Thursday, January 26, 2012

Ran Blake & Dominique Eade, "Whirlpool"

After countless decades of pianistic probings and keenly original recomposi- tions it would be no exaggeration to assert that Ran Blake has become a national musical institution in his own right. Maestro Blake can take a well or lesser known standard and reharmonize it so radically and naturally that the melody line can stand out as suddenly sounding uncannily strange, no matter how familiar to the listener from previous exposure. This most certainly is so of his new collaborative album with singer Dominique Eade, Whirlpool (Jazz Project 3002).

Thirteen songs--twelve standards and one excellent song composition by Ms. Eade ("Go Gently to the Water") comprise the totality of this set. Ms. Eade has a stong and appealing instrument, great pitch control and eloquent phrasing. I would not go so far as to say she plays the "straight man" to Maestro Blake's wide recasting of meta-substitutions and reworkings of the accompaniment, but she most certainly at times subtly makes the melody line soar and contrast with its recontextualization.

She centers Ran Blake's orbital flights but in the process creates her own universe of vocal-interpretive excellence. Listen to "Old Devil Moon" and you get a good idea of the brilliant rethinking that goes on here. That brings out an important aspect of Blake's approach and Ms. Eade's complicity with it. That is, you never get the sense that the restructuring, the recompositions come about for anything but the right reason: that Ms. Eade and Mr. Blake love these songs and seek to extend their impact and make of them something wholly new. They do. Exceptionally so.

Thank you for this wonderful music!

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