mike casey

saxophonist, songwriter, teaching artist

Young virtuosos are not always proof that the future of music is in good hands. Their yammering, often faster than the speed of light to inform us that they have “heard” Art Tatum, Oscar Peterson or Errol Garner; Bird, ‘Trane or Sonny Rollins and taken them to heart. But as the Great Bard once said, “Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player/that struts and frets his hour upon the stage/and then is heard no more. It is a tale/told by an idiot, full of sound and fury/signifying nothing. There are indeed exceptions – albeit few and far between – and it is these musicians who give hope to the future of music. Happily Mike Casey is one of these musicians. He seems not to brandish his tenor saxophone as a weapon of war, but rather he makes music out of great gulps of air, which are delivered through its reed, softened by the song. And he always makes you want to listen.
— Raul da Gama, Jazz da Gama (Canada)

A lifetime passion for jazz began when Mike took to the saxophone like a fish to water in 5th grade.  Eager to expand his musical horizons, he attended the Greater Hartford Academy for the Performing Arts in high school, where he studied in its sought-after jazz program, which trained notable alumni such as Jimmy Greene, Josh Evans, The Curtis Brothers, and members of West End Blend & The McLovins.

He began attending the renowned Jackie McLean Institute of Jazz at the Hartt School of Music (University of Hartford) in 2011, where he studied with renowned jazz artists such as saxophonists Abraham Burton, Rene McLean, & Javon Jackson, trombonist Steve Davis, and bassist Nat Reeves. Shortly before graduating in 2015, Casey was one of 24 young composers selected worldwide to participate in the prestigious Betty Carter Jazz Ahead Program at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., where he studied with an all-star faculty including Eric Harland, JD Allen, Eric Revis, Carmen Lundy, Andre Hayward, Cyrus Chestnut, and Jason Moran.

His resume includes performances with Charles Tolliver, DJ Logic, Nat Reeves, Benito Gonzalez, Brandee Younger, Zaccai Curtis, Tarus Mateen, Duane Eubanks, and Marc Cary, whose project “The Harlem Sessions” features Casey as an original member. Through his apprenticeship with Cary (which began two months after graduating from Hartt in 2015), he has performed at the NYC Winter Jazz Fest, Lincoln Center, NYC SummerStage, Ginny’s Supper Club, and Cape May’s Exit Zero Jazz Festival. After selling out his NYC debut as a leader at the legendary Minton’s in September 2016, Casey went on to accomplish an incredible feat: his PledgeMusic crowdfunding campaign for “The Sound of Surprise” reached 124% funded and was covered by leading music industry blogs such as Hypebot & CDBaby. "The Sound of Surprise” was recorded in early 2016 at the Side Door in Old Lyme, Connecticut, which Downbeat Magazine calls 'one of the best jazz clubs worldwide'.


Released February 7th, 2017, the album has been streamed over 278,000 times worldwide (unheard of for a jazz debut without label backing), received international sales, airplay, and press, including coverage from Spotify's 'State of Jazz', JAY Z's TIDAL, Deezer's Radio Jazz & New Releases, mentions from icons Sonny Rollins & Quincy Jones Productions, NPR/WBGO, Jazz in Europe, Canada's Jazz da Gama, Argonauta (Italy) Live for Live Music (album review / video premiere), plus digital & print features in nearly every major CT publication including The Hartford Courant, The Day, New Haven Register, Connecticut Magazine, and voted "Best Jazz" by the 2017 CTNow Reader's Poll.

Mike's new single, an exciting, dynamic, modern re-imagination of The Beatles' Norwegian Wood (Live from Sofar Sounds NYC); has already surpassed 150,000 streams worldwide within the 2 months since its 9/12/17 release.  The single is currently featured on Spotify's official 'State of Jazz' playlist. Mike also curated his second official playlist for JAY-Z's TIDAL in conjunction with the release. Recent press includes Jazz in Europe (Netherlands), Somewhere Soul (UK), and BRIC (NYC).

His trio's format is inspired (but not bound) by jazz icon Sonny Rollins, the pioneer of the "pianoless" saxophone trio - which is evidenced in this 2014 video featuring Rollins and Casey in conversation.


Artistically, Mike wears his heart on his sleeve and aims to tell a story above all. Not one to rely on sizzle over substance, his compositions and playing style focus on rhythm, melody, space, lyricism, dynamics, contrast, communication and phrasing - not simply "displaying" skill for ego's sake - while delivering each musical statement with power, honesty, and passion. Always searching deep within to communicate his emotions through art, he believes strongly in the power of music to be a force of good in the world, connecting people through positive vibrations. He has enchanted audiences young & old alike, performing his signature blend of upbeat, accessible, original music and exciting arrangements of jazz and pop classics with mature lyricism and a formidable sound that commands the attention of the listener. Mike loves to pose musical "questions" to the audience, keeping them engaged, inquisitive, and above all, FEELING. He is also an experienced teaching artist and enjoys working with serious students of all ages and skill levels. Mike's students have been selected for regional/all state competitions and received scholarships to notable music schools.


Philanthropy through music has long been a focus of Mike's, dating back to his 7th grade Bar Mitzvah project where he raised money for Little Kids Rock, a then-beginning (now national) organization focusing on bringing after school music programs to schools where music classes had been cut. For his high school senior project, he recorded an album, sold it, and donated the proceeds to Horns for Kids, a CT charity that fixes broken wind instruments and donates them to schools in need. Most recently, he collaborated with Hartford based, innovative nonprofit The RiseUP Group to produce his sold-out Hartford album release event (the concert doubled as a fundraiser for RiseUP, and was featured in digital and print by The Hartford Courant & Connecticut Magazine.