Pianist Ran Blake
has been known for his duo work with vocalists dating back to his 1962 collaboration with Jeanne Lee
, The Newest Sound Around
(RCA Victor). In recent years, he has been working with three individualistic singers, Sara Serpa
, Dominique Eade
and Christine Correa
. The year 2017 brought a session of folk songs and soundtrack music with Eade, the excellent Town And Country
(Sunnyside Records). This time it’s Correa’s turn in a program of mostly jazz and pop standards.
Correa has a thick, aggressive singing voice reminiscent of Abbey Lincoln, and is often the commanding focal point on these duets, while Blake provides icy backgrounds. This really comes out on Ornette Coleman‘s “Lonely Woman,” which she starts with a chilling solo blues-tinged scream before tearing into the lyrics with a forceful Middle Eastern wail, as Blake strikes bell-like single notes and ominous chords. On “Out of this World,” “All About Ronnie” and “Bebopper,” she sings with more ease and melodic flow but maintains a sharp, angular phrasing that plays well off Blake’s fragments of swing and bop piano. She really struts her vocal prowess on a Sephardic folk song “Ah, El Novio No Quere Dinero” and a noirish, a cappella version of Blake’s “Wende.” But her most extravagant performance is on an eight- minute version of Ivan Lins‘ “Love Dance,” where she sounds alternately yearning, poetic and ghostly over Blake’s deliberate, moody playing.
Throughout the disc, Blake’s piano work is its usual mesmerizing mixture of dark chords, dreamlike fragments and tipsy saloon blues, creating backgrounds worthy of an Alfred Hitchcock score. In addition to his duets with Correa, he also performs three short solo variations on George Russell‘s “Stratusphunk,” one bluesy, one menacing, and one slow-crawling ballad that seems to have been crossed with Thelonious Monk‘s “Misterioso.”
Ran Blake is one of the most distinctive musicians in the jazz realm, with an uneasy minimalist style of piano playing that conjures thoughts of dark shadows and 3 AM nightmares. Match him with the searing voice of Christine Correa and the result is deep, disquieting music full of both seductive beauty and nebulous dread. This is an outstanding duo set.
Track Listing: Don’t Explain; Out Of This World; Lonely Woman; Stratusphunk I; Bebopper; All About Ronnie; Ah, El Novio No Quere Dinero; Stratusphunk II; Love Dance; Wende; Stratusphunk III; No More.
Personnel: Ran Blake: piano; Christine Correa: voice.
Title: Streaming | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: Red Piano Records
Downbeat Dec, 2018
RED PIANO 14599-4434
Ran Blake and Christine Correa have
cultivated a unique musical relation-
ship through their frequent collab-
orations, first by acknowledging the
approach and then charting a path
that departs from precedent, sometimes radically.
This is clear from the opening cut of Streaming, a bracingly original
exploration of Billie Holiday’s “Don’t Explain.” Playing in a very flexible
rubato, they each perform freely, with Blake alluding to, rather than repli-
cating, the structure of the tune through clusters, dissonances and an occa-
sional consonant voicing. His “solo,” if that’s the right word, floats around
the composition in a way that honors it and keeps it in a clear, if abstract,
light. And Correa’s vocal, crisply articulated but bitingly emotional, defines
a space that’s parallel to Blake’s; when the piano drops out for a few bars, she
sails on, buoyed on a silence that nonetheless evokes the foundation Blake
already had laid for her.
The unique dynamic of this first track heralds all that follows. Te point
is that when combining knowledge of tradition with wide-open ears and
fearlessness, the road opens to exhilarating possibility.