David Cain – Meditations (2018)

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When a pianist sits in front of piano without a score in front of him or in his mind, what comes forth is not so much music but a window into his soul. We’ve certainly seen a lot of the soul of Keith Jarrett a lot over the years and several other noted jazz piano players such as Chick Corea (I’m thinking of his 1971 Piano Improvisations volumes). Now David Cain has taken his turn at soul-baring with the pertinently titled Meditations.

These nineteen vignettes follow a natural flow — occasionally even a groove — and make no distinction between dulcet and dissonant. As these solo improvised adventures tend to be, Meditations really defies categorization; it might nominally be called ‘jazz’ just from the improvised nature of it, but Cain isn’t trying to tackle a style, just gut sentiment. When playing from the gut, the prime influences tend to reveal themselves and in Cain’s case, he had his mentor and teacher the late Roque Cordero in mind. Cordero had lived in the USA for the last 42 of his 91 years as a composer, conductor, writer and educator and but is widely regarded as the foremost composer of his native Panama.

Only two selections are not brief; “Sea Is Salt” and “Seven Sails,” during which Cain mixes in a staggered sequence of chords with nearly-free passages, whereas the former performance’s ‘free’ moment briefly occurs in the middle.

That’s the story of Meditations in a nutshell but there’s also a story behind the story. We previously covered Cain a few times as part of the electro-acoustic improv trio Wertico Cain & Gray, and marveled at their savvy at “practicing an old method to create art with no fallback but with some new, technological twists.” Even in this solo piano setting, Cain finds ways to leverage technology: the instrument he plays here is not actually an acoustic piano, it only sounds exactly like one. It’s a ROLI Seaboard with grand piano instrument audio plugins. View the demo video below for a demonstration on how the organically-conceived music of Meditations was created with a little high-tech assistance:


S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron
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