Wallace
Steven Bernstein "Millennium Territory Ensemble"
Jack McDuff

Vocalists
Michael Feinstein
Bobby Short
Linda Ronstadt
Anne Hampton Calloway
Natalie Cole
Rosemary Clooney

Movie Soundtracks
The Aviator
Revolutionary Road
He Good Shepherd
Notorious
Meet the Robinsons
The Great Debaters

Teaching
New School
College of Staten Island



“Dan Block always sounds good whatever the call. I’ve had the pleasure of hearing him in jam sessions and have worked with him as a member of Jerry Dodgion’s “Joy of Sax” and he has performed with my nonet at Dizzy’s Coca-Cola Room. He’s always on the case. Please don’t miss this opportunity to enjoy Dan Block.”

FRANK WESS



It takes a singular talent to be able to simultaneously honor tradition and find new expression in a classic body of work. Dan Block has the blessing of being able to draw upon myriad musical styles to perform wonders with these rare Ellington compositions. His fluidity and incredible tone, coupled with a 21st century approach make those among the most unique Ellington performances I have ever experienced”

MICHAEL FEINSTEIN