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Uri Caine: Blue Wail

Glenn Astarita By

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Simply put, Pianist-Composer Uri Caine is one of today’s premier and authentic jazz stylists. A true Renaissance Man, Caine has successfully tackled Classical Composers such as Gustav Mahler and Richard Wagner while in the process, integrating and conceptualizing his unique personal vision and artistry. Caine’s notoriety stems from his involvement in the cutting edge New York City Downtown Scene. As an accompanist or leader, Uri Caine’s unmistakable signature style has garnered accolades and well-deserved recognition. On “Blue Wail”, Caine reinvents his roots with Drummer Ralph Peterson Jr. and Bassist James Genus. This Piano Trio packs a fierce punch and often goes for the jugular while Caine and his world class rhythm section take the listener on a whirlwind tour of his original compositions sans Fats Waller’s “Honeysuckle Rose”.

Caine opens and closes the set with jovial solo Piano treatment of Waller’s “Honeysuckle Rose” otherwise the pace is generally rapid and frequently commands the listener’s immediate attention. On “Loose Trade” Caine leads the rhythm section through various tempos and chromatic progressions. Caine’s fluid single note runs provide the thematic understatements while powerhouse drummer Ralph Peterson Jr. alternates with brisk rim shots and segments of muscular backbeats as the heated pace intensifies. Bassist James Genus shows his brilliance and adaptability throughout. Genus is at home whether playing electric bass with Fusion pioneer John McLaughlin or Acoustic Bass with Caine and others. Genus may be the most in demand Bassist in jazz. On “Blue Wail” the evidence is insurmountable. His adept and intricate patterns compliment Caine and Peterson’s rapid time changes and difficult maneuvers. The title cut, “Blue Wail” is an amiable Blues piece as Caine artfully works the motifs into various genres. Here, Caine’ ever so slightly touches on Professor Longhair’s stock and trade New Orleans brand of R&B supplemented by a chorus or two of dissonance and free-jazz. Despite the advances and manipulations, Caine seldom casts the melody aside. Genus’ warm and articulate Bass solo serves as a nice interlude evoking images of being in a smoky nightclub during the wee hours of the morning. “Bones Don’t Cry” is a fierce, yet bouncy Latin theme. Peterson Jr. is on fire, crashing the cymbals, paradiddles galore and amazingly fast bass drum foot-work . Ralph Peterson Jr. may be the modern day link between Art Blakey and Elvin Jones. A polyrhythmic dynamo, Peterson is an inspirational force of nature and generally provokes his bandmates into developing highly energetic interplay and furious swing episodes while maintaining the beat with flair and precision. Many drummers are unable to exercise restraint when called upon; Peterson Jr. balances his musical-rhythmic gifts with finesse and self-confidence. On “Poem For Shulamit” the band takes a much-deserved breather while Caine churns out a smooth airy ballad featuring a pleasing and memorable melody line. This track could serve rather well as a theme for a Hollywood Movie. On “Fireball” the title leaves little to the imagination. TheTrio perform at a maddening pace. Caine’s improvisational prowess and swirling chord progressions are uplifting and eloquently executed.

Winter & Winter’s track record is commendable to say the least. The Allegro Corporation handles distribution in North America but these titles are readily obtainable via the Internet and at finer Record Stores. Uri Caine’s “Blue Wail” is easily one of the top picks of 1999 thus far. It’s brash, consistently appealing and profoundly stimulating. The listener is treated to a fascinating and engaging spin on an old tried and true format. This Piano Trio reworks concepts and attitudes that in the recent past have seen some elements of stagnation. This one works in splendid fashion! Highly Recommended.

Track Listing: Honeysuckle Rose; Loose Trade; the Face of Space; Digature of the Line; Blue Wail; Stain; Sweet Potato; Bones Don't Cry; Poem for a Shulamit; Fireball; Honeysuckle Rose.

Personnel: Uri Caine: Piano; Stefan Winter: Bass; Ralph Peterson: Drums.

Title: Blue Wail | Year Released: 1999 | Record Label: Winter & Winter


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