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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 ...

BAILEY'S BUNDLES

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 ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Ran Blake & Anthony Braxton: A Memory Of Vienna

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On November 19, 1988, a few days before the Cool Noir music festival in Vienna, composer Franz Koglmann finished recording Orte Der Geometrie (Hatart) with his Pipetet a couple hours earlier than expected. A number of high profile artists and musicians were in attendance for the festival, so efforts were made to utilize the remaining pre-paid studio time. Pianist Ran Blake was on hand, as a special guest of the Pipetet, and composer/multi-instrumentalist Anthony Braxton had just stopped by the studio. The idea of recording Blake and Braxton as a duo arose, inspired in part by their duet on the ...

INTERVIEWS

Ran Blake: Lurking in the Shadows

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If you close your eyes while listening to Ran Blake's Driftwoods (Tompkins Square, 2009), you may find yourself transported into the grainy, low-key black and white world of a 1940s or '50s classic noir film. Try to leave the theater and something quietly, without much fanfare draws you back into the story. This is the music of Ran Blake. While the vaguely familiar exists, there's enough hidden in the shadows of Driftwoods to make each listen seem like a world premiere.

His interpretations of the classic, traditionally vocal pieces contained on Driftwoods certainly require active participation by the ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Ran Blake: Driftwoods

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Ever since pianist Ran Blake released his debut recordings on The Newest Sound Around (RCA, 1962) with vocalist Jeanne Lee, he has been a leading voice in the original interpretation of classic standards. With the solo outing Driftwoods, Blake dedicates an entire album to the interpretation of songs popularized by his favorite singers, a list which includes such divergent voices as Billie Holiday, Mahalia Jackson, and Hank Williams.

Blake's noir-like approach to the piano, with his open sense of harmony and time as well as the deep and beautiful melancholy which ingrains his playing, is present ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Ran Blake: All That Is Tied

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Of the plethora of pianist/composers who have extended the style of Thelonious Monk, none has been as relentlessly exploratory and consistently thoughtful in his experiments as Ran Blake. On this session recorded four decades after his first solo piano album on ESP, Blake revisits material he's recorded in the past, but Blake has never remotely repeated his interpretations routinely. At the age of 70, he will hardly routinize his repetoire now. Blake performs the twelve numbers with characteristic daring. The Monk influence has grown refined over the deacdes. It began with a foregrounding of Monk's surprising dissonances ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Ran Blake: All That Is Tied

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Ran Blake is still spry at 70. The pianist's thoughts are as fertile as one could ever wish them to be, and he makes fulsome use of them as he enunciates with authority on All That Is Tied, a solo recording made forty years after his first album. Time has not stilled his passion; it still beats strongly within him, along with his sense for discovery. Blake is always alert for a new direction which will spring a surprise. His sense of fun is an integral part of his makeup, and he continues to explore it delightfully.

Blake values melody ...

MULTIPLE REVIEWS

Free Association; Duologues; Indian Winter

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It's an accepted fact that Jim Hall is considered one of the most influential electric guitarists in the history of jazz. In fact, December 4, 2005 is his 75th birthday and he is celebrating at the Village Vanguard that week. Two of Hall's most famous recordings are Undercurrent and Intermodulation, duets with pianist Bill Evans. Indeed, that is what links these 3 CDs: guitar-piano duets.

Jim Hall/Geoff Keezer Free Association ArtistShare 2005

On Free Association Jim Hall intermodulates with Geoffrey Keezer, starting off with the gutsy yet joyous Hall composition “End the Beguine. With ...

INTERVIEWS

Ran Blake: From Music to Film and Back

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By Matana Roberts More than a four-decade career as a recording artist, a winner of numerous iconic awards (including being named a Mac Arthur fellow in 1988) with more than 30 recordings to his credit collaborating with artists creatively diverse as saxophonist/composer Anthony Braxton, pianist Jaki Byard, and saxophonist Ricky Ford, pianist Ran Blake’s music still sounds fresh, alive and unmistakably matchless. In the following interview Ran really was true to form - full of wisdom and beautiful crystallized memories surrounding a myriad of thoughts that just flowed like the Hudson on a warm breezy day. The ...



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