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Album Review

Few jazz performers have been as successful in applying their improvisational chops to the work of revered classical composers as this Philadelphia born pianist Uri Caine, whose catalog over the years has included homages to everyone from Herbie Hancock and Thelonious Monk to the songs of Tin Pan Alley and more recently, Mahler, Wagner, Bach, Beethoven and Schumann. His current ensemble, which features violinist Joyce Hammann, clarinetist Chris Speed, trumpeter Ralph Alessi, electric guitarist Nguyên Lê, and DJ Olive on turntables, takes Mozart out of his own century and puts him into an experimental jazz crazy house circa 2007 — a time travel experience that is partially eloquent and recognizably beautiful (Piano Sonata in C Major) and at times disorienting, hauntingly strange and overly chaotic (Symphony 40 in G Minor). Some tracks like Symphony 41 in C Major fuse Mozart's inherent lyricism with trippy ambient textures and unexpected textures like rock guitar. Arranged around three solo piano sonatas that act as bookends and an intermission of sorts, the album swings mercurially from mood, paying strict homage at times but also reminding the listener that centuries have passed and it's time for new twists on the sacred. One's enjoyment will depend solely on his or her passion for tradition, but overall, for the adventurous, Plays Mozart is worth at least one test spin.

Plays Mozart, Uri Caine Ensemble
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