Ernst Glerum/Uri Caine

Sentimental Mood
Favorite FAV9

By Ken Waxman

No mere divertissement, this 21-minute, five-song EP proves there’s brilliance in brevity. The featured duo provides both melodic fidelity and innovation in these foreshortened interpretations. Consisting of two Ellington classics, two from the Great America Songbook plus a Thelonious Monk line, Sentimental Mood’s originality lies in the fact that Dutch bassist Ernst Glerum is the theme protagonist with American pianist Uri Caine adding the coloration and swinging motion.

Glerum, rhythmic linchpin of the Instant Composers Pool plus other Amsterdam-based aggregations, has an intuitive familiarity with these pieces composed between 1927 and 1948. He confirms the project’s bona fides as early as track one, “Black & Tan Fantasy”, where his studied stops transfer the muted choked valve effect that originated with trumpeter Bubber Miley to his four-strings. True to the era Caine stomps out his accompaniment with a hint of stride. The bassist’s expressiveness is also such that on a ballad such as “Yesterdays” his elevated glissandi take on near-violin-register pacing blending unsentimentally with Caine’s relaxed key pecks and picks. At the top of “Evidence” furthermore, Glerum’s pizzicato shimmies could be confused with alto saxophone gasps, until he picks up Monk’s oblique narrative in unison with the pianist’s more bop-friendly licks. Crucially as well, the mellow exposition resulting from Glerum’s chamber music-like precision never loses the unique shape and energy of this tune and others.

More instructive still is how Glerum and Caine turn Ellington’s 1935 composition, the CD’s title track, into a showpiece. Invested with real emotion via the bassist’s string-bending and wood-straining, Caine’s unusual piano voicing aid in the transformation so that the recognizable ambience remains despite the piece being studded with modernistic, yet sympathetic chords.

Sentimental Mood is most notable for showcasing Glerum significant skills as a bassist plus the intelligent way he and Caine can combine to renovate familiar material. It’s also the appropriate length, since both players have too many other involvements to limit themselves to extensive standards reinterpretations.

Tracks: Black And Tan Fantasy; I Surrender, Dear; Evidence; In A Sentimental Mood; Yesterdays

Personnel: Uri Caine: piano; Ernst Glerum: bass

—For The New York City Jazz Record December 2014