Columbia University - B.A.
The Juilliard School - M.M. (2022)
Joe Block is a pianist, composer, arranger, educator, and bandleader. He began playing classical piano at the age of two before switching to jazz in middle school. While growing up in Philadelphia, a city with a rich jazz and musical tradition, he was fortunate to learn and study from older musicians on the scene and in jazz education programs at the Philadelphia Clef Club of Jazz and Performing Arts, the Kimmel Center, and Temple University. Joe currently resides in New York City where he attends both the Juilliard School (MM ‘22) and Columbia University (BA ‘21) as part of their highly selective and vigorous dual-degree exchange program. His has studied with Geoff Keezer, Marc Cary, Ted Rosenthal, Bruce Barth, and Frank Kimbrough.
Joe has had the opportunity to work and play with many esteemed musicians including Wynton Marsalis, Kurt Rosenwinkel., Leslie Odom Jr., Peter Bernstein, Ari Hoenig, Eric Alexander, Seamus Blake, Jaleel Shaw, Hannibal Lokumbe, Justin Faulkner, and The Captain Black Big Band. As a bandleader and sideman in New York and Philadelphia he has performed at numerous venues including Dizzy’s, The Django, Birdland, Smalls Jazz Club, Smoke Jazz Club, Bar Next Door, Symphony Space, Alice Tully Hall, Shapeshifter Lab, Cafe Bohemia, Chris’ Jazz Café, South Jazz Parlor, @exuberance, Kimmel Center, Philadelphia Clef Club, Hilbert Circle Theatre (Indianapolis) and the Black Cat (San Francisco). He has also performed at the Monterey Jazz Festival, Belize Jazz Festival, Montclair Jazz Festival, Mid-Atlantic Jazz Festival, Next Generation Jazz Festival, and Telluride Jazz Festival. He leads his own quintet and trio, and is the co-leader and founder of the Philadelphia Ambassador Big Band.
Joe has been nationally recognized by the National Youngarts Foundation (2017, Jazz Piano finalist and Jazz Composition honorable mention), Jazz at Lincoln Center (2016, J. Douglas White Composition Award), the Telluride Jazz Festival (2018, Telluride Jazz All-Star), and the Monterey Jazz Festival (2019, Next Generation Jazz Festival 1st Place Finalist and Outstanding Soloist). In December of 2018, he served as the musical director and pianist for Wynton Marsalis’ annual holiday fundraiser and performance at the NYC Brooks Brothers Flagship Store. In December of 2019, he played a weekend with the Kurt Rosenwinkel Quartet at Chris’ Jazz Café in Philadelphia. The following weekend, he was featured in the Ari Hoenig trio. He appears on the 2020 Grammy-nominated record “The Intangible Between” (Orrin Evans and the Captain Black Big Band).
In addition to being an instrumentalist, Joe is an avid and experienced composer and arranger (ASCAP). Hailed by Jazz at Lincoln Center as one of "jazz's most promising young composers", he has been commissioned to write or arrange music for the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis (2019, 2020), the Philadelphia Ambassador Big Band, the Juilliard Jazz Orchestra, the Wynton Marsalis Septet, and the Jazz Orchestra of Philadelphia, for which he arranged part of Gustav Holst’s “The Planets” in 2018.
Joe applies similar large ensemble compositional techniques when writing for his quintet, utilizing and capitalizing on the strengths and sounds of his band members to create something provocative, spiritual, and progressive. His willingness to take risks and explore new musical forms provides the foundation for his unique compositional voice. As a bandleader and composer, he strives for a high level of musical energy and artistic clarity, blurring the lines between past, present, and genre to deliver a sonic concept that is meaningful and affective to listeners of any background. He draws from a wide variety of compositional influences ranging from Claude Debussy to Duke Ellington to Ambrose Akinmunsurie to Johnny Mandel to Wynton Marslis to Herbie Hancock.
While Joe is a progressive thinker and musician, he is very much rooted in the jazz and classical traditions. His influences include Thelonious Monk, Bill Evans, Herbie Hancock, Duke Ellington, McCoy Tyner, Lennie Tristano, Bud Powell, Barry Harris, Teddy Wilson, Hank Jones, Sullivan Fortner, Gerald Clayton, Jacob Collier, and Brad Mehldau. He teaches private lessons in piano, theory/harmony, and composition/arranging.