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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