Michael Cain

Curriculum vitae



School of Music

Brandon University

270 18th Street

Brandon, MB R7A 6A9

Email: cainm@brandonu.ca




California Institute of the Arts, Los Angeles CA                                                                     1987 - 1990

Master of Fine Arts, Jazz and World Music Studies, 1990

Bachelor of Fine Arts, Jazz Studies, 1988


Areas of study included: Piano, composition, jazz history, pedagogy, film and dance history, as well as Gamelan, Classical Indian Music, and African Music with Alfred and Kobla Ledzepko and ethnomusicologist Nicholas England.

Participated as a member in Charlie Haden and James Newton’s ensembles, and a variety of multi-media works and inter-disciplinary projects.


University of Southern California, Los Angeles CA                                                              1985 - 1986


Areas of study included classical music with harpsichordist Malcolm Hamilton, emphasizing Bach and other Baroque composers; also studied recording arts and music business.


University of North Texas, Denton TX                                                                                        1983 - 1985


Areas of study included both jazz and classical piano; member of the 2:00 Lab Band, and the Zebras, an electronically based contemporary keyboard ensemble.


Teaching and Professional Experience


Brandon University School of Music, Brandon, Manitoba                                            2008 - Present

Professor, School of Music


Areas of teaching include private piano, large ensemble, jazz improvisation, composition, production/engineering and private piano instruction.


New England Conservatory of Music, Boston MA                                                                1997 - 2008

Faculty, Jazz Department and Theory Department


Areas of teaching included private piano lessons, large ensembles, jazz improvisation, along with classes in development of rhythmic skills and analysis.

Introduced and taught a class called Digital Playgrounds: Music, Education, Technology, and Culture, which examined the matrix of culture, technology, and music, and explored technology’s relationship with and impact on various musical cultures and traditions.

The New School University, New York NY                                                                               1998 - 2008

Adjunct Faculty


Piano instructor for private students.


The Hoboken Charter School, Hoboken NJ                                                                 1999 - 2006

Founder and Director of the Digital Playground, an electronic music and keyboard arts program


The Digital Playground is a music program for grades K-12 in which a holistic recording studio/classroom environment is created in which students can improvise, compose, record, mix, master, print, package, and distribute their music. This innovative educational initiative places the music that the students create at the core of their music curriculum. And, by being recording-centered, it allows for the exploration of where music interfaces with other media arts such as film and video, dance, as well as contemporary and current forms of music such as Hip-Hop, R&B, Rock, Electronica, and others. 


The Urban Assembly School of Music and Art                                                   2006 - 2008    

Band Program Director


Oversaw the band program and design curriculum for the Urban Assembly School of Music and Art, which is a high school chartered by the New York City, Department of Education (DOE), located in downtown Brooklyn, New York.


Jazz at Lincoln Center (JALC), New York NY                                                              2006 - 2007



Consulted with JALC on a host of educational programs, initiatives, and curriculum, including partnering with the Urban Assembly School of Music and Art.


New England Conservatory of Music, Boston MA                                                   1997 - 1998

Diversity Coordinator


Led administrative dialogue and programming focused on issues of diversity in all its implications at the university level. Worked closely with the Conservatory’s president Dr. Robert Freeman, and the various division heads. Responsibilities included helping to define notions of diversity for the institution, creating and implementing structures in which dialogues can occur which broaden the inclusiveness of curriculums, and representing the Conservatory in meetings with staff of various human resource departments for several Boston-based businesses


Eastman School of Music, Rochester NY                                                                      1995 - 1997

Assistant Professor of Jazz and Contemporary Media,

Co-Director of the Undergraduate Jazz Studies Program


Areas of teaching included piano, jazz improvisation, composition, pedagogy, and jazz history.

Directed undergraduate and graduate chamber ensembles, oversaw various independent studies projects focusing on a variety of topics, and served on several committees.


Guest Lecturer /Clinician                                                                                                      1991 - Present


Lead numerous workshops, clinics, seminars, lectures, and participate as an Artist-In-Residence worldwide, including countries such as Japan, Chile, Germany, Africa, Brazil, Argentina, France, Austria, Italy, Colombia, and England, among others. These have ranged in nature from high school afternoon workshops to several week-long residencies. They have been for people of all ages and from various backgrounds and with often involve widely ranging levels of engagement with music ranging from professional to hobbyist.



