Don Byron and Uri Caine in Tel Aviv
Tel Aviv, Israel
Friday, April 27, 2007
The careers of composer and clarinetist Don Byron and frequent collaborator and composer, pianist Uri Caine, are exceptionally versatile. Both are gifted with an encyclopedic knowledge of many genres, past, present and futuristic, and always keen to explore new possibilities. But in their duo concert in Tel Aviv they chose to focus throughout most of the concert on two distinctive erasswing jazz and traditional klezmer music. Only when they reached the encore, where they performed an exhilarating version of Herbie Hancock's "Cantaloupe Island" (which they covered on Caine's Toys, JMT, 1995), did they finally sound as though they had embodied all their past references into a much more personal statement.
Don Byron, Uri Caine
The first half of the concert opened with a precise interpretation of Duke Ellington's early compositions "Perdido" and "Blue Bubbles." Byron led Caine into an a careful investigation of Ellington musical sphere and influences, such as Ellington's experiences with Schönbergian harmonic tonalities. Their interplay featured open and emphatic communication drawing upon extended knowledge of Ellington's legacy; the warm and round tone of Byron; and the inventive articulations of both players. Byron dedicated the next piece to the late neo-expressionist artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, a beautiful and serene meditation about the turbulent life of Basquiat and his untimely loss. The final piece of this set was another swing-era classic cover, a heartfelt and innocent interpretation of the musical meeting of Lester Young and Nat King Cole performing "I've Found a New Baby".
Caine opened the second set with a statement in Hebrew, saying that Byron taught him all he knows about klezmer music, and indeed in this set Byron, one of the revivalists of the new klezmer, told stories about the origins of the classic klezmer compositions, the careers of the this genre's main characters outside the klezmer scene, and even about personal and family relations. The duo opened with a piece by clarinet player Sam Musiker, the son-in-law of another experimental clarinetist Dave Tarras, who played with the Gene Krupa and Benny Goodman orchestras, and continued with a Romanian Doina that quoted motifs from "Tanz," the classic composition of Tarras.
Their approach remained somewhat scholastic but became more relaxed when Caine continued with a short original composition that cited motifs from one of the classic Israeli folk songs "Etz Harimon," which demonstrated his humor. "Tears," Byron's tribute to Mickey Katz, the comedian and clarinetist to whom he dedicated one of his albums (Don Byron Plays The Music Of Mickey Katz, Nonesuch, 1993, with Caine), shifted the mood again to a more reflective one. The set concluded with another interpretation of a klezmer classic piece, this one by the Epstein Brothers. But again, the careful and academic approach of Byron did not manage to warm the indifferent audience towards this beautiful musical heritage.
But then the rhythmic cover of "Cantaloupe Island" regained the audience' trust.