Reviews for Ran Blake’s Down Here Below
Released in 2012 on Red Piano Records
Starting with the inimitable Jeanne Lee, pianist Ran Blake has been collaborating with adventurous vocalists for half a century. These are singers who are not satisfied by merely parroting the old repertoire in the same tried and true, but also musty and tired way. These are musicians whose vocal cords command close listening, as is the case with the Mumbai-born and New York-based Christine Correa.
This Abbey Lincoln tribute, Down Here Below, is the third time Correa and Blake have recorded together over a span of 18 years. Lincoln, a musical giant, was a major influence on Lee, therefore this particular disc brings Blake full circle.
All About Jazz
By: Hrayr Attarian
With this CD, pianist Blake continues what appears to be a series of duo recordings with female singers. This time, it’s Correa, a new name to me. Together, they take on an Abbey Lincoln songbook, featuring tunes either written or interpreted by the late singer. Part of Lincoln’s power lay in the delicate, vulnerable nature of her voice. At times it was an undeniably riveting feature of her approach. Correa, it seems, is not trying to “do” Abbey Lincoln, but there can be no doubt that Lincoln had to have been a primary influence on her conception. Blake is the perfect pianist for these interpretations; at times quirky, sultry, understated and sometimes full of mystery. You‘ll know some of the tunes (although certainly not performed like this) including “Brother Can You Spare a Dime” and two Randy Weston works, “Little Niles” and “African Lady.” A highlight that I first heard by Charlie Haden’s wife, singer Ruth Cameron, is Lincoln’s own composition, “Bird Alone.” The lyric will touch your heart. There is a recital-like quality to this release. Serious music, seriously performed. There must be a place for it.
Red Piano Records, 2011, 50:18.
By George Fendel
-Brent Black, Critical Jazz
By Pachi Tapiz, 2012
Pianisten Ran Blake og den indisk-amerikanske sangerinde Christine Correa – som har været venner gennem mere end 30 år –har med denne hyldest til Abbey Lincoln samarbejdet om deres tredje album. En udgivelse, der kommer godt et år efter Lincoln’s død, og hvis repertoire er nært knyttet til hende. For både Ran Blake, som første gang hørte Lincoln i begyndelsen af 1960erne, og Christine Correa er Abbey Lincoln, kan man forstå, en musikalsk ledestjerne. Der er taleom en kompromisløs cd, der ikke er let tilgængelig, og som givetvis vil skille vandene. Abbey Lincoln leflede ikke for nogen. Der er heller ikke tale om sædvanlige -sange, men et sangligt univers om frihed, undertrykkelse, diskrimination – og kærlighed. Nogle af dem skrevet af Lincoln selv, titelnummeret samt og. Lincolns samarbejde med Max Roach (som hun også i en periode var gift med) har sat sig spor i sangudvalget i form af hele to udgaver af Roachs. Det er ekspressive udladninger, Correa kommer med, undertiden uden Blakes forsonende akkompagnement. Som når hun ordløst intonerende indleder åbnings- og titelnummeret (som i en anden version også afslutter cd’en). Men når det så går allermest dissonans-vildt for sig, gør musikken pludselig ophold med klanglig poesi og stille skønhed. Blake mestrer underspillets og pausens kunst, mens Correa har sat sig selv på en stor opgave, som hun får i hus med sans for det dramatiske med dén virkning, at hun både er i stand til at leve sig ind i og sætte sig uden for den enkelte sangs indhold. Men om hun helt kan finde ind til den inderlighed, som Abbey Lincoln også var i besiddelse af, er et andet spørgsmål. Det er svært at lade være med at drage sammenligninger på en sådan -udgivelse – og det er vanskeligt at komme udenom Lincolns mesterskab.
