This disc Something To Live For is an edifice crafted around “The Enigma Suite” a work of Elgar-like scope and grandiloquence. It is also probably (also) as close as we would get to a set of American standards from the fingers of Ran Blake playing duets with (guitar or clarinet) someone other than a vocalist. Still, there are nine solo pieces here, and even in the duets with guitarist David Fabris and clarinet Guillermo Gregorio, we are still treated to the elegance and pristine, dust-free atmospherics of Ran Blake’s sleight of hand at the keyboard.
Unique in all of this is the epigrammatic beauty of Ran Blake’s playing in each of the songs – some of which (“Enigma Suite: Part 4” and “Ghosts…” at the end) are barely a minute long. But even here, the music is so lovingly and lyrically crafted that one is reminded of the great Catullus may have come to life and is ‘singing’ love songs to his beloved Lesbia all over again. But, of course, this is Ran Blake we are talking about and listening to; a pianist possessed of enormous energy and a restless mind that knows no boundaries. When unleashed on the piano, the 88keys seemingly multiply exponentially until we feel as if now there is no end in sight for the twelve notes on either side of Middle C.
Add to that, the fact that Ran Blake is a pianist driven by an extremely fertile mind and imagination. The pianism is driven by an always inward-looking Ran Blake, who once there seems to unearth the deepest, most introverted self, which he is seems, almost contrarily, willing to share with an audience in all its nakedness. But as he does every time he plays a piece here – from one “Something To Live For” by Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn to “A Night In Tunisia” by Dizzy Gillespie and Frank Paparelli, “Eclipse” by Charles Mingus or “Throw It Away” by Abbey Lincoln; or an original Ran Blake has a highly personal way of diving into the deepest part of the work’s emotional centre, to create a pervasive atmosphere of otherworldliness, Thus he manages to always arrive at the work’s core with almost unbearable poignancy before moving into a richly chromatic effect.
Track list – 1: Elijah Rock 1; 2: Something to Live For; 3: Get Out of Town; 4: Enigma Suite: Part 1; 5: Memphis; 6: Vilna; 7: Enigma Suite: Part 2; 8: Mood Indigo; 9: Eclipse; 10: Elijah Rock 2; 11: Enigma Suite: Part 3; 12: Judy; 13: A Night in Tunisia; 14: Enigma Suite: Part 4; 15: Nightcrawler; 16: Throw It Away; 17: Impresario of Death; 18: Doktor Mabuse; 19: Ghosts of Cimetière de Père Lachaise
Personnel – Ran Blake: piano; David “Knife” Fabris, guitar (2, 6, 12, 15, 18); Guillermo Gregorio: clarinet (4, 7, 11, 14, 17)
Released – 2017 (2nd edition)
Label – hatHUT Records
Runtime – 51:35