March 30, 2007
Uri Caine Ensemble
Winter & Winter W&W 910 130-2
Truer to the spirit of Mozart than those by-rote recreations of the composers best-known works, with this notable CD pianist Uri Caine extends the improvisational spirit that would have been familiar to Mozart in the 18th Century. However he doesnt lacquer the music with a facile swinging sheen.
Applying a blues/jazz sensibility to the instantly recognizable themes, Caine extends their essence without destroying melodies that literally define classical music. Similarly, his re-jigging includes not only the participation of expected instruments such as Ralph Alessis trumpet, Chris Speeds clarinet, Joyce Hammanns violin, and the bass of Drew Gress, but also Jim Blacks percussion collection, Nguyen Lês electric guitar distortions plus sampling from DJ Olives turntables.
Miraculously, rather than being disruptive the re-imagining confirms the adaptability of Mozarts music. The usual strategy alternates familiar themes with unexpected variations, as if the adaptor is a film editor cutting rapidly among images. For instance, turntable crackle and reverberating guitar distortions introduce legato violin, heraldic trumpet and trilling clarinet unison in a theme from a sonata or symphony, which is then transformed with distorted guitar reverb.
Turkish Rondo returns to its roots, with the melody amplified by recorded samples of Turkish singers, ney-like twitters from Speed and dumbek rhythms from Black. Alternately, Caines tremolo cadenzas, Gress walking bass and Black metronomic pulse transform an aria from Don Giovanni into swinging hard bop before turntable warbles recap the initial melody.
These loving transformations should impress open-minded listeners of any genre.
— Ken Waxman