If, as you start to yield willingly to the sumptuous, hypnotic Branches, Vol. 1, you should need to walk away and attend to other home/bunker business, try to keep at least one ear on the music. From any point in any room you might hear a gypsy laugh, a lover cry, a Celtic reel. A marvelous new touch on a centuries old instrument, bringing the ages together, gathering all the ley lines into one bustling hub.
A rising star in Downbeat's Critic's Pole since 2015, the magazine also, in its review of Roots (Inner Circle Music, 2015) cited violinist Tomoko Omura as "a leader with a fine future." Well, such as it is and like it or not, the future is here and Omura is damn well in control of it. Branches, Vol. 1 is one of those great recordings that's listened to not only for the joy and satisfaction of the music emanating from your audio source of choice but also for the study and discussion of same music.
Start with the starter, a broadly whimsical, propulsive abstract rendering of the ever languid "Moonlight In Vermont." Who knew, or even suspected, this Tin Pan Alley warhorse could sound so new, so apart from all the other versions before it? Omura posits the song as an insistent, cinematic reveal: her reverberating pizzicato setting the stage for Jeff Miles embroidering guitar squalls, pianist Glenn Zaleski's lyrical effervescence. The time-released kinetics of bassist Pablo Menares and drummer Jay Sawyer hold the dream like state together.
Be it her emphatic virtuosity or her compositional strengths, Omura, whose haiku like clarity on her five string viola made her the first ever violinist to win Berklee's prestigious Roy Haynes Award in 2005, keeps Branches, Vol. 1 vital and full of unexpected movement. Born from Japanese folklore, Omura injects new improvisatory colors and notions at will. She trades licks with Zaleski as "Return to the Moon" builds from contemplation to mounting rock opus. Leading the charge with three distinctly diverse solos, "Revenge of the Rabbit" never lets up. Nor does Branches, Vol. 1. Hands down one of this year's most exciting recordings to date.
Moonlight In Vermont; Three Magic Charms; The Revenge Of The Rabbit; Return To The Moon - Intro; Return To
The Moon; Konomichi.
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