January, 2013

January 2013


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

Ran’s Reflections

Marlon Brando

brandoEditor’s note: On January 29, Ran and co-producer Aaron Hartley presented “Brando Noir” at the New England Conservatory in Boston. Students and faculty of NEC’s Contemporary Improvisation department performed along with clips from Brando’s films. Below are Ran’s notes for the evening.

I have not chosen some of the great Brando films such as “Streetcar Named Desire,” “Godfather,” and “Last Tango in Paris.” “Streetcar” in particular has such fantastic dialogue, and it was hard to imagine how great music could replace this.

Perhaps the best known of the four films that we’re showing is “The Wild One,” which was a cult classic in the 1970s and 1980s and often appeared at midnight shows on the East Coast. Unfortunately it is a tad dated now. Director Stanley Kramer regrettably offers a lecture to the audience in the film’s next to last scene.

The film is striking and we’re thrilled that Ken Schaphorst, the director of the Conservatory Jazz Department, will bring his full orchestra to depict the hoods in this West Coast town who are violent, jive, and guzzle quantities of brew.

The real highlight of the film besides Brando’s performance is the score by Leith Stevens. “Windswept” is the favorite of Ken’s.

“The Young Lions” is a somewhat quieter film and may be Brando’s most sympathetic role of the evening. If there ever could be a kind Nazi it would be Brando’s character. His charm with women, his camaraderie with men, and his nobility to the unfortunate is commendable but the audience will have to deal with his complete naivety about the atrocities committed by Hitler. His world was of chivalry and not concentration camp supervision.

Our third film, “Appaloosa,” shows Marlon in the deep Southwest. It’s not nearly as great a film as “Burn” and particularly not “Viva Zapata!” but the film has visual action, beautiful horses, and deadly cobras.

“Night of the Following Day” is a kidnap fable which can be rather gruesome. This takes place in the outskirts of Paris. There is the countryside, dark houses, shadow-lit bistros, and a vulnerable young woman who is being kept as a virtual prisoner. Brando’s performance is slick but I feel there are deeper dimensions.

Ran in Portugal

portugalRan looks out on the ocean from a restaurant in Portugal last May.


Ran’s book, The Primacy of the Ear, is available from lulu.com. 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 its website or contact Department Chairperson Hankus Netsky.

Upcoming Events

Scullers with Dominique

bagFebruary 27 — Ran performs with vocalist Dominique Eade at Scullers Jazz Club in Boston. The event is a belated celebration of their duo CD “Whirlpool.” For more information, visit Scullers website.

Ran and Christelle Durandy

durandy Ran and vocalist Christelle Durandy last summer in Toucy France. Photo by Aaron Hartley

Aurora Reviews

Live release with Sara Serpa

More reviewers weigh in on Aurora, a new live duet album with Ran and vocalist Sara Serpa on the Portugese Clean Feeds label:

Hrayr Attarian, AllAboutJazz: Serpa and Blake’s sparse and atmospheric delivery of these dozen songs is inventive, intellectually stimulating and satisfying. The cinematic ‘Dr. Mabuse’ features Serpa’s wordless vocals, moving from wistfully contemplative to fiercely passionate, while her chilling and restrained a cappella rendition of singer Billie Holiday’s iconic ‘Strange Fruit’ subtly exposes the bitter chagrin within. … Blake exhibits supreme camaraderie with Serpa, anticipating and enhancing her nuanced vocal expressions. His playing shimmers like waves in the moonlight on the pastoral ‘When Autumn Sings,’ as Serpa’s articulation of the undulating melody colors the tune with muted hues.” Read the full review here.

Christopher Loudon, JazzTimes: “Serpa’s angular soprano is provided an ideal partner in Blake. With their shared penchant for the outré, they take the likes of ‘Saturday,’ ‘Last Night When We Were Young’ and ‘Fine and Dandy’ in startling directions yet remain uniquely true to each song’s intent.” Full review

Massimo Ricci, Touching Extremes blog: “Ran Blake’s discriminating pianism is at one and the same time full of empathy and supremely no-nonsense, so easy to integrate in our harmonic consciousness. ‘Mahler Noir’ is a tutorial in digital restraint and control of the resonant colours of the instrument; we forget anything ruinous for life and let notes and chords act as photographs of serene privacy, similar to a lonely walk on the shoreline in an unclouded autumn day. His communication with Serpa is imbued with insightful tact and wisdom, a sensible way of accompanying vocals that frames, embraces and captions without forgetting that everything comes from stillness after all.” Full review.

Read more about the album and order the CD on the label’s website. You can also view a promotional video about the collaboration on YouTube.

Top 5 Honor

Down Here Below

The New York City Jazz Record included “Down Here Below,” Ran’s duet album with Christine Correa, among its Top 5 vocal releases for 2013. The honor is on page 25 of this issue.

Thanks for reading. We’ll see you later in the month,

Vol. 9, No. 1