579

Ran Blake: Driftwoods

By

Sign in to view read count
Ran Blake: Driftwoods 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 on all of the pieces here. Never once does a cliche emerge from his fingers as he infuses these works with a personal and carefully chosen character all his own.



Opening with Tommy Goodman and Peter Udell's "Driftwood" is as apt a beginning as could be hoped for, as both the title and mood inhabit Blake's realm entirely. "Dancing in the Dark," popularized by Sarah Vaughan, follows in two parts as Blake dances lightly around the melody before brief spurts of complex and moody chords reshape the work.



Hank Williams' "Lost Highway" is completely transformed from its country crooner roots into a work whose contrast between spacious detail and rural feel recasts it as a viable improvisational setting. Milton Nascimento's "Cancao do Sol," a Brazilian standard, is similarly reshaped into Blake's language.



Despite their being some of the most identifiable and commonly covered works on the album, George and Ira Gershwin's "I Loves You, Porgy" and Billie Holiday's "Strange Fruit" stand back-to-back here. Even with such recognizable material at hand, Blake's ability to infuse the melodies with new shapes and colors makes these classics his own.



Blake's natural sense of mood is further utilized on "Pawnbroker," the title track from Quincy Jones' score of the film. Stating that "film and voice are my two favorite mediums of expression" certainly applies to the proceedings as his ability to sound as though he is accompanying action makes this film piece all the more apt. This knack for soundtracking is once more apparent on the gospel song "There's Been a Change," a work written by Blake's childhood pastor.



Exploring Charles Mingus' work through "Portrait" is a natural choice for Blake's bluesy harmonic complexities. Indeed, some of his playing is reminiscent of Mingus' own explorations on piano. The disc closes with "You Are My Sunshine," a summery rendition of the classic that fits in nicely with the entire feel of this beautiful album.


Track Listing: Driftwood; Dancing in the Dark 2; Dancing in the Dark 1; Lost Highway; Unforgettable; Cancao do Sol; No More; I Loves You, Porgy; Strange Fruit; Pawnbroker; There's Been a Change; Portrait; I'm Going to Tell God; You Are My Sunshine.

Personnel: Ran Blake: piano.

Title: Driftwoods | Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: Tompkins Square


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Crossing CD/LP/Track Review Crossing
by Geno Thackara
Published: June 25, 2017
Read Unit[e] CD/LP/Track Review Unit[e]
by Karl Ackermann
Published: June 25, 2017
Read Such A Sky CD/LP/Track Review Such A Sky
by Bruce Lindsay
Published: June 25, 2017
Read Buer: Book Of Angels Volume 31 CD/LP/Track Review Buer: Book Of Angels Volume 31
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: June 25, 2017
Read BACHanalia CD/LP/Track Review BACHanalia
by Jack Bowers
Published: June 24, 2017
Read Hallways CD/LP/Track Review Hallways
by Paul Rauch
Published: June 24, 2017
Read "Another Time: The Hilversum Concert" CD/LP/Track Review Another Time: The Hilversum Concert
by Geno Thackara
Published: June 3, 2017
Read "Clockwise / The Music of Cedar Walton" CD/LP/Track Review Clockwise / The Music of Cedar Walton
by Jack Bowers
Published: March 11, 2017
Read "Cactus" CD/LP/Track Review Cactus
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: August 24, 2016
Read "Music Box Music" CD/LP/Track Review Music Box Music
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: February 8, 2017
Read "Together, As One" CD/LP/Track Review Together, As One
by Roger Farbey
Published: August 7, 2016
Read "Colors for the Masters" CD/LP/Track Review Colors for the Masters
by C. Andrew Hovan
Published: August 6, 2016

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.