Ran Blake's Driftwoods
Driftwoods (on the Tompkins Square label) is dedicated to some of his favorite singers, most of them haunted and haunting. The title tune was sung by Chris Connor, a heroine of sorts; others are associated with Billie Holiday, Nat King Cole, Hank Williams, and Jackie Paris (who sang Charles Mingus’ “Portrait,” a tune that few others besides Blake has covered). The album requires, and deserves, close listening. His two back-to-back variations on “Dancing in the Dark” are especially gripping; “I Loves You, Porgy,” which he’s recorded a few times before, raises the hair on the back of the neck. You can get lost in Ran Blake’s music, and it’s a detour worth taking.
Blake pushes down on the sustain pedal a lot, and the decay weaves eerily with the hammer notes that follow. The engineer captures this effect very clearly, though the mikes seem to be too close, probably inside the piano lid; the echo is a bit too reverberant. But this is only a minor shortcoming.
(Full-disclosure P.S.: I co-produced Masters from Different Worlds, which Blake recorded with Clifford Jordan and several other guests in the early ‘90s on the Mapleshade label. I neither have nor ever had a financial stake in the album; if you dismiss my praise as a conflict of interest, the loss is yours.)