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CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Ran Blake: Plays Solo Piano

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ESP Disk's 50th anniversary reissue series continues to unearth valuable documents from the history of cutting edge music. Back in the 1960s, when jazz was becoming marginalized as popular music and disenfranchised by the rise of rock-and-roll, ESP chose to eliminate musical classifications that pigeonholed creative music. The label released music by Albert Ayler and Gato Barbieri at the same time it was producing The Fugs and Pearls Before Swine. This re-release of pianist Ran Blake's Plays Solo Piano is a, admirable illustration of not only ESP's vision, but the dynamic nature of jazz. Recorded in 1965, when ...

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At the Corner: Ran Blake / Sara Serpa / Christine Correa

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The common element between Sara Serpa's Aurora and Christine Correa's Down Here Below is obviously pianist Ran Blake. Enigmatic to a fault, Blake has made a potent name for himself among improvised music enthusiasts. Blake is an intellectual amalgam of pianists Thelonious Monk and Martial Solal distilled to a dissonant essence. A long time professor at the New England Conservatory, Blake has taken many under his tutelage, specifically singers, beginning with Jeanne Lee on The Newest Sound Around (BMG, 1962) . Two contemporary singers claiming Blake as a mentor are Sara Serpa and Christine Correa, who each ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Sara Serpa / Ran Blake: Aurora

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Aurora is vocalist Sara Serpa's second release with her mentor, pianist Ran Blake. A duet recital recorded live at Lisbon's Auditório da Culturges, despite being more laidback and slightly less adventurous, it is just as creative as the pair's engrossing Camera Obscura (Inner Circle, 2010). Serpa and Blake's sparse and atmospheric delivery of these dozen songs is inventive, intellectually stimulating and satisfying. The cinematic “Dr. Mabuse" features Serpa's wordless vocals, moving from wistfully contemplative to fiercely passionate, while her chilling and restrained a cappella rendition of singer Billie Holiday's iconic “Strange Fruit" subtly exposes the bitter chagrin ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Sara Serpa / Ran Blake: Aurora

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Portuguese vocalist Sara Serp's follow-up to Camera Obscura (Inner Circle, 2010), with renowned pianist Ran Blake, retains the fresh and irreverent approach of their debut. A former student of Blake's the two never sound obvious or predictable, even when they are interpreting popular jazz standards. Their versions offer deeper and often innocent insights to some of these most memorable songs. Aurora's 12 songs were recorded live in Serpa's hometown of Lisbon, and demonstrates the duo's highly personal taste and knowledge of the jazz repertoire, as would be expected from Blake. Throughout, Serpa and Blake stress a unique ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Ran Blake and Christine Correa: Down Here Below

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Starting with the inimitable Jeanne Lee, pianist Ran Blake has been collaborating with adventurous vocalists for half a century. These are singers who are not satisfied by merely parroting the old repertoire in the same tried and true, but also musty and tired way. These are musicians whose vocal cords command close listening, as is the case with the Mumbai-born and New York-based Christine Correa. This Abbey Lincoln tribute, Down Here Below, is the third time Correa and Blake have recorded together over a span of 18 years. Lincoln, a musical giant, was a major influence on ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Ran Blake: Vilnius Noir

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Although recorded in concert in a church in the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius Noir has the feel of eavesdropping on a late night conversation between two old friends who don't need to say very much for the other to grasp the intended meaning. Although guitarist David “Knife" Fabris hails from a different generation than pianist composer Ran Blake, they share a sophisticated approach to the material at hand in this set of duos and solos. They met at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston where Blake led the Contemporary Improvisation Department (formerly Third Stream Department). Fabris, whose muse leads ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Ran Blake / Christine Correa: Out of the Shadows

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The spectacular second coupling of pianist Ran Blake and vocalist Christine Correa, Out of the Shadows is one of the most extraordinary albums of 2010. Both are wonderful storytellers in their own right. Music appears to flow and gush and foam through Blake's body, breaking in waves from his hands and fingertips as they flutter and fly and splash across the keyboard of the piano. As this happens, each note and phrase and metaphor tells a story like a film of life unravelling, reel after reel. The work of Federico Fellini comes immediately to mind. Like that other master, Blake ...



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