Uri Caine Trio: Live at the Village Vanguard (2004)
Opening with Wayne Shorter's "Nefertiti," Caine, bassist Drew Gress and drummer Ben Perowsky immediately establish a baseline for the whole set, an approach that accedes to convention while, at the same time, defying it. Rather than staidly repeating the signature motif at a relaxed tempo as a foundation for the soloists, Caine briefly introduces the song alone, barely alluding to the theme with a hint of Monk-like broken stride before the trio enters at a clip suggesting that, indeed, nothing is sacred. Allusion to stride, in fact, shows up more than once; Caine's introduction to "I Thought About You" manages to combine it with peppered shots of the absurd, resulting in a treatment that covers the past, present and future in one fell swoop.
Caine's knowledge has always been encyclopaedic, likely the reason that he has been such an in demand player since he emerged in the early '90s, supporting everything from Don Byron's klezmer explorations to Dave Douglas' current post-Miles quintet; it is no less so here, as he incorporates influences as wide as Monk, Bley, Tatum, Hancock and Peterson, all mixed down and regurgitated in a fashion that views these sources as nothing more than links in a chain that stretches into the future.
Tracks like "Stiletto" swing fast and hardPerowksy is on fire here, and for the entire setwhile "Otello" ties into Caine's classical experiments with a romantic theme that is given a sense of urgency played over, for the most part, a pedal tone firmly held down by Gress. "Go Deep" is bluer in colour, with Gress and Perowksy in solid agreement with Caine's more abstruse treatment.
Conceding that in order to move forward one must pay respect to one's roots, Caine and the trio deliver a set that is remarkably short on the predictable. Live at the Village Vanguard proves, once again, that Caine is an artist without compromise, even when placed in a more conventional setting.
Track Listing: Nefertiti; All the Way; Stiletto; I Thought About You; Otello; Snaggletooth; Go Deep; Cheek to Cheek; Most Wanted; BushWack
Personnel: Uri Caine: piano; Drew Gress: bass; Ben Perowsky: drums.
Record Label: Winter & Winter