April, 2014

Welcome to the April issue of Ran’s newsletter.

Ran performing at the Regattabar in Cambridge on April 3. See below for a review.

Photo by Sue Yang

’59 Photo: Ran & Two Monks

The jazz drummer T.S. Monk occasionally posts vintage photos of his father Thelonious on his Facebook page. Check out this classic from 1959, taken backstage at Town Hall in New York City. From left to right: Thelonious, Harry Columby (Monk’s manager), T.S. Monk, Leroy Jones, and Ran.

For an upcoming book on Monk by Peter Zimmerman, T.S. Monk had this to say:

“Ran Blake is the only jazz musician that my father ever let babysit me. They had no idea how close I was to Ran Blake. And how close Ran Blake was to Thelonious. Thelonious was CRAZY about Ran! Why? Because it’s this white boy playin’ his own shit! That’s what he loved! And Ran used to come and babysit me and take me up to City College and all kinds of stuff, and the night we had that fire I told you about, Ran was the one who came and got me and my sister and took us over to relatives’ house while Nelly and Thelonious were dealing with the apartment.”

Regattabar Review 

Ran’s April 2 show at the Regattabar in Cambridge, which featured a guest appearance by drummer Jon Hazilla, went well. Critic Jon Garelick posted a review on his “Giant Steps” blog. An excerpt follows:
“Blake is one of the few performer I know who can get away with almost unrelenting slow or rubato performances. He and Hazilla did swing some stride for a bit, but for the most part these were nocturnes. So what held the ear was the drama that unfolded in each song, those shifting textures and harmonies. It never seems adequate to call one of Blake’s chords “dissonance” — he seems to know hundreds of shadings between dissonance and consonance. In each song — no matter how deep the rumbling percussion and brass of his bass register — the melody would surface, just a spare  single-note line, but articulated with pure, vocal expression, and you could hear what Blake loves about singers. They’re that light in the darkness, as in his statement of the melody in his ‘Birmingham, U.S.A.’ Elsewhere, his conjurings were the stuff of dreams and film noir, 4/4 chords that stalked the melody line, as in a suspense film, or the bit of Bernard Hermann dissonance that crept into Blake’s encore of ‘You Are My Sunshine.’ “
Read the full review here.

Upcoming Shows in New York City
June 6 & 7 — Ran and vocalist Sara Serpa perform sets at 8 and 9 p.m. for two nights at the Kitano Hotel (66 Park Avenue). To make a reservation, call 1-800-KITANO-NY. More information should be available soon on the hotel’s jazz page.
June 8 — Guitarist David “Knife” Fabris celebrates the release of his new album, Lettuce Prey, at Spectrum (121 Ludlow St.) at 5 p.m. Ran is featured on the album and will be among a number of guests performing. For more information, visit the club’s website.

Producer Steve Backer Dies at 76
Steve Backer, a music executive and producer for many jazz labels, including Arista when Ran recorded two albums for that label, died April 10 at 76.”I met Steve in the mid-70s and I was thrilled when he and Michael Cuscuna signed me up for two albums with Arista,” Ran said. “The first was Rapport and included Ricky Ford, Anthony Braxton, Eleni Odoni, and Chris Connor. The second was Film Noir, and I was joined by a large cast including Jon Hazilla and Hankus Netsky. In the ’90s Steve produced two albums that featured Dominique Eade on RCA Victor. He was a champion of so many musicians.”

Read more about Backer’s life here.

Ran Recommends…

Ran encourages Boston-area music fans to attend these upcoming, all of which are free. (Ran will not be performing.)
April 28 — “Signs, Games, and Messages” at the New England Conservatory. Students and faculty from the Contemporary Improvisation program perform and riff on Gyorgy Kurtag’s music, sources, and notions, under the guidance of Anthony Coleman. The 7:30 show is at Jordan Hall. Read more about it here. 
May 10 — Jazz guitarist’s Matthew Delligatti has his recital at 8 p.m. at NEC’s Pierce Hall. Details are here.
May 17Graduating NEC students perform a grand “Commencement Concert” at 7:30 in Jordan Hall on graduation eve. The repertory includes student composers, jazz and Contemporary Improvisation, vocal and instrumental soloists, chamber music, and large-scale works. Details are here.
To learn more about studying at NEC’s Contemporary Improvisation department, please visit its website or contact Department Chairperson Hankus Netsky. Ran’s book, The Primacy of the Ear, is available from lulu.com.Thanks for reading. We’ll see you in May.
Steve

Vol. 10, No. 4