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Interview: Mike Casey

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by Andrew Patton on May 7, 2018

Philadelphia-based saxophonist Mike Casey is making big waves in the modern jazz scene and is coming to Columbus to share his new album! The Mike Casey Trio Stay Surprising Album Release Show hits Notes on Friday, May 18th at 8:30pm. Doors open at 8pm – tickets and more details are available here. With Matt Dwonszyk on acoustic bass and Corey Garcia on drums, the trio’s 2017 debut The Sound of Surprise has been a major success for an independent release, garnering mainstream press attention and big streaming numbers. The follow-up Stay Surprising will be officially released in November, but lead single “West End” is already a hot digital release and the album is available for purchase now at shows and mikecaseyjazz.com. Casey was kind enough to answer my questions via email – Keep reading to learn more about Stay Surprising, the trio, and everything else Casey has going on, plus links to brand new music. Get ready for an up-and-coming trio live and in person at Notes!

Tell me about your new release, Stay Surprising. It has a different focus than The Sound of Surprise though they were recorded the same night, correct?

Mike Casey (MC): Yes, recorded the same night but each has its own vibe. We had 14 first takes from one show, so I split it up into two albums. Stay Surprising has more original music and a little bit more tenor than alto…so even though they were recorded at the same time, I released it this way to showcase the natural progression that has happened since the time they were recorded.

How have audiences reacted to Stay Surprising so far?

MC: So far it’s been great! I’m releasing the Stay Surprising album a couple different ways. Digitally, streaming, etc it’s dropping track by track April through November with music video releases in between the track releases – so new content every two weeks for about 7 months. The first single, my original “West End” was premiered by Downbeat and passed 20,000 streams in its first week, so it’s been going well!

If fans want the full album early, they’ll have to buy the CD either in person at a show or online via my website. That’s the only way to get the full album immediately and all in one place.

The tour so far has been amazing – we’re playing music from both albums plus originals and new arrangements of music by Daniel Caesar, Soundgarden and Kanye West. People are loving the new music and we have had some really fun shows! Can’t wait to make our Columbus debut at Notes in a couple weeks.

Tell us about the members of your trio. What excites you about playing with them?

MC: Both Matt & Corey have a big beat and sound, are great listeners, compose and arrange beautifully and love ‘walking the tightrope’ and taking chances….we like to surprise each other and the audience. I trust them and it’s always an adventure to make music with them.

Do you have any plans for new projects after your release tour?

MC: We have a visual EP coming in 2019. I also hope to get in the studio sometime between now and end of summer to record an album for 2020 release.

Do you have any advice for young students thinking about getting into the saxophone or jazz?

MC: Live the music. Embrace the culture. The classroom will only do so much. You have to go out and hang, go to shows, go to sessions, embrace it in every aspect of your life. Saxophone specific…it’s a very flexible instrument. Study with more than teacher and get everyone’s perspective on technique. There’s more than one “right” way…but there are definitely ways that are more efficient and healthy than others.

Do you have anything else to share for Columbus jazz fans thinking about checking out your show?

MC: We have something for everyone but at the same time we don’t pander to the audience and definitely have “our vibe.” I don’t really believe in genres or labels anymore…so no matter what music you’re into, I think if you came and give us a chance you’d be pleasantly surprised 😉

Check out Casey’s brand new single “Nature Boy” on Spotify and Apple Music:

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