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Sara Serpa & Ran Blake: Kitano Noir

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Apart from his landmark work with Jeanne Lee in the 1950s and early ’60s (and their brief but sublime reunion in the late ’80s), pianist Ran Blake has devoted little attention to vocalists. Until, that is, the current decade, as the Third Stream pioneer entered his mid-70s. Singers have since become a prime focus. While he’s shaped superb one-off sessions with Dominique Eade and France’s Laïka Fatien, his principal vocal partners are the equally skilled yet dramatically different Christine Correa and Sara Serpa.

The Bombay-born Correa’s rich, dark-hued voice is a rather ideal match for Blake’s noirish style. The Road Keeps Winding, their fourth collaboration, continues their joint interpretation of the Abbey Lincoln songbook, begun with 2012’s Down Here Below. This 12-track pairing, just voice and piano, is indeed a twisted one, progressing through an inky “Straight Ahead,” urgent, staccato “The Heel,” eerily ethereal “Midnight Sun” and a fascinating take on “When Autumn Sings,” with Blake’s almost childlike plinking in stark contrast to the scorched ache of Correa’s vocal. Lincoln’s groundbreaking partnership with Max Roach is saluted with a “Driva Man” both beefy and sharply angular and a gloriously expansive “Living Room.” Blake, lost in reverie, goes it alone for a two-part amble through “Throw It Away.” They close with “Evalina Coffey (The Legend Of),” cleverly lending Lincoln’s curious yarn an otherworldly air that recalls the similarly supernatural “Nature Boy.”

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