Ran Blake/Sara Serpa – Aurora (CF 264)
The combination of adventurous Portuguese vocalist Sara Serpa and legendary “Third Stream” pianist Ran Blake is an inspired summer-winter pairing. The two met first as student and teacher at Boston’s New England Conservatory, but since their first duo recording (2001’s excellent Camera Obscura) the relationship has matured into something quite unique and original.
Blake’s darkly enigmatic harmonies, delicately poised between form and freedom, throw Serpa’s unaffected but affecting vocals into sharp relief; the results stand alongside the very best of the piano-vocal tradition. their latest offering, recorded live in Lisbon earlier this year, is a fascinating collection of lesser spotted standards, including a riveting version of Billie Holiday’s politically charged Strange Fruit and quirky takes on old Tin Pan Alley chestnuts The Band Played On and Last Night When We Were Young.