In which Uri Caine does his Latin album. One of the few genres previously untouched by Caine as his restless imagination hungrily grasps at whatever New York throws up (we've had jazz reworkings of Mahler, 'ambient' Tin Pan Alley tributes, fearsome fusion, European jazz, klezmer drum'n'bass, all in the last few years), "Rio" is actually another great addition to an increasingly awe-inspiring back catalogue.
Just as Uri Caine himself is modern music in microcosm, Rio brilliantly represents almost all Brazilian music! Recorded in Rio De Janeiro with several groups, Caine shifts gears smoothly through cocktail party bossa to fierce funky salsa; via Metheny-like latin-jazz to thunderous batacuda onslaughts; sophisticated Brazilian pop a la Marisa Monte to sleazy electro rap; delicate Jobim-alikes cheek by jowl with rough and ready street-corner jams.
Somewhat unfairly, perhaps the victim of his own prodigious output, Caine is sometimes bracketed with those whose sheer talent necessitates an editor - musicians whose ability to do anything means that they don't stop to question whether they really should do that agit-folk psych jazz-classical crossover album (mentioning no names, Bill Laswell). However, whilst the idea of Caine doing a Latin album makes one slap the forehead and wonder why it hasn't happened before, the fact that - yet again - it's a really, really good album is getting increasingly astonishing.
Percussionist Paulo Braga, heard on Vinicius Cantuaria's fabulous Vinicius album last year, brilliantly leads a vast battery of drummers and a strong, if somewhat anonymous supporting cast. Caine is heard on piano and Fender Rhodes, shape-shifting throughout yet always convincing. Supremely funky on Rhodes, either set in laid-back or aggressive modes, his touch on piano is light and flirty, dancing around the percussive settings.
The music is laid over ambient found sounds; chit-chat, beach parties, clinking glasses, rain, buses and metros, an approach recalling Caine's haunting Sidewalks of New York of a few years ago. Again, this is the sound of a city, generally enjoying itself. It's elegantly packaged as ever with Winter & Winter, though for once not designed by Stephen Byram, Gunter Mattei deserving the plaudits here. Uri Caine's inexorable, sparkling progress through modern music continues apace.