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Pianist/composer Uri Caine will give a free presentation on the Jewish roots in the music of Gustav Mahler, as well as contemporary American music’s reception of those elements, at noon, Friday, October 22, in Room 123 of Lafayette College’s Williams Center for the Arts. Caine will include some brief musical illustrations from his own work. The event is free and open to the public.

Caine will speak about his adaptations of famous songs and symphonic movements in the works of Mahler and how this music is influenced by Mahler’s own Jewish roots, as well as Caine’s work in a contemporary American world with the popular music of Jewish peoples.

The same day at 8 p.m. Caine and baritone William Sharp will present a special invitation-only program entitled “The Songs of Gustav Mahler in Contemporary American Music” for The Friends of the Williams Center.

Taking off from Mahler’s eclectic bent for mixing the “high art” of traditional classic composition with the “low art” of street music like marches, café songs and klezmer music, Caine has produced his own, highly personal melange of jazz, bossa nova, classical and klezmer. While taking considerable liberties with Mahler’s compositions, Caine’s interpretations take a serious look at the roots of Mahler’s own music and reflect the way that the composer himself mixed styles and genres.

These interpretations are recorded on Urlicht/Primal Light, which was released in Europe and then North America in 1996 and 1997. The International Mahler Society gave the album the award for the most innovative Mahler recording of the year in 1997. Performing this material at both jazz and classical festivals, the Uri Caine Ensemble has toured Europe extensively, including a much-celebrated performance at Mahler Music Week in Toblach, Italy.

Under the name “Mahler Revisited,” the ensemble toured England in June 1998.

“The highlight of the whole season is likely to be pianist Uri Caine’s ‘Mahler Revisited,'” stated The Birmingham Post. “It’s a jawdropping work which blends marching band wallop and Jewish Cantor echo, racing klezmer with raging free jazz outbreaks, occasionally reverting to recognizable symphonic or song-oriented pieces.”

While growing up in Philadelphia, Caine spent his days studying with composers George Rocheberg and George Crumb, as well as pianist Vladimir Sokoloff of the Curtis Institute. At night, Caine was in clubs playing jazz with such luminaries as Philly Joe Jones, Hank Mobley, Johnny Coles, Mickey Roker, Jamaaladeen Tacuma, and Cornell Rochester. Caine moved to New York in the late 1980s, where he was soon anchoring the swing bands of Terry Gibbs and Buddy DeFranco. At the same time, he immersed himself in the rich and varied downtown music scene, and began working regularly with jazz experimentalists such as Sam Rivers and Barry Altschul.

It was there that Caine met clarinetist and composer Don Byron and embarked on an immensely fruitful collaboration involving numerous bands and recordings that span an extraordinary range of musical genres. Caine has played on almost every album recorded by Byron. He also released a pair of his own tribute albums: Toys (for Herbie Hancock) and Sphere Music (in homage to Thelonious Monk). Caine’s work has been called “knotty, intelligent music” by The New York Times, while The New Yorker and others have praised his “stunning performances.” Says the publication ,Jazziz: “Caine picks themes and feeds them through grist of New York jazz and avant-garde musicians, and comes up with a brilliant edit.”

This presentation is supported by an Arts Emerge grant from the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation to enable Lafayette College and other Mid Atlantic communities to engage their local audiences or publics with the work of Uri Caine. Lafayette’s partners in this grant are the Erie (Pa.) Art Museum; Unity Concerts of Montclair, New Jersey; the Painted Bride Arts Center in Philadelphia; and the Troy (N.Y.) Music Hall.

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