If violinist Tomoko Omura's playing doesn't fit easily into past oeuvres—Ponty's or Grapelli's or Goodman's or any of the too spare catalogue—that's because she's taken a good deal more care to explore more of the nuances of her instrument and its historied capabilities. I can locate a couple comparatives, though. The first is from her own homeland (Hisako Yamash'ta), the second isn't (Zbigniew Siefert). Omura's choice of Will Grafe for the guitar spot is going to readily impart the relation to Stomu Yamash'ta's fusion, wherein wife Hisako appeared, as there's a decent dram of Gary Boyle's (or even Jukka Tolonen's) melodics to the guy. The Siefert element, however, is carried in the violinist's penchant for improv, and, as the Fates would have it, Omura was a finalist in the very first Zbigniew Seifert Jazz Violin Competition in Krakow last year.
In fact, that latter aspect of hers is so engaging that Tomoko's the only violinist to ever be awarded Berklee's Roy Haynes Award, endowed yearly to just one student precisely for acumen in extrapolative skills. Ah, but don't scamp her arrangement chops either, as all the cuts here are either trad or vintage but greatly transformed, particularly impressive in the novo-Debussyan Kojo no Tsuki, a cut in which pianist Glenn Zaleski gets to shine before Omura dives into an extended narrative. In fact, in her manipulations of elder works, everyone gets quite a few opportunities to vault over the rostrum and land right in your ears. Then, of course, there's drummer Colin Stranahan, whose work is ceaselessly on top of it all, whether he gets solos or not.
Noah Garabedian fills out the quintet on bass, though you'd swear the ensemble was larger, every bar and stave filled, the trade-offs endless, all pursuing flowing melodics in long expositions. No less a cat than Greg Osby found himself quite enamored of Ms. Omura's craft and rightly dubs it 'art music'. Listen to The Mountain and see how her long solo interweaves an almost Carnatic sense of Eastern things to Western narrative. Don't, however, think 'stuffy, pretentious and bombastic' when you consider the 'art' aspects, as, despite the depths of interlocking lines and structures, everything ceaselessly flows, oft breezy, swingin', be-boppy while wafting through the hip museum. Still, were I to name the most apt comparative, it'd be Stomu Yamash'ta's post Red Buddha work, all that killer fusion from the early 70s until the early 80s.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
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