The Squid's Ear Magazine


Okazaki, Miles (w/ Mitchell / Tidd / Rickman): Thisness (Pi Recordings)

Trickster, the stellar quartet of New York guitarist Miles Okazaki with Matt Mitchell on piano, Fender Rhodes & synth, Anthony Tidd on electric bass and Sean Rickman on drums, in a sequel to The Sky Below, blending acoustic and electric jazz in four captivating compositions that Okazaki describes as striving towards something like collective dreaming.
 

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product information:

Personnel:



Miles Okazaki-guitar, vocals, robots

Matt Mitchell-piano, Fender Rhodes, synthesizer

Anthony Tidd-electric bass

Sean Rickman-drums


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UPC: 808713009323

Label: Pi Recordings
Catalog ID: PI93
Squidco Product Code: 31980

Format: CD
Condition: New
Released: 2022
Country: USA
Packaging: Digipack - 3 panel
Recorded at Oktaven Studios, in Mount Vernon, New York, on March 19th and 20th, 2021, by Ron Saint Germain and Ryan Streber.

Descriptions, Reviews, &c.

"Thisness is guitarist Miles Okazaki's third album for Pi Recordings with his band Trickster featuring keyboardist Matt Mitchell, bassist Anthony Tidd, and drummer Sean Rickman. It is a sequel to The Sky Below, which was described by Allmusic as "an umbrella of labyrinthine lyricism, full of mischief and delight as a harmonic foundation," and by Point of Departure as "overflowing with energy, and elegant despite its complexity." Unlike the first two releases from this band, which emphasized fantastical, narrative storytelling, Thisnessis more about providing a platform for these masterful musicians to improvise in the construct of compositions that emphasize non-linear flow between musical ideas. Okazaki describes it as "a sound that discards notions of logic and control and strives toward something more like collective dreaming."

2020 was to be a banner year for Okazaki. Riding a crest of recognition from the critical success of his recent releases - including WORK, an ambitious recording of the complete compositions of Thelonious Monk for solo guitar - that helped land him atop the Rising Star Jazz Guitarist list in the Downbeat Critics Poll, Okazaki was about to embark on an extensive US and European tour, until the Covid pandemic shut everything down. Okazaki's initial reaction was to figure out a way to use the hard work that the musicians had put into music and try to capture the energy of the tour while society was in lockdown. The result was Trickster's Dream, an imagined concert released on Bandcamp as part of Pi Recordings' "This is Now: Love in the Time of Covid" series, which sought to help make up for some of the wages lost by musicians due to the pandemic. Okazaki sang a scratch track for an imagined Trickster set and sent and it to the other musicians to individually layer over from the isolation of their homes. The result is a blast, from musicians chomping to release their pent-up energy. The accompanying video of the remote recording of the four musicians - described by JazzTimes as "a trickster's tell on the making of the magic" - is particularly astonishing.

Thisness captures the next chapter in the evolution of the Trickster sound. The original Trickster (Pi 2017) had the aesthetics of an acoustic jazz recording, while The Sky Below (Pi 2019) was more about the exploration of a multiplicity of sounds, with layers of effects that help evince a fantastical world. For Thisness, rather than a fixed book of compositions, the music is comprised of various themes that the group weaves in and out of, connected by hubs that Okazaki describes as "traffic circles, or bus stations." Through hidden musical cues, the leader signals when the music is approaching the transition point and which path to take to exit. As Okazaki described it: "I had detailed blueprints, but at some point, surrendered to the dream logic of the collective. The intention was to make something like an exquisite corpse, the collective improvisations developed by the Surrealists. For this album my job as composer was to bring in some ideas, set them in motion and then listen, trying to recognize the value of serendipitous events at transitional points in the music and lead the band down whatever path may be opening." The wonder lies in the journey, with beautiful new vistas opening with each turn in the road.

The album opens with a phrase that begins all three Trickster albums, signifying the onset of the trip. The music unfolds seamlessly, revealing the movement from one episode to the next only after the transition has occurred, which is only possible with musicians who are completely attuned and possess the ability to execute these changes at the drop of a hat. Bassist Tidd and drummer Rickman, whose synergy confirm almost a quarter century of playing together, provide an elastic foundation, hurtling and tugging on the ever-present groove. Mitchell and Okazaki together are a marvel of cohesion: Their constant weaving of contrapuntal, labyrinthine lines astound with their nimble precision. The layers of overlapping melodic lines and rhythms are made more synapse-jumbling by the textural chatter from a "robot" programmed to improvise along with the recorded tracks, further pushing the music towards an alien, super-human realm. Despite all the obvious complexity, the playing feels effortlessly in service of the music rather than pointlessly dazzling. Okazaki favors clean single notes in his playing, treating the guitar as primarily a percussion instrument. While he uses a variety of guitars on the recording, his primary axe is a recently-acquired Gibson ES-150 "Charlie Christian" circa 1940 with its accompanying EH-150 amp. The sound of that instrument bathes the recording in a warm glow.

