Mike Casey is one of the most powerful saxophonists of the millennial generation.
An award-winning, fully independent songwriter, saxophonist, and teaching artist with over a million streams worldwide, Mike is bringing the joy of “jazz” across genre lines to a diverse audience around the world. On a mission to be a passionate vessel for “jazz” in the 21st century, Mike is demanding audiences’ attention with his searing, multi dimensional sound – whether bringing down the house with a re-imaginations of diverse future classics like Kanye West/Jay-Z’s No Church In The Wild, Soundgarden’s Spoonman, or making the crowd swoon on an original ballad.
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, with 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 performed with artists as diverse as DJ Logic, Nat Reeves, Benito Gonzalez, Brandee Younger, Zaccai Curtis, Tarus Mateen, Duane Eubanks, 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 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'. 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.
The Sound of Surprise (released February 2017) went on to pass 500,000 streams worldwide in its first year – unheard of for a jazz debut without record label backing – with coverage from Spotify, Jay-Z’s TIDAL, Deezer, jazz icon Sonny Rollins, Quincy Jones Productions, WBGO/@NPRmusic/Jazz Night in America, Jazz in Europe, Italy’s Argonauta Magazine, Live for Live Music, Canada’s Jazz da Gama, nearly every major CT print publication including Hartford Courant, Connecticut Magazine. In September 2017, Mike released an exciting, dynamic, modern re-imagination of The Beatles' Norwegian Wood (Live from Sofar Sounds New York); surpassing 300,000 Spotify streams in the first 6 months, featured by JAY-Z's TIDAL, Jazz in Europe (Netherlands), Spotify, Somewhere Soul (UK), and BRIC (NYC), in conjunction with his fall 2017 appearance at BRIC Jazz Fest (one of NYC’s top jazz festivals) closing out his 25 city self booked debut album release tour.
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 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. 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 schools like NYU, WCSU, and his alma mater the Jackie McLean Institute.
2018 brings his 2nd album, Stay Surprising: Live at the Side Door. 14 first takes were the result of their 2016 show at The Side Door, resulting in the 7 songs on The Sound of Surprise, with the remaining 7 to be released track by track throughout 2018 as Stay Surprising. Already featured by Downbeat, Nextbop, Spotify (who recently featured him as the cover image for its influential State of Jazz playlist, sandwiched between icons like Chick Corea & Brian Blade), WXPN’s The Key, Jay-Z’s TIDAL, Litchfield Magazine, Amazon Music, Deezer, and more, the album is on track to pass 1 million streams in its first year. He’s been keeping busy with: notable album release tour dates include the Philadelphia Museum of Art, CT Office of the Arts, The Side Door, Philly Office of the Arts, his first Midwest tour, the Greater Hartford Festival of Jazz, and upcoming European debut dates to be announced this fall, as he moves to Europe for a yearlong master’s degree program (one of 40 international musicians selected) in Contemporary Performance & Music Production at Berklee College of Music’s Valencia, Spain campus. He also released the first ever official saxophone artist sample pack with industry leading sample platform Splice, going out to over a million producers worldwide.
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. In high school, he recorded a demo, sold it, and donated the proceeds to Horns for Kids, a 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.