Febuary, 2009

Ran Blake Newsletter
News From Ran Blake HQ

February 2009



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

Ran Records Album with Jon Hazilla

improvisational duets

hazillaRan recently finished recording an album of improvisational duets with percussionist Jon Hazilla, a Berklee College of Music professor and New England Conservatory grad who has performed with Ran many times and appears on Ran’s 1986 Short Life of Barbara Monk album.

The album, which will be titled Kaleidoscope, is expected to be released on Cimp Records in late 2009 or early 2010.

Radio Ran


wgbh Ran was interviewed by a reporter from National Public Radio for a piece that is expected to air in late February or early March on Morning Edition. We don’t know the date, but once we find out we’ll post it on the News section of ranblake.com.

In addition, Ran is scheduled to appear on WGBH Radio’s “Eric in the Evening” Wednesday, March 18 for an interview and solo performance. The show, hosted by Eric Jackson, begins at 8 p.m. It airs on 89.7 FM, and you’ll be able to stream it live via this link.

Finding Ran’s Albums

filling in the missing pieces

breakthru Here’s an update to an item we run annually about finding Ran’s albums. Some details have changed, due to albums selling out or becoming available from new sources:

Twelve albums are available on CD through ranblake.com: All That Is Tied, Breakthru, Driftwoods, Epistrophy, Improvisations, Indian Winter, Painted Rhythms: Vol. 1, Round About, Short Life of Barbara Monk, Suffield Gothic, Unmarked Van, and Wende.

Next, these four are available from other labels: Masters of Different Worlds from Mapleshade, You Stepped Out of a Cloud and Third Stream Recompositions from Universal France, and Sonic Temples from GM.

A number of CDs are out of print and can be hard to find: A Memory of Vienna, Duke Dreams, Duo En Noir, Horace Is Blue, Newest Sound Around, That Certain Feeling, Painted Rhythms Vol. 2, and Something to Live For. Your best bet is to check eBay, used listings on Amazon, and used record/CD stores with large jazz collections.

Finally, these albums are only available on vinyl: Portfolio of Doctor Mabuse (with NEC orchestra), Rapport, Realization of a Dream, Blue Potato, Film Noir, Crystal Trip, Open City, Ran Blake Plays Solo Piano, Third Stream Today, Third Stream: 2nd Chapter, Take 1, Take 2, and Vertigo. Again, your best bet is eBay and used record stores.


Driftwoods Draws Strong Reviews

a “beautiful album”

DriftwoodsRan’s new album of solo piano, Driftwoods, is drawing favorable reviews. Here are some excerpts:

Ben Ratliff, New York Times: “Blake seems to hear other people’s music through a kind of creative séance; in the process it becomes transformed. On Driftwoods he takes a tightly written old pop song … and reveals behind it a slow-moving fantasia, full of shuddering harmony played with the sustain pedal down … He’s been doing this for nearly 50 years, forming his own canon of composers and performers from across the best of midcentury jazz, gospel, soul and classical music, and he’s still in great form.” The full review is here.

Kevin Lowenthal, Boston Globe: “Next time you’re up until quarter to 3 and looking for music to fit the hour, we suggest this set of film noir nocturnes for solo piano … Blake is a stealth piano virtuoso, master of touch and timing, a flinty melodist who fills the spaces between the notes with lingering harmonics … At the album’s heart are two takes of ‘Dancing in the Dark,’ saluting Sarah Vaughan’s definitive 1956 recording. In the shorter of the two, the dance is a faded memory; the longer presents a montage of moods, the dance holding its own with the dark … Deliciously, the darkness dominates these 13 tunes tossed and transformed in the ocean of Blake’s musical imagination.” Full review

Henry Smith, AllAboutJazz.com: “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. … 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. … 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. Full review

Thom Jurek, AllMusic.com: “Blake’s sense of restraint, even in the most deliberate of his improvised readings such as on Lewis Allan’s ‘Strange Fruit,’ Quincy Jones’ theme from The Pawnbroker, Milton Nascimento’s ‘Cançao do Sol,’ and even Gershwin’s ‘I Loves You, Porgy,’ offers such distinctive readings of these tunes rhythmically, harmonically, and lyrically that it’s difficult after a while to see where the body of the original composition ends and Blake begins. … Blake’s achievement is that he simply re-inscribes their images in a new way, placing his lovingly individualistic stamp of musical recognition on them as sophisticated, singular moments in the history of song.” Full review

Driftwoods is available from ranblake.com, Amazon, Tompkins Square, and other retailers. You can also download it from iTunes.

Thanks for reading. As always, you can reach Ran directly at ran@ranblake.com, and you can read back issues here.

We’ll see you in March.
Vol. 5, No.2