Saxophonist Mike Casey ’15 has become a successful recording artist since earning a BM in Jazz Studies from the University of Hartford’s The Hartt School. The Mike Casey Trio’s performance of The Beatles’ classic Norwegian Wood has been streamed more than 150,000 times on the digital music service Spotify’s State of Jazz playlist. The recording is also featured on Jay-Z’s music streaming platform TIDAL as part of a creative Beatles covers playlist, curated by Casey.
Casey recorded the modern take on Norwegian Wood with fellow Hartt alums, drummer Corey Garcia ’17, and bassist Matt Dwonszyk ’13, who make up the Mike Casey Trio. The musicians recorded the song at a Brooklyn, N.Y. clothing boutique before a small audience. A video of the performance was released in October.
Casey’s crowd-funded debut live album, The Sound of Surprise: Live at the Side Door, has exceeded 280,000 streams worldwide since it’s February 2017 release. It also caught the attention of jazz icon Sonny Rollins. “Sonny is a big inspiration,” says Casey, who once won a contest to video chat with Rollins, and later met him when Rollins received an honorary degree from the University in 2015. “His advice to me was to ‘sound like a better you,’ and not try to be something else.” Casey, who has been playing the saxophone for 15 years, says this advice had a tremendous impact on his sound and playing style going forward.
Casey, a native of Storrs, Conn., says his recordings are intentionally performed live. “In a world where most music is recorded in a very processed, manufactured, and artificial means, it’s never been more important to release live recordings,” he says. “Even with good music, it’s all cleaned up in the studio, and all the humanity is taken out. And all the humanity is in the imperfections, and to me, that’s perfection.”