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Okazaki, Miles: Trickster (Pi Recordings)

Intricate interplay in modern jazz from guitarist Miles Okazaki in a quartet with fellow New Yorkers Craig Taborn on piano, Anthony Tidd on bass, and Sean Rickman on drums--Tidd and Rickman his compatriots in Steve Coleman and Five Elements--performing Okazaki's playfully complex and innovative compositions that drive some serious grooves.

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product information:

UPC: 808713006827

Label: Pi Recordings
Catalog ID: PI 68
Squidco Product Code: 23802

Format: CD
Condition: New
Released: 2017
Country: USA
Packaging: Digipack - 3 panel
Recorded at Systems Two, in Brooklyn, New york, on January 14th and 15th, 2016, by Joe Marciano and Max Ross.


Miles Okazaki-guitar

Craig Taborn-piano

Anthony Tidd-bass

Sean Rickman-drums

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Artist Biographies:

"Miles Okazaki is an American musician based in New York City. He is known for his technical command of the guitar, his rhythmic approach to improvisation and composition, and his work in contemporary music theory. Okazaki grew up in Port Townsend, Washington, a small town near the Olympic Mountains in the Pacific Northwest. He got his first classical guitar at age 6, and began playing regular gigs on electric guitar by age 14, after studying for several years at the Centrum Jazz Workshop. He received many awards as a guitarist throughout his early years, and eventually placed 2nd in the Thelonious Monk International Guitar Competition.

Okazaki moved to New York City in 1997 to pursue a career in music and begin writing his own material. His teacher on guitar at this time was Rodney Jones, who recommended him for his first gig, with Stanley Turrentine. Okazaki spent four years on the road with vocalist Jane Monheit, while also writing and rehearsing the music for his first album, Mirror, which was released independently. The album received a "Critics Pick" in the New York Times, calling it "a work of sustained collectivity as well as deep intricacy." He expanded to a septet for his second album, Generations, described by pianist Vijay Iyer "the sonic equivalent of Escher or Borges, but with real emotional heft,". His third album, Figurations, was recorded live with a quartet, and was selected as one of the New York Times top ten albums of 2012, described by Ben Ratliff as "slowly evolving puzzles of brilliant jazz logic." In January of 2016 Okazaki recorded a new album, Trickster, that will be released later this year. Okazaki wrote, produced, and illustrated these albums.

As a sideman, Okazaki works in many areas, ranging from Standard repertoire to experimental music. Recently he has been seen most frequently as the guitarist for Steve Coleman and Five Elements. In the last few years, he has worked with a wide variety of artists including Kenny Barron, Jonathan Finlayson, Amir El Saffar, Adam Rudolph, Dan Weiss, Linda Oh, Darcy James Argue, Jane Monheit, Vijay Iyer, Francois Moutin, Doug Hammond, Carl Allen, Ohad Talmor, Mary Halvorson, John Zorn, Jen Shyu, Mark Giuliana, Patrick Cornelius, Rajna Swaminatham, Matt Mitchell, Craig Taborn, Tony Moreno, Ben Wendel, Donny McCaslin, and many others.

Okazaki currently teaches guitar at the University of Michigan. His first book, Fundamentals of Guitar, was released in 2015. He has also taught at the Banff Institute, The New School, Queens College, The Juilliard School, Amsterdam Conservatory, and many other institutions. Outside of guitar, his past teachers include Anthony Davis (composition), Ganesh Kumar (Carnatic percussion), and Kendall Briggs (counterpoint). His awards and grants include Chamber Music America's "New Works" (2007), Chamber Music America's "French-American Jazz Exchange" (2009), the Jazz Gallery and Jerome Foundations Residency Commission (2010), the American Music Center's Composer Assistance Program (2011), the Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation's US Artists International grant (2012), the Rockefeller Brother's Fund Artist Residency (2012), and the Jazz Gallery Mentorship program (2015). He holds degrees from Harvard University, Manhattan School of Music, and The Juilliard School, and lives in Brooklyn, NY."

-Miles Okazaki Website (

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"Craig Marvin Taborn (/ˈteɪˌbɔːrn/; born February 20, 1970) is an American pianist, organist, keyboardist and composer. He works solo and in bands, mostly playing various forms of jazz. He started playing piano and Moog synthesizer as an adolescent and was influenced at an early stage by a wide range of music, including by the freedom expressed in recordings of free jazz and contemporary classical music.

While at university, Taborn toured and recorded with jazz saxophonist James Carter. Taborn went on to play with numerous other musicians in electronic and acoustic settings, while also building a reputation as a solo pianist. He has a range of styles, and often adapts his playing to the nature of the instrument and the sounds that he can make it produce. His improvising, particularly for solo piano, often adopts a modular approach, in which he begins with small units of melody and rhythm and then develops them into larger forms and structures.

In 2011, Down Beat magazine chose Taborn as winner of the electric keyboard category, as well as rising star in both the piano and organ categories. By May 2016, Taborn had released six albums under his own name and appeared on more than eighty as a sideman."

