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Album Review

Tomoko Omura: Branches Vol. 1

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Tomoko Omura: Branches Vol. 1
With Branches Vol. 1, award-winning violinist Tomoro Omura dives deep into exploring textures and melodic invention drawn from Japanese folklore. This effort is a contemporized display which validates Omura's vast instrumental abilities and also channels Japanese folklore as a launch-point for her superior composition skills. The recording is seductive, deeply emotional and meditative, and, simultaneously, elegantly refined.

The album offers six tracks, each a fascinating voyage. "Moonlight in Vermont" gets such a re-imagined, polyrhythmic treatment that one might think this is a much more contemporary composition and not a GAS workhorse. It shimmers. Dark and serene, "Three Magic Charms" is as haunting as the "Young Boy and the Witch" folk story on which it is based. As a matter of fact, the entire track is a dream-like zone of dramatic twilight. Omura weaves brilliant lines here.

The violinist's chops, both on her instrument—a unique five-string violin—and at the composer's desk, are robust. She is well-versed in both the classic jazz violin tradition of Joe Venuti and Stephane Grappelli, and contemporary jazz players Jean-Luc Ponty and Zbigniew Seifert. And, her prior efforts include forays into both Hot—Post Bop Gypsies (inner Circle, 2017)—and genres similar to this one, such as Roots Vol. 1. The team behind Omura here is outstanding; guitarist Jeff Miles, pianist Glenn Zaleski, bassist Pablo Menares and drummer Jay Sawyer all provide fine solo and ensemble support.

"Revenge of the Rabbit" covers a vicious, frantically-driven melody which is—like the tale on which it references—definitely dark in scope. Driving and manic over an ostinato bass, the piece develops, offering exciting solos from Omura and Zeleski over Menares and Sawyer's muscular bottom. "Return to the Moon (Intro)" is cinematic, spacious, and serene. "Return to the Moon" (based on the folk tale of "Princess Kaguya") has great sonic depth and beauty. It is a Satie-like mediation which ripples with Omura's violin performing a hypnotic theme. "Konomichi" is a duel between Omura and pianist Zaleski; multi-rhythmic, it is an energetic and fiercely intense closer.

There is much depth, vision, and emotion in Branches Vol. 1. It is a superb outing that certainly begs a Vol. 2.

Track Listing

Moonlight In Vermont; Three Magic Charms; The Revenge Of The Rabbit; Return To The Moon - Intro; Return To The Moon; Konomichi.

Personnel

Tomoko Omura: violin; Jeff Miles: guitar; Glenn Zaleski: piano; Pablo Menares: bass; Jay Sawyer: drums.

Album information

Title: Branches Vol. 1 | Year Released: 2020 | Record Label: Outside in Music


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