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Miles Okazaki: Figurations

Raul d'Gama Rose By

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Guitarist Miles Okazaki's Figurations is a fascinating document of how musical invention takes place on the spur of the moment. It is not a mad conglomeration of notes that come out in jagged clusters, but a mellifluous harmolodic excursion by four spectacular musicians as they begin to create music on each of their instruments, with their own ideas flowing organically, yet directed by the composer, Okazaki, who defines how the melody should sound by stating its antecedents and basic idea. If all this sounds familiar, it is because Miles Okazaki—a subscriber to the M-base principles of the organic development of improvised music—has, on this record, completed the circle that began with 2006'sMirror (Self-Produced), followed by Generations (Sunnyside, 2009). On Mirror, Okazaki laid out his fascinating theory, which attempted to meld the mathematics of musical balance and creation with the forces of nature, as dictated by the human heart and brain. Generations further stretched this fusion of logic and imagination in remarkable musical design of song, unfolding naturally and beautifully, but by design in the controlled environment of the recording studio.

On Figurations, Okazaki's quartet develops music in a live setting and revealing insights into the heart of musical creativity and, therefore, into the minds of each of the musicians. Like a concerto played in the classical milieu, Okazaki's music is a continuous duel of individual instruments with the accompanying ensemble as the music is propelled onward and forward, emanating from an original melodic idea, but always moving outward in a fresh direction. Each song is a Medusa-like living organism; the difference being that it is, of course, a constructive force that nevertheless deconstructs the original idea with each new reimagining of Okazaki's original ideas.

And so, there is the colorful rhythmic pattern of "Dozens," rendered in various changing hues, with saxophone and guitar interweaving the melodic motif and provoking wildly different solos. "Wheel" is written as a triple-voiced canon, mimicking the motions of a wheel that turns with irregular rhythmic patterns, then settling into a repetitive circular device before coming to rest after going through a new and irregular rhythmic design all over again. "Mandala," with its beguiling Occidental pattern, is a feature for emergent drummer Dan Weiss, who has given new meaning to the word, "polyrhythm." Here, Weiss reveals his glorious chops by improvising over complex time signatures.

The other fascinating feature is "Corazón," written for saxophonist Miguel Zenon. The music is based on the rhythmic beat of the heart, which is really a metaphor for the pulse of the soul.

This record brings to an end one of the most fascinating musical cycles, and also sets its guitarist and composer, Okazaki for some hard thought. Where will his music flow next? From which nook and cranny of the mind and soul will it emerge?

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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