Ran Blake utilizes a skewed paradigm for his tribute album in honor of the music of George Russell. On Ghost Tones, the pianist emphasizes the spirit of the Russell’s music more than the compositions themselves, sometimes even to the point where the renditions of some Russell compositions sound more reminiscent of their counterparts than the song being performed at the time. It’s a holistic approach to an artist’s body of work, and it gets to where an admirable irrelevance is achieved as to whether a particular album track happens to be a George Russell composition or a Ran Blake original.
Case in point: The Russell composition “Living Time” sees Blake in septet formation and charging ahead as the embodiment of tunefulness through sheer force of will, and yet the song structure and the impressionist flair during the solos kicks out a hazy picture that contrasts beautifully with the tempo’s clear focus. “Biography,” on the other hand, a Blake original, flirts with an edge of space/cusp of nightmare quality that emanates from certain Russell recordings. Both songs, in their way, honor both the music and the spirit of the tribute’s subject.
Other standout tracks:
“Alice Norbury” has all the shiny ingredients for a comforting soundscape, but Blake fashions the song into dangerous shards and offers, instead, an icy edge.
The cadence of “Jack’s Blues” tries to reflect an optimistic outlook, but the melodic incursions reveal a profound sadness simmering beneath the surface of things.
Violin and pedal steel get into the mix for the “Ballad of Hix Blewitt,” and it becomes a question of how much beauty of listener’s heart can hold before it breaks in two.
The shift between solo pieces and those with accompaniment flows nicely from track to track, providing welcome variation in tone and temper over the course of the recording.
Really just a fascinating album, possessing an impressive mix of intelligence and emotional punch.
Your album personnel: Ran Blake (acoustic piano, Casio Priva PX-310 electric piano), Peter Kenagy (trumpet), Aaron Hartley (trombone), Doug Pet (tenor sax), Eric Lane (piano, Nord Electro, Fender Rhodes), Jason Yeager (piano), Ryan Dugre (guitar), Dave Fabris (pedal steel guitar), Rachel Massey (violin), Brad Barrett (acoustic & electric basses), David Flaherty (drums, timpani), Charles Burchell (drums, timpani, vibraphone) and Luke Moldof (electronics).
Released on A-Side Records.
Visit the artist site.
Listen to another album track on Soundcloud.