Mike Casey’s Appealing ‘Law of Attraction’

Mike Casey is a young jazz saxophonist yet he’s been around the world and around jazz a long time.  Law of Attraction is Mike’s should be widely appealing based on its mix of old and new across several styles. Mike has enchanted a diverse young audience around the world, performing his signature blend of upbeat, accessible, exploratory original music and genre-bending re-imaginations of jazz, pop, R&B, and even hip hop classics with mature lyricism.  This album ranges from ‘Unforgettable’ made popular by Nat King Cole, to two reimagined Daniel Caesar songs, to ‘No Church In The Wild’ from Jay-Z.

Mike has been playing sax since the 5th grade and plays mostly tenor on this album with the exception of  No Church In The Wild” and “Squeaky Wheel.” Mike explained to me “though I’ve been playing alto way longer I’ve always approached it like a tenor player and do have a “thicker” sound than is common for alto.”  Check out my track-by-track coverage, watch the videos which have some cool animation effects for emphasis, and check out Mike’s commentary below each video for some added color!

Track-By-Track

No Church in the Wild: Mike’s instrumental interpretation of this Jay-Z tune is on the mark as it starts with Mike wailing hard on the sax in a commanding tone. Matt Dwonszyk on double bass pops in with nice finger work joined shortly by Benito Gonzales taking the lead backed by Corey Garcia on drums.  Mike continues with some deep alto playing and the threesome is off and running at a fast clip.  Mike’s playing is very fluid and shows nice range high and low.  Benito comes in for a tight piano break midway and the video shows his intensity. The group is really cooking on this one start to finish.

This is one of the most iconic hip hop songs of my generation. I'll never forget hearing it as a senior in high school and being blown away. I knew that one day I had to reimagine it, and nearly a decade later here we are.
Written for the American proverb, 'Squeaky Wheel Gets the Oil'. Persistence pays off. Be sure to listen for the differences between the takes, I included both for a reason...each tells a different story.

Squeaky Wheel – Take 2: The frenetic opening for this one, with Mike on alto, sounds like the beginning of a street fight in “West Side Story” and then settles in to more free jazz improvised feel.  Again, I enjoy the effects with Mike being in a force field with exclamation marks around him.  Matt, Corey and Benito do a fine job of matching Mike’s energy. Benito has an extended solo midway through during which Corey’s cymbals and Matt’s bass emit lasers coming back to Benito with his hands shooting sparks! The solo ends with a section reintroducing Mike with the main theme straight to the end.

Best Part – Take 3: This is the first of two Daniel Caesar tunes reimagined for this album. Matt takes the opening here before Mike joins with some mellifluous low end tones.  Corey joins after the prolonged duet and Best Part’s melody is carried through nearly to the halfway point.  Then Matt and Corey play a duet with Matt’s lead.  The mastering of this disc is top notch and the clarity really shines here. This is a tune that I can chill to any time all the time.

Daniel Caesar's Freudian album soundtracked a very difficult, transitional period of my life in the 18 months leading up to the Law of Attraction session. This album and especially Best Part really spoke to me and I immediately heard it coming through my trio in this direction. Be sure to listen for the differences between the takes.
Inspired by both Star Wars and Hartford, CT's jazz scene, it's an ode to both a childhood fascination with Star Wars & an ode to mentors, peers, and the environment of Hartford. I continually re-imagine this one - be sure to check out the live version from 2017's "The Sound of Surprise: Live at The Side Door" as well as the b l o o p r Remix from 2019's Surprise! The Remixes, Pt. 2 by clicking on Mike's picture below

Dagobah: Mike starts with a very distinctive leadoff melody which rolls throughout the tune. The animation of “Lightsaber Sax” early on is a nice touch. Shortly after Matt and Corey appear in their own force fields.  Matt has a cool accelerating and rising solo midway before Mike returns with the main theme and rides it out.  This is a very smooth and hypnotic piece.