Performing Experience


As Leader                                                                                                                           1988 - 2006


Performed extensively in America, Europe, Asia, and South America. Concerts, recordings, and other projects, include chamber work broadcast on WDR radio in Germany, a solo piano tour in Japan, a solo piano CD entitled Evidence of Things Unseen (1993) on the MA label, two recordings for Candid Label Strange Omen (1991) and What Means This? (1992), Circa (1997) recorded for ECM Records/BMG Classics, and Brooklyn Waters (2001) recorded for Telepathy Records. As well as composing the music for a Chicago Public Radio documentary Seeing the Color Blue, writing the music for The New Vaudevillians, a Disney Channel special hosted by Harry Anderson, performances with saxophonist Ravi Coltrane, which included recording the CD Moving Pictures for BMG Records and appearances with the group at La Villa in Paris, France, BET Television in Washington DC, and Town Hall in New York--a concert which featured Alice Coltrane performing on organ.


In 1997, I was commissioned by the Howard Hanson Memorial Institute to compose a piece in honor of President Clinton and the 53rd Presidential Inauguration. The piece, entitled Praeludium, premiered January 28, 1998 at the Eastman School’s Kilbourn Hall.


Notable projects have included serving as musical director for the Jose Limon Dance Company’s New York premiere of Crossroads, a collaboration between composer James Newton and choreographer Donald McKayle, at the Joyce Theater in New York the fall of 2001. Another noteworthy project was the composition of the film scores for the films Maybe and Real With Me, by director Carl Ford for Black Nexxus Films. Along with film score composition, Cain has written musical score for live theater as well, composing the music for the Broadway play View from 151st Street, which was produced by the LAByrinth Theater Company and ran at the George Papp Public Theater in New York in the fall of 2007.


Other recent projects have included performing with guitarist Pat Metheny as part of the 2006 Montreal Jazz Festival, a performance at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC with the group Persiflage, and a 2006 Grammy-nomination for Dance of the Infidel, Me’shell Ndegeocello’s recent Shanachie release, on which Cain performed as pianist and co-arranged the album.


Most recent recordings are The Green Eyed Keeper, released in 2008, and Solo, released in 2011, both for Native Drum Music.



As Producer


Aside from producing his own recordings, Cain has been producer on several notable recordings, including Ron Blake’s Shariya, for Mack Ave Records, two recordings for NY saxophonist and composer Brian Landrus, The Landrus Kaleidoscope, Capsule, and The Brian Landrus Quartet, Travers, which features bassist Lonnie Plaxico and drummer Billy Hart, and Brandon’s own Neon Blunt.



With Jack DeJohnette                                                                                                    1990 - 1998


Over an eight-year period Cain worked extensively with Mr. DeJohnette in various groups as musician and producer, starting with Special Edition, which included Greg Osby, Gary Thomas, and Lonnie Plaxico, and concluding with the collaborative trio Oneness, which was a co-lead group with Mr. DeJohnette and Jerome Harris playing bass and guitar. This relationship has resulted in five recordings including Earthwalk, which received Japan’s Swing Journal Album of the Year and Best Produced Record of the year, several tours, concerts, workshops, and clinics, all over the world. Festival performances have included Mt. Fuji Jazz Festival in Japan, and the North Sea Jazz Festival in Holland among others.



As Sideman                                                                                                                    1988 - Present


Other artists performed, toured, and recorded with include Dave Holland, Bobby McFerrin, Carlos Ward, Ray Anderson, Charles Neville, Hassan Hakmoun, Christian McBride, Oliver Lake, Reggie Workman, Mya, Kip Hanrahan, Gerald Wilson, Noreaga, Cindy Blackman, Joshua Redman, Victor Baily, Robin Eubanks, James Newton, Anthony Cox, Regina Carter, Steps Ahead, Bobby Previte, Bennie Maupin, Pheeroan akLaff, Gary Thomas, Vernon Reid, Marty Ehrlich, Gene Jackson, Marlena Shaw, Dewey Redman, Ralph Peterson, Steve Swallow, Kevin Eubanks, Andrew Cyrille, Steve Coleman, John Scofield, Jeff Watts, Stanley Turrentine, and Don Alias, among others.






Selected Discography



As leader:

Sola (NDM)

Solo (NDM)

The Green Eyed Keeper (NDM)

Indira (MUZAK)

Circa (ECM)

The Evidence of Things Unseen (MA)

What Means This? (Candid)

Strange Omen (Candid)

Pfhew (MA)

Brooklyn Waters (Telepathy Records)



As sideman:


Jack DeJohnette

Rarum Xiv w/Jack DeJohnette (ECM)

Oneness (ECM)

Dancing With Nature Spirits (ECM)

Music for the Fifth World (Blue Note)

Extra Special Edition (Blue Note)

Earthwalk (Blue Note)


With Me'Shell N'Degeocello

Cookie: the Anthropological Mixtape (Maverick )

