Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

Uri Caine/Gustav Mahler: Dark Flame

It’s all well and good to talk of postmodern maneuvers and profusions of genres and even relentless experimentation when discussing Uri Caine’s takes on the songs of Gustav Mahler, 1997’s Urlicht/Primal Light and the new Dark Flame. But those vague catchphrases don’t really describe what Caine is doing with (or to, or near) Mahler’s music. When Caine responds to the melodies, rhythms and texts of Mahler’s originals, he doesn’t merely change his own rhythms and melodies, as jazzmen have since time immemorial, but changes styles completely-and since Mahler embraced an eclectic style himself, Caine can really pull out anything he can think of.

Caine will disrupt the texture of a song for an individual word: When a stray lyric in the children’s rhyme “In Praise of Lofty Judgement” suggests frustration, a breakbeat and a general uproar completely dissolve the previous carnival-barking atmosphere. He makes his music respond to the context of texts: Since the German words of Mahler’s “The Lonely One in Autumn” was drawn from a poem by Tchang-Tsi, Caine takes it back to its Chinese roots using the original text and adding a yanquin and dizi hovering in the background. He uses changing styles to unearth subtexts: The lyrics of “Song of the Prisoner in the Tower” suggest desires that may be caged as well, so Caine gets German actor Sepp Bierbichler to bark out the male part in stolid German and spikes it with brusque electric guitar, while performance poet Julie Patton coos some adapted, seductive lyrics in English.

Start Your Free Trial to Continue Reading

Become a JazzTimes member to explore our complete archive of interviews, profiles, columns, and reviews written by music's best journalists and critics.
Originally Published