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Miles Okazaki: Figurations

Mark F. Turner By

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Figurations is the final release in Miles Okazaki's three volume compositional cycle. Its trajectory is based on forward-thinking ideas Okazaki began on his self-produced 2006 debut Mirror, and continued on the nearly sixty-minute Generations (Sunnyside, 2009), which was recorded in the studio in one take. While no less demanding, this recording was commissioned and performed in front of a live and appreciative audience at New York's Jazz Gallery.

Methodical yet emotive, there are manifold ideas and theories swirling in Okazaki's head that include mathematics, science, compositional theories, and improvisation in the vein of Steve Coleman's M-Base models. But these rigors are met in full force by a quartet whose core members include jazz heavy hitters: alto stylist Miguel Zenon, impeccable drummer Dan Weiss and Thomas Morgan, on arco bass, are each musically endowed and quite up to the challenge.

These adrenaline-charged compositions are consummate exhibitions of form and freedom, encapsulating exacting synchronicity and angular solos in "Dozens" and exoticism in "Wheel" (Okazaki describes this piece in the liner notes as "a rhythmic tiling canon in three octaves, with three voices, with a secondary canon layered on top"). Intellectual definition notwithstanding, the performance results in music that is exhilarating and passionate, with Okazaki and Zenón darting and hovering like hummingbirds seeking nectar.

Other notable moments include Morgan's inquisitive solo in the intro to the title track, before getting to the composition's core. When it does arrive, the two lead voices declare seething solos propelled by Weiss' precise yet creative drumming. Weiss continues to stand out on "Mandala," an exploration of the Fibonacci rhythmic growth processes. Figurations is most fascinating, but better still, it requires no understanding of the intellectual concepts to be fully appreciated. The band translates Okazaki's brilliant ideas into music that is not only thought-provoking, but more importantly, captivating and moving.

Track Listing: Dozens; Rain; Wheel; Figurations (Intro); Figurations; Mandala; Loom; Corazon.

Personnel: Miles Okazaki: guitar; Miguel Zenon: alto saxophone; Thomas Morgan: acoustic bass; Dan Weiss: drums.

Title: Figurations | Year Released: 2012 | Record Label: Sunnyside Records


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