Back in 1946, Ran Blake
watched The Spiral Staircase
and was rather freaked. This classic chiller's opening scene shows a silent film flickering whilst a woman accompanies the visuals on piano. Blake later composed his own piano sketches for each character and wrote fan letters to the entire cast. His only reply came from Carlton, the housekeeper's sleepy bulldog, via a paw print autograph.
Blake also claims a childhood interest in Irish ghost stories and church spirituals. Thus inspired, he would get up during the night to quietly caress the family piano. Five decades into his notable career and those early influences still linger. A devotee of noirish aspects, his playing retains an air of intimacy and stillness. Not that he can't also stun you with a single note, for Blake often emits a right rumpus amid the tenderness. Likewise, brute force is sometimes employed by Christine Correa
as a singer, but all within the realm of erotic shadows. So the two artists are a dream pairing, that no music streaming service could recommend better.
Which leads us neatly onto the album title. As an eminent teacher, Blake refers to "streaming" as a route to finding one's artistic path. Prospective students are grilled on their aims and ideals before being taken on. We also note the importance of the Third Stream concept for Blake, wherein different genres combine to offer infinite new sounds.
Jazz and classical are two of several modes that converge on Streaming
. A cover of "Don't Explain" avoids the sweeping melodrama of Billie Holiday
's version, to emerge in Correa's hands as something confessional, like she's spilling all into a voicemail. Her intense tone ranges from vehement to vulnerable, being more akin to a Dagmar Krause or Sarah Bernstein
than, say, Annie Ross
or Diana Krall
. "Lonely Woman" sees Correa unleash a cry that makes loneliness sound desolate and riotous by turns. Her gossipy vocal holds you rapt on "Bebopper," she turns jazz diva for "All About Ronnie," then burns with mystic fervour on a traditional Sephardic piece that feels an hour too short.
All the while, Blake remains quizzical and flirtatious at his keyboard. He takes us deep into solitude, stays eerily metronomic elsewhere, or goes soul-searching on the three "Stratusphunk" sketches by George Russell
Much like The Spiral Staircase
, this album is a product of painstaking craft and compelling performances. But only what you'd expect from two experts in shadows and light, whose music sends thrills down the spine.
Don’t Explain; Out of This World; Lonely Woman; Stratusphunk I; Bebopper; All About Ronnie; Ah, El Novio No Quere Dinero; Stratusphunk II; Love Dance; Wende; Stratusphunk III; No More.
Ran Blake: piano; Christine Correa: voice.