All That Is Tied, 2006

Reviews for Ran Blake’s All That Is Tied
Released in March 2006 on Tompkins Square Records

Ran Blake recorded All That Is Tied, his 35th album, exactly 40 years since cutting his very first solo piano LP for the ESP label in 1965. Making that anniversary, and his 70th birthday, the master pianist and composer revisits selections from his entire career, bringing new life to an extraordinary and unique body of work.

All compositions written and performed by Ran Blake, except “All That Is Tied” written by Jonah Kraut.

“In the 40-plus years since he made that first remarkable record, Blake’s never stopped putting out absolutely original and compelling music, most of it in a moody, noirish, erudite genre of his own design. The pianist and composer’s entire oeuvre is worth investigating, but this solo outing, which stands as a sort of historical survey and state of the union, is an excellent starting point. Top to bottom, All That Is Tied is wonderfully original, approachable and rewarding, and so unambiguously Ran Blake.”
—John Corbett, DownBeat

“Blake has released numerous solo piano albums that, alas, if the world were just, would make him a living legend. An early combiner of jazz and classical styles, Blake has also long brought to his piano solos a sense of cinematic drama, particularly the atmospherics you’d associate with a Hitchcock thriller. This recent solo piano recital offers that intensely dark suspense, leavened with melodic phrases from black gospel and blues, with a hint of Schoenberg. This is intellectually sinewy music from a capacious heart and soul.”
—Norm Weinstein, Christian Science Monitor

“You can’t play microtones on a piano, but he seems to hear what’s in the cracks, and except for his mentor Gunther Schuller, he probably has the best ears in town. Dark dissonances, blues, and pop-song melodies create dream narratives on All That Is Tied, song after song, each chord, each move suggesting its own association, its own memory. The songs are all slow-moving, even tempo-less, but his stories are edge-of-your-seat riveting.”
—Jon Garelick, Boston Phoenix

“When Ran Blake strikes a piano note, he’s like a diamond cutter with a chisel. The stroke is decisive, the effect precise. Listen to him put a number of such strokes together, and you begin to understand things that can’t be put into words; he pierces the veil, and all you have to do is look through. On his new All That Is Tied, a companionless Blake revisits compositions from his whole career, commemorating his first solo album on ESP back in 1965. Better than beauty, it’s truth.”
LA Weekly

“For nearly 50 years, the pianist has sounded like no one but himself … As his latest solo recording demonstrates, Blake is capable of hitting the piano pretty hard. And pretty gently, too — he has an uncanny knack for modulating his touch, and a rare gift for manipulating the instrument pedals.”
—Alexander Gelfand, Jazziz

“Nobody broods quite like Blake—his moodiness draws you in. Instead of Bernard Herrmann or Stevie Wonder, he reinterprets himself on All That Is Tied.”
—Francis Davis, Village Voice

“Is there a pianist out there who gets a bigger kick of clanging a fat chord and letting its sound swell, fill the room and fade away? Or who knows more about the shaded harmonies under his fingertips? Or who is better at stringing together spare notes of a melody, evoking those stock film scenes where a tunesmith sits at the keyboard and pecks out his big hit for the first time? Or, when you least expect it, to deliver up a dash of funk or a churchified riff. And does this guy ever know the power of the pause? Ran Blake has been distilling his musical predilections on disc for more than half his life. And if you’ve slept on the last 34 of these releases — most of them small-label solo piano outings like this one — then it’s a fine time to tune in.”
—W. Kim Heron, Metro Times (Detroit)

“…the most beautiful and challenging piano record of the last 25 years. And you have my solemn word on that. All That Is Tied is a movie, produced, directed, edited and soundtracked by contemporary music’s most remarkable auteur.”
—Brian Morton, Jazz Review (UK)

“This is beautiful music, stretched in every direction: tonally, rhythmically, sonically. Blake is a musician who is profoundly aware of the importance of silence in his improvisations and indeed the conception of improvisation as spontaneous composition couldn’t be more appropriate when talking of his work.”
—WNUR, Chicago

“Whether offering his own take on gospel with ‘Latter Rain Christian Fellowship,’ presenting crisp, vibrant pieces like ‘How ‘Bout That’ and ‘Wende’ or playing more sobering, intricate and teeming works such as ‘Field Cry’ and ‘Sontagism,’ Blake’s solo work is exacting, probing and memorable. He doesn’t rely on speed or flash, but instead concentrates on mood and sound, sometimes intensifying pieces at unexpected moments and other times crafting pieces with haunting melodies and compelling solo segments…Blake’s compositions and technique reflect both his extensive knowledge of and facility in classical music with his love for and equal skills in improvisational and world sounds…an outstanding release.”
—Ron Wynn, Nashville City Paper

