“I’m already thinking of it as the vocal recording of the year.” - Michael Ulman, Fanfare
"Likewise, their take of Moon River is everything you could possibly want from that song. This isn’t just the best protest jazz album of the year so far, it’s the best album of 2017." - Alan Young, New York Music Daily
"As impressive as Whirlpool remains, it pales in comparison to the bold, variegated brilliance of Town and Country. Artful. Mercurial. Exhilarating." - Christopher Loudon, Jazz Times
Prepare to be deeply moved by this collaboration from heaven. Ran Blake and Dominique Eade, each a master of tone color, mood, and finesse, take you on an arresting journey through American song for these troubled times. Found here are eighteen miniature masterpieces (none longer than four minutes) by two artists deeply attuned to one another and possibilities of expressing poignant emotion through a small phrase, a perfectly weighted note, or an exquisitely chosen color. There is tragedy (West Virginia Mine Disaster, Give My Love to Rose), love lost (Pretty Fly, Goodnight, Irene), protest (It’s Alright, Ma, The Easter Tree), comfort (Lullaby), joy (Open Highway), love found (Moonglow, Moonlight in Vermont), nature (Thoreau), and spiritual strength (Elijah Rock).
Painting a portrait of America’s diversity in unusual ways, in today’s historical moment Johnny Cash’s Give My Love to Rose conjures the prison industrial complex, and The Easter Tree summons the protest of lynching in Billie Holiday’s Strange Fruit. Dylan’s It’s Alright, Ma bitingly critiques the hypocrisy of consumerist culture for which nothing is sacred, while Mahalia Jackson’s Elijah Rock gives us the foundation of faith necessary for hope.
Ran Blake’s atmospheric and unique harmonies (sometimes widely and resonantly spaced, at others crisply clustered) are effortlessly modern, always following the arc of the ear in bestowing new colors to the melodies. Noted throughout his 55-year career for his collaborations with singers like Jeanne Lee, Blake’s collaborations with Dominique Eade (this is their second album) have achieved something rare and inspiring—a deep empathy, a mutual anticipation, a common artistry—that is greater than the sum of its parts. Eade glides from low to high, modulating tone color in elegantly sculptured phrases, always inflecting the right shape around the most poignant words. Eade’s astonishing vocal precision haunts, delights, and moves to tears. As colleagues at New England Conservatory for decades, they know each other really well and it shows.
There is no such thing as genre on this album. Jazz standards meet tone rows (Gunther), and Charles Ives (Thoreau) and Walter Schuman (Pretty Fly) meet Nelson Riddle’s theme song for the television show Route 66 (Open Highway). There are solo piano miniatures by Ran Blake (Moti, Harvest at Massachusetts General Hospital) offering elegiac chords and meditative presence. Dylan’s It’s Alright, Ma becomes something else entirely through an indescribable channeling of something blues, hip hop, Monk, and magically Blake-Eade-ish.
Town and Country is a remarkable album, offering a profound listening experience, conceptual clarity, and a reminder that true art is always deeply necessary.
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