Showing posts with label Miles Okazaki. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Miles Okazaki. Show all posts

Monday, April 14, 2014

Dan Weiss - Fourteen (Pi Recordings, 2014)

Drummer and composer Dan Weiss has always had an ambitious streak, but this album takes matters to a whole new level. This is a seven movement suite for a fourteen piece large ensemble with a heady mixture of composed and improvised sections. What is particularly interesting is how he mixes voice as a lead instrument on occasion, with the singers soloing as if they were a trumpet or saxophone. Voices blend, merge and overlap, making for a hypnotic addition to the musical breadth and width. The music builds texture from sections of solo instrumentation all the way up to full band. He has a heavy hitting crew of co-conspirators including Miles Okazaki on guitar, Matt Mitchell on piano, organ and glockenspiel, along with sections of brass, saxophones and bass. Music can develop from a small node of an idea: blooming from spacious instrument like piano which will then grow fractally as the voices build in and then saxophones and electric guitar add tension and texture before the rest of the band is folded in to demonstrate the  whole weight of the ensemble. The music itself builds organically, and draws not just from jazz but from  East Asian music, rock, dub and beyond making for contrasts in states of mind, feeling and temper. It takes some patience and multiple spins  to get the full effect of the music, but it is an audacious project that should appeal to forward thinking music fans. Fourteen - amazon.com

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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Jonathan Finlayson and Sicilian Defense: Moment and the Message (Pi Recordings, 2013)

This was a complex and interesting album where the band's name was taken from a popular opening chess gambit. Chess is a fine analogue for this album, because the band is in constant strategic movement, developing well designed compositions and improvisations that remain quite accessible to the average jazz listener. The band consists of Jonathan Finlayson on trumpet, Miles Okazaki on guitar, Damion Reid on drums, David Virelles on piano and Keith Witty on bass. Some of the musicians here have worked closely with saxophonist and conceptualist Steve Coleman and his knotty ideas have clearly rubbed off. The song “Carthage” has some very intricate guitar playing with its lattice work supported by percussive piano and drums. “Tensegrity” opens with subtle acoustic guitar suspended in space, before the rest of the band joins in at medium tempo. There is a nice delicate acoustic guitar feature in the middle. A subtle piano filigree opens "Le Bas-Fond" before the music jumps forward, with an uptempo feel. There is a strong piano, bass and drums interlude, before Finlayson returns with a punchy trumpet statement. "Tyre" is a spry uptempo, with the instruments weaving together closely, while "Fives and Pennies" has a slow and spare opening with piano and bass probing the darkness. Finlayson plays long lines of trumpet in the open spaces. The music continues to grow and evolve with insistent piano chords and sharp trumpet. Okazaki  breaks out for a quicksilver guitar moment before being overtaken the the piano trio which build a more consistent feel. "Scaean Gates" finishes the album with a nicely hewn piano, soloing and supporting fine architecture of the performance. This was a well done and consistently interesting album. Finlayson didn't rush to make his first album, and it shows in the patience and thoughtfulness on display.Moment and the Message - amazon.com

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Sunday, March 31, 2013

Steve Coleman and Five Elements - Functional Arrhythmias (Pi-Recordings, 2013)

