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Uri Caine: The Classical Variations

C. Michael Bailey By

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One of the most attractive things about pianist and composer Uri Caine is his creative unpredictability. There are no musical genres he fears and, moreover, fears to combine in the post-provocative eutectoids. Caine's entire career has been characterized by this unpredictability, but he does have his favorite themes. One of those themes is his recasting of classical music with instruments and instrument combinations not traditionally associated with such music. The Classical Variations is a collection of previously released, unreleased, and several newly minted variations from his past recordings.

Caine's discography is flush with projects dedicated to the Western European classical tradition as refracted by his creative prism. The Classical Variations is a perfect companion to his previous recordings of Beethoven's Diabelli Variations, Bach's Goldberg Variations, Malher's ghost Gustaf Mahler at Toblack, Plays Mozart, Wagner e Venezia, and Schumann - Love Fugue. All of these recordings have a relationship with the current Classical Variations.

Caine continues his surveys of Beethoven's Diabelli Variations, Bach's Goldberg Variations, Schumann Lieder, Mahler symphonies, and Mozart piano pieces, bringing in his usual group of top-drawer musicians including Chris Speed, Don Byron, Dave Binney, David Gilmore, Nguyên Lê, and DJ Logic. The previously released and unreleased material related to these recordings is revealing and finely crafted, but it is the new recordings for this disc that really steal the day.

Bach's Goldberg Variations continue to provide ample fodder for Caine's imagination. "The Scratch Variations give turntablist DJ Logic room to show off his wares while "The Fats Variation displays Caine at his spanking piano best. Caine expands his interpretive palette on "Variation 22 for Fortepiano and Viola Da Gamba Quartet and "The Brass and Drums Variation featuring Ralph Alessi, Don Byron, Josh Roseman, and Bob Stewart. "The Midnight Variation adds Greg Osby to the mix very effectively.

Oddly, this disc very well may be Caine's best in the area of classical reinterpretation, but that opinion comes from the hindsight of having heard all that came before. It is difficult, if not impossible, to adequately describe this important music. It is music for the jazz and classical enthusiast, T.S. Eliot tone poems pregnant with allusion and citation. If Uri Caine has been perfecting the jazz interpretation of classical music up until now, then he has achieved that sought after perfection with The Classical Variations.


Track Listing: Only Love Beauty [after Mahler]; Variation XXXII [after Beethoven, Diabelli Variations]; Variation XXXIII [after Beethoven, Diabelli Variations]; Variation 10 for Fortepiano and Viola da Gamba Quartet [after Bach, Goldberg Variations]; H

Personnel: Uri Caine: piano; Barbara Walker: vocals; Mark Ledford: vocals; David Moss: vocals; Josefine Lindstrand: vocals; Kettwiger Bach Ensemble: choir; Wolfgang Kl

Title: The Classical Variations | Year Released: 2008 | Record Label: Winter & Winter

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