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Michael Cain

Michael Cain was born April 2, 1966 in Los Angeles, California, and moved to Las Vegas, Nevada, shortly thereafter. He first started playing the piano at the age of four and was quickly improvising and composing. The following year he began studying classical music, although by the age of ten it was jazz that became predominant, as well as an interest in integrating several kinds of popular music.

Michael went on to attend several universities starting with the University of North Texas. Although initially a jazz major, he found that classical music was occupying more of his time and switched to that major. From there he moved to Los Angeles and continued to study classical piano at the University of Southern California, and finally ended up at the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, CA., where he did both undergraduate and graduate work. Michael received a Bachelor's degree in jazz piano 1988, and a Master's degree in fine arts in 1990. While a student and teaching assistant at Cal Arts he became particularly interested in non-western music and began studying the music of Bali, Ghana, and India. While a student at Cal Arts, Michael began playing with Los Angeles- based musicians, including Billy Higgins, Marlena Shaw, big band leader and composer Gerald Wilson, and the New American Orchestra. He also began touring and recording with flutist James Newton and recorded If Love, a CD also featuring drummer Billy Hart and bassist Anthony Cox.

Michael moved to New York in 1990 and began performing with many members of M-Base, a Brooklyn-based collective of musicians, initially with Greg Osby and later with Robin Eubanks and Lonnie Plaxico among others. That same year he recorded his first CD as a leader, Strange Omen, for the Candid label, a trio recording that features Glen Velez on hand percussion and Bruce Saunders on guitar. Later that year Michael started playing with Jack DeJohnette and joined his group Special Edition. That group recorded Earthwalk, for the Blue Note label which received Swing Journal's "Album of the Year" award in Japan and began a musical relationship with Jack which continued for nine years. Their collaborations resulted in five recordings with various groups and several tours of Europe, Africa, Israel, Brazil, Japan, and the United States.

In 1991 Michael also began playing with the Anthony Cox quartet which featured Dewey Redman on saxophone and Billy Higgins on drums. That group did several European tours and recorded two CD's for Island Records, Dark Metals, and Factor of Faces, which also featured Ralph Peterson on drums. Michael has also performed with Mike Mainieri and Steps Ahead, and is on their recording Vibe, for NYC Records. Over the next several years Michael performed and recorded with many artists of note including Dave Holland, Bobby McFerrin, Me'Shell Ndege'Ocello, Carlos Ward, Ray Anderson, Charles Neville, Hassan Hakmoun, Oliver Lake, Reggie Workman, Mya, Kip Hanrahan, Noreaga, Cindy Blackman, Joshua Redman, Victor Baily, Bobby Previte, Frank Lacy, Bennie Maupin, Pheeroan Aklaff, Gary Thomas, Vernon Reid, Marty Ehrlich, Gene Jackson, James Genus, Marlena Shaw, Ralph Peterson, Steve Swallow, Andrew Cyrille, Steve Coleman, John Scofield, Jeff Watts, Stanley Turrentine, and Don Alias among others.

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Album Review

JC Sanford with Anthony Cox and Michael Cain: New Past

Read "New Past" reviewed by Troy Dostert

Although he has shown himself to be adept in crafting big-band releases such as Views from the Inside (Whirlwind, 2014), trombonist JC Sanford usually works in a pared-down setting, such as his quartet release Keratoconus (Shifting Paradigm, 2019) or, more recently, the two volumes of his trio-based Imminent Standards (Shifting Paradigm, 2021 and 2022). Here he continues this trend, joining with two veterans, pianist Michael Cain and bassist Anthony Cox, for a mix of Sanford's own compositions and a couple ...

Album Review

Michael Cain: Sola

Read "Sola" reviewed by Karl Ackermann

In his long and well-established career, keyboardist/composer Michael Cain has often flown under the radar. Dating back to 1991, Cain was part of the bassist Anthony Cox's impressive quartet which included saxophonist Dewey Redman drummer Billy Higgins in its initial formation. His fine piano trio outing Circa (ECM, 1997) with trumpeter Ralph Alessi and saxophonist Peter Epstein was worthy of wider recognition as well. Among the top talent Cain worked with in those intervening years were Dave Holland, Oliver Lake, ...

Album Review

Michael Cain: Solo

Read "Solo" reviewed by Mark F. Turner

A yawn can spontaneously develop when hearing about another solo release in which the unaccompanied music can, at times, result in a monochrome listening experience. But in the case of Michael Cain's Solo, a savvy work of acoustic piano with electronic manipulations, the outcome is--to coin a very dated phrase--in Technicolor. Cain who was born in Los Angeles, California and serves on the faculty of Music at Brandon University in Manitoba, Canada, can be counted among the ...

Album Review

Matt Steckler: Persiflage

Read "Persiflage" reviewed by Donald Elfman

The dictionary defines “persiflage as “light bantering talk or “a frivolous style of treating a subject. Saxophonist/flutist Matt Steckler's compositional style can seem slangy and almost casual, but repeated listens reveal a depth of color, a true sense of shape, and a brilliant mix of the improvisational and the written.For Persiflage Steckler has found players who know how to stretch the tradition as well as go beyond it. Jazz Passengers trombonist Curtis Fowlkes heads the front line with ...

Album Review

Matt Steckler: Persiflage

Read "Persiflage" reviewed by AAJ Staff

Matt Steckler is a young saxophonist, flautist, and composer with an edgy saxophone style. Judging from this recording, he's got some provocative ideas. However, he still seems to be developing his craft and his approach. Not to imply that Steckler lacks something technically--rather, to this reviewer he seems unformed, as if he's not certain of his direction, other than the fact that he wants to play jazz.

Steckler gets around the horn reasonably well, yet I find his alto sax ...

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Recordings: As Leader | As Sideperson

New Past

Shifting Paradigm Records



Self Produced



Native Drum Music


The Green-Eyed Keeper

Creative Sources



Innova Recordings



Creative Sources


Sparrows are Badasses

From: New Past
By Michael Cain


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