Dance of the Infidel (Shanachie)


With Ravi Coltrane

Moving Pictures (BMG France)


Steps Ahead

Vibe (NYC Records)


Robin Eubanks

Get 2 it (RE)

Mental Images (JMT Records)

JJ/Slide/Curtis and Al (TCB)


Ron Blake

Sonic Tonic (Mack Avenue Records)

Shayari (Mack Aveune Records)


Malika Zarra

Berber Taxi



Live in Tokyo


Brian Landrus

Traverse (Blueland)

Forward (Blueland)

Capsule (Blueland)   


Stevvi Alexander

The East Side Psalmbook


Greg Osby

Mantalk for Moderns Vol. 10 (Blue Note)


Pheeroan akLaff

Global Mantras (Modern masters)

Hang Pinochet (Modern masters)


Marty Ehrlich

New York Child (Enja)


Anthony Cox

Dark Metals (Minor Music)

Factor of Faces (Minor Music)


James Newton

If Love (Delta Records)


Gerald Wilson

Jenna (Discovery)


Kip Hanrahan

A Thousand Nights and a Night, Red Night (American Clave)

A Thousand Nights and a Night, Blue Night (American Clave)

Shadow Nights 1&2 (American Clave)


Gary Thomas

Kold Kage (JMT)


Bob Beldon

When Doves Cry (Blue Note)


Gunter Wehinger

Cry Flute (Pao/Verve)


Eric Persons

Arrival (Black Saint)


Lonnie Plaxico

Iridescence (Muse)

Short Takes (Muse)



Melvin Flynt Da Hustler (Tommy Boy)



Fear of Flying (Warner Brothers)           



Selected Signs 1, An Anthology (ECM)




Press Quotes


Huffington Post,  October 2, 2015

"Mr. Cain’s latest offering the celestial sounds of Sola...captivates the listener with deep grooves, inherent musicality and a palpable sense of equanimity ." An accomplished pianist, Mr. Cain’s most recent work has had a distinctively electronic bent to it with colors and textures that seem to borrow from elements of jazz, hip hop and Electronic Dance Music."



Something Else Reviews, November 16, 2015

"With an imaginative mind and worldly experience, fresh and appealing ideas can still be mined within the realm of fusion jazz. Michael Cain’s Sola attests mightily to that notion."



New York Times,  July 21, 2011

 “Michael Cain is an almost maniacally versatile pianist (and bassist and programmer) whose music often conveys a questing sensibility.”



JazzTimes,  June 20, 2012

Pianist Michael Cain gained recognition through the ’90s for his association with Jack DeJohnette. On his own, he has produced a string of thoughtful, provocative releases, including his acclaimed 1997 ECM recording, Circa. On 2008’s The Green-Eyed Keeper, Cain dabbled in a fresh blend of jazz, R&B and alluring mood music featuring soulful vocals. This time out, he’s presenting a far more cerebral side, revealing his classical influences along with a deep interest in electronics.

“Kammotion” opens with a flourish of cascading piano that recalls one of Keith Jarrett’s solo concerts, but it soon resolves to an insistent programmed backbeat underscored by subharmonic synth tones and augmented by synth string washes that suggest a heavy Stevie Wonder influence. The midpoint of this ever-shifting suite is marked by Zen-like silence before Cain takes off on what sounds like a four-handed extravaganza, no doubt overdubbed. And he concludes this ambitious musical journey with some rhapsodic passages over a chugging drum program.

The aptly titled “Prayer” is a peaceful requiem for piano and synth drones with a cathedral-like sonic resonance. Switching gears, Cain dives back into the Stevie zone with the slow-grooving, clavinet-fueled “Gerald,” which features some of his most virtuosic turns on piano. Following the beautiful solo piano interlude “The Question,” he settles into the lovely “Last Waltz,” a delicate, subtly swinging piano trio ballad reminiscent of “Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most.” But, of course, this is strictly a one-man show with all the music composed, performed and produced by Michael Cain. So that very real-sounding upright bass and sensitive brushwork on the ride cymbal are programmed. Regardless of how it was done, this is warm, rewarding music by an inspired, searching artist.


Downbeat,  April 1997

If you’ve got to conform to get ahead in today’s jazz scene, somebody forgot to tell Michael Cain. Despite his unusual background and rarified tastes, the pianist has enjoyed surprising success –largely on his own terms—since coming to New York in 1990.


All About Jazz,  November 3, 2011

Michael Cain’s Solo, a savvy work of acoustic piano with electronic manipulations, the outcome is—to coin a very dated phrase—in Technicolor. It is the impeccable balance of imagination, elegance and hipness.