Photos by: Melissa Dispenza
Saxophonist, clarinetist, and composer Dan Block was named the winner of the BMI Foundation’s 17th annual Charlie Parker Jazz Composition Prize and Manny Albam Commission at the 28th annual BMI Jazz Composers Workshop Concert, held on June 22, 2016, at the Christ and St. Stephen’s Church in New York City. The award is presented annually for the best original work created in the BMI Jazz Composers Workshop, an internationally renowned forum for big band composition, and honors the memory of jazz icon Charlie Parker. Block’s piece, “Madrigal,” was chosen as the winning work by a distinguished judging panel that included GRAMMY-winning musician Wynton Marsalis, jazz legend Jimmy Heath, and leading trombonist/composer Alan Ferber. Jazz pianists/composers Helen Sung and Steven Feifke were also named runners up in the competition.
Included in the Prize is a $3,000 commission, named in honor of the Workshop’s late founder and longtime musical director Manny Albam, to write a new work for premiere at the following year’s showcase concert. Last year’s Prize winner Miho Hazama premiered her new work, “Infinite Factors,” during the 28th annual event. Block will premiere his commissioned piece at next year’s concert.
Dan Block has a dual reputation in the jazz world. He is a mainstream player, yet is known as a specialist in traditional jazz. He is also very diverse, fitting like a chameleon in a host of musical genres on a host of instruments. He has worked as a sideman with Toshiko Akioshi, Frank Wess, Richard Wyands, Wynton Marsalis (Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra) Harry Allen, Jerry Dodgion, and Howard Alden. In the more traditional jazz vein he has worked frequently with Vince Giordano, Marty Grosz, and Judy Carmichael. Quite a bit of his work has been with singers, working and recording with Michael Feinstein, Natalie Cole, Anne Hampton Calloway, Bobby Short, Linda Ronstadt, and Rosemary Clooney. Dan is a regular on the Jazz Party circuit, playing every year at Chautauqua, the past three years at Norwich, as well as the Atlanta, Willmington, Elkhart, and San Diego festivals.
Block’s clarinet and saxophone playing have been heard in a number of motion pictures including The Aviator, The Good Shepherd, Revolutionary Road, as well as the HBO series Boardwalk Empire, directed by Martin Scorsese. He has also played on countless radio and television commercials. He has recorded numerous projects for Arbors Records, Concord, and Music Minus One. His latest albums Almost Modern and From His World to Mine received excellent reviews internationally.
Dan Block has the kind of musical focus that comes with real experience. Classically trained (Juilliard 1980), he has played every style and genre of music including salsa, Caribbean music, and klezmer, which have come together in him to form a unique sound: his own. For more information, visit danblockmusic.com.