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Shelf-Life, Uri Caine's seventeenth release as a leader (his thirteenth for Winter & Winter) is a continuation of the pianist/composer's earlier collaborations with drummer Zach Danziger and bassist Tim Lefebvre, particularly 2002's Bedrock. A departure from his highly individualistic reworkings of classical composers such as Mahler, Wagner, Schumann, Bach, and Beethoven, this disc recalls the Philly soul of producers Gamble and Huff, leavened with gritty New Orleans funk, envelope filter and wah-wahed phase-shifting effects á la Boosty Collins, plus the electronic enhancements of mixmasters nnnj and DJ Olive.
The emphasis is on groove here, and Caine and Co. serve it up righteously, although some tracks ("Denefenstration, "Strom's Theremin and "Shish Kabob Franklin ) sound dangerously close to game show theme music or a porn movie soundtracka flirtation salvaged by the robust intelligence of Caine's improvisations.
Favoring the Rhodes Suitcase 88 electric piano, Caine also uses a variety of interesting synth patches to create background figures, horn lines and atmospheric effects; on "Blakey and "Shish Kabob Franklin he layers and counterpoises his solo with contrasting timbres to create conversations with himself. Danziger etches a deep groove throughout: he's busy but bad-ass on the slowly churning "Oder, over the speed-metal limit on "Steak Jacket, and plays first-rate second-line style on "Watch Out. Bassist Tim Lefebvre doubles on guitar with scratchy strumming and driving edge. Uri Caine's rampant eclecticism and boisterous humor may not resonate with jazz purists, but his talent and creativity are undeniable. Shelf-Life is plutonic house-jazz for the new millennium.
Track Listing: Steak Jacket Prelude; Steak Jacket; Defenestration; Wolfowitz in Sheep's Clothing; On The Shelf; Darker Bionic Cue; Strom's Theremin; Oder; Murray; bE lOOse; Watch Out!; Bauwelklogge; Shish Kabab Franklin; Interruptus; Hello; Sweat.
Personnel: Uri Caine: keyboards; Zach Danziger: drums & percussion; Tim Lefebvre: bass & guitar; Ralph
Alessi: trumpet; Bootsie Barnes: sax; Ruben Gutierrez: clarinet; nnnj: reconstruction worker;
DJ Olive: electronics; Bunny Sigler: vocals; Arto Tuncboyaciyan: percussion; Luke Vibert:
production/programming; Barbara Walker: vocals; Dan Zank: string programming.
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.