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Ran Blake and David Fabris: Indian Winter

Close-miking a tired piano that is being played aggressively leads to sonic ugliness, as can unfortunately be heard on Ran Blake’s Indian Winter. The album was recorded in 1999, and the poor sound probably deterred its release. Another deterrent may have been the unusual structure of the album, although that structure is really an asset: 23 tracks (most under three minutes, 10 involving guitarist David Fabris), freely mixing originals, cinematic music (like soundtrack snippets and Blake’s menacing “Homage to Alfred Hitchcock”), standards like “Mood Indigo” and not-so-standards like Frank Zappa’s “Marqueson’s Chicken.”

Blake plucks elements from the pieces he plays and amps them up or takes them in unusual directions (sometimes violently), but he never lingers at all; his goal seems to be not standard jazz development of themes through solos but accumulating and juxtaposing enigmatic moments until they turn into an evocative mosaic. Blake gave Fabris the nickname “Knife,” and his electric ax indeed cuts across the acoustic and chops up the melodies he plays into their essential bits. It’s tricky to adjust your expectations to what Blake and Fabris are giving you, but it’s also quite rewarding; too bad Indian Winter’s sound makes the adjustment more difficult than it needs to be.

Originally Published