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December 1999

Uri Caine
The Sidewalks of Tin Pan Alley
Winter & Winter

Beside sporting some of the most beautiful and fresh packaging of any label out there, the still-fledgling German label Winter & Winter has been leaning in the direction of the proverbial concept album, of which Uri Caine's newest is a prime, and strangely affecting example. The Sidewalks of Tin Pan Alley is not a jazz album, per se, although it deals with a seedbed of jazz notions to come, not to mention a songbook which found its way into the Real Book. Caine's mission here is to create an aural landscape in tribute to the Tin Pan Alley song factory, replete with the clankety patter of a saloon setting and sonic street ambiance, emphasizing the bustling urban environment out of which Tin Pan Alley's creative fervor grew. Over the course of 27 tracks, we hear the unofficial theme song "The Sidewalks of New York," vintage tunes of Irving Berlin, Eubie Blake, George Cohan and other Tin Pan Alley denizens, "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" sung in yiddish, and "By the Light of the Silvery Moon," sung by Nancy Opel, backed by a chunky mid-size ensemble. As a whole, the project comes paradoxically, from off the wall, and yet from a perfectly logical place-articulating an archival revue from some the perspective of history and collective dreams. A non-linear narrative portrait, it looks back in longing.

Originally published in December 1999
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