Ran Blake’s piano solos still strike me as music’s answer to recombinant DNA. Blake, who is a genuine iconoclast among the world’s artists, answers to no single bell and marches to every drummer he can find: in improvising upon a famous or obscure song, he tends to first de-compose the tune–chipping its corners, flaying its expectations, dissecting its heart–before reassembling its component parts and adding in plenty of others. He jumbles the sacred and the profane, mixing blues and Berlioz, Greek folk tunes and the art-funk of Monk, hints of salsa and spidery wisps of film themes, and blends it all into one discernible current: the elusive “third stream” that seeks to synthesize new forms from disparate influences. Blake is always challenging, always fascinating, and always instructive–you almost want to hang a sign that reads “genius at work” on the piano. Blake is actually the third attraction on the revivified schedule of the Southend Musicworks; the second event of the fall schedule occurs this evening, when the Evanston-born pianist Myra Melford returns to Chicago to remind us of her lively yet considered spin on the matter of musical fusion. In Melford’s music, the substantial blues she studied with Erwin Helfer vies with the sinewy tendrils of the classical avant-garde; much of the music that separates those two examples will seep onstage as well. Tonight (Melford) and Saturday (Blake), 8 PM, Southend Musicworks, 1313 S. Wabash; 939-2848.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photos/Denise Passaretti, Wowe.