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Michael Cain: Solo

Mark F. Turner By

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A yawn can spontaneously develop when hearing about another solo release in which the unaccompanied music can, at times, result in a monochrome listening experience. But in the case of Michael Cain's Solo, a savvy work of acoustic piano with electronic manipulations, the outcome is—to coin a very dated phrase—in Technicolor.

Cain who was born in Los Angeles, California and serves on the faculty of Music at Brandon University in Manitoba, Canada, can be counted among the huge list of artists deserving wider recognition. A one-time child prodigy, he's performed and recorded with an impressive roster of notables like bassist Dave Holland and drummer Jack DeJohnette, and participated in the M-Base collective with saxophonist Greg Osby and trombonist Robin Eubanks. While not as widely recognized, Cain is nonetheless a consummate artist, a pianist and producer who's released noteworthy works such as Circa (ECM, 1996), and plays a surprisingly mean bass in a number of local bands.

With a mere five tracks, Solo is the impeccable balance of imagination, elegance and hipness. The aural senses are seduced in "Kammotion," with a finger-snapping yet sophisticated vibe, as Cain's pianistic maneuvers are speckled with subtly placed sound collages, programmed dance rhythms, and intricate changes. The music might fit into the category of ambient electronica with the earnest supplication of "Prayer," where the piano's spaced notes are measured against the hues of organ and synthesized timbres to create an aura that is introspective yet poignant.

If "Prayer" is reverential then "Gerald" has seedier tendencies. Its twelve-minute story arc contains a downtown club motif with a funky strutting beat, changing into mellowed groove fitted with techno percussion as Cain serves up a lengthy solo that shows his icy chops. "The Question" and "Last Waltz" are more jazz-oriented: the former for solo piano; the latter, a pseudo trio piece, with Cain programming a convincing bass and drum rhythm section as he works through the changes with stylish refinement. The absence of other musicians is not missed one iota in Solo, a polymorphic statement of Cain's abilities.

Track Listing: Kammotion; Prayer; Gerald; The Question; Last Waltz.

Personnel: Michael Cain: piano, electronics.

Title: Solo | Year Released: 2011 | Record Label: Native Drum Music

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