Versatile jazz pianist as fearless interpreter of classical music
PREVIEW The versatile jazz pianist Uri Caine has carved a niche for himself as a fearless interpreter of classical music. His discography includes idiosyncratic recordings of music by Mozart, Beethoven, J.S. Bach, Mahler, and Wagner. In 2006 he began to investigate Hungarian folk music at the source, delving into Béla Bartók's original field recordings of village performances, documented on wax cylinders in the early 20th century. While Caine notes that some aspects of the music are tough to translate into Western terms, given the inflection and distinctly unsquare rhythms of traditional dances, the melodic material serves as an ideal springboard for his brand of agile improvisation. For his Feb. 16 performance, Caine and his ensemble visit Hungary's distant musical territory with no pretension to exact authenticity. It's a good hook, considering both Caine's credentials and the local craze for Eastern European traditions, with Balkan brass bands and Roma-inspired DJs abounding. It will be exciting to hear Caine explore this expansive concept with artful and inspired clarinetist Chris Speed and respected long-time contributors to the adventurous downtown New York improvisational scene drummer Jim Black, violinist Joyce Hamman, and bassist John Hebert. Even if their distinctive flavors take a moment to blend, these are the ingredients for a good stew. Caine will round out his visit to the Bay Area with a solo piano performance and discussion at the Community Music Center in the Mission District, free of charge.
URI CAINE Fri/15, 6 p.m., free. Community Music Center, 544 Capp, SF. (415) 647-6015, www.sfcmc.org 
URI CAINE AND FRIENDS Sat/16, 8 p.m., $27$39. Herbst Theatre, War Memorial Veterans Bldg., 401 Van Ness, SF. (415) 392-2545, www.performances.org