Richard Blake – Plays Midtown at Midnight

Richard Blake
Plays Midtown at Midnight
Richard Blake – 2010

This is Blake’s second CD, a follow-up to Richard Blake Plays Heartache Guitar, a collection of love songs played completely alone on guitar. Richard Blake Plays Midtown at Midnight is a rhythm driven, contemporary exposition of a master guitarist. As a secondary note, Richard is also an accomplished electric bass player and he plays bass on this CD and one will marvel at the syncopation he provides within his guitar chord work and the way the bass moves the music with passing tones.

First up is “Lollipops and Roses” with lush beautiful chords, tasteful single lines and well-placed stops that give this classic standard its own unique voice. A brilliant take on “Someday My Prince Will Come” gives a 4/4 treatment (normally in �) to this well known Morey/Churchill classic, which creates a swingin’ palette to build upon. Blake’s creates a tutti section with bass and guitar to further create interest and imprint a highly recorded selection with his signature sound.

“Desafinado” is a Jobim classic covered by many artists over the years, but Blake’s rendition is especially heart-warming because of his innate ability to create beauty and tenderness with every note played. It’s like mouth watering honey dripping from each chord.

“Transfer Station at 3am” has a unique back-story, the best person to describe this truly entertaining piece of history is Blake himself. Years ago there was an area in urban, northern New Jersey which served as the hub for transportation throughout Hudson County, New Jersey and into New York City. One could “transfer” bus (and before that, trolley) tickets to get where one wanted to go. With all the bus transfers the area became known as the “Transfer Station”.

Union City, New Jersey was the only city in Hudson County for a long time that allowed women at the bar. Other municipalities were for men only and women either didn’t go there or had to sit at a table in a back room. Since the Transfer Station was accessible, women came to Union City from all over Hudson County and elsewhere and so did the men. A strip of at least fifteen night clubs eventually lined one or two streets in the area. They were small and all had bands. These nightclubs were very willing to hire young musicians who played rock and roll and thus attracted customers. I was playing six nights a week in these places when I was in high school.

All the musicians got to know each other, sometimes switching band members. A key thing at the time was for a band to have a song that signaled that they were taking a break; their “break” song. I composed a break song, that at the time used mainly dominant 7th chords, but it was unique in that it wasn’t another blues song. Bands would stagger their breaks and hear each other and over time many of the bands used my break song, albeit each band trying to out-do the other. So one could take a break and hear all sorts of variations of my break song as the bands took breaks at different times. But at 3AM the bars closed. As the patrons left, the doors were all open and many of the bands were playing the same break song at the same time – my break song with different variations. Thus, the song “Transfer Station at 3 AM” is a contemporary variation of the song that one would hear over and over as one walked past all the bars in this area of Union City, New Jersey.

Richard Blake Plays Midtown at Midnight is an eclectic mixture of classic standards and a well placed original tune, held together by my unmistakable and recognizable style. On this CD, Blake also plays electric bass and is accompanied by his life-long friend and drummer, Dennis Kohrherr; the chemistry is evident and one can hear the mutual respect in these recordings. The songs are designed for those who appreciate guitar playing; subtle bebop interpretations and chord melodies. His arrangements are designed to be respectful to the composer, audience, and himself.