March, 2009

Ran Blake Newsletter
News From Ran Blake HQ

March 2009



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

Summer Course Scheduled

on Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong

ellalouisRan is teaching a three-week summer course at the New England Conservatory on the music of jazz giants Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald. Composer/conductor and former NEC President Gunther Schuller will be the course’s keynote speaker.

The course runs from July 12 through August 2 and will include a free evening open to the public at NEC on July 31 with performances and interviews.

The class is open to any student with college-level musical background who is seeking two undergraduate, graduate, or SCE credits. Class requirements will include class participation, a paper, a musical transcription, melody and harmony memorization, and, an optional but recommended public performance.

The class meets on the following days:

July 12, Sunday, 2-5 p.m.
July 15, Wednesday, 6-9 p.m.
July 19, Sunday, 2-5 p.m.
July 21, Tuesday, 6-9 p.m.
July 23, Thursday, 6-9 p.m.
July 26, Sunday, 2-5 p.m.
July 29, Wednesday, 6-9 p.m.
July 31, Friday, 7-10 p.m. (public evening)
August 2, Sunday, 2-5 p.m.

For more info on enrolling, please contact NEC Summer School Director Margaret Ulmer at (617) 585-1126 or For more about the course, contact Ran at

Ran’s Radio Show

download and read the program

wgbh Ran’s March 18 appearance on WGBH Radio’s “Eric in the Evening” went well. You can download a printed program Ran prepared for the evening here.

Old Friends

ranwithguntherRan with Gunther Schuller and Moti of Moby Dick restaurant in February. Thanks to Luke Moldof for sending the photo.

Praise for Driftwoods Flows In

“a detour worth taking”

DriftwoodsRan’s new album of solo piano, Driftwoods, continues to draw strong reviews. Here are some excerpts from the latest reviews:

Bill Bentley, “On Driftwoods, [Blake] gathers 13 of his favorite vocal performances and uses the piano to turn them into haunting instrumental songs of mystery. Sarah Vaughan’s “Dancing in the Dark” feels like the perfect accompaniment to a condemned man’s last supper, all stormy notes and funereal feeling, followed by a version of Leon Payne’s “Lost Highway” that takes the song by the man they called “the blind balladeer” and stretches out every note past the breaking point.” Read the full review.

Jon Garelick, Boston Phoenix: “You probably don’t think about an acoustic jazz pianist’s use of the sustain pedal except when you’re listening to Ran Blake. In his slow-tempo ruminations, which are full of dramatic rests, the final chord of a phrase will bleed into the beginning of a single-note melodic phrase, and harmonies will drift like the fog in one of his beloved film noirs.” Full review.

Kevin Whitehead, “On Driftwoods, Ran Blake’s music is about more than just notes — as if speaking to some deeper, more profound experience. Even “You Are My Sunshine” is fraught with tension: How will I cope if they do take my sunshine away?” Full review

Fred Kaplan, Stereophile: “The album requires, and deserves, close listening. His two back-to-back variations on “Dancing in the Dark” are especially gripping; “I Loves You, Porgy,” raises the hair on the back of the neck. You can get lost in Ran Blake’s music, and it’s a detour worth taking.” Full review

Steve Horowitz, PopMatters: “[His] latest solo effort reveals that Blake’s still the master of minimalism. Where other pianists play two or three notes, Blake hits one, and then stops and lets the silence reverberate. Blake makes the songs his own as he transforms the old standards into new compositions, in a manner comparable to when a painter like Ellsworth Kelly borrows a color red from a Van Gogh painting and makes it the subject of his work.” Full review

David Day, Weekly Dig: [Blake’s] latest for the Grammy-nominated Tompkins Square consists of 14 sketches in chiaroscuro. It’s music for the coldest winter nights or the most searing summer days. While it may be hard to pick out the trademark melodies he covers — and the moods are transformed entirely — that’s the point.” Full review

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

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

We’ll see you in April.
Vol. 5, No.3

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