Much like frequent collaborator Don Byron, pianist Uri Caine is a masterful jazz improviser who knows his way through and around the supposed straight-ahead/Avant Garde Jazz fence. Also like Byron, he has a bold conceptual streak that often leads him outside the strict confines of jazz. Urlicht/Primal Light, a genre-hopping reinterpretation of Gustav Mahler's music, is the most celebrated (and controversial) example of this. Recorded with an all-star cast including Byron, trumpeter Dave Douglas, drummer Joey Baron and DJ Olive, the album weaves together Hard Bop, Jewish cantorial singing, samples/turntables, tumult-raising improv and stirring ensemble arrangements. Depending on whom you ask, it's either blasphemy, shallow postmodernism or a stroke of genius. In any case, this work paved the way for similar projects, including a double-disc take on J.S. Bach's Goldberg Variations. His straight jazz work is lower profile, but is nevertheless worthy of equal attention. Blue Wail, a trio recording with heavy hitter Ralph Peterson, Jr. on drums, is one strong example of his brand of dissonance-spiked progressive Post Bop.