When I learned that WKCR recently featured my irreverent jazz recording of the Bach Double Concerto on its Bachfest program, I sat down and listened to it again for the first time in a long while. It instantly brought back so many fond memories of time spent with my dear friend and mentor John Blake Jr, a pioneering jazz violinist (pictured in the white hoodie). I'd asked John to arrange the Bach piece for me as part of an album we were set to record at Tony Bennett's studio in 2003.
Whenever I'd talk to John in the years since -- usually once every few months or so -- he'd always mention that album we collaborated on. "Man I've been listening to your CD!" he'd say.
I remember waking up one day and feeling that I needed to call him. It was a distinct sense of urgency unlike any other. And I can remember the nausea that set in when, after days of calling him, I heard nothing. I knew he'd been ill.
By the time I found out that he had been admitted to the hospital, he had already passed away. He had been admitted just one day before I called.
That urgency to talk to John again has never left me. I miss him intensely.
In memory of my friend, here is John's arrangement of the Bach Double Concerto