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Album Review

Recorded in 1976 in Boston for France's Owl label and first released on compact disc in the early '90s, Wende is pianist Ran Blake solo at his most playful and adventurous. On "Field Cry," which opens the set, Blake is fooling with the blues and ragtime, subverting time and lyric changes without losing the feel. The title track is one of those spooky Blake ballads where the eerie and lyrical come together to whisper and sing. And so it goes — there are songs here, and traces of them, as Blake picks them up from the night air and lays them out on his keys. His sparse phrasing comes from the heart of jazz and blues as articulated through the decades, with bits of the new added and bits of the old left in the night to sing their way in. It may not be clear, but as in his many fine solo albums, Blake is in complete control of both his hearing and his muse. These are very much song-oriented pieces, and Blake is a master of texture, space, and tension. His articulate mid-register playing uses time and melody while undoing both in the process and melding them back together as something entirely new — check "Blues for Wheatleigh" or "Jim Crow." Wende is a beautifully tender album, full of memory, longing, sadness, and joy, by a pianist whose middle name should be "Ghost." Thanks to the Sunnyside label for bringing back the treasures of the Owl imprint.


Born: 20 April 1935 in Springfield, MA

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

Third stream pianist and music educator Ran Blake has recorded a number of unique, often solo, jazz albums since the early '60s that showcase his dramatic contrasts of silence and "outbursts" and fresh reinventions of older standards. He has also made his mark on music by influencing music students for many decades at Boston's New England Conservatory of Music. He was born in Springfield, MA, on April 20, 1935, and eventually got his degree from Bard College, in addition to studying at Columbia...
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Wende, Ran Blake
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