Miles Okazaki's compositions sound like he's creating an elaborate portrait from mosaic, octagon-shaped tiles. His style of play is dense, weaving around in his phrases with so many loops and curlicues, it's dizzying. There's a lot going on under the surface, and even the surface is still pretty busy. That his work isn't too top heavy, most particularly his latest album-- Trickster, out Friday on Pi Recordings, is quite notable. However, that such complex work can express a simple groove so compellingly, is the even larger accomplishment.
For those unfamiliar with his work, Daniel Herskedal is a Norwegian jazz musician regarded as one of the most talented jazz tubaists on the scene today. I know what you are thinking: tuba as a lead instrument in jazz? Outside of larger jazz ensembles and the New Orleans Brass Band scene, it is of course fairly rare for the tuba to make an appearance in jazz, especially as a lead instrument. The tuba typically isn’t considered a versatile jazz quintet instrument, but in Herskedal’s hands, it is transformed into something beautiful; capable of creating romantic, delicate moments on ballads and intense, bold statements on more audacious tracks.
Thums Up is one of those projects that has floated around for a little while but I've yet to hear but sound like so awesome a configuration that I would leap at them the moment recorded work came to light. I've always been extremely excited to hear the work of the collective pianist Vijay Iyer, guitarist Rafiq Bhatia, drummer Kassa Overall, and rapper Himanshu Suri (aka Heems of Swet Shop Boys, formerly of Das Racist) named after the Indian soda. Now, Ccurtesy of WQXR New York, check out a set the quartet recorded this past weekend at the Ecstatic Music Festival to affirm that this project is as badass as one would imagine these four figures could be. Heems' lyricism is sharp and poignant while Iyer, Bhatia, and Overall stretch and contract with a lively energy that weaves brilliantly. They're pretty fantastic. Stream their March 4th set after the jump.