The Newest Sound You Never Heard: European Recordings 1966-67 from the VRT Archive
Jeanne Lee, voice
Ran Blake, piano
Elias Gistelinck, producer
Jeanne Lee and Ran Blake, “A Night in Tunisia”
The Newest Sound Around was Jeanne Lee and Ran Blake’s first duo album, released on RCA Victor in 1962 – and if there’s a hint of a boast in that title, it was fully warranted, then as now.
Lee, a vocalist with a deep, smoky tone and an exploratory ken, died of cancer in 2000
, at 61; Blake, a pianist who brings rational sense to the pursuit of shadow intrigue, is still productive at 83. The two artists, who met at Bard College,
released a scant amount of subsequent material: one live recording from the mid-’60s, and a studio effort from 1989.
The album, containing almost two hours of previously unissued music, perfectly captures the rare intuitive bond between these artists. Along with jazz standards by Thelonious Monk and others, it includes popular songs of the day, like Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man” and The Beatles’ “A Hard Day’s Night.” Among the highlights is this magnificent version of “A Night in Tunisia,” which has its premiere here.
Blake has continued his tradition of transcendent duo performance with vocalists, including Sara Serpa
and Dominique Eade
, who observes in the album liner notes: “Hearing these recordings after knowing their previous work so well creates a sensation similar to that of dreaming you have found an extra room in your house.”
But there remains a special, unsurpassable chemistry between Blake and Lee, as these historic recordings attest. That quality will suggest both a presence and an absence when Blake performs a solo concert
this Sunday at the New England Conservatory
, as a tribute to Lee, before what would have been her 80th birthday.