-Wikipedia (

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"Anthony Tidd is a composer, producer, audio engineer, educator and musician. He plays bass, guitar and piano/keyboards.

Tidd's musical palette as a composer and performer is diverse. He holds a deep knowledge of jazz, R&B, Hip-hop, classical, and new music, as well as a particular affinity for creative improvisation. Born and raised in the United Kingdom, he has been living and working in the United States since 1997.

He has performed and toured all over the globe with artists such as Steve Coleman, The Roots, MeShell Ndegeocello, +Gang Starr, Geopelle, Common, Greg Osby, Marsha Ambrosius, Bhekki Mseleku, Wayne Krantz, Rudresh Mahanthappa, Steve Williamson, Ari Hoenig, Ursula Rucker and Dap Theory.

Tidd has produced recordings for Jill Scott, Macy Gray, Zap Mama, Lady Gaga, Pink, The Jazzyfatnastees, Ursula Rucker, The Black Eyed Peas, Joy Denalane, and the Grammy Award-winning hip-hop collective The Roots, among others. He has worked with such other artists as Bilal, Soul Asylum, and Erykah Badu. He has composed music for the United Nations, the BBC, American Airlines, the London Philharmonic Orchestra, as well as film & television.

Tidd attended the Newhan Academy of Music in London, Thurrock College of Music, as well as Goldsmiths University of London, where he received a B.A. in Composition & Music technology. As a student, he studied composition, upright and electric bass, piano, music technology, and film scoring. Tidd has taught music and music technology at the Oval House Theatre (London), St. Paul's Way School (London) and has held master classes and collaborated with the London Symphonietta, NYU, U.C Berkley, The Berlin Philharmoniker, The Pavorotti Center (Mostar), Durban University (South Africa), and various others.

His own musical project, Quite Sane's last release, entitled "The Child of Troubled Times" has garnered critical acclaim. Tidd currently curates "Sittin' In Jam Sessions," a performance series at the Kimmel Center For The Performing Arts in Philadelphia, where he also serves as director of the Creative Music Program, A position he has held since 2010."

-Pi Recordings (

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"Sean Rickman (born October 16, 1970) is an American drummer, vocalist, guitarist, bassist, songwriter, producer and recording artist from Washington, DC.

He is best known for his work with Shawn Lane, Garaj Mahal, Dapp Theory, Steve Coleman, Maxwell, Meshell Ndegeocello, Blacksheep, Phil Upchurch, David Fiucynski & Screaming Headless Torsos, Kai Eckhardt, Anthony Tidd's Quite Sane, K'Alyn, Angela Bofill and George Duke.

Rickman was lead singer and drummer for Garaj Mahal from 2007-2011 and currently his DC Rock band Big Mouth featuring guitarist Leonard Stevens. He was also featured alongside Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter and Marcus Miller on the Tribute To Miles 2011 tour.

Currently Rickman tours and records with alto saxophonist Steve Coleman, bassist Kai Eckhardt, guitarist Miles Okazaki and others. He dedicates most of his off road time to his instructional site. Rickman releases self produced albums under his artist name The Rick performing all the vocals and all the instruments. He is developing live performances as the frontman of his power trio."

-Wikipedia (

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track listing:

