Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music
(b 20 April '35, Springfield MA) Piano, composer; self-taught at first; infl. by gospel music and soundtrack music, then Debussy and Bartok, later studying with Gunther Schuller, he became one of the foremost player/composers in the third stream, with a unique style bringing Monk to impressionism and vice versa, and a compellingly visual aspect to the music-making, as though accompanying films in his head. He teamed with singer Jeanne Lee '57 and experimented with vocal/piano duo improvisation; they toured Europe '63. He wrote a book about vocal improvisation, has taught at the New England Conservatory since '67 and received Guggenheim and NEA grants '82. First LP The Newest Sound Around '61 on RCA featured Lee and bassist George Duvivier (Legendary Duets later a Bluebird CD), followed by solo albums on ESP, Milestone, Improvising Artists, Horo (Italy) and Owl (France): Ran Blake Plays Solo Piano '65, The Blue Potato And Other Outrages '69, Breakthru '75, Wende '76; Open City, Crystal Trio, Realization Of A Dream and Third Stream Recompositions all '77, Vertigo '84. Take One and Take Two on Golden Crest (also '77) had different takes of the same titles. Rapport '78 has one vocal each by Eleni Odoni and Chris Connor, some Blake solos, duets with Ricky Ford (b 4 March '54, Boston), Anthony Braxton on tenor on one track. He did Roundabout with Christine Correa on Music and Arts and You Stepped Out Of A Cloud on Owl with Lee (who also did Nuba on Black Saint with Andrew Cyrille and Jimmy Lyons). Improvisations '81 on Soul Note has piano duets with Jaki Byard; Film Noir '80 on Arista/Novus had solo tracks and guests incl. Ted Curson. Suffield Gothic '83 on Soul Note incl. medley 'Tribute To Mahalia'; Houston Person (b 10 Nov. '34, Florence SC) plays tenor on four tracks. The Short Life Of Barbara Monk '87 was Blake's first conventional quartet album, with Ford, Ed Felson on bass and Jon Hazilla on drums, rated by Francis Davis as one of Blake's best, the title track dedicated to Thelonious Monk's daughter, who died of cancer. Painted Rhythms vols 1 and 2 on GM Recordings from the mid-'80s are described as instalments of 'The Complete Ran Blake'. Epistrophy '91 was another quartet; Duke Dreams: The Strayhorn--Ellington Legacy '81 a solo, both on Soul Note, with That Certain Feeling: The Gershwin Songbook '90 on hat Hut (with Ford and Steve Lacy) part of an ongoing series of tribute albums. Unmarked Van '94 on Soul Note was a lovely solo tribute to Sarah Vaughan.