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Uri Caine Bedrock Review

Album. Released 2002.  

BBC Review

...approaches greatness on occasion only to veer away giggling to itself...

Peter Marsh 2002

Pianist Uri Caine's career has taken a bewildering, almost John Zorn like path from straight acoustic jazz to recastings of Klezmer songs, Mahler and the Goldberg Variations. Like Zorn, he has an unerring ability to completely absorb the essentials of any given genre and regurtitate at will while gently but firmly subverting it, but beneath all the post modernist downtown New York hipness Caine (again like Zorn) is a fantastic musician. If only he'd just slow down a bit...

Anyway, here's one of three Caine albums released on the same day (just to give an idea of his workrate) which finds our hero in full on 70s fusion mode. Plugging in his Fender Rhodes, Uri negotiates a polyrhythmic fuzak minefield laid by drummer Zach Danziger and bassist Tim Lefebvre. Lefebvre in particular is a gem, laying down subsonic squelches, agile leaps and eccentric vocal effects, while Danziger manages to combine the fierce propulsiveness and laser precision of Headhunters drummer Mike Clarke. Danziger is also responsible for 'additional sounds' which add a bit of textural grit, though I could have done without the sub Coldcut 'quirky' voice samples.

Caine's improvisations have the same mixture of furrowed brow logic and joyousness that Herbie Hancock showed on the Headhunters records ( see the long solo on "J.Edgar Hoover in a Dress") and though he can't resist a drop of pastiche on the elongated sniggering cocktail pianisms of "Lobby Daze" he eventually breaks out into a rigorous solo that envisages how Keith Jarrett might play on a House record (now there's a thought). Less successful are the attempts at drum n' bass, where the trio paint themselves into a corner, unable to do much with the rhythmic strictures they set up, though Danziger's frenzied invention turns 'Flagrant Fragrant' into something special. The opening "Our Hour" though is a real stunner; close on 9 minutes of acceptable face of fusion brilliance.

Live, they'd really be something; as it is, Bedrock is a record that approaches greatness on occasion only to veer away giggling to itself at the last minute, but it's rarely less than entertaining. Tongues out of cheeks next time please chaps...

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