Aug 14 2014
Pianist Uri Caine has recently released two albums, each which find him in duo collaborations. Most of my history with Caine’s music comes via the excellent label Winter & Winter, which puts out an eclectic array of music, only some of which is Jazz. I haven’t been crazy about most of what I’ve heard from Caine, though that’s an opinion heavily weighted to “what I like” versus “what I think is good.” It’s why I’m always interested in anything new that Caine puts out.
The thing of it is, much of what I’ve scooped up of Caine’s is more likely to get filed on the Classical shelf at your local music store than it is Jazz, and, admittedly, I’m much slower to warm to Classical music recordings than I am Jazz. It’s a big reason I was so excited, going in, to hear Caine in something other than Classical, and what I found has me excited to share word of it in today’s column. It’s yet another example of why it’s advantageous to keep giving artists new chances to make an impression, and to never forget that the streams of subjectivity and creativity sometimes converge with the most wonderful results.
Ernst Glerum & Uri Caine – Sentimental Mood
Sentimental Mood has the patient, easy demeanor of a sunrise, and it provides moments as stunning and beautiful as rays of light cutting an early morning path over the horizon. On this EP of classic standards, Caine and his piano match up with bassist Ernst Glerum. Their renditions of songs by Monk, Ellington, Jerome Kern and Harry Barris are uncomplicated and simply presented. They hop on the melody and ride it to the end of the song. They take occasional diversions, but never to where the land becomes unfamiliar.
When Glerum takes to arco on “Black and Tan Fantasy,” the thick melodic strains nestle right in with Caine’s sunny phrases on piano. On “Yesterdays,” Glerum’s arco displays a trembling vulnerability that contrasts nicely with Caine’s striking accompaniment. The duo provides Monk’s “Evidence” a languorous sigh of melody before picking up and skipping jauntily along. The duo deftly isolates the melancholia hidden within Bing Crosby’s rendition of “I Surrender Dear.” On “In a Sentimental Mood,” the duo presents two types of elegance… one that flows gracefully and one with a statuesque beauty.
A sublime recording, and clocking in at barely over twenty minutes, leaves the ear thirsting for more.
Your album personnel: Uri Caine (piano) and Ernst Glerum (bass).
Released on Glerum’s Favorite Records label.
Dave Douglas & Uri Caine – Present Joys
Caine and trumpeter Dave Douglas are long-time collaborators. The kind of familiarity developed over the course of fifteen years is a valuable resource, and it’s a big reason why it’s so exciting to hear them perform as a duo for the first time. The duo setting will come with its prerequisite feeling-out process, and that low-level interaction will simultaneously occur with a high-level interaction of two musicians intimately familiar with each others creative personalities. That mix of uncertainty and expertise is a potent equation, and it can lead to some startling surprises while also serving up some expert craftsmanship. And that’s what happens on Present Joys.
The focus of their 2014 release is on the Sacred Harp songbook and the shape note tradition. The shape note book, by way of its modified notation, opened the door for amateur singers who might not be able to read music from traditional, and more complex, key signatures on a music staff. And with the Sacred Harp songbook, there was more flexibility given to the singers in terms of pitch and voice lead. The result was to widen the entryway for people to participate in congregational music. It was about being inclusive.
For those of you who aren’t sure what that all indicates for Present Joys, what it means is that you’re going to get tunes like “Bethel,” Supplication,” “Confidence,” and “Old Putt,” which offer up solemn tones in hushed voices, songs that may, in fact, be hymns or just strongly resemble one.
And it means you’re gonna get tunes like “Seven Seas,” “End to End,” “Ham Fist,” and title-track “Present Joys,” all which possess a cheerful disposition and a method of burning off excess energy while still maintaining an inside voice.
And then there are tracks like album-opener “Soar Away” and closing act “Zero Hour,” which provide a view of both faces of this album.
And each time, the melody will take you by the hand and lead you down the bright path of a beautiful song. Difficult to talk about this album and not use the word “sublime.”
Your album personnel: Uri Caine (piano) and Dave Douglas (trumpet).
Released on Greenleaf Music.