Caine, piano & keyboards; Ralph Alessi, trumpet; Aaron Bensoussan, vocals and oud; David Binney, alto sax; Jim Black, drums; Mark Feldman, violin; Michael Formanek, bass; DJ Olive, turntables, live electronics
The late, great drummer Art Blakey often referred to Philadelphia with the tongue-in-cheek, "the city of brotherly shove!"
Out of neighboring Pittsburgh, Blakey spend considerable time in the urban Jazz jungles of the city (perhaps the reasoning for his chagrin). Cheese steak and Liberty Bell aside, Philly, a tremendous hub of Jazz talent produced some of the great ones we've come to acknowledge as the best - Benny Golson, 'Philly' Jo Jones, the Heath Brothers and on and on.
It is little wonder that the city would produce a bumper crop of true talent even at this hour. The names of trumpeter John Swana, drummer Ralph Peterson, bassist Tyrone Brown and saxist Bobby Zankel all come to mind as being amongst the brightest stars on the horizon.
Another Philadelphian, pianist Uri Caine is no slouch either. Out of obscurity the pianist quietly emerged during the late 1980s as part of tenor saxist Gary Thomas' ensemble. He then would go on to work with just about any and everybody in and around New York.
Caine's pianistics were just as sound in the avant-garde. In fact it was his 'outside' playing that attracted most attention from the Jazz cognoscenti.
A two fisted pianist who could swirl and spill clusters of notes and chords ala Cecil Taylor, Caine could be a whirlwind of a soloist. It is only in the last few years that he has gained some measure of recognition for his compositional/arranging skills.
This new double disc set, "Live in Concert at the Gustav Mahler Festival" is perhaps his most ambitious venture. Sporting an ensemble of piano bass and drums, Caine augments his language with alto sax, oud, trumpet, violin and a DJ manning the turntable and electronics. He gives each ample room to shine with trumpeter Alessi rendering some compelling solos.
The ever-controversial concertmaster Mahler becomes in the sight of Caine's group a fertile breeding ground for adventurous sonic and melodic flights. Transposing the thorny symphonic work would seem daunting to some but Caine and crew move from piece to piece with stunning agility. From the opening of stately, 'Funeral March' from Symphony No. 5, Uri Caine's group covers the music in standard Jazz fashion as well as 20th century avant treatments.
This is a fascinating piece of work that will put another face, if not spin, on the fusion of Jazz and European classical elements. For that alone Uri Caine is to be lauded.
by Lofton Emenari, III
Jazz Now Interactive
Copyright Jazz Now, October 2002 issue, all rights reserved