Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Ran Blake & Jeanne Lee

Ran Blake & Jeanne LeeFree Standards: Stockholm 1966 (Fresh Sound)
Earlier this year I picked up Ran Blake Plays Solo Piano and soon after, Free Standards. My introduction to Blake’s work came via recordings from the 1980s and 90s.

Clocking in at 73 minutes, the album is comprised of 25 previously unreleased tracks including Blake originals (“Vanguard,” “Galziation”), standards (“Take the ‘A’ Train,” “Ja-Da,” “I’ll Remember April”), bossa-nova (“Corcovado,” “Desafinado”), a couple from The Beatles (“Ticket To Ride” & “A Hard Day’s Night”) and originals from the session’s producer, Kjell Samuelson (all of which Blake plays solo). Lee is present on 10 of the tracks with Blake taking the rest on solo.

Even early on Blake’s sound is quite striking, percussive, dark and brooding, crystal-like clarity, utilizing a wide range of dynamics and the entire span of the keyboard. I enjoy the blend he and Lee achieve and the duo presents plenty of surprises for the listeners. I haven’t heard much from Lee (Carla Bley’s Escalator Over The Hill being the only thing I can recall). I found her inventive approach to the melodies along with her tone very listenable. For those interested in hearing a piano/vocal duo take tunes to a different place, this pairing could be you your alley. I must check out their first album together.

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