Alto saxophonist and composer Steve Coleman takes a wide range of inspiration for the musical paths he forges. Previously astrology and aspects of computers have provided the impetus for his music, and this time the rhythms of the body provide the basis for his compositions. Coleman is accompanied by Sean Rickman on drums, Anthony Tidd on bass, Jonathan Finlayson on trumpet and Miles Okazaki on guitar. The music is quite involved and complicated throughout the record, but the music remains accessible. The opening track "Sinews" demonstrates this as Tidd develops an excellent funk tinged bass line, making an solid pivot point for the music to revolve around. Coleman has a great deal of trust in his colleagues, and he will start to sketch a performance with a small notion of music, and then allow the other musicians to extrapolate on his brief motif, taking the performance into different areas and keeping everything fresh. Clip-clopping drum rhythm and swirling saxophone open "Cerebrum Crossover" and while the bass and drum provide an excellent foundation, Coleman is able to explore at will over the top. Eventually trumpet comes into the picture but the "crossover" happens when the bass/drums unit meets the saxophone/trumpet unit and the music really comes together like twin lobes of one musical brain. "Cardiovascular" is a throbbing, rumbling piece for bass, drums, saxophone and trumpet. There are a few brief solos, but Rickman's insistent drumming is the key. Many of the songs are of a brief duration, hitting hard and getting out fast. Coleman has a strong pointed approach to his music and saxophone playing which enables him to make brief statements that can be quite powerful. Powerful driving rhythms based on the ebbs and flows of the human body make for an in interesting pool of ideas to draw on. Drawing inspiration from all aspects of nature and humanity, Colman's music remains exploratory and fresh. Functional Arrhythmias - amazon.com

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Monday, June 04, 2012

Miles Okazaki - Figurations (Sunnyside, 2012)

This live album is the third in a series that have come out every three years. As you can gather, numbers and ratios and mathematics are a big part of Okazaki’s musical direction, possibly an offshoot from his studies with Steve Coleman who is fascinated by numbers and numerology. In addition to Okazaki on guitar, the band consists of Miguel Zenon on alto saxophone, Thomas Morgan on bass and Dan Weiss on drums. The compositions are long and complex, shifting through many variations of their material, yet still remain accessible to the sharp eared listener. The album opens with “Dozens,” an uptempo composition with complex percussion. There is some nice alto saxophone soloing, with nimble and subtle guitar and drum breaks. The lengthy “Wheel” opens with slow and probing guitar and yearning saxophone combining to create an air of mystery and suspense. Zenon takes a searching and probing saxophone solo that plumbs the depth of his instrument with Okazaki’s guitar complimenting him underneath. Quick dynamic changes in rhythm and speed are a hallmark of this performance, with the saxophone giving way to the leader's guitar playing over bass and drums, developing subtle shading with a sound that is liquid toned and neon hued. Probing guitar and lightly blown saxophone shadow each other on the title track ”Figurations,” setting up a late-night vibe to the proceedings. The pace of the music picks up to a stronger tempo, with fast runs of guitar and saxophone building to a fine crescendo, before slowing back down to a gentle conclusion. I liked this album quite a bit, it is well played and thoughtful modern jazz performed by very talented musicians. Hopefully it will get some more attention and allow this band to stick together and create more albums in what will be an ongoing series. Figurations - amazon.com

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Monday, April 20, 2009

Miles Okazaki - Mirror (Self Released, 2009)

I took a chance on this album after reading about it in the Downtown Music Gallery's newsletter. What originally caught my eye was the presence of one of my favorite saxophone players, Chris Potter. Little did I know that Potter guests on only one track, but that is OK because the rest of the album is very good too - interesting compositions and textures and great playing are found throughout. Okazaki plays guitar, and wrote all of the compositions (and also did the amazing artwork on the disc and notes.) He is accompanied by David Binney, Miguel Zenon, Chris Potter (1 track!) on saxophones and Christof Knoche on sax and bass clarinet, Jon Flaugher bass and Dan Weiss on drums. The music is quite nice and consistently engaging with saxophones and occasional bass clarinted weaving around guitar bass and drums. On "Howl", Okazaki lays down some choppy funk with Zenon following with a fluid and graceful solo. "Halfway" starts with gentle acoustic guitar, building to a lullaby with the band with Knoche breaking free for a subtle bass clarinet solo, later switching to soprano saxophone. "Momentum" has a powerful Zenon solo, and then "Canon" starts with some interesting percussive playing before evolving into a rapid fire David Binney solo that is very exciting. I liked this album quite a bit, it is well played and thoughtful modern jazz performed by very talented musicians. Apparrently this album was released by a small Italian label in 2006 before being re-released by Okazaki himself this year. Hopefully it will get some more attention this time around.
Mirror - amazon.com

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