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Uri Caine Ensemble, Gustav Mahler in Toblach: I Went Out This 
Morning Over the Countryside (2 CDs, 51:48 and 57:40)
Winter & Winter 910 046-2, 1999
Contact: Allegro Media
14134 NE Airport Way
Portland, OR 97230
Phone: 800-288-2007, ext. 2103 (Tim James)
Cyberhome: www.allegro-music.com

        Avant-garde pianist Uri Caine turned a lot of heads with his first 
Mahler disc, Urlicht/Primal Light (Winter & Winter, 1997). 
He's doing it again with a double-disc follow-up recorded live in 
Italy. The band is considerably smaller this time: two fewer 
vocalists, no clarinet, no trombone, no cello, and no guitar. Two key 
chairs have changed as well: Ralph Alessi replaces Dave Douglas on 
trumpet and Jim Black replaces Joey Baron on drums. The repertoire is 
almost exactly the same, except that two selections from the first 
album don't appear on this one. Therefore, oddly enough, Caine's 
double live album contains fewer Mahler selections than the single 
disc that preceded it.
	The difference lies mainly in expanded and/or reworked 
arrangements and an increased amount of solo room given to the 
players. "I often think they merely have gone out!" is the most 
remarkable example. On the studio record the piece was only three 
minutes long and featured whispery vocals, which gave it a 
tongue-in-cheek lounge feel. Here it stretches across ten minutes, 
the lounge vocals replaced by an unambiguous jazz vibe. Burning solos 
by altoist David Binney and trumpeter Alessi, along with Jim Black's 
hot-and-heavy drum support, make this one of the album's strongest 
tracks. Also a high point is the fast, joyful swing of "I went out 
this morning over the countryside." This is Caine's most inspired and 
imaginative reading of Mahler - the spirit of the original work 
speaks through the Caine ensemble with unmatched clarity. Caine 
himself plays a brilliant solo sprinkled with moments of stride 
piano. Gustav Mahler, meet Fats Waller.
	These tracks are bright and uplifting. A lot of the material 
is much darker, however. The funeral march from Mahler's fifth 
symphony opens the album and introduces a pronounced klezmer theme. 
Caine intends to draw attention to hidden Jewish strains in Mahler's 
work, and the old-world rhythms and minor modes of klezmer are his 
vehicle of choice. The effect is majestic and almost spooky on the 
final cut, "The Farewell," which features Hebrew cantorial singing by 
Aaron Bensoussan. In the third movement of Mahler's first symphony, 
however, the klezmer passages sound a little hokey and clownish. 
Caine's radical reading of "The Drummer Boy" works better. Dave 
Binney's solo conjures images of Gary Bartz with semi-electric Miles. 
Try getting a handle on how Caine derived that from the 
original Mahler.
	Classical purists haven't been too thrilled with Caine's 
efforts, but they aren't really his audience. Whether you'd rather 
listen to Uri Caine's Mahler or to Mahler himself is a subjective 
question. But one shouldn't deny Caine credit for teaching us 
something new about music's elasticity.
~David R. Adler, 1/25/00

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