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.
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 Gunter 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.
With quivering emotions that tug at the ends of phrases and lines, and with odd accents that seem to suggest that she has been inspired by Thelonious Monk’s world of cracked rhythms and harmonic concepts, Miss Correa brings an eerie reality to this music; with a stunning and infinitely darker rendition of “Don’t Explain” than anyone else you may have heard. She is a precarious teeter-totter of vulnerability and strength. In fact, with Mr Blake at the other harmonic end of proceedings we have, in this song, a striking alternative to one that Billie Holiday and Mal Waldron created. Miss Correa is no stranger to classic Jazz. She grew up on a healthy staple of the very best from her father, the incredible Mickey Correa, a bandleader from the days when Jazz was real in Bombay (in India). But nothing whatsoever can prepare you for the version of “Out of this World” that she and Mr Blake spin off. Nor is one prepared for the ghostly wonders of Ornette Coleman’s “Lonely Woman” and the three variations on George Russell’s classic “Stratusphunk”, which even without Eric Dolphy (from Mr Russell’s original) are certainly benchmark interpretations of the work.
Streaming is also a fitting bookend to Mr Blake’s great recording Film Noir, a fascinating sonic foray into the film genre of the same name imprinted on Arista Novus in 1980 and later re-mastered and re-released by the inimitable Jonathan Horwich of International Phonograph on his label of the same name. Like that classic recording, Streaming comes from the same place and it leaves the same enormous impact on the senses. It’s full of glinting lights (“Bebopper”), mysterious depths (“Ah El Novio No Quere Dinero”), expectations, frustrations (“Don’t Explain”), hopes (“Love Dance”) and doubts (“No More”), like the shattered shadows of a sinister quasi-Mendelssohnian scherzo glimpsed by moonlight in a forest. In sheer colour and depth of its characterisation and the exceptional range and refinements of pianism, Mr Blake – abetted by the magical vocalastics of Miss Correa – imparts a power and tragic stature to his humanity that no amount of “bigness” (the usual route taken by pianists) can achieve.
Track list – 1: Don’t Explain; 2: Out Of This World; 3: Lonely Woman; 4: Stratusphunk I; 5: Bebopper; 6: All About Ronnie; 7: Ah, El Novio No Quere Dinero; 8: Stratusphunk II; 9: Love Dance; 10: Wende; 11: Stratusphunk III; 12: No More
Personnel – Ran Blake: piano; Christine Correa: voice
Released – 2018
Label – Red Piano Records (RPR 14599-4434)
Runtime – 41:30