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Meg Okura & Kevin Hays: Lingering

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Meg Okura & Kevin Hays: Lingering
Jazz albums that feature violin-piano duets are uncommon. With two instruments, the musicians need to synchronise at a deep level and if successful, they can elevate their performance and the listening experience from good to great. To achieve this they need to be receptive to every move the other makes. Each musician needs to be adept at quickly adopting a harmony or creating a counter melody. Those traits are fully exposed here, as no overdubs, filters or effects were used in this recording.

It may seem like an odd way to meet, but Japanese violinist Meg Okura and American pianist Kevin Hays met on a bus in New York City in 2014. They have collaborated frequently ever since, but Lingering is their debut album as a duo. They come from widely different musical backgrounds. Hays is a Grammy Award winner whose sound comes from immersion in modern jazz and post-bop. He is no stranger to duet collaborations, having released duo albums with Bill Stewart and Lionel Loueke, as well as working with Eddie Henderson, Sonny Rollins and John Scofield. Okura started in the world of classical music, becoming a concert violinist before focusing on jazz following her graduation from Juillard. She has worked with Michael Brecker and Lee Konitz, released numerous albums of her own and is the founder of the Pan Asian Chamber Jazz Ensemble.

Calling Okura a violist does not tell the whole story. She does not merely draw the bow across the strings; she plays pizzicato; she uses classical techniques; she uses the violin as a percussion instrument; she chops with the hair and the wood of the bow and sundry other techniques to add variation, rhythm and mood.

The central section of the album consists of a suite of Jewish-influenced melodies named "Seven Short Pieces." They were specifically written for the duo by Okura during the pandemic. They span a range of musical styles, opening with "Aleph," with Okura playing a pizzicato bass line rhythm. This is picked up on the piano, allowing the violin to explore; the piano plays counterpoint as they both explore new melodic fragments. "Mi is Who is He is She" has a beautiful Celtic folk call and response, creating a dance-like melody as the violin swoops and soars. "Maim Korim" has an alluring theme, Okura plucks and bows and combines perfectly with Hays to create a sense of wonder. The light, quick notes and dramatic swirling melody of "Hora Tarantella" drive lively folk-dance rhythms to round off the suite.

"Waltz For Wollesen" is a Hays composition that has been featured on his previous recordings in different group formats. Okura shines in this much-changed sombre version. Other highlights include the seductive and sentimental melody of "Without Words" and "Again And Again" with its changing moods. There are also two purely improvised tracks. The fun "Improvisation No 2" is the pick, as it surprisingly rocks and swings.

This mix of folk, classical and jazz is constantly moving and changing. It never stops in one place too long before moving from melody to melody and blending improvisation into the mix of tones and moods. The musicians are intrepid; there is no safety net of studio effects. They rely on their synergy, inspiring each other to new heights and have created a beautifully expressive album that is easy to recommend.

Track Listing

Improvisation No. 1; Without Words; Again and Again; Will You Hear My Voice; Seven Short Pieces: I.Aleph; Seven Short Pieces: II. Blues Kachol; Seven Short Pieces: III. Mi is Who is He is She; Seven Short Pieces: IV. Maim Korim; Seven Short Pieces: V. Shamaim; Seven Short Pieces: VI. Lilah; Seven Short Pieces: VII. Hora Tarantella; Waltz For Wollesen; Improvisation No. 2; Lingering.

Personnel

Meg Okura
violin

Album information

Title: Lingering | Year Released: 2024 | Record Label: Adhyâropa Records


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