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Okura, Meg and the Pan Asian Chamber Jazz Ensemble: Naima

It all started at a young age for classically trained violinist Meg Okura. Born in Tokyo, Japan she attended the Toho Gakuen School of Music at five years of age. She made her North American debut with Alexander Schneider's New York String Orchestra when she was only a teenager playing at the Kennedy Center. She continued her music education at the Julliard School where she received her Master's Degree while studying classical violin. Eventually she set her classical roots aside and she switched to jazz. This led her to eventually form the Pan Asian Chamber Jazz Ensemble in 2005 which leads us to her brand new release Naima.

Okura plays modern jazz steeped in the tradition of chamber music. She has surrounded herself with many fine players including Anne Drummond (flute), Jun Kubo (flute, shinobue), Rubin Kodheli (cello), Mamiko Kitaura (piano), Jennifer Vincent (bass), Willard Dyson (drums), Satoshi Takeishi (percussion) and Dave Eggar (cello).

What you will find on Naima are pretty Japanese style melodies with elements of classical music underneath the umbrella of chamber jazz. While this is not an easy album to digest and pushes the boundaries of modern jazz, it is made a lot easier on the palette because of the infusion of so many great melodies.

The album's first song is a remake of John Coltrane's "Naima", combining classical and jazz patterns with Okura's swirling violin textures creating a dream like atmosphere. This piece clearly demonstrates Okura's violin is the star of the show. The song ends with a delicate piano motif. "Hannah's Vocalise" takes on a multifaceted approach with flute and violin improvisations over jazzy rhythms and the ambitious "Afrasia" combines elements of Asia and Africa with a subtle dissonance before settling into a jazzy groove and some great violin sounds. "San San Nana Byoshi" is a complex piece with flute, violin and cello weaving their magic and adding a progressive aura that is difficult to describe. The album ends with the four part suite "Lu Chai" with its mournful violin, Asian melodies and wild piano flourishes. The recurring theme ties the piece together over the course of twenty-five minutes.

Okura has made a bold statement with Naima, ensuring her place among the top names playing chamber jazz. Her way of combining dissonance and melody along with outstanding musicianship should appeal to anyone who likes quality jazz. Highly recommended.


Track Listing:
1. Naima (5:51)
2. Hannah's Vocalise (5:27)
3. Caprise (5:34)
4. Afrasia (6:54)
5. San San Nana Byoshi (3:33)
6. Lu Chai I. Empty Mountain (5:19)
7. Lu Chai II. Echo Of Voices (7:12)
8. Lu Chai III. Sunlight (8:03)
9. Lu Chai IV. Green Moss (4:24)

Added: August 14th 2010
Reviewer: Jon Neudorf
Score:
Related Link: Artist's Official Site
Hits: 1435
Language: english

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