Uri Caine

Moloch: The Book of Angels, Vol. 6

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Six is a balanced number. There is no tipping it into the ether. Therefore, Uri Caine's volume in John Zorn's second Masada book, Moloch is the perfect sixth. It is a series of 19 short solo piano pieces from just under two minutes to just over six. They range from jazz, classical and near stride pieces -- sometime in the same selection, as in "Segef" -- to mysterious pieces with Jewish folk melodies inserted into their spines: "Kebriel," "Cassiel" and "Sabriel" all come to mind. In addition to Zorn's compositions, Caine's sense of playfulness and drama is everywhere present. He is a jazz and roots music pianist almost non pareil. One question is whether this record is as outside and manic, say, as Koby Israelite's brilliant volume four, Orobas, is. No, it's not. It's a bit more mysterious, a lot more elliptical and conventionally "melodic," whatever that means. Israelite's Orobas was as stunning an interpretation of Zorn's Masada work as there is. But like that volume, and indeed every one in the Book of Angels series, this one is as much a collaboration as an interpretation. There is never a place here where Zorn's identity is in the music and Caine's is not, or vice versa. Check both versions of "Rimmon" that open and close the disc. One is under five minutes and the latter is over six. Check the way Caine handles Zorn's melody and harmonies and the way he finds room inside them to express his unique voice as a pianist. He is also a composer and arranger of no small skill, and his manner of moving through the material and engaging it harmonically from different places in the composer's syntax is nothing less than astonishing. That said, there also isn't a note here that doesn't drip with soul.

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