1. Kudzu 5:21

2. Mischief 3:24

3. Box in a Box 5:47

4. Eating Earth 6:43

5. Black Bolt 2:42

6. The West 3:46

7. The Calendar 9:16

8. Caduceus 6:41

9. Borderland 1:07
sample the album:

descriptions, reviews, &c.
"Trickster is guitarist Miles Okazaki's first album in five years and his much anticipated debut on Pi Recordings, having been featured on six other releases in the label's catalog in groups led by Steve Coleman, Jonathan Finlayson, and Dan Weiss, along with associations with other Pi artists such as Matt Mitchell, Jen Shyu, and Amir ElSaffar. Perhaps best-known as a member of Steve Coleman and Five Elements, with whom he has played for the last eight years, Okazaki has also built a solid reputation for himself as one of the most adventurous composers and guitarists on the current scene. The New York Times says of Okazaki, "Even by the standard of his hyper-literate post-bop peer group, Mr. Okazaki is an unusually calculating musical thinker," and as a guitarist, "exceedingly skilled with a head for rhythmic convolution."Originally from Port Townsend, Washington, Okazaki began playing classical guitar at age six, and was playing regular gigs on electric guitar by age fourteen. He moved to New York after graduating from Harvard University (he also holds degrees from Manhattan School of Music and The Juilliard School) to pursue a career in music. His teacher on guitar at the time was Rodney Jones, who got Okazaki's career in motion by recommending him for early gigs with Stanley Turrentine, Lenny Pickett, Regina Carter, and studio session work. He has received many awards as a guitarist including placing second in the 2005 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition. Okazaki spent four years on the road with vocalist Jane Monheit and became known as an expert vocal accompanist, but he also started to develop an experimental streak in his own music. His first album as a leader, Mirror (2006), received a "Critics Pick" in the New York Times, who called it "a work of sustained collectivity as well as deep intricacy." His second album, Generations (2009), was described by pianist Vijay Iyer in Artforum as "the sonic equivalent of Escher or Borges, but with real emotional heft." His next album, Figurations, was selected as one of the New York Times top ten albums of 2012, described by Ben Ratliff as "slowly evolving puzzles of brilliant jazz logic."Okazaki subsequently entered a period of focused guitar study, which resulted in the book Fundamentals of Guitar, published by Mel Bay in 2015. When he began to compose again, he went at it from a fresh perspective, placing greater emphasis on guitar playing and improvisation. Steve Coleman describes Okazaki's development during this period: Miles has always been a very intense cat. Ive always been impressed with his perseverance and how deep he gets into his research. When he first came to me years ago, all he wanted to talk about was conceptual stuff, but now that he's internalized it, it just comes out organically. You can really hear that in his playing now. For his new music, Okazaki decided to use Anthony Tidd on bass and Sean Rickman on drums, the long-running rhythmic engine and his bandmates in Steve Coleman and Five Elements, with whom he has performed with hundreds of times. Its a fascinating opportunity to hear their unique chemistry - the quicksilver ability to process and internalize complex information, transform musical materialThrough improvisation, and do it all while staying "in the pocket" - in a wholly different context. Both Tidd and Rickman have deep roots in funk, R&B, and hip hop, and it is fascinating to hear Okazaki's music through the filter of these musical sensibilities. Okazaki's next call went to pianist Craig Taborn, perhaps the most widely-admired pianist on the cutting-edge of jazz, who brings a supremely inventive musical sense to everything he plays. Together they have created a breakthrough statement by Okazaki, a unified book of compositions that grooves from beginning to end.Trickster was originally inspired by Lewis Hyde's book Trickster Makes This World. As Okazaki describes it, "The trickster figure is an ancient archetype in human folklore. They are creative in nature, using mischief and magic to disrupt the state of things, breaking taboos and conventions, opening doorways. They exist outside of the mainstream, working from the margins, creating movement across the borders. They cause damage and they heal. They are storytellers and improvisers." He specifically chose the stories of Eshu, Raven, Krishna, Heyoka, Thoth, and Hermes, with their themes of mischief, disguise, paradox, chaos, illusion, and balance as the basis of musical structures and improvisations. One can get a sense of the trickster narratives by following the rhythms, which have many twists and turns and are not always what they seem to be. For example, "Box in a Box," which tell a story of Raven, a trickster from the native peoples of the Salish Sea in the Pacific Northwest, in which he disguises himself as a child to steal the light of the world that is hidden in the center of an infinite number of nested boxes. The composition works at this feeling of continual unboxing through a number of musical devices: rotating all-interval tetrachords, their intersection with symmetrical melodies, a perpetually shape-shifting bassline, an illusory drum figure. This machinery all fits into a conventional, square-shaped musical form. In "Eating Earth," which comes from the Indian tale of Krishna, whose mother asked to look in his mouth when he was accused of eating dirt, only to see the entire universe inside. She even sees herself looking into her son's mouth â ” the whole contained within the part. In this composition, each instrument floats through time at different speeds, colliding and combining into sonic constellations, never forming the same shape twice. This method of disguising intricate compositional machinery in a relaxed, earthy rhythmic flow has become Okazaki's newfound style.Another inspiration for the music comes from the Japanese art of origami, in which all models are made by folding a single uncut square of paper. According to Okazaki, "I've always believed in the idea that working within constraints focuses creativity, sharpens technique, and ultimately leads to greater freedom than having no boundaries at all. The central challenge of origami is to create new forms from one basic shape. All of the compositions on this album are contained within simple shapes - 12 or 16 bars of 4/4 or 3/4. But this fact is largely disguised by various rhythmic illusions and internal 'folds' within the form." His folded models of fox and raven, two trickster animals, appear on the album cover. The back cover shows the papers after the models are unfolded, revealing their internal geometry in a pattern of creases that has a beauty of their own.The music on Trickster is designed to encourage risk-taking. There are many traps and deceptions, but navigating through these spaces open possibility of discovering new territory. Craig Taborn addresses this idea: "You have to give it up to a trickster. You have to engage with this chaotic element where you really don't know how it may go. And not only that, trickster deities are very neutral, they don't really care. That energy doesn't want you to win or not win. It can go either way, but you have to propitiate it and engage with it, hoping for some kind of beneficial or positive outcome. But you have to be willing to flow with the other thing too, and that's what it takes to really improvise." "-Pi Recordings
Related Categories of Interest:

Improvised Music
NY Downtown & Jazz/Improv
Quartet Recordings
Pi Records
Melodic and Lyrical Jazz
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