318

Take Five with Meg Okura

AAJ Staff By

Sign in to view read count
Meet Meg Okura:

Hailed by The Guardian as "improvisational virtuosity," Meg Okura is "equally comfortable playing classical chamber music, rock and everything in between," (The New York Times). She is the founder and the leader of the Pan Asian Chamber Jazz Ensemble, and has won numerous grants and awards as a composer.



A native of Japan, Meg toured as the concertmaster and the soloist with the Asian Youth Orchestra and made her Kennedy Center debut with the late Alexander Schneider's New York String Orchestra as a teen. While attending The Juilliard School as a classical major, she taught herself jazz and made a difficult switch to jazz upon graduation.

She has performed and recorded with musical legends including David Bowie, Michael Brecker, Lee Konitz, Diane Reeves, and Steve Swallow. She was also the featured violinist in three Cirque du Soleil productions. She has performed as a soloist at venues from the Knitting Factory to Carnegie Hall to Madison Square Garden.

Instrument(s):

Violin, erhu.

Teachers and/or influences?

Teachers: Rob Thomas, Eishin Nose, Nabuko Kiryu.

Influences: Pat Metheny, John Coltrane, Michael Brecker, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Joe Henderson, Sam Newsome, J.S. Bach, Ravel, Debussy, Miles Davis, and others.

I knew I wanted to be a musician when...

I was four.

Your sound and approach to music:

My style of composition is to combine various musical experiences together; classical with jazz, East and West, contemporary and traditional, etc. I do this because I wanted my music to come out naturally, rather than trying hard to sound like my idols. Therefore, my Pan Asian Chamber Jazz Ensemble is my way of accepting myself both as a musician and a person.

Your teaching approach:

Work on one thing at a time. Don't try to tackle too many different things.

Your dream band:

I would like to work with Pat Metheny as a violinist, erhu player, and backup singer.

Favorite venue:

Jazz Standard for the ribs. Alice Tully for the acoustics and amazing backstage dressing rooms. Blue Note Tokyo for the treatment of artists and the food.

Your favorite recording in your discography and why?

Sam Newsome Global Unity, (Palmetto). It sounds sincere and artistic.

The first Jazz album I bought was:

Chick Corea, Expressions.

What do you think is the most important thing you are contributing musically?

I am trying to erase the negative stereotyping of violinists, Asian people and women jazz musicians by being excellent on the instrument and cultivating unique sounds in my compositions. I incorporate my influences from classical music and music from Asia into my jazz compositions, while using excellent female players in the band.

CDs you are listening to now:

John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble, Eternal Interlude (Sunnyside Records);

Darcy James Argue, Internal Machines (New Amsterdam Records);

John Coltrane, Impressions (Impulse!);

Michael Brecker, Don't Try This At Home (Impulse!).

How would you describe the state of jazz today?

Open market.

What are some of the essential requirements to keep jazz alive and growing?

Educating the American children to appreciate its own culture, and teach the importance of culture.

What is in the near future?

New recording Naima, by Meg Okura and the Pan Asian Chamber Jazz Ensemble coming out very soon.

If I weren't a jazz musician, I would be a:

Concert violinist—or a very depressed orchestral violinist. Otherwise, interior designer/architect, painter/graphic designer, or English-Japanese interpreter, or an economist.

Photo Credit Kevin Cody, Courtesy of Easy Reader


Tags

Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

CD/LP/Track Review
Take Five With...
CD/LP/Track Review
Read more articles

More Articles

Read Take Five with Vincent Eury Take Five With... Take Five with Vincent Eury
by Vincent Eury
Published: June 24, 2017
Read Take Five with Sergio Pamies Take Five With... Take Five with Sergio Pamies
by Sergio Pamies
Published: May 31, 2017
Read Take Five with Sherry-Lynn Lee and George Paolini of 23rd Hour Take Five With... Take Five with Sherry-Lynn Lee and George Paolini of 23rd...
by 23rd Hour
Published: April 27, 2017
Read Take Five with Julian Hartwell Take Five With... Take Five with Julian Hartwell
by Julian Hartwell
Published: April 20, 2017
Read Take Five with Mike Casey Take Five With... Take Five with Mike Casey
by Mike Casey
Published: March 16, 2017
Read Take Five with Maurice Brown Take Five With... Take Five with Maurice Brown
by Maurice Brown
Published: March 16, 2017
Read "Take Five with Bridget Cimino" Take Five With... Take Five with Bridget Cimino
by Bridget Cimino
Published: October 26, 2016
Read "Take Five with Adam Schneit" Take Five With... Take Five with Adam Schneit
by Adam Schneit
Published: January 4, 2017
Read "Take Five with Sherry-Lynn Lee and George Paolini of 23rd Hour" Take Five With... Take Five with Sherry-Lynn Lee and George Paolini of 23rd...
by 23rd Hour
Published: April 27, 2017
Read "Take Five With Edgars Cirulis" Take Five With... Take Five With Edgars Cirulis
by Edgars Cirulis
Published: August 13, 2016
Read "Take Five with Mike Casey" Take Five With... Take Five with Mike Casey
by Mike Casey
Published: March 16, 2017
Read "Take Five with Maurice Brown" Take Five With... Take Five with Maurice Brown
by Maurice Brown
Published: March 16, 2017

Support All About Jazz: MAKE A PURCHASE  

Support our sponsor

Upgrade Today!

Musician? Boost your visibility at All About Jazz and drive traffic to your website with our Premium Profile service.

Donate!