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Michael Cain 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 in 1988, and a Master's degree in fine arts in 1990.
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.
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.
From 1995 to 1997 Michael was an assistant professor in the Jazz and Contemporary Media Department at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York.
In 1997 Michael joined the faculty at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston where he directed several ensembles, taught classes on rhythm analysis, and taught private piano. During the 1997-98 school year Michael served as the school's Diversity Coordinator, an administrative position that focused on issues of diversity in all its implications at the university level. From 1999 to the present Michael has been the director of the "Digital Playground", a music education and recording program at the Hoboken Charter School in Hoboken, New Jersey. This program teaches music to students from grades 3-12 by helping enable them to create, record, and distribute their own music.
During his professional career as a pianist, he has played with and for musicians such as Ravi Coltrane, Billy Higgins, Marlena Shaw, Gerald Wilson, James Newton, Billy Hart, Anthony Cox, Greg Osby, Robin Eubanks, Lonnie Plaxico, Jack DeJohnette, Ralph Peterson, Dave Holland, Bobby McFerrin, Meshell Ndegeocello, Carlos Ward, Ray Anderson, Charles Neville, Hassan Hakmoun, Oliver Lake, Reggie Workman, Mýa, Kip Hanrahan, Noreaga, Cindy Blackman, Joshua Redman, Victor Bailey, Bobby Previte, Frank Lacy, Bennie Maupin, Pheeroan Aklaff, Eric Person, Gary Thomas, Vernon Reid, Marty Ehrlich, Gene Jackson, James Genus, Steve Swallow, Andrew Cyrille, Steve Coleman, John Scofield, Jeff "Tain" Watts, Stanley Turrentine, Don Alias, and many others.
- The Green Eyed Keeper (Native Drum Music)
- Indira (Muzak/ENJA)
- Circa (ECM, 1996)
- The Evidence of Things Unseen (MA)
- Brooklyn Waters (Telepathy Records)
- Pfhew (MA)
- Strange Omen (Candid)
- What Means This? (Candid)
- Selected Signs 1: An Anthology (ECM)
With Jack DeJohnette
- Earthwalk (Blue Note, 1991)
- Music for the Fifth World (Manhattan, 1992)
- Extra Special Edition (Blue Note, 1994)
- Dancing with Nature Spirits (ECM, 1995)
- Oneness (ECM, 1997)
With Robin Eubanks
- Mental Images (JMT, 1994)
With Gary Thomas
- The Kold Kage (JMT, 1991)
With Gerald Wilson
- Jenna (Discovery, 1989)