March, 2014

Welcome to the March issue of Ran’s newsletter.

Upcoming Appearances
April 2 Ran’s rescheduled Regattabar show in Boston/Cambridge is this Wednesday, April 2. To commemorate the recent reissue of Ran Blake Plays Solo Piano on CD, Ran will perform the repertoire from the 1965 album, interspersed with a number of other compositions. Percussionist Jon Hazilla will join Ran on a few songs to celebrate the release of their recent duo album, Kaleidoscope. You can download the full program here. For more information and to reserve a ticket, visit the Regattabar’s website.April 13 Ran will appear and perform at events celebrating the life and music of pianist Jaki Byard at Worcester Polytechnic Institute on Sunday, April 13. At 3 p.m., Ran — who in 1982 recorded Improvisations, an album of piano duets with Byard — will be a panelist at a symposium on Byard (along with Ken Schaphorst). Then Ran will perform a song solo at an 8 p.m. concert featuring The Jaki Byard Project: Yard Byard, a band of musicians (including George Schuller) who studied with Byard at the New England Conservatory. Both events are free. More information is available here.

1963 Jazz Festival Videos 

Several remarkable videos of Ran performing at the Antibes Jazz Festival in July 1963 recently surfaced on the French INA website. Click on the photo below for a solo performance of “Jim Crow,” and click here for links to several duets with Jeanne Lee, one of which, “All About Ronnie,” was not previously available.

Blog Launch: Ran’s Reflections
Ran recently attended concerts by Eric Hofbauer, Ken Schaphorst, and Charles Peltz, as well as a conference at Boston University titled “African American Music in World Culture.” To read his thoughts about these and other events, please click here. Going forward, this will be the site of Ran’s blog, where he’ll post reflections on concerts, movies, books, etc.

Ran at Symphony Hall
Ran warms up at Symphony Hall, where he performed March 10. Ran and fellow pianist and NEC faculty member Bruce Brubaker paid tribute to Beethoven as part of the Insights Series.

Jazz Hot Interview
Mathieu Perez interviews Ran in the spring edition of Jazz Hot. The interview, titled “Dr. Jazz and Mr. Blake,” focuses mostly on Ran’s philosophy of learning and performing music. An excerpt follows:

The Primacy of the Ear puts the ear at the center of musical learning. Does that mean that we have been focusing on the wrong thing?
Ran: I think so. For myself, I never focus on the written. You don’t study Picasso through your ears. Music is the only artform that is taught by another sense, perception.
How does putting the ear at the center influence your physical experience?
Ran: I’m not the only improviser that uses ears! Thousands do! I’m not always focused on the rhythm section. I love the singers. My choice of focus will be the human voice and the orchestral colors. My visual sense comes through movies. But I don’t dictate to my students what to see. Breathing is also very important. I can’t stress it enough.

Read the full interview 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 for reading. We’ll see you in April.

Vol. 10, No. 3