Friday, April 10, 2015

Ran Blake & Jeanne Lee: Newest Sound Around & Down Beat Feature

Last year, Ran Blake & Jeanne Lee's Free Standards - Stockholm 1966 (see this post) grabbed my attention so kept I my eyes peeled for their first album together - The Newest Sound Around. I finally picked it up, and it's been getting some airtime around the apartment.

Recorded in 1961, the CD reissue (Phoenix Records) adds four tracks to the 11 on the original LP release. It was a very strong debut album and has held up well over the decades.

Aside from a track recorded at the Lenox School of Jazz in 1959, this is the earliest recording I have heard from Blake, and his personal style is already well in place. Although he doesn't really have that much solo space, the album showcases Blake's creative accompaniment. His harmonic sense and tasty use of dissonance and space blends well with Lee's deep, rich vocals. At times, Blake creates a dense sound (his accompaniment on "Love Isn't Everything"). At other times, his approach is more minimal (his first solo chorus on "Evil Blues").

There is a solo piano feature along with two solo vocal works. On two tracks the duo is joined by George Duvivier - who's solid bass playing adds some colour to the overall dark, brooding character of the album.

The album expresses a feeling that removes the need for any pyrotechnics, and leaves the impression that Jeanne Lee is very much underrated.

I consider this album essential listening for those interested in jazz vocals.

To finish things off, I thought I would share a couple of articles featuring the duo. The first is from Down Beat in 1962 (I lost my notes regarding what month it is from). The second are notes from a European tour (Down Beat May 7, 1964).
Bill Coss Down Beat Magazine 1962

Down Beat May 1964 Martin Williams

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