Sachal Music Meg Okura & The Pan Asian Chamber Jazz Ensemble:
Music of Ryuichi Sakamoto (JAP,2013)****
Violin virtuoso Meg Okura, also founder of the Pan Asian Chamber Jazz Ensemble (-not to confuse with the free jazz ensemble with ancient instruments, and with a similar name, the Pan-Asian Ensemble-), made this album full of jazz arrangements from music from composer / pianist / keyboard player Ryuchi Sakomoto. In the West, R. Sakomoto became known at first for his contribution to the music of the very original pop band Japan (with singer David Sylvian), while in Japan he remained popular with a much wider eclectic range of styles expressing himself in between synth-pop, rock, jazz and classical music. They have also asked him to write the music score for a couple of movies like “Last Emperor” and “Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence”, to name a few.
The arrangements by Meg Okura and her jazz band very much stands on its own, even seems to improve each original with its own dynamics, skills, power and vision. This expresses itself mostly within jazz standards, with the violin in combination with the flute leading the melodic part mostly, with additional double bass, piano and drums. Meg Okura as a violinist is capable of playing jazz violin styled, while making duet leads that are really worth hearing, but even more interesting is it when we hear also her classical music vision coming through, like in the chamber-like arrangements and dynamics, or with even, at one stage, with Paganini-like solos. Even more beautiful to notice is when within one track there’s a switch from melodic jazz improvisation to chamber music jazz and then back to the chamber music (like on track 7). I have also noticed an element of eastern music, because a few times also the ancient Chinese two-string violin, the erhu, is used for some arrangements (like on track 4). Meg Okura's violin playing range of expressions in fact is extraordinary. The band themselves show vivid power and deliver expressive harmonic contrasts. This is very good, and at times even brilliant. I am also sure this will not only appeal to Ryuichi Sakomoto fans. Recommended!