May, 2012

May 2012


Welcome to the May issue of Ran’s monthly newsletter. This issue’s photos, taken by José Sarmiento Matos, are from Ran’s May 11 performance with vocalist Sera Serpa at Auditorio da Culturgest in Lisbon, Portugal.

Upcoming Shows
Boston, Toucy and Paris

Ran has three upcoming shows, including a newly added gig in Paris in late July:

June 5 (this Tuesday)— Ran and composer and pianist Alla Cohen present “an evening of counterpoint” with Darby the red Persian cat at 7:30 p.m. at the Old South Church Chapel (645 Boylston Street) in Boston. Read more here, and get ready for the show by reading Steve Elman’s preview/commentary on the Arts Fuse website.

July 20 — Ran performs with the Ricky Ford Orchestra at the Toucy International Jazz Festival in France. Read more about the festival here.

July 27th – Ran and Sara Serpa perform at Sunside/Sunset in Paris. Read more about this show here. Speaking of Sara, she’s on the cover of the Spring issue of Jazziz magazine.

Ran & Sara


Album Reviews
“quietly compelling”

Down Here Below, a duet album with vocalist Christine Correa released last March that pays tribute to Abbey Lincoln, drew two more favorable reviews this month. Excerpts follow:

JazzTimes, Scott Albin: “‘Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?’ is given a serious reading with a sporadic can’t-help-but-laugh aside. Blake’s pensive solo is deeply laden with blues feeling and is hypnotically paced, and his underpinning of Correa is acutely in touch. Lincoln’s ‘Bird Alone’ is graced by Blake’s clever intro that borrows from Neil Hefti’s ‘Repetition’ (think Bird Parker with Strings), while Correa evokes Nina Simone and Betty Carter as much as Lincoln here, with a rich, flexible tonal quality and clear diction. The pianist’s solo is quietly compelling in its streamlined, considerate melodiousness, as it trickles down to unexpectedly close the track.” Read the full review here.

Jazz Society of Oregon, George Fendel: “Correa, it seems, is not trying to ‘do’ Abbey Lincoln, but there can be no doubt that Lincoln had to have been a primary influence on her conception. Blake is the perfect pianist for these interpretations; at times quirky, sultry, understated and sometimes full of mystery. … There is a recital-like quality to this release. Serious music, seriously performed. There must be a place for it.” Full review.

The album, released on Red Piano Records, is available from CDbaby here.

Jerome Wilson reviewed the recent rerelease of The Newest Sound Around, Ran’s 1962 duet album with Jeanne Lee, on his “Out Where the Buses Don’t Run No More” blog: “From the first notes of the opening track ‘Laura’ it’s obvious this is something special. The dark sensuality of Lee’s voice and the icy, clipped notes of Blake’s piano create a mesmerizing effect, attractive and unsettling at the same time. Their version of ‘Blue Monk’ may be the best example of their partnership. Blake goes into the tune with a rattling, alienating strangeness but when Lee brings her velvety voice in, the oddity gets a human dimension and turns into a downbeat melancholy.” Full review.

Live Review
from Downbeat

Downbeat magazine critic John Ephland reviewed Ran’s April 30 tribute to Abbey Lincoln at the Gilmore International Keyboard Festival in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Excerpts follow:

“This was a special, one-of-a-kind performance by one great artist in a very creative tribute to another. …

“As part and parcel of this keyboard festival, with all its virtuosity and polished, amazing technique from others, it was refreshing to hear Blake as he played through his own instrument with deep, rich chords, the notes between the notes consistently evoking memories of love, beauty, pain and wonder. It was pure expressivity, music with a story, not just someone playing the piano, not giving us renditions of songs from a bygone era or taking us down memory lane. Through his melancholic, sometimes bright, abrupt juxtapositions of notes and chords, Blake was able to convey both himself and another world, a kind of timeless recreation that stood both outside time but also one that imbued everything that had and has to do with living now.”

Read the full review here.

At the Piano


Solve a Mystery
The Unmarked Ran

Sometime in the last year or two, a fan gave Ran a home-made mix CD titled The Unmarked Ran with a mix of various artists, including Sarah Vaughan, Frank Sinatra and Betty Carter. Mostly likely the person handed the disc to Ran after a concert, but he or she may also have mailed it to him. Ran loves the CD but can’t recall who the donor was. If you made it or know who did, please contact him at

Duo View


Help Wanted
Ran seeks an assistant

Ran is looking for an additional assistant to help him with various projects. Candidates must be proficient with computers and available to work on Saturdays. Candidates have the option of working for pay or in exchange for lessons, or some combination of the two. For more information, email Ran at

Ran’s book, The Primacy of the Ear, is available on The book outlines Ran’s philosophy on development of the ear and explains how musical memory is the key to becoming a more potent musician and shaping a personal musical style.

To learn more about studying at NEC’s Contemporary Improvisation department, please visit the department’s website or contact Department Chairperson Hankus Netsky.

Thanks for reading. We’ll see you at the end of June.

Vol. 8, No. 5

You can read back issues here.

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