released October 23, 2013
This album, Blake's solo debut, has barely been heard since its appearance in ESP-Disk's first batch of LP releases in 1965. The reissue programs in Europe on ZYX and Calibre did not include it; there was only one very poorly distributed Italian bootleg CD in the mid-'90s. Fans and aficionados, including members of the jazz press, have clamored for it to be included in our 50th Anniversary Remaster program, citing its musical and historical importance, so here it is! The slight distortion on a few high notes is a small price to pay to hear this jazz master at the beginning of his illustrious career.
Born in 1935, Blake developed a style of jazz playing unlike anyone else's by incorporating classical elements (the Impressionists, of course, but Stravinsky, Prokofiev, and Messiaen have also been cited), gospel music (which he experienced first-hand in a Pentecostal church while growing up in Connecticut), Thelonious Monk's highly personal style (back when Monk was still considered a good composer but an overly eccentric pianist), and an abiding love of film noir that influenced the mood of his playing as much as his purely musical influences. Recording opportunities were sparse at first; by age 40 he had released only three albums: his 1962 debut with vocalist Jeanne Lee, The Newest Sound Around (RCA), Plays Solo Piano, and another solo album, The Blue Potato and Other Outrages (Milestone, 1969, long out of print). Since then, fortunately, he has received many more opportunities to get his music heard and has established himself as one of the reigning masters of jazz.
Ran Blake (p)
3.Sleepy Time Gal
4.On Green Dolphin Street
6.There'll Be Some Changes Made
7.Good Morning Heartache
NYC, May 1, 1965
"For a debut album Plays Solo Piano was a courageous statement. Clearly in the jazz tradition, and very much a personal, stylistic explosion of the idiom, Blake belonged on ESP Records." - Steve Wilson, Blurt
"…the pianist has honed an aesthetic that is the antithesis of jazz's prevailing pyrotechnic postures. Blake's virtuosity is not expressed through quicksilver speed…but through touch and shading. As a result, Blake has a singular ability to make a single note speak volumes about the human condition, and to turn silence into a withering cry. These attributes are best experienced on his many solo albums. Blake made a signal, early entry into solo piano, recording Ran Blake Plays Solo Piano in 1965 for the usually explosive ESP label. At a time when being a jazz progressive meant spooling out expansive, explosive and ecstatic tomes, Blake achieved what was, for the times, a unique, if not contrarian introspection and intimacy." – Bill Shoemaker, JazzTimes
"…alone at the piano is how Ran Blake reveals the depth of his musical universe most completely." – John Medeski
"Ranks among the music's most brilliant and engaging improvisers" – Boston Herald
SKU: ESP 1011