[JPL] After all these years, jazz giant Ran Blake plans hometown gig

Dr. Jazz drjazz at drjazz.com
Thu Aug 28 09:29:09 EDT 2008

After all these years, jazz giant Ran Blake plans hometown gig
By Warren Allen / Music  |   Wednesday, August 27, 
2008  |  http://www.bostonherald.com 
<http://news.bostonherald.com/>  |  Music News 

Unless you're a musician or jazz geek, you've probably never heard of 
Ran Blake. But the 73-year-old pianist has more than 30 albums to his 
name and has played countless concerts from New York to Greece.

Tomorrow he's playing in a place that's completely new and completely 
familiar to him: Blake's performance at the Vernissage restaurant on 
Beacon Street will be his first public show in his hometown of Brookline.

"It's a wonderful, terrific street, Beacon Street," Blake said of his 
neighborhood. "You have hints of yuppie-ism, but you still have diversity."

And that diversity, he adds,includes such favorite spots as "places like 
Dalia's, the Khoa Sarn, Rani's Indian Bistro, all the different places 
to just get a small platter of hors d'oeuvres or dessert."

Blake, who may be best known for his jazz interpretations of film noir, 
also is happy "to look at the street or walk to the library at night."

Born in Springfield, Blake grew up in Connecticut and spent time in New 
York before moving to Boston to teach at New England Conservatory in 
1967. Since 1980, he's lived in the same basement apartment on Marion 
Street near Coolidge Corner.

"All these different neighborhoods play a role in my life," he said.

He describes Brookline as "a net of safety, a net of adventure." He 
talks fondly about walking through the streets and watching movies at 
the Coolidge Corner Theatre.

The hall of his apartment is lined with posters for concerts and classic 
thrillers. His shelves are stacked with Alfred Hitchcock and Fritz Lang 
DVDs and soundtracks.

To demonstrate one of his favorite ways of creating music, Blake put 
"Bunny Lake is Missing" into his DVD player and sat at his Falcone grand 
piano, which is angled to face the TV screen.

He skipped past a few scenes and muted the sound. As he watched the 
movie roll, his fingers went to the keyboard. With a delicate touch and 
an expert's use of space, Blake started to play, his music an aural 
mirror of the on-screen tension.

"You see people standing in a hospital room while a young blond lady's 
being diagnosed," he said, punctuating the actors' motions with eerie 
melodies. "These images often run through my mind when I'm playing solo 

Blake doesn't perform as frequently as he once did; he now prefers to 
hear others in concert. He still teaches and records at home, but for 
the most part, his public performances of late consist of a few tunes at 
a large event, such as NEC's upcoming faculty orientation concert.

All this makes his first Brookline performance particularly special. 
Vernissage restaurant in Washington Square is one of the few local 
places with room for a grand piano, which was a major reason Blake 
waited this long to play close to home.

Blake even has a title for the set: "Washington Square Noir: Ice Cream 
and Tears."

While he plans to play some solo piano, he will be joined by a group of 
former NEC students and highly regarded singer Dominique Eade.

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