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Saturday, July 7, 2007

Uri Caine Ensemble Plays Mozart (Winter & Winter, 2007) ***(*)

When in secondary school, we had a demonstration afternoon by a classically trained pianist, who took any suggestion from the hall of students : a popular melody, Strawberry Fields Forever, or even the national anthem, and he would play these in the style of Mozart, Beethoven, The Beatles, Jerry Lee Lewis or Thelonious Monk, and it was fun listening to his skills. That's the kind of feeling I have when listening to Uri Caine's attack on Mozart. Caine is a great piano-player and also a master in arragements, and he demonstrates this again with every new album. The other musicians are also among the best you can find: Chris Speed (cl), Drew Gress (b), Jim Black (d), Nguyen Le (g), Ralph Alessi (tr) en Joyce Hamman (v). From what I hear, Black and Nguyen Le are the only ones without classical schooling, and the other players are more than proficient in it. Caine offers us Mozart's best known piano and opera pieces, and he brings those in a partly classical mode, partly in a totally different form (jazzy, free, chaotic, Turkish, ...). My main comment is that he does nothing of real value with it, the two kinds of music remain side-by-side. This is spielerei, delivering high level circus tricks, but no art. Well played, well done. But what do I have to think of this? Of course Mozart's tunes are great, and the Uri Caine Ensemble does nice and interesting things with it. But so what? And yet I enjoy this. It's fun without depth. It's skilled entertainment without emotional load. No art, but nice. What the hell do I have to think of this???