Monday, April 5, 2010

Ran Blake Drops Me a Note. Nothing so far from George Russell

I received a very kind email from Ran Blake in response to my last post.  Now, if only I can get a message from Thelonious Monk on my Ouija board!  This blog is a work of love for all those jazz artists that have touched me, and it is very rewarding to get a response from one of the greats.  

Mr. Blake advises me that a "memorial for George Russell will take place the second Saturday in may in Manhattan."  Living in South Dakota, Manhattan is a little bit out of my range.  If it weren't, I would certainly be there.  I have posted before on George 'Russell.  I am very fond of his magnum opus, Ezz-Thetics.  Any essential collection of modern jazz should include that and four or five other Russell recordings.  Get Stratus funk and The RCA Victor Workshop.  You won't be disappointed.  If you can make the Russell memorial, don't miss it.  Tell 'em I sent ya. 

Here is a wonderful sample:
George Russell/Bent Eagle/Stratus Funk
An actual note from Ran Blake got me interested in Ran Blake.  Blake is a representative of the "Third Stream" movement in jazz.  This, I gather, is analogous to jazz fusion, only here it is a fusion of jazz with classical music.  Don't take my word for it.  I don't know what I am talking about.  But that never stopped me before.  

I think a lot of jazz composition rivals the best of classical music.  Blake's teacher, Mal Waldron, is a good example.  I fell deeply in love with Waldron's many duet albums, which are more classical in feel, for the most part, than they are jazzy.  Waldron's duet with Marion Brown, Songs of Love and Regret, comes to mind.  I haven't heard anything in classical music (and I have listened to a lot of that) that is better than 'To a Golden Lady in her Gram Cracker Window'.   

Well, tonight I have been listening to Ran Blake's Epistrophy.  I am consistently amazed by the power that Monk's compositions have in modern jazz.  Scroll down the jazz genre section of my iPod (that's pretty much the whole iPod), stop and spit.  Chances are you will hit a Monk cover.  I shouldn't wonder.  I am myself obsessed with Monk.  You will find a lot of Monk posts on this blog.  I recently praise Anthony Braxton's marvelous album of Monk compositions.  Monk seems to be the Rosetta Stone of jazz: the one place that everyone understands everyone else.  

Blake's Epistrophy is another exquisite interpretation of Monk' genius.  If you like solo piano jazz in any form, you will like this.  As I listened, I kept thinking: okay, so that is what that meant!  Here is a sample.  
Ran Blake/'Round Midnight/Epistrophy
So get the CD.  You'll like it, especially if you like Monk's 'Epistrophy'.  He does it three times.  I do. 


  1. Can I recommend a concert recording by Ran Blake from last year on NPR ( Some of the themes are on last year's CD “Driftwood”, but I especially like a comparison of Blake's solo 'Nature Boy' excerpt in this concert with the version with trumpeter Enrico Rava on the 'Duo en Noir' CD
    His music may be considered as avant garde, but there are strong links with the melody of the songs on which he bases a lot of his improvisations.


  2. Mr. D.: You sure as heck can! Thanks very much for the link. I am enjoying it as I write.

  3. Ran Blake's George Russell Tribute CD is being released on a small label before the year's end (2012, Sept? TBA). Keep an eye/ear out. From what I hear this is a new sound for Ran. He's playing with the largest ensemble since what we heard in the'80s on Film Noir. I heard a rumor that one track has three pianos, electric and acoustic... And another is an electronic music track. The Newerest Sound Around, I ask? I assume so from this genius musician and his friends. :) Looking forward. Spread the word. Hope it's true.