[31 January 2012]
Pianist Ran Blake began performing what is known as Third Stream jazz with female vocalists back in the early sixties. The music challenges listeners with its hairpin turns, open spaces, and rushed tempos. Familiar songs become sources of raw materials that seem to have little to do with the original compositions. Imagine taking the red color from a Van Gogh painting of poppies, but leaving out the vase, the stems, and he shapes of the flowers. That’s kind of like what Blake does here, ably accompanied by vocalist Dominique Eade. The duo perform pop standards like “My Foolish Heart”, “After the Ball” and “Old Devil Moon” in a style that would be unrecognizable to the original songwriters. Eade’s voice hauntingly floats over Blake’s fingering of the keys one minute, and then takes off in another direction the next. It’s difficult to keep pace with the musicians as they seem to be on two different planes, but it’s clear they communicate with each other. Although just released, the tracks here were originally recorded in 2004 and 2008. While pristine collections of the great American songbook have become the contemporary equivalent of sonic wallpaper, no one will confuse this disc for that bland stuff. This music defies being coffee house background jazz and demands attention.