Unforgettable: This classic made famous by Nat King Cole is probably the most traditional tune on the album but Mike makes his mark here nevertheless. Naturally, Mike takes the ‘vocal’ part and plays clear as a bell.  Matt has another well thought out solo midway and then picks up the bow when Mike comes back in for a wider more melancholy feel up to the end.

This was supposed to be on my first two albums (which were recorded live in 2016 then released in 2017/18) but we couldn't fit it in. Though I was in a very different space in 2018 than in 2016, I still felt like I needed to "finish" this.
Thoughts become things. I wanted this one to flow as that's what I'm aiming for at all times, energy flowing, and being in discussion with the universe.

Law of Attraction: This one has a nice, flowing, meandering approach.  Matt takes an early slowly and Corey hits with some nice stickwork. Mike again plays the main melody before Matt and Corey pair up again. Mike closes out with the main theme accompanied by some some sparks flying from his sax.

Feel the Bern: My first impression of this was similar to some old Brecker Brothers  tune even with one sax.  The funky opening sets up some nice ramblin’ runs by Mike for most of the song’s body. Corey takes his first quasi solo here hitting all the bells and whistles.  Definitely a “berner.”

I chopped off an 8th note for Bernie, getting to the downbeat of "one" early as an ode to his progressive ideals.
I always enjoy flipping songs on their head when arranging and producing. I grew up appreciating deep arrangements and remixes (from my former DJ days which I am now starting to revisit). Be sure to check out all 3 takes on the album each with their own magic.

Get You (Take 1): The tune is second of two Daniel Caesar tunes on the album. The original millennial slow jam is transformed into driving jazz-funk. Considering the original has over 300 million listens on Spotify, it’s a bold move that Casey sonically executes flawlessly.

Of course, the original is a downtempo song with great vocals by Caesar and a sultry music video to boot.  Casey uses the melody and turns up the dial with a faster paced version that really plays off the head very well.  There’s some sweet meandering soloing that showcases his deep and clear tone.  The bass line is also well spaced and distinctive.

Shift: I have a suspicion that Shift is named for the chord changes from one section to the next and it’s very interesting.  There’s another longer bass-piano section in the middle here and Mike opens and closes with the main two-bar theme.

Shift was written for a shift in mindset after doing the Betty Carter Jazz Ahead artist residency at The Kennedy Center in 2015. This is more about the subtle rhythmic shift from the bridge to the A sections but there are harmonic shifts at play too.
Spoon wasas supposed to be Soundgarden's Spoonman but the rest of the take didn't land, but I was happy with the improvised intro, so....Spoon! Stay tuned for Spoonman coming in 2021 .

Spoon: Mike and Corey carry this this one early on with Matt more muted. This one clocks at less than a minute and would love to see it live in a stretched out version. Hopefully someday.

 

 

 

Get You -Take 3: I really like the dramatic opening here before the group settles into the groove.  The midsection here takes on a Latin flair. Corey plays a bunch of stick Get You was the first single released on the album and any of the version would make a big splash. 

Best Part -Take 1: Matt’s opening on this one feels a little more percussive and Mike’s playing does not feel as soft and the Take 3 version on the album.  Matt’s solo midway is a little stronger and faster than the album version as well.  Both are great takes and a great listen.

Squeaky Wheel – Take 1: Of course, this one starts similarly to Take 2 on the main album. This version doesn’t have the animation effects in the album version. Again, halfway through takes a long solo and without charting each note, this sounds different and a little more structured than the album. Mike has a shorter close out portion here as well.

Get You – Take 2: Mike opens this one with a little flourish for the opening bar.  I particularly like the mid section here with a nice threeway jam and a cool, fast-paced divergence from the main theme.

 

 

 

Mike charts a creative path forward for the next generation in jazz with his modern, progressive arranging style. The album was recorded “old school” without headphones, isolation, or even monitors in in Brooklyn NYC in July 2018. It was well worth the wait and a great listen.

Law of Attraction

Merch, signed CDs and limited vinyl are available directly from Mike by clicking the album cover here -->

Personnel

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