Caine, Uri

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Uri Caine


For the Record

Selected discography


The sophisticated improvisational jazz of Uri Caine earned critical acclaim for this pianist with an impressive adaptability to both the classical and modern composers. The versatility of his musical style is paralleled by the expanse of his musical knowledge from all eras and locales. As a pianist and writer, Caine is perhaps best known for his adept interpretation of Yiddish klezmer music and for Mahler Revisited, a performance program that he devised and presented based on the works of Gustav Mahler. Caine, who studied musical composition from early adolescence, honed his talent as a college student after hours in the jazz clubs of Philadelphia. He is recognized primarily as a jazz pianist with a natural aptitude for the electronic piano. Critics marvel likewise at his original compositions and his ability to lead other musicians while performing.

Caine was born on June 8, 1956. He grew up in an affluent home in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and never wanted for intellectual stimulation as his parents were professors. His mother, an artist in her own right, was a poet and a member of the faculty of Drexel University. His father taught law at Temple University. Both parents spoke Hebrew, and Caine learned not only the language, but also to enjoy the unique melodies of the Middle Eastern music favored by his parents.

From the age of 12 and through high school, Caine studied with French pianist Bernard Peiffer. In addition to teaching his student to play classical piano, Peiffer instructed Caine in the rudiments of musical arrangement and composition and sparked the boys interest in jazz and improvisation. During those early years of musical study, Caine came to an appreciation of such contemporary jazz masters as Herbie Hancock and Oscar Peterson, and at the same time reached back-ward to develop an understanding of the compositions of the classical masters.

As a pastime, Caine dabbled in the science of electronics, a hobby that served him well as a contemporary musician during the technology-driven era of the late twentieth century. Indeed it was a time when the advent of electronic instruments, synthesizers, and music mixing apparatus afforded new avenues of experimentation for cutting edge musicians such as Caine.

Caine entered the University of Pennsylvania Scholars Program in 1977. As a student, he undertook a liberal arts curriculum while focusing intently on his musical studies with the talented composer George Rochberg. As a student of music history, Caine stood in awe of the evolutionary aspects of different types of music; the intrinsic relationships between the disparate compositions fascinated him. It was his original ambition to continue his university studies through the doctoral level, but it was Rochbergs philosophy to encourage his students otherwise, noting that the greatest learning experiences were to be found on the performing stage. At the urging of Rochberg and others, Caine ventured after classes into the city nightclubs where he experienced first-hand the art of performance and professional improvisation. It was in those jazz clubs of Philadelphia that Cainelike many neophyte jazz artistsjoined in jamming sessions with accomplished and well-known entertainers on stage. Among the talented mentors who encouraged the young pianist during his early career were Mickey Roker and Bootsie Barnes. As a result of his well-balanced curriculum and extra-curricular nightclub sessions, Caine matured into a practiced and proficient musician, experienced in the complex art of improvisational performance. As he cultivated his appreciation of diverse musical styles, Caines improvisational skills grew virtually limitless because his mind remained unfettered by the boundaries that separate classical music from modern and folk styles.

Caine moved to New York City in the late 1980s where he quickly discovered that the performance arena was very limited for classical and improvisational jazz artists with his skills. Nonetheless he quickly developed working relationships with Terry Gibbs and Buddy DeFranco. He also became acquainted with the classical clarinetist Don Byron, an association that developed into a long-standing and synergetic relationship. The pairs collaboration in the recording studio began in 1990 when Caine performed with Byron on the clarinetists debut album, Tuskegee Experiments. Thereafter Caine was heard routinely on Byrons subsequent recordings. Byron reciprocated in turn, lending

For the Record

Born on June 8, 1956; married sculptress Jan Galperin. Education: Studied with Bernard Peiffer; George Rochberg and George Crumb, University of Pennsylvania Scholars Program; Vladimir Sokoloff, Curtis Institute.

Performed in Philadelphia jazz clubs as a student, late 1970s; collaborated with Don Byron and New York City jazz collective, late 1980s; has recorded with Winter & Winter and JAM Records; best known for Gustav Mahler interpretations and Yiddish klezmer styles.

Awards: Toblacher Komponierhauschen Award, most original recording, Mahler Society, 1997.

Addresses: Management Ted Kurland Associates, 173 Brighton Avenue, Allston, MA 02134.

his own talents to Caines debut recording in 1992. That album, called Sphere Music and released by Polydor, was composed of tribute pieces to the legendary pianist Thelonius Monk. In 1996 Caine released his second solo effort, another tribute album, called Toys. The recording, dedicated to Herbie Hancock, showcased Caines definite knack for orchestration, flexibility, and wit [along with his] rhythmic and harmonic sensibilities, according to John Ephland in Down Beat Following those early sessions, Caine and Byron collaborated regularly, embracing a diverse catalog of musical styles, including their notable interpretations of klezmer music, which brought them critical acclaim.

Caines acceptance in the jazz world soared in the wake of his incomparable Gustav Mahler interpretations beginning in the mid 1990s. At that time, he received full rein to explore his interest in Mahlers works when he accepted a commission to develop and record the soundtrack for a silent film montage, a Stefan Winter production about Mahlers music. Caine amazed the music world with his original interpretations of Mahlers compositions. The success of the film work led to the 1997 release of an album of selected Mahler compositions, called Urlicht/Primal Light from Winter & Winter. Caine attained a remarkable level of improvisation in the recording, which was a pronounced hit, even in its less inspired tracks. According to Billboards Bradley Bambarger, [S]uch fresh reinvestigations of Mahler as Caines are welcome, misfires and all. Appropriately Caine and his colleagues received an invitation to provide the entertainment at the popular Mahler Society Festival in the summer of 1999. The festival venue, in the Italian Alpine town of Toblach, was a well-known retreat of Mahlers. Both at the festival and on the earlier album, Caine shared the bill with members of the New York City collective, including trumpeter Dave Douglas, drummer Joe Baron, violinist Mark Fedman, and long-time Caine collaborator Byron. Again at Toblach, Caines masterful Mahler arrangements earned praise from aficionados of post-modern jazz. Caine, along with a 14-piece band, rendered his landmark Mahler interpretations at yet another popular Mahler festival in Germany that same year. October of 1999 marked the release of a Toblach festival album. The live recording appeared originally in Europe on the Winter & Winter label, followed by an Allegro Records issue in the United States, with both versions entitled, / Went out This Morning over the Countryside.

The spring of 2000 brought Caines inspired program, Mahler Revisitedan adaptation of his earlier Primal Light recordingto the Chicago Cultural Center and to the Mark Taper Foundation Courtyard in Los Angeles; the program moved into venues across the United States. Mahler, in Caines own words, evokes a kaleidoscope quality contrasts of complexity and simplicity feelings of loss and feelings of wildness he never stuck by conventions, as quoted by Bambarger.

With Caines reputation established, critics never hesitated to notice his innovative interpretations of other modern composers, among them his Wagner selections released on Winter & Winter as Wagner e Venezia in 1999.

Caines Blue Wail album, released in 1999, featured him performing a collection largely of Caines own compositions in a trio with James Genus on bass and Ralph Peterson Jr. on drums. The performance with its twinkling impressionism illuminate[s] Caines gift for composing, according to a review by Mike Joyce in the Washington Post.

In 2000, Caine recorded an album of North African and Middle Eastern Sephardic music with singer Aaron Bensoussnan for a debut recording from JAM Records. In the spirit of a Caine tradition, well-established by that time, the album revealed the expansive scope of Caines impressionism and presented a wide range of styles, encompassing traditional to post-modern. The collection, dominated by Caines own works, featured long-time Caine collaborator DJ Olive contributing samples and mixes to the impressive collection.

Also in 2000, Caine released The Sidewalks of New York: Tin Pan Alley, a collection of American sing-along classics from the twentieth century, including My Gal Sal, My Wild Irish Rose, and I Wonder Whos Kissing Her Now. The album, like so many others by Caine, included contributions from clarinetist Byron, with Ralph Alessi and Dave Douglas on trumpet. Down Beats Michael Point called the album a cultural event of significant proportions, and a reservoir of pure entertainment. Caines Schumann album, Love Fugue, was also released in 2000. That same year Caine dared to extrapolate his impressions of the work of Johann Sebastian Bach with a recording of Bachs Goldberg Variations, released by Winter & Winter. In October of that year, he performed the work at Cambridge in the United Kingdom.

In addition to his headline and solo work, Caine continued as a well-respected sideman in post-modern circles. His worldwide performance venues brought him to stages throughout Europe and Asia. He participated in jazz festivals throughout North America and Europe, including the North Sea Jazz Festival in The Hague, Netherlands; Jazz Across the Borders in Berlin, Germany; and Americas Newport Jazz Festival.

Selected discography

(With Don Byron) Sphere Music, Polydor, 1992.

Toys, JMT, 1996.

Urlicht/Primal Light, Winter & Winter, 1997.

(With the Uri Caine Ensemble) / Went out This Morning over the Countryside, Winter & Winter, 1999.

Wagner e Venezia, Winter & Winter, 1999.

Blue Wail, Winter & Winter, 1999.

Zohar, Knitting, 1999.

The Sidewalks of New York: Tin Pan Valley, Winter & Winter, 2000.

(With the Uri Caine Ensemble) Goldberg Variations, Winter & Winter, 2000.

Uri CaineZohar: Keter, Knitting Factory/JAM Records, 2000.

(With the Uri Caine Ensemble and la Gaia Scienza) Love Fugue, Winter & Winter, 2000.



Billboard, June 6, 1998, p. 53; October 2, 1999, p. 45.

Christian Science Monitor, March 19, 1999, p. 18.

Down Beat, October 1996, p. 45; February 2000, p. 64.

Los Angeles Times, May 9, 2000, p. F1.

Washington Post, May 7, 1999, p. H 17.


A Fireside Chat with Uri Caine, Jazz Weekly, (September 27, 2000).

All Music Guide, (January 25, 2001).

Uri Caine Ensemble, (September 27, 2000).

Uri Caine: Expect Anything, (September 27, 2000).

Uri Caine Live! (September 28, 2000).

Uri Caine Zohar: Keter, (September 27, 2000).

Gloria Cooksey