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Billy Childs And John Blake At Mt. Hood

In the late 1990s, JazzSet made two visits to the Mt. Hood Jazz Festival in Gresham, Ore. Music started before noon, and as the sun burned the haze away, the snow-capped peak shimmered on the skyline, helping to inspire memorable performances by the Billy Childs Trio and the John Blake Quintet.

Childs has been a rapid riser in the jazz community. When he was 21, in 1988, he released his now-rare solo piano recording Take For Example, This. In the mid-'90s, Chick Corea signed Childs to Stretch Records for the album I've Known Rivers; the trio plays the title track in this set.

On Aug. 3, 1997, Childs came up to Mt. Hood from Los Angeles to play in a Dizzy Gillespie tribute band, and pulled bassist John Lee and drummer Ignacio Berroa into an impromptu trio. Conservatively dressed in a corduroy jacket, Childs met the heat of the sun with his own fire. Since 1997, he has worked extensively with Dianne Reeves, Sting and Chris Botti, won two Grammy Awards and been nominated for eight for his compositions and arrangements. It's great, and a little rare, to hear him play in an open situation like this.

John Blake Jr. comes from a Philadelphia family of storytellers and musicians. On Aug. 2, 1998, he and his quintet had the distinction of traveling the farthest to come play a set at Mt. Hood. Sumi Tonooka, one of the first musicians ever on JazzSet back in 1992, is on piano. Stefon Harris' vibes and Blake's violin are a sweet combination. Russian-born Boris Kozlov and Johnathan Blake were the Mingus Big Band's bass and drums then, and sometimes now.

John Blake first recorded "Motherland" on the McCoy Tyner LP Horizon. Recently, Blake has composed a "fiddle celebration" spanning music of bowed string instruments from Mali, Ghana and Senegal to American plantations to spirituals and blues. He's also re-harmonizing spirituals for the Howard University vocal group Afro-Blue.

Copyright 2008 WBGO

Becca Pulliam