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Album Review

Miles Okazaki: The Sky Below

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Miles Okazaki: The Sky Below
Electric guitarist Miles Okazaki—also using electronics—and his rhythm section comprise three-fifths of alto sax great Steve Coleman's current band, as keyboardist Matt Mitchell rounds out this quartet for the leader's second release for Pi Recrodings, but his fifth album overall. And while the album length is a little over 39-minutes, many artists are cutting back some to accommodate the resurgence of LPs. However, quality is the key as Okazaki's idiosyncratic playing and multitiered compositions yield the knockout punch, framed on his penchant for conceptual translations of mythology. Moreover, a source of interest relates to the artist refabricating comps from Trickster (PI, 2017) with the intentions of developing new storylines, using the elemental configurations of these previously recorded pieces.

The guitarist's intricately designed song-forms often encompass weaving dialogues, super-funk grooves and flickering unison notes with Mitchell atop bulbous pulses, odd-metered accents and smoldering crescendos. Okazaki's complex and sinuous lines are occasionally animated, offset by blistering superspeed flurries and a host of reengineering processes. Meanwhile, bassist Anthony Tidd lays down some guerrilla lines and firm grooves in conjunction with drummer Sean Rickman's bristling fills and shifting cadences. For example, Okazaki's diverse bag of tricks is highlighted on "Seven Sisters," which is etched with an elongated melody line and a downward trajectory, sprinkled with ominous connotations, and contrasted with Mitchell's lower register piano voicings. But "The Lighthouse" is a mid-tempo motif, amped up by the soloists' breakneck momentum, anchored by Tidd's beefy support and peppered with Rickman's slippery snare drum hits.

Mitchell's acute use of a Prophet-6 synth adds a colorful twist to certain tracks and serves him well during "To Dream Again," where he counterbalances the guitarist's cordial acoustic guitar phrasings to consummate a blissful theme. Sure enough, Okazaki is on a fast track to the upper strata of modern innovators who possess unique voices amid a wide-ranging glimpse into the future of the jazz-making revelry.

Track Listing

Rise and Shine; Dog Star; Anthemoessa; Seven Sisters; Monstropolous; The Castaway; The Lighthouse; To Dream Again.

Personnel

Miles Okazaki: guitar; Matt Mitchell: piano; Anthony Tidd: bass; Sean Rickman: drums.

Album information

Title: The Sky Below | Year Released: 2019 | Record Label: Pi Recordings


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