Caine set to perform modern interpretation of Bach

by Sam Lederer | 2/15/02 6:00am

Bridging the gap between two musical genres is a very difficult task. Covering several different genres is something close to amazing.

That is exactly what Uri Caine does with "The Goldberg Variations," a Bach"based performance that he will perform tonight in Spaulding Auditorium.

Caine's interpretation of the famous piece features a wide variety of musical instruments and themes. A piano, disc jockey, gospel vocalist, digital effects and synthesizer will all be integrated into the groundbreaking performance.

This array of instruments allows "The Goldberg Variations" to break free of any historical or musical molds it may have been cast in. Caine creates ultimate freedom and lets the composition incorporate jazz, swing, gospel, electronica, rock, baroque and Latin music.

Down Beat called his version of the Bach piece "one of the year's best records daring and hugely entertaining."

Caine began playing piano in Philadelphia with Bernard Pfeiffer. Pfeiffer, a noted French pianist, brought Caine a new composition each week and encouraged him to construct new harmonies around it and suggest directions in which Caine could take it. Pfeiffer also opened Caine's eyes to jazz theory.

Caine then went on to study music composition at the University of Pennsylvania under George Rochberg and George Crumb. In the late 1980s Caine moved to New York City, where he currently lives with his wife, sculptor Jan Galperin.

In 1977, the then-deputy chairman of the University Scholars Program, Jack Reese, called Caine "one of the most distinguished candidates."

The New York Times said of Caine, "His command of wide"ranging styles and music history allow him to deftly translate classical compositions in modern settings."

Much of Caine's musical abilities and versatility probably come from the Scholars Program.

"The strength of the program was its freedom. Some semesters all I took was music, nothing but music. Then in others, I studied Shakespeare," Caine told the Penn alumni newsletter.

But Caine rigorously taught himself many concepts regarding music as well. One of the things he required of himself was the ability to identify any piece of music from the 16th century to the present day after listening for only 10 seconds.

He has recorded 12 albums as a leader since moving to New York. His first two CDs, "Sphere Music" and "Toys," paid tribute to jazz greats Thelonius Monk and Herbie Hancock. "Urlicht/Primal Light," Caine's third album contains his interpretations of the music of Gustav Mahler and won him the Composer's Hut Award for Best Mahler CD of 1997.

In 2000, along with "The Goldberg Variations," Caine released "Love Fugue," an interesting interpretation of Schumann's "Dichterliebe." He furthered his recording career greatly in 2001 with the release of three albums including "Bedrock 3," his collaboration with Zach Danziger and Tim Lefebvre.

Rob Cowan of Grammophone Records said of Caine's work with the "Variations," "His Bach runs the gamut of postwar musical styles. The unity is in the through-thinking, the way the pieces ricochet off each other and the manner of their colouring."

This unity is manifested in live performances in Caine's acute sense for rhythm and tempo.

Caine has performed in groups led by Rashid Ali, Sam Rivers and Woody Herman. He is truly a man of the world, having played at many jazz festivals including ones at The Hague, Berlin, New York and Montreal.

His adaptability as a musician is Caine's best attribute. He can perform as a traditional jazz pianist or bust out many cutting edge techniques that would scare many other musicians.

Caine also possesses a great amount of courage and confidence, and that too sets him apart from the rest.

Tickets are currently on sale at the Hopkins Center Box Office for $5 to Dartmouth students and $20 to the general public. There will be a spotlight discussion with Caine in the Faculty Lounge at 7 p.m.