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Tomoko Omura: Roots

Mark F. Turner By

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Track review of "Sōran Bushi"

Chosen as one of 2015's "Rising Stars" in Downbeat magazine's critics poll, violinist Tomoko Omura's Roots is evidence that some of the most alluring music is that which combines disparate locales and cultures. The artistic fusion of songs from her homeland in Japan with verdant progressive jazz is presented by Omura and her top flight group as they produce music that ardently reflects both worlds.

Originally from Shizuoka, Japan, the New York violinist revisions pop and folk songs in similar fashion to violinist Regina Carter's reworking of African folk music in 2010's Reverse Thread (E1 Music). Omura's inspiring music yields the fruit of her music training, excellent technique, warm tonality and the band's engaging performances. The set embodies her heritage yet also embraces her present; swinging with élan while gently incorporating elements of rock, chamber, and other influences into a pleasing aesthetic.

This aura is captured in the rousing arrangement of Japan's famous "Sōran Bushi" work song whose origins hail from the island of Hokkaido. Omura introduces the theme with soaring arpeggios before the band joins in, then transforms, the traditional song into a heated groove. There are Omura's soaring string flights and artful pyrotechnics from drummer Colin Stranahan. At midpoint, things take on a Mid-Western flair with hot guitar licks from Will Graefe before converting into heavy swing time that's girded by bassist Noah Garabedian and set free by pianist Glenn Zaleski.

Whether or not you're familiar with these well-known Japanese songs, both the melodies and the music will draw you into Omura's Roots.

Track Listing: Antagata Dokosa (Where Are You From?); Ge Ge Ge; National Anthem; Kojo No Tsuki (Castle In The Moonlight); Tinsagu Nu Hana (Balsam Flowers); Cha Tsu Mi (Green Tea Picking); The Mountain; Soran-Bushi; Chakkiri-Bushi; Hometown; National Anthem (Reprise).

Personnel: Tomoko Omura: violin, voice; Will Graefe: guitar (1-4, 8-11); Glenn Zaleski: piano, keyboards; Noah Garabedian: double bass; Colin Stranahan: drums.

Title: Roots | Year Released: 2015 | Record Label: Inner Circle Music

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