Pan Asian Chamber Jazz Ensemble / Reflections of the Road

Elliott Simon By

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This past month's curation at The Stone by Basya Schechter was noteworthy for new projects by young creative artists; one such event was the double bill of violinist Meg Okura's Pan Asian Chamber Jazz Ensemble and accordionist/pianist Uri Sharlin's Cardamon Quartet. Both Okura and Sharlin's groups played selections from debut CDs that elegantly intertwine elements of classical, jazz and world folk into a new sound. As evidenced throughout the evening, they do so by presenting precisely played ethnically inspired original compositions in an exciting modern jazz context. The common factor at The Stone and on both CDs is cellist/bassist Jennifer Vincent, whose exquisite playing classically grounds each group while enabling the prodigious soloists to strut, the melodies to entice, and the unique voicings to shine.

Meg Okura's Pan Asian Chamber Jazz Ensemble
Pan Asian Chamber Jazz Ensemble

Okura composed, arranged and produced each tune on this recording, and her bowing in person and on CD is phenomenal. She delicately combines with Vincent and guest cellist Dave Eggar to enthrall, play thrilling pizzicatos or rip off fiery runs that include wild harmonics. Completing the core quartet are Yukari's soaring flute and Megumi Yonezawa's piano that draws on a multitude of forms. The brilliant traditional Japanese percussionist Satoshi Takeishi lends his singular rhythms and textures to each cut. "Yuki (snow) falls from the sky with the sound of pizzicato flakes against a backdrop of hand percussion, until Yukari's lone flute beautifully signals an end to the wonder.

Yukari, Okura (viola) and Yonezawa take the lightly swinging "Step by Step in different directions, yet pause to pay homage to Trane's "Giant Steps. "Dance at the Palace begins as an out-of-time cavort until strings and flute signal the start of a fiery encounter that reaches a breathtaking climax. The touching "Peace in My Heart leads into a hot "Viola da Samba, before the multi-themed "Dream Dancer strikingly portrays the sound experience of a recently deafened violinist who can now only hear in her dreams. An achingly pure paean to the clarity of "Ancient Bells closes things out.

Visit Meg Okura's Pan Asian Chamber Jazz Ensemble on the web.

Cardamon Quartet
Reflections of The Road
Folk Dune Records

Reflections of the Road is a spicy jazz journey down thoroughfares that range from straight-ahead boulevards to decidedly off-the-beaten-paths. "Shir Ha'emek starts down one such unassuming road, only to stray delightfully into some unchartered jazz/classical/Middle Eastern territory. Joining Sharlin and Vincent are Harel Shachal (saxophones and clarinet) and Dan Aran (percussion). On this exceedingly well-put together session, Shachal's G-clarinet adds a Turkish feel that melds quite nicely with Sharlin's expressive piano and Vincent's arco stylings. The title cut, along with "Hehalil and "Gaagua, give Sharlin ample opportunity to show his sensitive pianistic touch, while "El Ginat Egoz and "Yesh Li Keneret present a wonderfully free flowing accordionist. "Samai Naawather has Vincent touching your heart strings with hers, and "Tickling Eyes is a band tour de force, with Shachal blowing up a desert storm.

Visit the Cardamon Quartet on the web.

Tracks and Personnel

Pan Asian Chamber Jazz Ensemble

Tracks: Yuki (snow); Step By Step; Dance At The Palace; Peace in My Heart; Viola da Samba; Intro To Dream Dancer; Dream Dancer; Ancient Bells.

Personnel: Meg Okura: violin, viola, vocals; YUKARI: flutes; Megumi Yonezawa: piano; Jennifer Vincnent: cello, bass; Satoshi Takeishi: percussion; Special guest-Dave Eggar: cello.

Reflections of The Road

Tracks: Shir Ha'emek; Reflections of the Road; Gaagua; El Ginat Egoz; Hehalil; Time is a River; Samai Naawather; Yesh li Kineret; Tickling Eyes I; Tickling Eyes II.

Personnel: Uri Sharlin: piano, accordion; Harel Shachal: saxophone, Turkish clarinet; Jennifer Vincent: bass, cello; Dan Aran: drums, percussion; Randy Crafton: percussion (7); Ramsi Edlibi: percussion (7).


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