By Bill Milkowski | Published June 2017
Steve Coleman’s sonic language and M-Base puzzle logic underscore this artful blend of counterpoint and groove. It’s only natural, since guitarist-composer Miles Okazaki has been a member of Coleman’s Five Elements band for the past eight years and is using Coleman’s longstanding rhythm tandem of electric bassist Anthony Tidd and drummer Sean Rickman on this adventurous project, which also features cutting-edge pianist Craig Taborn.
By drawing on the ancient folkloric archetype of the Trickster, a figure which exists in the folklore of myriad cultures, Okazaki has created a compelling concept album that is at once cerebral and earthy, complex and grooving.
The opener, “Kudzu,” a slow-grooving number propelled by interlocking parts, has Okazaki unleashing angular lines and fractured phrasing that might recall James “Blood” Ulmer or early Pat Martino. “Mischief” creates an illusion with shifting rhythmic patterns, like a sonic Escher painting. On “Eating Earth,” Okazaki and Taborn engage in a spacious duet at the outset before the piece gives way to an undulating bolero, while “Black Bolt” breaks out with a furious tempo and keeps modulating throughout the entirety of that kinetic piece.
Okazaki exhibits chamber-like delicacy in the latticework patterns of “The Calendar,” and he turns Rickman loose on the drumming showcase “The West.” The most organically swinging piece here is “Caduceus,” which has the guitarist going toe-to-toe in some exhilarating exchanges with Taborn. Okazaki closes with the solo acoustic piece “Borderland,” a kind of palate-cleanser a er all the intricacy, symmetry and puzzlery.
Trickster: Kudzu; Mischief; Box In A Box; Eating Earth; Black Bolt; The West; The Calendar; Caduceus; Borderland. (44:45)
Personnel: Miles Okazaki, guitar; Craig Taborn, piano; Anthony Tidd, electric bass; Sean Rickman, drums.