Jazz pianist/composer Uri Caine
brings an eclectic array of disciplines and influences to his music. His own Jewish heritage, his classical and jazz training, and his interest in electronics combine in ambitious hybrids that are often challenging but always inventive.
grew up in an intellectual, open-minded family in Philadelphia. His father, a law professor at Temple University, and his mother, a poet and professor at Drexel, ensured the best musical education possible for their son, having him study with French expatriate pianist Bernard Peiffer
Over their four years of study together, Peiffer
not only piano technique but the possibilities of music. Each week, Caine
brought a new composition to his lesson; teacher and pupil then deconstructed and reformed its melody, harmonies, and structure into entirely different directions. Along with listening to Herbie Hancock
and Oscar Peterson
, this rigorous study with Peiffer
to jazz theory.
was already performing at jazz clubs around Philadelphia with artists like Mickey Roker
and Bootsie Barnes when he began studies with composer George Rochberg
in Penn State's University Scholars Program. Choosing his own path of study, Caine
took classes in music, literature, and other interests for a diverse-but-grounded program.
This well-rounded approach to music culminated in the aptly named debut album Sphere Music
, released in 1992. Caine
's spontaneity and technical prowess as a musician and composer combine on the album, making it a jazzy tour of moods and styles. Sphere Music
also inaugurates Caine
's collaboration with clarinetist Don Byron
. Together, the two have played everything from Thelonious Monk
's "Round Midnight" to klezmer music to modern classical, with Byron
's ensemble Semaphore.
followed Sphere Music
with 1996's Toys
, 1997's Primal Light
, and 1999's I Went Out This Morning Over the Countryside
, all of which feature his signature blend of fluid, visionary postmodernism. The late '90s brought international attention to Caine
's projects reworking, reinterpreting, and reinventing the works of classical composers for the Winter & Winter label.