Gustav Mahler and jazz are not often found in the same sentence. When they are, the name of Uri Caine is usually there as well. The Philadelphia-born, New York-resident pianist has pursued a fruitful career in jazz but he has never been afraid of indulging his love for the music of classical composers and is one of those brilliant, multi-facetted players for whom there are no musical boundaries.
One listen to his extraordinary recording of Bach’s Goldberg Variations shows that: one minute we hear a string ensemble playing an elegantly, neo-romantic piece with the piano, the next minute it’s a cool jazz group playing Bach as Miles Davis might re-interpret it, and the next it’s a Brazilian samba.
But then, Bach and jazz have always been happy bedfellows.
If it feels like more of a leap between jazz and Mahler, Caine closes the gap in an instant, and in fact his adaptations of the Late Romantic Austrian were his first foray into this jazz-classical crossover, at least in the recording studio.
He has also made jazz out of Beethoven, Wagner, Schumann and Mozart, but it’s Mahler that really does it for him, the symphonies, the song cycles, anywhere he can find a melody or a mood that is open to improvisational reinterpretation.
As part of the Birmingham Mahler Cycle – a series of concerts given by the CBSO and others in Symphony and Town halls to commemorate the centenary of his death – Uri Caine brings his band to Birmingham on Saturday.
It’s a talent-filled Anglo-American ensemble with Chris Speed on saxophone, Chris Bachelor on trumpet, Josefina Vergara on violin, DJ Olive on turntables, Steve Watts on bass and Jim Black on drums.
It’s been a while since we heard Uri Caine in Birmingham, and the quality both of the material and the players should make this one of the must-go concerts of the year. Uri Caine Meets Mahler is at 7.30pm on Saturday and tickets are available here or on 0121 780 3333.
Before that there is another chance to hear Birmingham-based singer Sara Colman and her band at the Rush Hour Blues in the Symphony Hall foyer bar tomorrow between 5.30pm and 7pm. Sara writes excellent songs and her reinterpretations of both the great American songbook and of rock writers like Joni Mitchell and Walter Becker are among the best around. This gig is free.
And if you have an appetite for more jazz along with your Friday dinner, head out to the Bohemia restaurant in Selly Oak, where you can enjoy a three-course meal for £25 along with music from trombonist Andy Derrick and pianist Mike Kemp. It’s called Jazz At Bohemia and it’s best to book beforehand on 0121 4712713.
There are two gigs of note on Sunday:
MYJO continues its 40th Anniversary celebrations with a party at the Tally Ho Sports and Social Club in Edgbaston. The current band will be playing but you can expect to hear some players from the past as well. It starts at 7.30pm, tickets are £10 and you can find out more at www.myjo.co.uk
Meanwhile, down in Stratford-upon-Avon, the singer Juliet Kelly leads her Quartet for Stratford Jazz at The Chapel in Shakespeare Street. Juliet has George Moore on piano, Oli Hayhurst on bass and Milo Fell on drums. The gig starts at 8pm and tickets are £6. More at www.stratfordjazz.org.uk