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Uri Caine
DARK FLAME
(Winter and Winter)
Stars graphics

This is Uri Caineís third set of Mahler reinterpretations, following Urlicht/Primal Light in 1997 and the two-disc Mahler in Toblach 1999, the latter a live performance of the Urlicht material. Dark Flameís 14 tracks draw from all of Mahlerís song cycles ó Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen, Des Knaben Wunderhorn, Kindertotenlieder, the Rückert-Lieder ó as well as the song symphony Das Lied von der Erde; the title is taken from Kindertotenliederís "Nun sehí ich wohl, warum so dunkle Flammen." Here Caine goes even farther than he did on Urlicht to diffract Mahlerís light back into its primal sources. The opening title track is 11 minutes of Eurotrash ("Tot offensive/Columbine and/blabbergun") from Julie Patton that itself is offensive in a song about the death of a child; thereís more rubbish from Patton in "Song of the Prisoner in the Tower" and from Sadiq Bey on the Alma-riffing "Labor Lost," the latter all too true to its title. And the Chinese experiments in Das Liedís "The Lonely One in Autumn" (with Tong Qiang Chen singing Qian Qiís poem) and "On Youth" sound monochromatic next to Mahlerís pentatonic-tinged German romanticism.

Actor Sepp Bierbichler provides more apposite klezmer moments on "In Praise of Lofty Judgement" (especially in his donkey hee-haw) and "Rhinelegend"; cantor Aaron Bensoussan offers dirgy scatting on "Two Blue Eyes" (where heís undermined by Caineís Vince Guaraldi piano and Hebrew and English intoning from Shulamith Wechter Caine, the bandleaderís mother) and "When My Sweetheart . . . "; and Caineís Schoenhut toy piano pays due respect to the other Kindertotenlieder song, "When Your Mother Comes In the Door." "Only Love Beauty" (a deliberate mistranslation of "Liebst du um Schönheit"?) appears twice, first in a gospel treatment with Barbara Walker soaring over the Kettwiger Bach Chor, then closing the album as a reverent chorale. No Mahler aficionado will go away unenlightened, but Caineís diffraction is often undisciplined, and the liner notes are more hip than helpful.

BY JEFFREY GANTZ


Issue Date: May 28 - June 3, 2004
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