The career of Boston-based white pianist Ran Blake (1935)
was influenced by two key musicians whom he met in his twenties:
vocalist Jeanne Lee (1957) and "third stream" composer Gunther Schuller (1959).
Torn between abstract improvisation and structured composition,
Blake quickly absorbed a broad range of musical languages, from
film noir to gospel music, from Thelonious Monk to Olivier Messiaen.
The Newest Sound Around (december 1961) was a showcase of his interaction with Lee, from the tragic (Where Flamingos Fly) to the comic ( Season in the Sun, Evil Blues), as well as for his gospel-ish solo-piano style (Church on Russell Street).
The latter was further explored on the highly original collections Plays Solo Piano (may 1965), with Vanguard and Sister Tee, and Blue Potato (april 1969), with Blue Potato, despite too many revisions of standards.
After a long hiatus, Blake started recording solo-piano albums again, but his compositions were often hiddden among tedious interpretations of standards:
Breakthru (december 1975), with Breakthru,
Wende (august 1976), the best of the decade, with Wende, East Wind, Jim Crow and Airline,
The Realization of a Dream (june 1977), with Racial Vertigo and Death of Edith Piaf.
He used a symphony orchestra on
Portfolio of Doktor Mabuse (october 1977), with The Frog the Fountain & Aunt Jane, Chicken Monster and Portfolio of Docktor Mabuse,
and recycled old compositions on
Rapport (april 1978).
The originals on Film Noir (january 1980), such as Spiral Staircase, Touch Of Evil and Garden of Delight scored for various chamber settings, reinvented the atmospheres of classic films.
The highlight of its follow-up, Vertigo (november 1984), was a
Other notable compositions were:
Duke Dreams on Duke Dreams (may 1981),
Indian Winter on Suffield Gothic (september 1983)
and especially the ten-minute Sonata for Two Pianos on Improvisations (june 1981) with fellow pianist Jaki Byard.
The best album of the decade was Short Life of Barbara Monk (august 1986), both intellectual and elegant, containing
Impresario of Death, Short Life of Barbara Monk and
That Certain Feeling
featured Ricky Ford (tenor sax) and Steve Lacy (soprano sax) and was devoted to
Something To Live For (march 1998) documents a trio with Guillermo Gregorio (clarinet) and David Fabris (guitar).
The double-disc The Newest Sound You Never Heard collects sessions recorded by Ran Blake and Jeanne Lee in 1996-97.
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