The Uri Caine Ensemble - live in concert
Gustav Mahler festival - Toblach / Dobbiaco [italy], July 19th 1998
On this double disc set Caine continues his unique consideration of the music of Gustav Mahler, here in live performance. Using the large band jazz setting, as well as some rather unsettling sonic elements, Caine deconstructs the nature of Mahler's work. The opening track - a tango interpretation of the funeral march from the Symphony no. 5 - is by turns histrionic, romantic, and a bit comical. Purists may be horrified with the liberties he takes, but one has to admire the musical chutzpah displayed here.
All Music Guide
Avant-garde pianist Uri Caine turned a lot of heads with his first Mahler disc, Urlicht/Primal Light (Winter & Winter, 1997). He's doing it again with a double-disc follow-up recorded live in Italy. The band is considerably smaller this time: two fewer vocalists, no clarinet, no trombone, no cello, and no guitar. Two key chairs have changed as well: Ralph Alessi replaces Dave Douglas on trumpet and Jim Black replaces Joey Baron on drums. The repertoire is almost exactly the same, except that two selections from the first album don't appear on this one. Therefore, oddly enough, Caine's double live album contains fewer Mahler selections than the single disc that preceded it.
The difference lies mainly in expanded and/or reworked arrangements and an increased amount of solo room given to the players. "I often think they merely have gone out!" is the most remarkable example. On the studio record the piece was only three minutes long and featured whispery vocals, which gave it a tongue-in-cheek lounge feel. Here it stretches across ten minutes, the lounge vocals replaced by an unambiguous jazz vibe. Burning solos by altoist David Binney and trumpeter Alessi, along with Jim Black's hot-and-heavy drum support, make this one of the album's strongest tracks. Also a high point is the fast, joyful swing of "I went out this morning over the countryside." This is Caine's most inspired and imaginative reading of Mahler-the spirit of the original work speaks through the Caine ensemble with unmatched clarity. Caine himself plays a brilliant solo sprinkled with moments of stride piano. Gustav Mahler, meet Fats Waller.
These tracks are bright and uplifting. A lot of the material is much darker, however. The funeral march from Mahler's fifth symphony opens the album and introduces a pronounced klezmer theme. Caine intends to draw attention to hidden Jewish strains in Mahler's work, and the old-world rhythms and minor modes of klezmer are his vehicle of choice. The effect is majestic and almost spooky on the final cut, "The Farewell," which features Hebrew cantorial singing by Aaron Bensoussan. In the third movement of Mahler's first symphony, however, the klezmer passages sound a little hokey and clownish. Caine's radical reading of "The Drummer Boy" works better. Dave Binney's solo conjures images of Gary Bartz with semi-electric Miles. Try getting a handle on how Caine derived that from the original Mahler.
Classical purists haven't been too thrilled with Caine's efforts, but they aren't really his audience. Whether you'd rather listen to Uri Caine's Mahler or to Mahler himself is a subjective question. But one shouldn't deny Caine credit for teaching us something new about music's elasticity.
"On 1997's Urlicht/Primal Light (Winter & Winter), pianist and composer Uri Caine blended jazz, bossa nova, funk and klezmer music to deconstruct Gustav Mahler's symphonies and songs and illuminate the Jewish roots of the classical composer. Surprisingly, both classical and jazz critics raved and the International Mahler Society awarded the CD its prize as the most innovative Mahler recording of the year. Caine has followed up with a live recording of this material, The Uri Caine Ensemble: Gustav Mahler in Toblach (Winter & Winter). The double-disc set preserves the eclectic mix of Caine's arrangements and gives the group's soloists a chance to stretch out. On a new CD by the septet Zohar, Keter (Knitting Factory Records), Caine applies a similarly inventive touch to traditional Jewish tunes and original compositions. For the Painted Bride concert, Caine's ensemble includes trumpeter Ralph Alessi, bassist Michael Formanek, drummer Cornell Rochester, violinist Diane Monroe, clarinetist Don Byron and DJ Olive on turntables. The Philadelphia-raised Caine conducts a masterclass at the Settlement Music School the day before the concert."
- Russell Woessner, Philadelphia Weekly