Uri Caine | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Over the past decade jazz pianist Uri Caine has established a niche for himself that might seem like a gimmick if inhabited by a less formidable talent. Since 1997's Primal Light, a unique and beguiling take on the music of Mahler, he's used compositions by Bach, Schumann, Wagner, and Beethoven as the basis for radical fusions that both honor the original material and reinvent it--sometimes by merely tinkering with the feel of a piece, sometimes by smashing it into fragments that serve as building blocks for improvisations. The new Uri Caine Ensemble Plays Mozart (Winter & Winter) continues in this vein with stellar results. Playing solo on selections from the Piano Sonata in C Major, Caine seems to have internalized the work entirely--he toys with the rhythm like a cat with a ball of yarn. Just as impressive are the group performances: guitarist Nguyen Le, turntablist DJ Olive, and drummer Jim Black scream, scratch, and stutter their way through some of Mozart's most beloved melodies, shuttling in and out of the source material with razorlike precision. For tonight's program, called "Mozart to Mahler," Caine will participate in a discussion with U. of C. faculty and then, in his first local appearance as a leader since 2000, perform with violinist Joyce Hammann, clarinetist Moran Katz, trumpeter Ralph Alessi, bassist Drew Gress, and drummer Ben Perowsky. a 7 PM, Mandel Hall, University of Chicago, 1131 E. 57th, 773-702-8069 or 773-702-8080, $5-$15. A

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