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Uri Caine Ensemble: Gustav Mahler in Toblach

Derek Taylor By

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Uri Caine Ensemble: Gustav Mahler in Toblach P>Recorded at a recent Mahler festival in Italy, Caine’s recent release revels in the challenge of fitting the Austrian composer’s classically grounded soundscapes into a jazz-based improvisational setting. The chameleonic shifts in styles and approaches on this disc are dizzying in both their number and frequency. Often the most unexpected elements of the ensemble sound originate in DJ Olive’s electronic accouterments.

Unsettling haunted house atmospherics and chirping electronics give rise to European march and waltz figures on the opening “Funeral March.” The ensemble attacks the latter bastions of structure with a libertine fervor as composed sections are interspersed with jaggedly dissonant outbursts. Conversely, “I Often Think They Have Merely Gone Out!” nearly falls into a mainstream jazz bag save for DJ Olive’s subtle turntable-induced embellishments. The piece features easy swinging solos from Binney, Alessi and Caine in an almost cocktail-like mode. Switching gears again “Now Will the Sun Rise As Brightly” is a feast of somber strings. Once more, DJ Olive throws down the sonic wild card, this time in the form of odd squawking effects that often mimic the cries of infants.

Black and Bensoussan are the catalysts on “The Drummer Boy” where the former’s crashing drums punctuate the latter’s cantor-like wails and pinched oud plucks. Binney’s Bedouin horn cries surface later blowing dry, twisting gusts above Formanek’s humming arco strings. Feldman is up next blending blinding bow-work into a Klezmer-tinged improvisation that sings across the highest registers. Olive’s solo introduction to the adagietto that closes the disc moves through a barrage of sampled sounds. The fractured preface stands in sharp contrast to the calming mood of the adagietto itself.

Disc two offers more of the same without sounding the least bit redundant. Klezmer and polka rhythms saturate the ensemble’s reading of “Symphony No. 1” fueled by the Black’s bombastic drums and Olive’s circus-like antics on electronics. Caine hits a hard-swinging stride on “I Went Out This Morning...” with the ubiquitous Olive again in tow and delivering a vapor trail of odd effects. Binney seems to appreciate the return to jazz architectures and turns in a spiraling chromatic solo that serves as the track’s centerpiece. “The Farewell,” which is just a few minutes shy of a half hour in length, works well as the set’s grand finale. Across its broad expanse Caine and crew effectively unite all of the disparate elements of the earlier pieces into one last onslaught while at the same time summarizing their kinship to one of classical music’s earliest and most unrepenting modernists. Mahler no doubt, would have been pleased.


Track Listing: CD1: Symphony no. 5, funeral march; I often think they merely have gone out, from Songs of the Death of Children; Now will the sun rise as brightly, from Songs of the Death of Children; The drummer boy, from The Boy's Magic Horn; Introduction to Symphony no. 5, adagietto; Symphony no. 5, adagietto. CD2: Symphony no. 1, 3rd movement; I went out this morning over the countryside, from Songs of a Wayfarer, Symphony no. 2, andante moderato ; Symphony no. 2, primal light; Interlude to The Farewell, from The Song of the Earth; The Farewell, from The Song of the Earth.

Personnel: Ralph Alessi: trumpet; Aaron Bensoussan: vocals, oud; Dave Binney: alto saxophone; Jim Black: drums; Uri Caine: piano, keyboards; Mark Feldman: violin; Michael Formanek: acoustic bass; DJ Olive: turntables, live electronics.

Title: Gustav Mahler in Toblach | Year Released: 2000 | Record Label: Winter & Winter


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