By Jakob Hassing, 2012
Source: Jazz Special: Issue 127
Recommended New Release: June 2012 | THE NEW YORK CITY JAZZ RECORD, Pg. 14
Source: Downbeat Magazine, August 2012, Pg. 91
At the Corner: Ran Blake / Sara Serpa / Christine Correa
Published: May 23, 2013
The common element between Sara Serpa’s Aurora and Christine Correa’s Down Here Below is obviously pianist Ran Blake. Enigmatic to a fault, Blake has made a potent name for himself among improvised music enthusiasts. Blake is an intellectual amalgam of pianists Thelonious Monk and Martial Solal distilled to a dissonant essence.
A long time professor at the New England Conservatory, Blake has taken many under his tutelage, specifically singers, beginning with Jeanne Lee on The Newest Sound Around (BMG, 1962) . Two contemporary singers claiming Blake as a mentor are Sara Serpa and Christine Correa, who each has recorded with Blake previously. These two recordings illustrate art made by like minds sharing the same intellectual space
Sara Serpa and Ran Blake
Clean Feed Records
Camera Obscura (Inner Circle Music, 2010) was the first recorded collaboration between vocalist Sara Serpa and her mentor, pianist Ran Blake. That recording was a moody assault on the fringes of the American Songbook, culminating in an “April In Paris” recorded at the Bates Motel after the word got out about Norman’s mother. Aurora continues where Camera Obscura left off. If anything, Aurora is darker and more nuanced. A bouncy “Moonride” smolders into a stark and terrifying “Strange Fruit,” full of vocal gymnastics and vocalese.
Blake contributes a lengthy original to the mix in “Mahler Noir,” eight minutes that could serve as a soundtrack of any of Philip Kerr’s Bernie Gunther stories. Imagine Wagner, mad with Beethoven, pounding out a suffering late-Romantic recital piece. Disconcerting and off- putting, this strange music has a gravitational pull that disallows any quick dismissal, reeling the listener in to hear “just what is going to happen next.”
“The Band Played On” is where everything fully clicks. The late-19th Century popular tune is delivered as a crippled calliope song with Serpa taking her liberties with the material, making it suited for the remake of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. While this sounds negative, it is anything but. A certain genius on Serpa and Blake’s part governs the interpretation of these songs, something beyond the postmodern…something well beyond.
Ran Blake and Christine Correa
Down Here Below: Tribute to Abbey Lincoln Volume One
Vocalist Christine Correa has had a twenty-year musical relationship with Ran Blake that has resulted in Roundabout (Music and Arts, 1994), Out of the Shadows (Self Produced, 2010) and the present Down Here Below: Tribute to Abbey Lincoln Volume One. Neither artist show the least bit of interest in the status quo, instead opting to push the perimeter of existing repertoire well beyond the bounds of traditional performance.
As with the Serpa disc, Blake remains taciturn introspective, allowing notes to collide almost randomly while Correa provides just enough aural memory that a theme to the performances indeed does exist and that theme is based on another iconoclastic artist, Abbey Lincoln. The title piece is offered in two half—a cappella renderings, delivered full-throated by Correa, dissolving into Blake’s most introspective playing on the disc. The pianist turns inward in search of the necessary pathos to spill upon the keys.
The pair also doubles Oscar Brown, Jr.‘s “Freedom Day,” delivering an almost desperately anxious performance in the first take, while the second take comes off more rhythmically sound with Correa no less extroverted than the first take. “Brother, Can You Spare Me A Dime” is completely transformed from a saloon tune to a post-modern blues hymn. Where Serpa is finesse and irony, Correa is sheer power and fractured momentum.
Tracks and Personnel
Tracks: Saturday; When Autumn Sings; Dr. Mabuse; Cansaço; Moonride; Strange Fruit; Mahler Noir; The Band Played On; Love Lament; Wende; Fine and Dandy; Last Night When We Were Young.
Personnel: Sara Serpa: vocals; Ran Blake: piano.
Down Here Below: Tribute to Abbey Lincoln Volume One
Tracks: Down Here Below; Little Niles; Freedom Day; Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?; Christmas Cheer; Bird Alone; African Lady; Retribution; Freedom Day; How I Hoped for Your Love; Christmas Cheer; Down Here Below.
Personnel: Christine Correa: voice; Ran Blake: piano.