January, 2010

Ran Blake Newsletter
News From Ran Blake HQ

January 2010



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


Thelonious Monk Biography

noteworthy reading

monkbookPerhaps the most talked about jazz book that came out in 2009 was Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original, by Robin Kelley.

The bio got great reviews for revealing many new facets of Monk’s life and music. Another incentive to check it out is that Ran pops up frequently during the book, from a New Year’s Eve encounter in 1961 to a 1975 tribute concert Ran organized at NEC.

You can hear Christopher Lydon interviewing Kelley about all things Monk here.

Rerelease Reviews

A Memory of Vienna, Duo En Noir

Recent issues of this newsletter brought news that two of Ran’s albums that were long out of print — A Memory of Vienna, with Anthony Braxton, and Duo En Noir, with Enrico Rava — were recently reissued. Both reissues have received some positive reviews, excerpts of which follow:

Touching Extremes, a blog by Massimo Ricci, said of Vienna: “Blake plays articulated trickles, hammers clusters and re-harmonizes selected passages, obeying to a sense of adventurousness that is only limited by the perfect geometry of his figurations. Braxton tends to respect the basic fundament of the thematic materials yet, once the right moment comes, designs extraordinarily coherent phrases that, fused with not-exactly-docile atonal flurries, miraculously fit the structure of the original better than ever. The result is a lesson in style, masterfully delivered a couple of decades ago but sounding as if it was taped last month.”

And Ray Comiskey of The Irish Times had this to say about Duo En Noir: “The mood is predominantly noir, but shaded with great subtlety and lyricism. Rava delineates material such as ‘Nature Boy,’ ‘Vertigo/Laura’ and a glorious ‘There’s No You’ more or less straight (few can handle a melody like he does), with Blake’s pixie-ish piano a superbly effective contrast. But when these masterly improvisers solo, full of imaginative departures and turns of phrase, they keep it succinct, and the brevity is profoundly impressive.”

Ran Records with Sara Serpa

Duo set with Portugese vocalist

saraIn late December Ran recorded an album of duets with vocalist Sara Serpa. Sara was born in Lisbon and got her master’s degree in jazz performance at the New England Conservatory.

In two nights Ran and Sara recorded multiple takes of about a dozen songs, including several compositions of Ran’s (“Memphis,” “Vanguard”), a few standards (“April in Paris,” “Nutty”), and some originals of Sara’s.

That brings to four the number of duo albums Ran has recorded that should be available in the next year or so. The others were with percussionist Jon Hazilla, vocalist Dominique Eade and vocalist Christine Correa.

40th Anniversary Celebration

Ran performs March 27

albumThe second phase of NEC’s 40th anniversary celebration of the Jazz Studies Program is coming up in March in New York City.

There are several events the week of March 21, with the centerpiece at B.B. King Blues Club on March 27. Artists confirmed for that performance include Ran, Dominique Eade, Sarah Jarosz, John Medeski, Bernie Worrell, Anton Fig, and Lake Street Dive.

To commemorate the anniversary, NEC issued Artifacts, an album of performances by musicians affiliated with the conservatory. It features Ran’s recording of “Round Midnight,” as well as contributions from Bob Brookmeyer, Jaki Byard, George Garzone, Jimmy Giuffre, Steve Lacy, George Russell, Ken Schaphorst, Gunther Schuller, and many others. You can buy the CD or download MP3s from CDBaby.

Ran’s Picks for ’09

six films that shone

Professor Blake’s favorite films of 2009 were Sugar, The Hurt Locker, La Danse: The Paris Opera Ballet, The Maid, The Messenger, and Precious.

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 February.

Vol. 6, No. 1