...Caine ties his understanding of describing the arc of a piece of music to a gutsy,...
Dan Hill 2002-11-20
An audacious flurry of activity by Uri Caine has lifted the New York-based pianist to the upper echelons of his trade - and this brilliant solo jazz piano album is testament to both his exemplary compositions and virtuoso playing.
It's broadly high-tempo post-bop, but as with most Uri Caine projects, his range of potential reference points seem limitless. Caine learnt his trade playing jazz whilst studying composition with George Rochberg and George Crumb at University of Pennsylvania. Echoes of a classical heritage can be heard in his jazz reworkings of Wagner, Mahler, Schumann, and Bach of course, but are also inherent in the precision and complexity of his approach. These are all Caine tunes, save a lovely, twinkling rendering of Lennon and McCartney's "Blackbird" and James Von Heusen's "All the Way", revealing a singular talent often submerged in his genre pieces. Here Caine ties his understanding of describing the arc of a piece of music to a gutsy, fearsome jazz technique.
He's melodically strong: "Roll On" has the kind of whistleable central refrain that you're just sure you've heard before. In a piece like "Sonia Said", Caine draws out beautiful, just-the-right-side-of-sentimental melodies which he arranges and improvises around wonderfully, with none of the cloying, self-conscious restraint which occasionally holds back lesser modern players.
Having begun his career recording homages to Thelonius Monk and Herbie Hancock, both players are occasionally recalled here. Keith Jarrett springs to mind more frequently, especially the lovely, bubbling "Country Life" (another pianist tightroping between contemporary classical and jazz). Most of all though, Uri Caine emerges as the unique voice.
In the course of a single piece, say "As I Am", Caine's playing is alternately delicate and reflective, then vivid; vibrant; careening though never chaotic. He seems to rapidly quote several jazz standards amidst the remnants of romantic classical repertoire, before adding punctuation with a sharp dissonant block of notes. Finally there's a brief Cecil Taylor-like onslaught, before resolving so gracefully you barely noticed its exit, stage left.
Fans of contemporary jazz piano can't fail to be won over by Caine's sheer ebullience. Here, with any possible accusations of NYC PoMo winking neatly sidestepped by the format, Caine stands up to be counted and is not found wanting.