The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Modern jazzman Blake Shaw to play at Iowa City Jazz Festival

Blake Shaw has made an impact on the growing Iowa City jazz scene precluding his involvement in the upcoming Iowa City Jazz Festival.
Kate Heston
Blake Shaw poses for a photo at the intermission of his and Dan Padley’s show outside Goosetown Cafe on the evening of Oct. 7, 2020.

Cornell College and Mount Mercy College jazz professor Blake Shaw has taken the stage at the Iowa City Jazz Festival for several years — and will again this year as the 2024 event runs from July 5-7.

All of Shaw’s stage performances will include reworkings of jazz classics created by Duke Ellington to include more pop-minded notes like the work of the Beatles. 

Blake, who is also a University of Iowa alumnus, is seen on the weekends jamming and orchestrating music with many big bands for the past three years. Along with his work at Mount Mercy and Cornell College, Shaw conducts private classes. 

His constant movement with all of his instruments and equipment still gives him satisfaction after being in the music business for so long. 

Shaw, after working in the industry for the majority of his life, consistently finds the genre unique and said the music opens up emotions for those listening.

“What is so special about jazz is the musicians that are specifically playing specific sounds to make you feel a certain way, which is somewhat a weird feeling,” Shaw said.

Jay LeaVesseur, the general manager of the Graduate Hotel — a venue Shaw plays every other week — is thrilled to have Shaw in his musical rotation.

“Shaw is an outstanding ambassador for the musical scene in Iowa City,” LeaVesseur said.

He is excited to see the Iowa City jazz scene grow and flourish with the talented community of jazz lovers in the city. Shaw is creating new opportunities for new artists and adding them to be a part of the expanding scene.

“I am hoping everyone will find something to love in this performance,” Shaw said, anticipating something special coming for this week. “[I’m] bringing a little taste of everything.”

Shaw wants to pull from his extensive catalog of songs, bringing back oldies and some new ensembles he has made specifically for this stage. 

Jazz, while not being the most popular music genre, does not hold Shaw back from trying to pioneer new songs.

“Jazz can be a little bit too much, a little overwhelming for some,” he said.

He makes the music that he wants to create and gathers listeners that may have thought that originally.

“I have learned to appreciate jazz more with my relationship with Blake,” LeaVesseur said. “He is such a wonderful musician.”

Whether coming to the Iowa City Jazz Festival as a new fan or as someone ingrained in the scene, Shaw is trying to lift the experience.

Shaw wants everyone to feel the passion and respect he has for this music and at the end of the day to share that love. 

“I wouldn’t call myself a jazz expert, but I am hearing something new,” LeaVesseur said. “There is a feeling of discovery and exploration.”

More to Discover
About the Contributor