Coincidence, Part II. Blue Wail was sent my way specifically by the publisher for my attention. Way over on the other side of my mind is the Ken Schaphorst Big Band recording Purple on Naxos Jazz, a disc chosen as an AAJ pick of the week in February. Who plays piano on both discs? Uri Caine. Talk about blasting out of everywhere at once. Uri Caine has quietly been making thought-provoking music since the late 1980's,after having studied under Bernard Peiffer at the University of Pennsylvania's University Scholars Program. To label Caine as a jazz musician or a classical musician would do him or music no justice. From 30,000 feet, what it look like Caine is trying to do in music is similar to what Russian composer Alexander Scriabin tried to do with his Mysterium, quoting Harold Schoenberg, "think in terms of sound and ecstasy, of music as a mystic ritual." The major difference between Scriabin and Caine being that Scriabin was barking mad and Caine has got a well-thought out, achievable, plan.
Wagner and Mahler. Two recent projects that Uri Caine has been devoting his attention are reductions/reevaluations of the music of German Giant's Richard Wagner and Gustav Mahler. For the former, Caine blows Wagner's brilliant but verbose vision through the lens of a piano, string quartet and accordion on Wagern e Venezia. On Urlicht: Primal Light Caine refocuses Mahler melodies from his symphonies and song cycles. When not undertaking these huge endeavors, Caine is performing with talent as diverse as Mandy Patinkin and Don Byron. Or if that is not enough then as different as Terry Gibbs to Dave Douglas. His palette contains Hard Bop, Post Bop, Klezmer, and the aforementioned orchestral.
Blue Wail. Which brings us to the current disc. This all of this iconoclastic originality, Blue Wail might, at first listen, be just a pedestrian Post Bop piano trio gig. Maybe that, if it was not for Uri Caine's enormous talent and musicality. The disc is bookended with two similar yet unique solo renderings of "Honeysuckle Rose", where Caine spins his way through the history of the piano, thereby showing us a glimpse of what is to come. "Loose Trade" provides a vehicle for the incendiary drumming of Ralph Peterson, Jr., while "Digature of the Line" shows a fast walking Stefan Winter (as well as a cool solo in the title cut). The Blue Wail provides a hint to Caine's vision of the blues. This piece is chock full of old ideas made fresh (it reminded me of the first time I heard Miles "Baby, Won't You Please Come Home", an old song made fresh by an iconic figure in transition).
Uri Caine is the type of musician who is going to produce a body of significant music that for a time will lie just beyond the mainstream, pulling the mainstream with it.
Personnel: Uri Caine: Piano; Stefan Winter: Bass; Ralph Peterson: Drums.