“Blake, a longtime Brookline resident and co-founder of New England Conservatory’s Third Stream Department, has, with his hands, feet and a piano, made an incredibly dramatic and eclectic album of solo music that ranges in mood from delicate to jarring…the music is wholly unique…”
—Ed Symkus, TAB Newspapers

“He is a musical dramatist of the first order. His muse is informed by bop, Monk, gospel, the faintest hints of various strains of world and Western European art music, and heady doses of languorous film noir soundtracks. All That Is Tied captures that vision at its most essential and urgent.”
—David Dupont,

“…even if All That Is Tied had landed on the desk anonymously, without herald and no expectation based on past form, you would know you were in the presence of something magical and important. Blake has a gift for taking a familiar structure and saying this, this and this you know already, but this works better, or at least differently. A truly great jazz piano record. A truly great record…a masterpiece…”
—Brian Morton, The WIRE

All That is Tied is one of those records where you wouldn’t change a note. Blake is a stylistic original. From ‘All That is Tied’ to the lovely closing ballad ‘Breakthru,’ this is a truly beautiful album.”
—Duncan Heining, Jazzwise (UK)

“Blake returns to tunes from his entire recorded career and continues to prove himself a dauntless adventurer in sound. His music works more at truly exploring harmony and reharmony than any other. Every tune here is a solo trip through the emotional world of this intriguing and individual artist…the music is so rich that it feels timeless.”
—Donald Elfman, AllAboutJazz-New York

“…the appearance of any new Blake album is always something to write home about, especially when it’s as good as this. His total mastery of the pedals will have any pianist nodding admiringly for starters. It’s a sound that means business—every one of Blake’s notes is there for a reason…Ran Blake hits the bullseye every time.”
—Dan Warburton, Paris Transatlantic

“Since the 1950s, Boston-based third-stream jazz pianist Ran Blake has made some of the most cerebral piano jazz albums around…his playing never sounds over-studied or quirky, and unlike many avant-garde jazz hands, he’s maintained a connection to the music’s roots, as shown on the downright funky boogie-woogie, “Latter Rain Christian Fellowship.” A solo record recorded in 2005 to celebrate Blake’s 70th birthday, All That Is Tied touches on every facet of Blake’s unique piano style, summing up this underrated composer and educator’s career in the space of 12 brief original compositions.”
—Stewart Mason, All Music Guide

“With only a few gestures, he can recount entire traditions: from glances at Gershwin, to frequent winks at Monk, to sad nods toward Gould and Conrad. A collision of this scale has never sounded so lovely—or so lonely.”
—Michael Brodeur, Weekly Dig

“His sense of fun is an integral part of his makeup, and he continues to explore it delightfully. Even as he examines freedom, breaking up time and pulse, he goes back to swiftly kiss the melody, though he does linger on occasion. That is part of the magic he dispels.”
—Jerry D’Souza,

“Forty years after his first solo-piano record was released by ESP-Disk, the famed pianist, now 70 years old, returns to the idiom with dramatic results. This is beautiful music, stretched in every direction: tonally, rhythmically, sonically. Blake is a musician who is profoundly aware of the importance of silence in his improvisations and indeed the conception of improvisation as spontaneous composition couldn’t be more appropriate when talking of his work.”
—Justin Glick, WNUR-FM (Evanston, IL)

“Ran has a way of taking a melody and turning it inside out, focusing on fragments and embellishing them in different ways. This music is often filled with suspense, sustained chords and mysterious dark undercurrents. What is extraordinary about this disc is that no one plays quite like Ran Blake, so here we have a treasure chest of Ran’s own songs played in his own completely unique way.”
—Bruce Gallanter, Downtown Music Gallery

“Blake’s unique creative process for solo piano-clashing, colliding chords, empty spaces, stunning intervallic leaps, dynamic swings from thunder to bare audibility-can create epiphanies…”
—Thomas Conrad, JazzTimes

“The CD in hand celebrates his 70th birthday, a milestone that is marked by some of his most captivating playing ever. There is nothing like him and this album will make your stereo system glow.”
—Grego Applegate Edwards, Cadence

All That Is Tied e un disco da ascoltare ripetutamente, da centellinare come un brandy prezioso, capace di svelarsi come chiave di conoscenza di un mondo sonoro verso cui convergono — attratti da una forza misteriosa, un po’ come sempre accade con l’oscuro Blake — tutte le certezze… pronte a essere spazzate vie da un semplice accordo. Splendido!”
—Enrico Bettinello, AllAboutJazz-Italia

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