All That Is Tied

Is there a pianist out there who gets a bigger kick of clanging a fat chord and letting its sound swell, fill the room and fade away? Or who knows more about the shaded harmonies under his fingertips? Or who is better at stringing together spare notes of a melody, evoking those stock film scenes where a tunesmith sits at the keyboard and pecks out his big hit for the first time? Or who is so likely to darken a ballad with a Bernard Herrmann-Alfred Hitchcock vibe? Or, when you least expect it, to deliver up a dash of funk or a churchified riff. And does this guy ever know the power of the pause?

At 70, pianist Ran Blake has been distilling his musical predilections on disc for more than half his life. And if you've slept on the last 34 of these releases — most of them small-label solo piano outings like this one — then it's a fine time to tune in.

A sort of musical sage, Blake was mentored by Gunther ("Third Stream") Schuller and, at the New England Conservatory, taught the likes of Don Byron and John Medeski, the latter of whom contributes liner notes here. To borrow a term of praise from Blake's hero Duke Ellington, he's beyond category.

W. Kim Heron is the editor of Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].

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