Uri Caine and Han Bennink, Sonic Boom

Ken Micallef

By Ken Micallef

on 04.09.13 in Reviews
A wild, impish triumph that delivers everything its pairing promises

This inspired meeting between adventurous keyboardist Caine and gale-force drummer Bennink delivers everything their pairing promises. Caine, known for his avant-jazz/chamber excursions that approach classical masterworks with a uniquely twisted flavor, is challenged and encouraged at every turn by Bennink, a master of free jazz drumming with a unique, gleeful attitude. Recorded at Amsterdam’s Bimhuis in 2011, Sonic Boom is comprised of nine brief but exhilarating songs — if these roller coasters of form somersaulting function can be called songs. Caine plays impishly, no doubt inspired by Bennink’s childlike shenanigans, the kind of thing you might tell a young child to “STOP!” if not for the sheer joy billowing from his drums and cymbals. Performing primarily improvised material, the duo also cover Monk’s “Round Midnight,” but it goes all wrong. Caine extracts the familiar melody from the piano’s keys and internal wires, but then everything is dissembled and scattered, as if Madlib were dissecting/delivering the performance via two Technics SP 1200 turntables. Sticks fly, brushes swoon, Monk screams for mercy, and before you know it the pair are swinging sweetly, sparkling, like it’s 1959. They follow with an avuncular blues, “As I Was,” a sonic freefall through shocking accents; “Furious Urious,” and the equivalent of a swinging, Willie the Lion Smith barrel house shuffle, “Lockdown.” A triumph.