Elliott Caine: Blues from Mars

High-class hard bop such as can happily be found nowadays, but Caine's an exceptional trumpeter, hot but also a ballad master.

Elliott Caine

Blues from Mars

Label: Rhombus
US Release Date: 2006-06-27
UK Release Date: 2006-06-27

The great West Coast alto saxophonist Bud Shank spoke the word "cool" with real scorn, in a sense opposed to hot and supposedly descriptive rather than generally laudatory. "Cool" was supposed to be what West Coast Jazz was. Shank detested the marketing nonsense, and I can hardly suppose Elliott Caine would wear the suggestion that he comply with the old false stereotype, much less put up with an adjective implying excessive restraint being misapplied to his music (not that there aren't overpaid publicists capable of things even crasser!).

I see from one Google link that Michael Rose has been called the outstanding soloist on the set, but he's on only one title, perhaps left over from a session otherwise issued on a previous Caine CD -- and the poor fellow died not long after it was recorded. The set's dedicated to his memory, and to music-making of the standard to be heard on that first track. The photo of Maestro Caine with the liner notes doesn't imply a lack of confidence, and opening with that cracker, distinguished by Justo Almario's tenor as well as by the work of the lamented Mr. Rose, no more suggests doubts. There's the same piano-bass-drums trio of John Rangel, Bill Markus and Kenny Elliott, but Carl Randall has to follow a less meditative tenorist and a baritonist of substance -- and all without a conga player on "El Nueva Dia". He can.

There's more intensity and Antoine Cayito Dearborn on "Peace and Love", which doesn't so anything so banal as be soothing; "Passion" and "Commitment" are terms characterising this melodious, driving stylistic relative of the track which follows and of a lot of classic Horace Silver.

Then suddenly there's this surpassingly beautiful "After Thought"; Caine's the sole horn, and John Rangel inspired in his piano solo by the intervention of D.J. Bonebrake in a vibes solo which purls into the ethereal. He's heard again on the fast medium stomper "Mambolishus", where his individual voice pays off against the electric bass Bill Markus plays on a couple of the set's Hispanically titled numbers. Inocente Alvarez is on conga and drummer Elliott gets to follow him and conclude the celebration of rhythms. The title Latin Jazz is hardly to be applied, since the addition of Conga (Munyungo Jackson was in the band with Rose and comes back for a title with the very satisfying tenor of Randall) is just an opening out of something within this music.

The same can be said of the title track, which another reviewer has suggested is what used to be called "far out". It might be by standards of a much earlier time, but the unobtrusive electronic sounds are fun, and nothing to do with music attempted on synthesizers. Veterans might remember hearing something similar if rather more fitful on ancient AM radio receivers. Bonebreak's ethereal vibes allow a handy extraterrestrial atmosphere at the beginning and as a higher level means of solving the problem of following Caine's drive. Markus's bowed bass is a little of the same, before the Martians come in at the end to express apt wonder at the music.

I will conclude first by referring to Caine's utterly masterly ballad playing on "I Thought About You", for a long time simply in duo with the bassist, who holds things moving together as the pianist enters to solo with the drummer in gentle attendance. Caine comes in for the final third of the performance, the bassist rock-like as the pianist contributes to a heart-warming polyphony. Second, I am led to believe that if I'd spent much time in Los Angeles I might well have been familiar already with these musicians' names. I hope so. Composer of the first nine titles, a duly various selection, Elliott Caine's a very interesting, unusually exciting musician.






A Certain Ratio Return with a Message of Hope on 'ACR Loco'

Inspired by 2019's career-spanning box set, legendary Manchester post-punkers A Certain Ratio return with their first new album in 12 years, ACR Loco.


Oscar Hijuelos' 'Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love' Dances On

Oscar Hijuelos' dizzyingly ambitious foot-tapping family epic, Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love, opened the door for Latinx writers to tell their stories in all their richness.


PM Picks Playlist 2: Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES, SOUNDQ

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES' stunning dream folk, Polish producer SOUNDQ, the indie pop of Pylon Heights, a timely message from Exit Kid, and Natalie McCool's latest alt-pop banger.


'Lost Girls and Love Hotels' and Finding Comfort in Sadness

William Olsson's Lost Girls and Love Hotels finds optimism in its message that life tears us apart and puts us back together again differently.


Bright Eyes' 'Down in the Weeds' Is a Return to Form and a Statement of Hope

Bright Eyes may not technically be emo, but they are transcendently expressive, beatifically melancholic. Down in the Weeds is just the statement of grounding that we need as a respite from the churning chaos around us.


Audrey Hepburn + Rome = Grace, Class, and Beauty

William Wyler's Roman Holiday crosses the postcard genre with a hardy trope: Old World royalty seeks escape from stuffy, ritual-bound, lives for a fling with the modern world, especially with Americans.


Colombia's Simón Mejía Plugs Into the Natural World on 'Mirla'

Bomba Estéreo founder Simón Mejía electrifies nature for a different kind of jungle music on his debut solo album, Mirla.


The Flaming Lips Reimagine Tom Petty's Life in Oklahoma on 'American Head'

The Flaming Lips' American Head is a trip, a journey to the past that one doesn't want to return to but never wants to forget.


Tim Bowness of No-Man Discusses Thematic Ambition Amongst Social Division

With the release of his seventh solo album, Late Night Laments, Tim Bowness explores global tensions and considers how musicians can best foster mutual understanding in times of social unrest.


Angel Olsen Creates a 'Whole New Mess'

No one would call Angel Olsen's Whole New Mess a pretty album. It's much too stark. But there's something riveting about the way Olsen coos to herself that's soft and comforting.


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


Masma Dream World Go Global and Trippy on "Sundown Forest" (premiere)

Dancer, healer, musician Devi Mambouka shares the trippy "Sundown Forest", which takes listeners deep into the subconscious and onto a healing path.


Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" Is an Ode for Unity in Troubling Times (premiere)

Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" is a gentle, prayerful tune that depicts the heart of their upcoming album, Crucible.


'What a Fantastic Death Abyss': David Bowie's 'Outside' at 25

David Bowie's Outside signaled the end of him as a slick pop star and his reintroduction as a ragged-edged arty agitator.


Dream Folk's Wolf & Moon Awaken the Senses with "Eyes Closed" (premiere)

Berlin's Wolf & Moon are an indie folk duo with a dream pop streak. "Eyes Closed" highlights this aspect as the act create a deep sense of atmosphere and mood with the most minimal of tools.


Ranking the Seasons of 'The Wire'

Years after its conclusion, The Wire continues to top best-of-TV lists. With each season's unique story arc, each viewer is likely to have favorites.


Paul Reni's Silent Film 'The Man Who Laughs' Is Serious Cinema

There's so much tragedy present, so many skullduggeries afoot, and so many cruel and vindictive characters in attendance that a sad and heartbreaking ending seems to be an obvious given in Paul Reni's silent film, The Man Who Laughs.


The Grahams Tell Their Daughter "Don't Give Your Heart Away" (premiere)

The Grahams' sweet-sounding "Don't Give Your Heart Away" is rooted in struggle, inspired by the couples' complicated journey leading up to their daughter's birth.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.