Mapleshade

Clifford Jordan & Ran Blake

When you put together two great players as different as Jordan and Blake, you never know if you’ll get magic or a train wreck. This time, we got the magic. Pianist Ran Blake’s been tagged the mad monk of jazz. His staggering technique explores a dark mixture of unique harmonies and melancholy lyricism–all in remarkable contrast to Clifford, the quintessential Chicago post-bop tenor. That’s what makes this music so special. Their reinventions of Strayhorn’s “Something to Live For” and the Duke’s “Mood Indigo” are startling and beautiful. They paint moods ranging from dark waltzes and romantic ballads to tangos and the avante garde tone poems. A must have for fans of Clifford’s work with Mingus, Mal Waldron and Eric Dolphy in the ’60s. 4-Stars in the Penguin Guide to Jazz. A Fi SuperDisc. (#01732)

Clifford Jordan, tenor/soprano sax
Ran Blake, piano
Julian Priester, trombone
Windmill Saxophone Quartet, reeds
Alfredo Mojica, congas
Steve Williams, drums
Claudia Polley, vocals

 

TRACK LISTING:

1.
SOMETHING TO LIVE FOR (W.Strayhorn) - Listen To Sample
2.
A TOUCH OF EVIL (R.Blake) - Listen To Sample
3.
ARLINE (R.Blake)
4.
LAURA (Mercer and Raskin)
5.
SHORT LIFE OF BARBARA MONK (R.Blake) - Listen To Sample
6.
VANGUARD (R.Blake)
7.
VANGUARD (R.Blake)
8.
WIVES AND LOVERS (B.Bacharach)
9.
DOUG'S PRELUDE (C.Jordan)
10.
MOOD INDIGO (E.Ellington)

 

REVIEWS:

Austin American-Statesman:
reviewed by Michael Point

Iconoclastic pianist Ran Blake and the late saxist Clifford Jordan combined their considerable talents on Masters From Different Worlds (Mapleshade) for an unlikely, but endlessly intriguing, album. Jordan, who died a year ago, stepped outside his usual identity as a post-bop proponent for a more exploratory approach. Blake, a misunderstood jazz maverick of immense talent, was as unpredictable as ever. Together they took on everything from Duke Ellington's Mood Indigo to John Lennon's Julia with four Blake originals thrown in for good measure. The contexts varied with trombonist Julian Priester and the Windmill Saxophone Quartet joining in from time to time, but it was the unique Jordan/Blake musical chemistry that elevated the sessions far above the norm.

February 17, 1994


Cadence:
reviewed by Jerome Wilson

The billing here is misleading because Clifford Jordan appears on only four out of ten tracks, three of those on soprano instead of his usual tenor sax. This is the first release out of sessions that Ran Blake did for the Mapleshade label in 1989 with various combinations of musicians. Jordan was usually thought of as a mainstream player but he did have associations with Charles Mingus and Eric Dolphy so he knew about playing out. That shows in his duets with Blake on Something To Live For and Vanguard, his warm, romantic sound first making a wonderful foil to Blake's trademark hesitant dread, but slowly developing into ghostly shrieks and sinister melodies. Blake's penchant for dark, dreamlike moods colors the entire CD no matter who he plays with. Unlikely pop melodies like John Lennon's Julia and Burt Bachrach's Wives And Lovers are dismantled and reassembled as pale commentaries on themselves. Julia is a piano solo but Wives And Lovers adds Washington, DC's Windmill Saxophone Quartet and classical contralto Claudia Polley who help turn the piece into a dark carousel waltz. The Windmillers are also present on the liveliest track, A Touch Of Evil, pirouetting and howling an off-kilter mambo over Blake's menacing Latin theme. Trombonist Julian Priester joins Blake and Jordan for two trios on Arline and Doug's Prelude, a Jordan-penned tribute to bassist Doug Watkins which add a bluesy Mingus-like sonority to the craggy piano. Best of all is a beautiful version of Blake's elegy for Thelonious Monk's deceased daughter Short Life Of Barbara Monk, by Blake, Priester, Polley and drummer Steve Williams. The composition is probably Blake's finest: haunting, childlike and softly eerie. Priester's defiantly lively trombone and Polley's wordless sighing illuminate the song's beauty while Blake's piano teeters obsessively and Williams adds just the right amount of turbulence. Clifford Jordan fans might feel a little cheated by this but for Blake devotees (like me) this is heaven, a rare chance to hear him play with a number of different musicians and showcase the drama of his music.

September 1994


JazzTimes:
reviewed by Shoemaker

It's a bit of a stretch to give Clifford Jordan co-leadership credit for an album on which he plays on only half the tracks. Chalk it up to the late tenor giant's friendship with Mapleshade producer/engineer Pierre Sprey, who had recorded Jordan in several settings during Jordan's last years. Conversely, Ran Blake's tracks alone, in duet with drummer Steve Williams, and in ensembles with Windmill Saxophone Quartet, vocalist Claudia Polley, and percussionist Alfredo Mojica can't be written off as filler. The two tracks with featured artist Julian Priester a trio with Jordan and Blake; a quartet with Williams are wild cards thrown into the deck. Subsequently, Masters From Different Worlds has the feel of a very ambitious Ran Blake session, where eclectic materials Ellington-Strayhorn classics; pop music curios; film noirM chestnuts; Blake's better known compositions cohere into a programmatic unity through Blake's interpretative insights. This is an album with many highlights, including Jordan and Blake's takes on Something To Live For and Vanguard, Jordan's poignant tribute to Doug Watkins, which also features Priester, and Windmill leader Clayton Englar's flame-fanning arrangement of Blake's A Touch Of Evil. Still a pervasive, clear communication is documented on each track; for that, Mapleshade's studio should be given co-leadership credit.

September 1994