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Michael Cain: Solo

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Pianist Michael Cain gained recognition through the ’90s for his association with Jack DeJohnette. On his own, he has produced a string of thoughtful, provocative releases, including his acclaimed 1997 ECM recording, Circa. On 2008’s The Green-Eyed Keeper, Cain dabbled in a fresh blend of jazz, R&B and alluring mood music featuring soulful vocals. This time out, he’s presenting a far more cerebral side, revealing his classical influences along with a deep interest in electronics.

“Kammotion” opens with a flourish of cascading piano that recalls one of Keith Jarrett’s solo concerts, but it soon resolves to an insistent programmed backbeat underscored by subharmonic synth tones and augmented by synth string washes that suggest a heavy Stevie Wonder influence. The midpoint of this ever-shifting suite is marked by Zen-like silence before Cain takes off on what sounds like a four-handed extravaganza, no doubt overdubbed. And he concludes this ambitious musical journey with some rhapsodic passages over a chugging drum program.

The aptly titled “Prayer” is a peaceful requiem for piano and synth drones with a cathedral-like sonic resonance. Switching gears, Cain dives back into the Stevie zone with the slow-grooving, clavinet-fueled “Gerald,” which features some of his most virtuosic turns on piano. Following the beautiful solo piano interlude “The Question,” he settles into the lovely “Last Waltz,” a delicate, subtly swinging piano trio ballad reminiscent of “Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most.” But, of course, this is strictly a one-man show with all the music composed, performed and produced by Michael Cain. So that very real-sounding upright bass and sensitive brushwork on the ride cymbal are programmed. Regardless of how it was done, this is warm, rewarding music by an inspired, searching artist.

Originally Published