August, 2007

Ran Blake Newsletter
News From Ran Blake HQ

August 2007

At Piano

Welcome to the August issue of Ran’s monthly newsletter.

Chris Connor Course Wraps Up

open forum gets favorable Globe review

chrisRan’s summer class on the jazz vocalist Chris Connor went well, with strong attendance and good reviews for the August 14 open forum. There were many highlights, including a memorable phone call to Connor in New Jersey in which Bill McDonough interviewed Connor’s longtime manager, Lori Muscarelle; Dinan Messiqua sang “All About Ronnie” in French; the class interviewed Connor; and the class sang “Happy Birthday” in honor of Connor’s 80th birthday.

The Boston Globe‘s Kevin Lowenthal reviewed the evening in an August 16 story titled “A Heartfelt, and Tuneful Tribute.” Excerpts follow:

“…Much of Tuesday’s concert was spent listening to Connor’s classic recordings, interspersed with reminiscences, illuminating appreciations, and musical performances … Standouts included James Merenda’s searching saxophone interpretation of “The Thrill Is Gone”; vocalist Buzz Brooks’s version of “Misty,” rewritten as a comic tribute to Connor; and Prudence Steiner’s dramatic reading of Scott Sandvik’s poem about Connor, ‘That VOICE!’

“…It’s rare that a concert’s highlights come prerecorded, but that was the case here. And a remarkable video of Connor’s 1995 performance with a big band at Quinnipiac University showed her talents not just undiminished but deepened by time.

“If anyone had arrived doubting Blake’s thesis that Connor should be recognized as a great jazz musician, few left unconvinced.”

You can read the full review here and download the evening’s program here.

Ran would like to thank everyone whose contributions helped make the night a success.

August Marks Passing of Two Jazz Legends and a Close Friend

remembering Herb Pomeroy, Max Roach and Bernice Rosenbaum

pomeroy Herb Pomeroy and Max Roach, two jazz icons who Ran knew for decades, and longtime friend Bernice Rosenbaum died in August.

Pomeroy, a trumpeter and influential educator who taught at Berklee, MIT and the New England Conservatory, died August 11 at age 77. (Read the Boston Globe obituary here.)

Ran first encountered Pomeroy at the Lenox School of Jazz in 1959, when the trumpeter, known for his graceful style, was a conducting a band that included the fierce saxophonist Ornette Coleman. Ran well remembers the shocking contrast between their approaches to jazz. Other memories include taking Pomeroy’s class on Duke Ellington at Berklee in the 1970s and playing a concert together with the MIT Wind Ensemble in 2004. “As George Schuller pointed out to the Chris Connor class, he was a father figure to so many musicians who studied in the Boston area,” Ran said.

Roach, the pioneering bebop drummer who recorded historic albums with Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk and Sonny Rollins, died August 16 at 83. (Photo below right; read the New York Times obit here).

Ran met Roach in 1957 at Lenox. A few years later, Ran was working as a waiter at a club called the Jazz Gallery in New York City when Roach played for six weeks with Abbey Lincoln (his wife at the time). Roach was performing the newly released We Insist! Freedom Now Suite, a classic album inspired by the civil rights struggle featuring Lincoln’s vocals. Other vivid memories include seeing Roach perform solo at NEC’s Jordan Hall in the 1970s (“fabulous”) and accepting the MacArthur Fellowship together (they both won the award in 1988). “There was no greater drummer than Max, and he was also one of the great composers,” Ran said. “I would see him over the years and we would reminisce … he would always joke, ‘Don’t drop the dishes.’.”

Bernice Rosenbaum, Ran’s close friend and Brookline neighbor, died at 93 on August 13. Bernice, a retired social worker, was an energetic supporter of Ran’s music, attending shows as often as possible and participating in several concerts at NEC. “She was quite a character — always asking me if I had composed anything new,” Ran said. “Even in her nineties, it would take a blizzard to keep her from coming to a show.”


Ran’s Fall Tour Dates

France and Italy in November and December

bag Ran and guitarist David “Knife” Fabris head to Europe in the fall for a series of performances in France and Italy.

November 22 — Ran performs solo at the Jazzdor Festival in Strasbourg.

November 29 — Duo performance with Knife at Theatre du Perigueux in Perigueux.

December 9 — Duo performance with Knife in the afternoon at Le Petit Faucheux in Tours. Ran will also be teaching a master class in the week leading up to this show.

December 13 — Ran performs at the Sunset Sunside Club in Paris. Ran will teach a master class at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique et de Danse de Paris in the days leading up to this show, and students will participate in this night’s performance.

December 15 — Duo performance with Knife at Casa Jazz in Rome.

Album Reviews

in Down Beat and All About Jazz

The August Down Beat reviewed Wende in a roundup of reissues. The magazine called it “a prime example of the undersung pianist’s poetic sensibility” and also noted: “Like Ives or Monk, Blake loves a good wrong note. But where Ives is expansive, Blake is practically a minimalist, distilling ideas to their essence and whispering truths some pianists would shout.”

AllAboutJazz-New York reviewed The Complete All That Is Tied Sessions with several solo piano albums: “Ran Blake exposes the Americana roots of gospel chording and cadences, the hammered and bent notes of the blues and the whorehouse ragtime of the Crescent City, all felt or implied without overt imitation. Older lineages are evident in his borrowings from Western European classical composers, notably the piano-friendly texturing of Frederic Chopin and the modern romanticism of the Third Streamers.” The full review is here.


roachMax Roach

We’ll see you in September.

Vol. 3, No.8

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