Mike Casey is a melody architect. The story-telling saxophonist, songwriter, producer, and sonic alchemist is a multi-talented force whose soul stirring saxophone sound and inventive use of phrasing reaches out with love and embraces your musical desires, one note at a time.
Bringing the joy of jazz across genre lines to a diverse young audience around the world, Mike’s music passed 2 million streams in the first two years of his recording career (against all odds, without a record label or a team - an anomaly in the genre). On a mission to be a passionate vessel for “jazz” in the 21st century, his searing sound, always aiming to connect emotionally and tell a story, demands the attention of the listener. This is not your parent’s elevator music.
“I’m not interested on sizzle over substance,” he says. “Improvising, or as like to think of it, spontaneous composing, is not about displaying skill for ego's sake. I aim to deliver each musical statement with power, honesty, and passion to connect with audiences.”
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 helped develop notable alumni like Jimmy Greene, Josh Evans, The Curtis Brothers, and members of West End Blend.
He was awarded a full scholarship to attend the renowned Jackie McLean Institute of Jazz at the Hartt School of Music (University of Hartford), studying with respected jazz artists such as Abraham Burton, Rene McLean, Javon Jackson, Steve Davis, and Nat Reeves. Shortly before graduating in 2015, Casey was one of 24 young composers selected worldwide by Jason Moran 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, the Kennedy Center’s Artistic Director for Jazz.
Since then, Mike has collaborated with GRAMMY nominated artists as diverse as Nat Reeves, Benito Gonzalez, Brandee Younger, Zaccai Curtis, Justin Faulkner, and Marc Cary, through his project “The Harlem Sessions”. Through his apprenticeship with Cary (which began just two months after graduating from Hartt in 2015), he has performed at the NYC Winter Jazz Fest, Lincoln Center, NYC SummerStage, celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson’s 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 crowdfunding campaign for “The Sound of Surprise” reached 124% funded. In February 2016 at the Side Door in Old Lyme, Connecticut, which Downbeat Magazine calls 'one of the best jazz clubs worldwide', his trio packed their first major show, recorded it live, and through two 50 minute sets that night, documented 14 first takes, all the way live...resulting in the music that would become his 2017 debut The Sound of Surprise and 2018 followup Stay Surprising. 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.
Since early 2017, Mike has garnered considerable press and features from the likes of Huffington Post, Forbes, Jazz in Europe, Music Ally, Live for Live Music, Nextbop, Evernote, Nerdist, Downbeat, A Punt (Spain), WBGO/@NPRmusic/Jazz Night in America, Italy’s Argonauta Magazine, Canada’s Jazz da Gama, nearly every major CT print publication including Hartford Courant & being named “40 Under 40” by Connecticut Magazine, in-store radio on 250 Peets Coffee shops across the USA, by nearly every music streaming service on the planet multiple times, on over 50 radio stations around the world, and even creating the first ever sax sample pack with industry leading sample company Splice, reaching over 1 million music producers on their platform.
Despite his quick global growth as a young artist, Mike felt that it was time to go back to school to gain new skills and refine existing ones…but didn’t want to follow the common path of many of today’s young jazz musicians for graduate school. Yearning for something new, he ventured abroad, one of 30 selected for Berklee's selective yearlong master’s program in Contemporary Performance and Music Production at their new Valencia Spain campus. In addition to packed debuts at some of Europe’s top jazz venues in Spain and France, at Berklee Valencia he was fortunate to study with versatile cross-genre artists such as Victor Mendoza, Javier Vercher, Casey Driessen, Ben Cantil, Gary Willis (Tribal Tech) whilst gaining new skills in Ableton Live, mixing, cross cultural rhythms, production and experimenting with styles of music from around the globe, from India to Peru.
His master’s thesis “Fusion Explorations from a Jazz Perspective” conjured fresh new original compositions (to be released in 2021) and an approach for a cross genre, cross cultural look at where jazz fusion could go next, fusing seemingly disparate ingredients from styles around the globe together in unfamiliar ways - whilst preserving jazz’s deep commitment to spontaneity and above all, risk.
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 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. Cognitive dissonance and the relation between mental fluency/disfluency is a recurring concept in Mike’s work, and he isn’t afraid to push his saxophone sound to the bleeding edge of intensity.
PHILANTHROPY THROUGH MUSIC
Mike believes strongly in the power of music to be a force of good in the world, connecting people through positive vibrations.
Philanthropy through music has long been a focus of Mike's, dating back to his 7th grade Bar Mitzvah community service 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. In high school, he recorded a demo, sold it, and donated the proceeds to Horns for Kids, a CT charity that fixes broken instruments and donates them to schools in need. Most recently, he collaborated with innovative nonprofit The RiseUP Group to produce his sold-out Hartford album release event, doubling as a fundraiser for RiseUP, & CT NOFA (an organization that advocates for small farms and organic practices) for a sold out farm dinner fundraising concert.