With His New Trio CD, Pianist Uri Caine Takes His Place on the Bench


The problem with being a polymath is that some of your attainments can fly right by people. Uri Caine has garnered no end of praise for his recontextualizations of Wagner and Mahler, but has received surprisingly little notice as a pianist (as opposed to “keyboardist,” his role in Dave Douglas’s band). Caine’s new trio CD from the Village Vanguard should change that. Seventy-six minutes long and up from gate to finish (even “All the Way” and “I Thought About You” eventually gallop), the album is a little too exhausting for one sitting. But almost every track is a winner, and Caine guards against sameness by varying his attack—jumping registers in one chorus, say, then arpeggiating his way through the next. His influences are discernible and fairly commonplace—Tyner, Corea, Hancock—but he weaves them together with a barrelhouse whimsy that’s all his even if you find yourself fondly remembering Jaki Byard here and there. Bassist Drew Gress and drummer Ben Perowsky are never just complementary; they know when to stretch the beat and when to tighten up. The choice cut is Caine’s “Otello”—adapted from Verdi, no doubt, but recontextualized with killer drumrolls and an Andalusian tinge.

Uri Caine appears at the Village Vanguard through June 27.