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.
Early on his latest album, Drunk, on the song "Bus in These Streets" (written alongside Louis Cole), bassist/singer/personality Stephen "Thundercat" Bruner notes that he's "out here doing the most". Thundercat's third album on the Brainfeeder label does a lot of things, and "the most" is the best descriptor.
This past summer, a friend of mine went off to the island of Mykonos for a few weeks of, well, let's just say it, some good ol' fun debauchery. The Mediterranean isle is kind of a gay paradise. I talked with another friend of mine at the time about the place, what he told me second-hand of the open culture there. I noted that it must be nice for these people to have a place of their own to be open and free, unencumbered, not have to worry about being seen as a categorical other. (To a limited degree, I think of it like my time at Morehouse College as a young black man who has to worry much less often about the white gaze, able to develop my authorial voice and broaden my personality.) I asked if there were a similar island like Mykonos for lesbians. My friend said there wouldn't be such a thing, that culturally, such openness isn't prone to them. I found such an idea completely ludicrous, to the point that it lingered in my head for days until I spoke with him again on the subject. It seemed crazy because the idea of empathy involves a rather simple concept-- everyone wants everything, even if it's an altered, personalized version of those things. If you want something elemental, someone else probably want some version of that elemental aspect of human existence, too. Of course lesbians would want an island. What subset of people who have been marginalized wouldn't want their own place? The rules of engagement there may be different, but to say a group of people wouldn't want their own place defies logic. Everyone wants everything, even if it's a different thing. Oddly enough, I can't help but think of this in reading Ethan Iverson's interview with Robert Glasper and Iverson's subsequent response to the backlash surrounding it.
Back in November, we hipped you to the California quintet DD Horns led by trumpeter Danny T. Levin & tenor saxophonist David Moyer. The group is releasing their debut self-titled album at their Bandcamp where you can pay any price this week. The album produced by Chris Schlarb and recorded in one shot with no overdubs is a tight affair with a good deal of groove.
Harriet Tubman, the trio of guitarist Brandon Ross, bassist Melvin Gibbs and drummer J.T. Lewis, have been weird for twenty years now. Their free jazz essence is certainly an acquired taste, however it's also a free jazz rooted in soul that makes their music so memorable. In the latest album, Araminta, out this Friday on Sunnyside, the band brings along trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith for a raucous collection of songs full of fiery energy, even when the burners are on low. Really, Araminta is truly great.