Johnathan Blake – Passage
Johnathan Blake celebrated the Aug. 11 release of his sophomore Blue Note album Passage, a stirring follow-up to his acclaimed 2021 label debut Homeward Bound for which the drummer and composer reconvened his dynamic band Pentad featuring alto saxophonist Immanuel Wilkins, vibraphonist Joel Ross, pianist David Virelles, and bassist Dezron Douglas. Dedicated to Blake’s father and musical mentor, jazz violinist John Blake, Jr., Passage captures the arc of personal and collective evolution: the passing from one moment to the next, from one phase into another. “Passage picks up where Homeward Bound leaves off,” says Blake. “It’s a celebration of my father’s life and legacy.”
The album presents five of Blake’s own compositions in addition to pieces by Douglas, Virelles, and the late drummer and composer Ralph Peterson. The emotional centerpiece is the vibrant title track “Passage,” which was composed by Blake’s father and captures his musical personality as a reflection of the person he was and the life he lived. Orchestrating different sections, Blake spotlights tricky harmonic movement through the piece. Wilkins’ solo sets up the energetic duality for the entire record: poised yet relaxed, a quiet confidence.
Passage presents the quintet at an elevated level of consciousness and artistry. A celebration of life and longing, the album pays tribute to those who have touched Blake’s life and shaped his music. And the best way for Blake to honor their spirits and preserve their legacy is to cultivate an interconnectedness among listeners and his fellow artists: “This record really shows the level of trust we’ve achieved together. Pentad is a brotherhood — five entities coming together to form one sound.”