When composing this music, Okazaki envisioned a surreal world as imagined by Linda Okazaki, his mother, in her painting "Dream at Salt Creek," which is reproduced on the album cover. The titles to the four tracks further evince that fantastical feeling: They are taken from lines from the poem "The Far Off Place" by Sun Ra, which is found in the liner notes of his album Monorails and Satellites. It's also influenced by the writing on Surrealism by the historian and author Robin D. G. Kelley, who summed up Thisness in the album's liner notes: "convulsive beauty, propulsive rhythm, elusive meaning...a spontaneous and unpredictable work of art, accordingly discordant, subversively accordant, a pendulum crushing the cage of temporality. This is Surrealism in practice. This is jazz. This is freedom." "-Pi Recordings


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 (http://www.milesokazaki.com/biography/)
6/10/2024

Have a better biography or biography source? Please Contact Us so that we can update this biography.

"Matt Mitchell is a pianist and composer interested in the intersections of various strains of acoustic, electric, composed, and improvised new music. He currently composes for and leads several ensembles featuring many of the current foremost musicians and improvisers, including Tim Berne, Kim Cass, Caroline Davis, Kate Gentile, Ben Gerstein, Sylvaine Hélary, Jon Irabagon, Travis Laplante, Ava Mendoza, Miles Okazaki, Ches Smith, Chris Speed, Tyshawn Sorey, Chris Tordini, Anna Webber, Dan Weiss, and Katie Young.

He is an anchor member of several significant creative music ensembles which integrate composed and improvised music, including Tim Berne's Snakeoil, the Dave Douglas Quintet, John Hollenbeck's Large Ensemble, Rudresh Mahanthappa's Bird Calls, Jonathan Finlayson's Sicilian Defense, Dan Weiss's Large Ensemble, Steve Coleman's Natal Eclipse, the Darius Jones Quartet, Kate Gentile's Mannequins, Mario Pavone's Blue Dialect Trio, Anna Webber's Simple Trio, Ches Smith's We All Break, Michael Attias' Spun Tree, Ohad Talmor's Grand Ensemble, and Quinsin Nachoff's Flux. He is also among the core performers of John Zorn's Bagatelles.

Musicians with whom he performs and has performed include Jon Irabagon, Chris Lightcap's Bigmouth, John Hollenbeck's Claudia Quintet + 1, JD Allen, Rudresh Mahanthappa and Bunky Green's Apex, Rez Abbasi's Invocation, Lee Konitz, Kenny Wheeler, Ralph Alessi's Baida Quartet, Dave King's Indelicate duo, Amir ElSaffar, Marc Ducret, David Torn, Vernon Reid, Clarence Penn and Penn Station, Linda Oh, Rudy Royston, Allison Miller, Donny McCaslin, Brad Shepik, and Darcy James Argue's Secret Society.

He has taught extensively with the Brooklyn-based School for Improvisational Music, as well as at the New School, NYU, and the Siena Jazz Workshop. He is also a 2015 receipient of a Doris Duke Impact Award and a 2012 recipient of a Pew Fellowship from the Pew Center for Arts and Heritage."

-Matt Mitchell Website (http://www.mattmitchell.us/bio/)
6/10/2024

Have a better biography or biography source? Please Contact Us so that we can update this biography.

"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 (https://pirecordings.com/artist/Anthony+_Tidd)
6/10/2024

Have a better biography or biography source? Please Contact Us so that we can update this biography.

"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 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sean_Rickman)
6/10/2024

Have a better biography or biography source? Please Contact Us so that we can update this biography.


Track Listing:



1. In Some Far Off Place 09:27

2. Years in Space 10:03

3. I'll Build a World 09:59

4. And Wait for You 09:34

Related Categories of Interest:


Improvised Music
Jazz
Free Improvisation
NY Downtown & Metropolitan Jazz/Improv
Guitarists, &c.
Quartet Recordings
Melodic and Lyrical Jazz
Staff Picks & Recommended Items
New in Improvised Music
Jazz & Improvisation Based on Compositions

Search for other titles on the label:
Pi Recordings.


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