“An exceedingly skilled guitarist with a head for rhythmic convolution” was the description of Miles Okazaki in the New York Times, upon the release of his first album, Mirror, praised as “a work of sustained collectivity as well as deep intricacy.” Since that time, Okazaki's work as a composer and guitarist has brought him recognition as one of the most innovative musicians of his generation. He has been described as an “utra-versatile guitarist” by Earshot Jazz, “as much a composer and conceptualist as he is a master guitarist” by Hot House New York, “a deeply searching, highly emotional musician” by All About Jazz, and “commanding and understated at the same time” by Downbeat.
Okazaki's compositions are focused on rhythm, and are known for a balance of technical intricacy and an ability to reach audiences on a visceral level. His second album, Generations, was called by pianist Vijay Iyer “the sonic equivalent of Escher or Borges, but with real emotional heft," and his third album, Figurations, was selected as one of the New York Times top ten albums of 2012, described by Ben Ratliff as "slowly evolving puzzles of brilliant jazz logic."
As a guitarist, Okazaki works in many areas, ranging from Standard repertoire to experimental music. His most recent recordings and tours include Steve Coleman and Five Elements, Kenny Barron, Jonathan Finlayson, Ohad Talmor, and Dan Weiss. He is a graduate of Harvard University, Manhattan School of Music, and the Juilliard School, and teaches a large body of students, on a variety of instruments. Currently he lives in Brooklyn, NY.
Miles Okazaki grew up in Port Townsend, Washington, a small town near the Olympic Mountains and San Juan Islands in the Pacific Northwest, across the water from Canada. The son of a painter and photographer, he began his studies of the visual arts at a young age. He became interested in music and began learning the guitar at age 6. Eventually, music replaced visual arts as his main interest, and by the time he was a teenager, he had already attracted a large amount of local attention for his command of the guitar and the jazz repertoire, chosen as the single guitarist for All State and All Northwest Jazz Bands.
After graduating from Harvard University, the largely self-taught musician moved to New York in 1997 to study with guitarist Rodney Jones, who spent several years adjusting and refining his instrumental technique. Okazaki began to gain local attention, playing in New York and taking first place at the Fish-Middleton Jazz Competition in Washington, D.C. After graduating from Manhattan School of Music, he worked with Jones in producing recording sessions for Donald Harrison, Ernestine Anderson, Ruth Brown, Jimmy McGriff, and Lena Horne. He also began to pick up sideman work, with Regina Carter, Stanley Turrentine, Lenny Pickett, and vocalist Jane Monheit, who he toured the world with for four years, playing electric and classical guitar.
During this time, Okazaki began revisiting his roots in the visual arts, and making drawings as studies for musical forms. He undertook intensive studies in musical traditions from Brazil (fingerstyle guitar technique) and the South of India (rhythmic theory). He also earned another degree, from the Juilliard School, where he studied with Kenny Barron and completed extensive studies of Bach and Counterpoint in formal courses. He began gathering all of these studies into notes for a large body of musical compositions.
In 2005, Okazaki decided to turn his attention to Composition. His goal was to produce three albums of compositions, representing his ideas about rhythm, harmony, and melody. He entered the Thelonious Monk Guitar Competition, and with the prize money from his finish as a finalist, he recorded his debut album, Mirror, which was released in 2007 to great critical acclaim. The writing on this record won Okazaki a prestigious "New Works" grant from Chamber Music America, which funded his second extended work as a leader, Generations, released by Sunnyside Records in the Spring of 2009. Okazaki completed the third and final volume, Figurations, during an extended composer's residency at the Jazz Gallery in New York. These three albums represent 10 years of work, and form a complete cycle of compositions for improvising small ensemble. In order to provide a visual component to the music, Okazaki made illustrations for all three albums.
Okazaki continues to perform with a variety of projects, with contemporaries such as Dan Weiss, Jen Shyu, Jonathan Finlayson, Ohad Talmor, Damion Reid, and toured the U.S., Europe, and Africa as a member of Steve Coleman and Five Elements. He teaches a large body of private students, has taught for the New School, the Juilliard School, and the Banff Institute. His awards and grants include Chamber Music America's “New Works” (2007), Chamber Music America's “French-American Jazz Exchange” (2009), the Jazz Gallery and Jerome Foundations Residency Commission (2010), the American Music Center's Composer Assistance Program (2011), the Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation's US Artists International grant (2012), and the Rockefeller Brother's Fund Artist Residency (2012). In addition to his work in contemporary improvised music, Okazaki continues to maintain his traditional roots, playing standards with guitar trio.
1978 Gibson ES-175 Charlie Christian (Archtop Electric Guitar)
Yamaha SA-2200 (Semi Hollowbody Electric Guitar)
1963 Gibson C-O (Classical Guitar)
Yamaha APX10NA (Classical Guitar)
Thomastik-Infeld GB114 Electric Guitar Strings (heavy gauge .014mm)
D'Addario Nylon Guitar Strings (high tension)
Fender Heavy Picks
Fender Twin Amplifier