The Newest Sound You Never Heard: European Recordings 1966-67 from the VRT Archive
Jeanne Lee, voice
Ran Blake, piano
Elias Gistelinck, producer
In 1961, two musicians who’d met as Bard College classmates entered the studio to record their mutual debut album. Jeanne LeeandRan Blake emerged with The Newest Sound Around, an iconic pairing of voice and piano that was simultaneously intimate and adventurous, stark yet boundless, intensely focused but warmly embracing. Lee and Blake would continue to tour together sporadically through the 1960s, but fans had to wait nearly three decades for a follow-up release,You Stepped Out of a Cloud, in 1989. Their lifelong friendship and collaboration came to a close with Lee’s death in 2000.
NEC Jazz Orchestra presents Vanguard: The Music of Ran Blake
There came an ‘aha’ moment at the NEC Jazz Orchestra’s Dec. 6 concert in Jordan Hall that doubled as a reminder of why it was worth the time during this busy season of the year to brave the cold and venture into this venerated space. The moment arrived during the third number, Ran Blake’s “The Short Life of Barbara Monk,” when the decorated composer of half a century began his piano solo.
The phrase “the laying on of hands” immediately came to my mind, as with the old healers. The 17-piece band playing with him was tight, especially for a student ensemble (with longstanding Blake ally Ken Schaphorst conducting). If you had closed your eyes and just listened, it would not occur to you that these were very young adults. But so much as a bar from Blake-a mere cluster of notes-revealed what a different level we’re talking here. His solo skirted the dissonant, proceeding in blocks of chords, those chords alternating in volume, but with a clangorous, nakedly loud chord somehow feeling as though it had been defeated by the quieter one that followed, which went so far as to take what it needed for its powerful structuring from the final note of that forte triad.
“The album Streaming seems to close the circle on what Ran Blake really means by the word used as the title. First of all it is closer to James Joyce’s “stream of consciousness” than what Gunther Schuller meant by the term “Third Stream“, which he has been (apocryphally) credited with using to describe the music of the Modern Jazz Quartet. In Mr Blake’s parlance “Third Stream” is also not only the name given to the department he has founded at the New England Conservatory, and the basis of his entire pedagogy, but it is also his entire sound-world: that organic flow of music that has its origin deep within the recesses of his artistic sensibility before it emerges into the world of our hearing – and listening. It is also (my view) that of all the vocalists he has worked with Christine Correa appears to understand best how to respond – in an almost visceral sense – to Mr Blake’s inner Streaming urges.”
I don’t know when I read a better novel in the last 3 years. Last week I stayed up several nights in a row with this book. There are concrete plot points- surveillance, late night encounters, dreams, graves, disappearances. There is also a very intriguing central theme through which I fell in love with Japanese magic realism. The author probes into the life of a painter who at a certain point in his life becomes a hermit in a house on a remote mountain in rural japan. There are only five primary characters in the novel that we might call human beings. The rest of the figures may or may not be real. In fact, I remember going to page 323 and suddenly thinking that I am going into the world of hobbits or Harry Potter but then our author continues with several chapters of reality which involve detection, thinking, and almost becomes quasi-philosophic.
After completing this book, I peeked at the latest novel, Reckoning, by John Grisham. I could not believe the flat prose… The plot is not particularly bad but his sentence structure and command of action sequences seem so barren after Haruki Murakami.
Ran has a couple of openings in his schedule for additional private students. Subjects include, but are not limited to, melodic and harmonic ear training, film noir, development of personal style, improvisation, technique, storyboarding, soundscapes, listening sessions, etc.
If you are interested, please contact Aaron Hartley at email@example.com for more details.