Friday, January 6, 2023: Trickster: Miles Okazaki (guitar), Matt Mitchell (piano), Anthony Tidd (bass), Sean Rickman (drums), Community Music School of Springfield, 127 State St., Springfield, MA. Single tickets ($15) available on this site or at the door.
“Trickster, a four-piece band led by guitarist Miles Okazaki, is best understood in both cerebral and visceral terms,” writes Nate Chinen. “On the one hand, it’s a delivery system for some proudly intricate and idiosyncratic compositions, the byproduct of a deeply rigorous mind. On the other hand, it’s a go-for-broke quartet, capable of shifting the ground underfoot without ever losing its balance.”
Trickster was formed in 2015 as a side project while Miles Okazaki, Anthony Tidd, and Sean Rickman were working as the rhythm section for Steve Coleman and Five Elements. The group has released four albums of compositions by Miles Okazaki on Pi Recordings (Trickster, The Sky Below, Trickster’s Dream and Thisness).
Robin D.G. Kelley’s liner notes to Thisness (2022) introduce the music as “convulsive beauty, propulsive rhythm, elusive meaning…a spontaneous and unpredictable work of art.”
Miles Okazaki is a NYC-based guitarist originally from Port Townsend, a small seaside town in Washington State. His approach to the guitar is described by the New York Times as “utterly contemporary, free from the expectations of what it means to play a guitar in a group setting — not just in jazz, but any kind.” His sideman experience over the last two decades covers a broad spectrum, from standards to experimental music (Kenny Barron, John Zorn, Stanley Turrentine, Dan Weiss, Matt Mitchell, Steve Coleman, Jonathan Finlayson, Jane Monheit, Amir ElSaffar, Darcy James Argue, and many others). He has released nine albums of original compositions over the last 12 years on the Sunnyside, Pi, and Cygnus labels. In 2018 Okazaki received wide critical acclaim for his six-album recording of the complete compositions of Thelonious Monk for solo guitar, an unprecedented project that Nate Chinen called “the six-string equivalent of a free solo climb up El Capitan.” That year, Okazaki was voted the #1 rising star guitarist in the Downbeat Magazine critic’s poll. Other projects include a longstanding duo with drummer Dan Weiss, a duo with percussionist Rajna Swaminathan, and a published book, Fundamentals of Guitar, with Mel Bay. He taught guitar and rhythmic theory at the University of Michigan from 2013-22, joined the faculty at Princeton University in 2021, and holds degrees from Harvard University, Manhattan School of Music, and the Juilliard School.
Matt Mitchell is a pianist and composer interested in the intersections of various strains of acoustic, electric, composed, and improvised new music. He currently composes for and leads several ensembles featuring many of the current foremost musicians and improvisers, including Tim Berne, Kim Cass, Kate Gentile, Ben Gerstein, Jon Irabagon, Travis Laplante, Ava Mendoza, Miles Okazaki, Ches Smith, Chris Speed, Tyshawn Sorey, Chris Tordini, Anna Webber, Dan Weiss. He is an anchor member of several significant creative music ensembles which integrate composed and improvised music, including Tim Berne’s Snakeoil, the Dave Douglas Quintet, John Hollenbeck’s Large Ensemble, Dan Weiss’s Starebaby, Jonathan Finlayson’s Sicilian Defense, Steve Coleman’s Natal Eclipse, Kate Gentile’s Mannequins, Anna Webber’s Simple Trio, Ches Smith’s We All Break, the Dave King Trio, and Quinsin Nachoff’s Flux. He is also among the core performers of John Zorn’s Bagatelles. Nate Chinen calls him “A pianist of burrowing focus and an indispensable fixture of the contemporary vanguard”.
Sean Rickman was born in Washington, D.C., into a musical family. His dad, Phil Upchurch, worked as a guitar player and bassist with Michael Jackson, Quincy Jones, B.B. King, George Benson, Curtis Mayfield, Cannonball Adderley, John Lee Hooker, Grover Washington Jr., Lenny Breau, and Dizzy Gillespie. His mother, Renee Morris is a vocalist who played Mary Magdalene in Jesus Christ Superstar by Andrew Lloyd Webber. He has worked with Shawn Lane, Garaj Mahal, Dapp Theory, Steve Coleman, Maxwell, Meshell Ndegeocello, Blacksheep, David Fiucynski & Screaming Headless Torsos, Kai Eckhardt, Anthony Tidd’s Quite Sane, K’Alyn, Angela Bofill and George Duke. Rickman was lead singer and drummer for Garaj Mahal from 2007–2011 and his rock band Big Mouth featuring guitarist Leonard Stevens. He was also featured alongside Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter and Marcus Miller on the Tribute to Miles 2011 tour.
Anthony Tidd is a composer, producer, audio engineer, educator and musician. He plays bass, guitar and piano/keyboards. He holds a deep knowledge of jazz, R&B, Hip-hop, classical, and new music, as well as a particular affinity for creative improvisation. Born and raised in the United Kingdom, he has been living and working in the United States since 1997. He has performed and toured all over the globe with artists such as Steve Coleman, The Roots, Meshell Ndegeocello, +Gang Starr, Goapele, Common, Greg Osby, Bhekki Mseleku, Wayne Krantz, Rudresh Mahanthappa, Steve Williamson, Ari Hoenig, Ursula Rucker and Dapp Theory. Tidd has produced recordings for Jill Scott, Macy Gray, Zap Mama, Lady Gaga, Pink, Ursula Rucker, The Black Eyed Peas and The Roots, among others. He has worked with such other artists as Bilal, Soul Asylum, and Erykah Badu. He has composed music for the United Nations, the BBC, American Airlines, the London Philharmonic Orchestra, as well as film & television. Anthony Tidd has held the position of Director of the Creative Music Program at the University of the Arts since 2010.