Our players are so important and we accomplish a lot together. Many of the musicians have been involved since the forming of the band and it's this unity in both our playing and musical appreciation that makes the band special...
Leader: Nicholas Blake
"Nicholas Blake is a passionate and driven composer, arranger and saxophonist focused on creating a new and exciting repertoire for the contemporary jazz ensemble. With a constantly growing library of original arrangements and compositions Nick has been providing commissioned works and bespoke scores for Big Bands of all levels and music educators for over a decade. After his studies in Adelaide he began successfully teaching saxophones, clarinet and flute in many primary and secondary schools throughout Adelaide, South Australia. Nick directed various ensembles at these schools and was highly active in developing their repertoire as a composer and arranger. School touring played an essential part of the curriculum taking ensembles to interstate competitions and an educational tour of Japan in 2003.
Nick moved to Oxfordshire in 2005 and in 2007 founded Oxfordshire based Blake's Heaven Big Band, to date he has written the entire repertoire for the ensemble; in excess of 180 compositions and arrangements. This unique and remarkable band has performed with lead trumpeter Bobby Shew of the Buddy Rich Big Band, lead tenor saxophonist Tom E Politzer from the American funk and soul band Tower of Power, and Tevis Laukat CEO of Cannonball Musical Instruments to name but a few of the guest artists they have supported.
Nick has had three commissioned works performed at Birmingham Symphony Hall. In March 2012 he wrote the final piece for the Oxfordshire County Music Service Spring Concert for the massed Big Band with guest soloist Simon Bates on tenor saxophone. In March 2014 the final piece for Oxfordshire County Music Service Spring Concert for the massed Big Band but this time with the addition of a fifty piece string section and two lead vocalists. In 2016 he was again commissioned to compose a feature work for big band celebrating the Oxfordshire County Music Service’s 75th anniversary of active service in music education.
As a saxophonist Nick has performed extensively across the UK and Europe including his own works at Ronnie Scott's jazz club for the 2009 London Jazz Festival. For over 4 years he played with Chris Smith and his String of Pearls Orchestra. He recently performed at the EDP Cool Jazz Festival in Lisbon, Portugal with New York pop orchestra Escort as the headline act. From 2016 Nick joined the horn section of legendary 60’s soul singer Geno Washington and the Ram Jam Band touring throughout the UK and Europe.
More locally he has released on original funk album “Blake Shake: Funk Biscuit” with his singer and flautist wife Linda at the 2018 Goring Gap Festival also supporting Mica Paris.
After a successful performance at the Oxford Golf Club, Blake’s Heaven Big Band will be debuting their new show “Big Band Theory: Evolution” at the Wallingford Corn Exchange in South Oxfordshire March 9th.
Mike Wilkins; soprano, alto, tenor and baritone saxophones, flute and clarinet
Otto Caretta; soprano, alto and tenor saxophones
Nicholas Blake; soprano, alto, tenor and baritone saxophones, flute and clarinet
Alan Hook; baritone saxophone
Phil Chaundy; soprano, alto and tenor saxophones
James Lowe; trumpet and flugel horn
Andy Townsend; trumpet and flugel horn
Phil Dobbie; trumpet and flugel horn
Andy Boyd; trumpet and flugel horn
Ross Law; trombone
Andy Crompton; trombone
Matt Sanders; trombone
Malcolm Gunningham; bass trombone
Linda Blake; vocals and percussion
Julian Bown; drums
Chas Maguire; bass
Jeff Young; keys
Want to join the band? Currently the band has all positions filled but some opportunities are available to cover rehearsal seats (Oxford area) when members cannot attend. If you are interested, an experienced sight reader and improviser please get in touch below: