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Uri Caine

Date of birth : 1956-06-08
Date of death : -
Birthplace : Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Nationality : American
Category : Arts and Entertainment
Last modified : 2011-10-21

Uri Caine is an American classical and jazz pianist and composer.

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 klezmermusic 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 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.

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 boy's 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 backward 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 Rochberg's 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 Caine--like many neophyte jazz artists--joined 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, Caine's 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 pair's collaboration in the recording studio began in 1990 when Caine performed with Byron on the clarinetist's debut album, Tuskegee Experiments. Thereafter Caine was heard routinely on Byron's subsequent recordings. Byron reciprocated in turn, lending his own talents to Caine's debut recording in 1992. That album, called Sphere Musicand 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 Caine's "... 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 klezmermusic, which brought them critical acclaim.

Caine's 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 Mahler's works when he accepted a commission to develop and record the soundtrack for a silent film montage, a Stefan Winter production about Mahler's music. Caine amazed the music world with his original interpretations of Mahler's compositions. The success of the film work led to the 1997 release of an album of selected Mahler compositions, called Urlicht/Primal Lightfrom 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 Billboard's Bradley Bambarger, "[S]uch fresh reinvestigations of Mahler as Caine's 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 Mahler's. 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, Caine's 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, I Went out This Morning over the Countryside.

The spring of 2000 brought Caine's inspired program, "Mahler Revisited"--an adaptation of his earlier Primal Light recording--to 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 Caine's 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 Caine's 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.

Caine's Blue Wail album, released in 1999, featured him performing a collection largely of Caine's own compositions in a trio with James Genus on bass and Ralph Peterson Jr. on drums. The performance with its "twinkling impressionism ... illuminate[s] Caine's 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 Caine's impressionism and presented a wide range of styles, encompassing traditional to post-modern. The collection, dominated by Caine's 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-a-long classics from the twentieth century, including "My Gal Sal," "My Wild Irish Rose," and "I Wonder Who's 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 Beat'sMichael Point called the album a "cultural event of significant proportions," and a "reservoir of pure entertainment." Caine's 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 Bach's Goldberg Variations, released by Winter & Winter. In October of that year, he performed the work at Cambridge in the United Kingdom.

Uri's discography:

Sphere Music (1992)
Toys (1995)
Blue Wail (1997)
Nigunim (1998)
Urlicht/Primal Light (1998)
Keter (1999)
Blue Wail (1999)
Sidewalks Of New York: Tin Pan Alley (1999)
Gustav Mahler In Toblach: I Went Out This Morning Over The Countryside (1999)
Love Fugue Robert Schumann (2000)
Goldberg Variations (2000)
The Philadelphia Experiment (2001)
Bedrock 3 (2001)
Solitaire (2002)
Rio (2002)
Diabelli Variations (Ludwig Van Beethoven) (2003)
Gustav Mahler: Dark Flame (2004)
Live at the Village Vanguard (2004)
Shelf-Life Bedrock (2005)
Moloch: Book of Angels Volume 6 (2006)
Things (with Paolo Fresu) (2006)
Plays Mozart (2006)
Classical Variations (2007)
The Othello Syndrome (2008)
Bedrock { Plastic Temptation (2009)


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