T.K. Blue

T.K. Blue, also known as Talib Kibwe, was born in New York City of a Trinidadian mother and Jamaican father. T.K. began playing music at the age of 8 years old on trumpet. After two years his interest shifted to academic and athletic endeavors… He returned to his musical studies in High School while playing the flute.

He took lessons from Billy Mitchell, the legendary tenor saxophonist with Count Basie and Dizzy Gillespie, eventually pursuing music as a career after receiving a full academic scholarship to New York University, where he began playing soprano & alto saxophone. He earned a bachelor’s degree in both music and psychology. T.K. Blue went on to earn a master’s degree in music education from Teacher’s College at Columbia University.

T.K.Blue photo credit by R.Andrew Lepley
“Coming to Jazzmobile in NYC is what did it for me. I got involved with Jazzmobile, where we studied jazz theory, harmony, sight- reading, rhythmic training, improvisation and big-band performance. It was just like going to school. I studied with Jimmy Heath, Chris Woods, Ernie Wilkins, Frank Foster, Sonny Red and Jimmy Owens. Thad Jones and Billy Taylor would come by from time to time to give their knowledge and support.”

T.K. also studied at Jazz Interactions with Rashaan Roland Kirk, Yusef Lateef and Joe Newman. He also studied at The Henry Street Settlement with Billy Mitchell and Paul West and at The Muse with world-renowned bassist Reggie Workman.

T.K.Blue photo credit by R.Andrew Lepley

While living in the East Village of NYC during his undergraduate studies, T.K. took lessons from many elders. An early highlight in his career was when he played with Don Cherry at the famous “5 Spot” jazz club in Greenwich Village. T.K. also studied with Nadi Qamar and learned how to play the African hand piano or kalimba. Jaki Byard hired T.K. to play in a band called The Apollo Stompers.

Abdullah Ibrahim, the great South African pianist formerly known as Dollar Brand hired T.K. ” I was able to develop when I was in Abdullah’s band because he didn’t put any restraints on me in soloing. It’s an honor and privilege to be in the company of masters when they let you stretch out.” Working in this band offered the opportunity for Kibwe to travel to many nations and deliver performances via many media forms, while absorbing the music and culture of people around the world.