Miles Okazaki’s Trickster at The Jazz Gallery 3/16/18 (by Kazemde George)

PERSONNEL:  Miles Okazaki (guitar), Matt Mitchell (piano), Anthony Tidd (electric bass), Sean Rickman (drums)

SET LIST:  Mischief, Kudzu, Box in a Box, Eating Earth, Caduceus (all by Okazaki)

HIGHLIGHTS:  The 3-part counterpoint between the bass, guitar, and piano on “Caduceus” showcased Okazaki’s unique approach to melody and thematic development.

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Trickster is an exploration into an idiosyncratic world of uneven rhythmic cycles, unconventional melodies and opaque harmonies. The compositions are tightly constructed around specific rhythmic resolution points, usually marked by the Tidd on the bass, and most of the tunes feature a short exposition, with extended solo sections happening over a bass ostinato. The band often gave the impression of a hulking and intricate machine. Rickman and Tidd are the engine and fuel, Okazaki and Mitchell are the many moving parts whirring, clanking and sputtering.

“Mischief” began with a piano solo, entering slowly, and accompanied only by a repetitive strumming pattern in 9/4 by Okazaki. As Mitchell continued to clarify his ideas, the bass entered with a 4-note ostinato in a 5+4 rhythmic framework, which remained constant throughout the song. Rickman came in as Mitchell’s solo grew in intensity, matching the guitar’s comping pattern on the snare, and driving the energy forward. Mitchell ended on a high note with octaves in the right hand and lush rolled chords in the left, before taking over the comping pattern from the guitar. Okazaki presented a several ideas in his solo before cueing the end of the song and playing a short solo guitar introduction to “Kudzu.”

Okazaki slips around the guitar with small intervals and quick turns before darting into large intervallic jumps. He prioritizes motivic development: A single idea will mutate through superimpositions, groupings and displacements, all relating somehow to the relentless complex vamps below.

“Eating Earth” featured another oddly metered bass figure, but Rickman laid down a groove reminiscent of a standard backbeat. Mitchell took a solo exploring different textures and small embellishments, and eventually built into a series of ideas woven together like an Ecsher drawing, each fragmented idea seeming to lead nowhere and everywhere at once. Okazaki played a few brief phrases before bring down the band and starting “Caduceus” which featured a soli for the bass and guitar, which later branched off into a multi-part counterpoint with the guitar and piano layer new parts above of the bass. The band ended the set with an extended high-energy solo by Rickman, before increasing the tempo for a final recitation of the guitar/piano/bass interplay.

by Kazemde George