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Ran Blake & Dominique Eade: Whirlpool

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Simpatico relationships between vocalists and pianists-Shearing and Cole; Evans and Bennett; Bill Charlap and his mother, Sandy Stewart-are hardly unusual. Occasionally, though, such unions transcend sympathetic rapport and become truly empathetic. The finest example on record emerged in 1961, when trailblazing third-stream pianist Ran Blake and singer Jeanne Lee commingled on The Newest Sound Around. Now, a half-century later, Blake achieves very near the same magnificence with Dominique Eade. Actually, these 13 tracks were recorded a while ago, in sessions dating from 2004 and 2008. In fact, this album has been 30 years in the making, demonstrating the continual evolution of their shared sensibility from their first meeting, when Eade transferred to the New England Conservatory expressly for the opportunity to study with Blake (she has long since joined him on the faculty).

When Blake indulges his penchant for film-noir atmospherics, as on “My Foolish Heart,” Eade provides ideally sly and shadowy responses, expertly playing the cunning Bacall to his Bogart. When she reinvestigates her own, hymnlike “Go Gently to the Water” (also included on her previous album, Open, with her NEC mentee, pianist Jed Wilson), Blake paves the way for a freshly ethereal reading. How they pace one another through “Falling,” like concordant harmonic acrobats, is dazzling. It is, however, their two interpretations of “Dearly Beloved,” one coolly cerebral, the other raw with desire, that best demonstrate their interpretive kinship.

Originally Published