Roots (Inner Circle)

Tomoko Omura

Released January 30, 2015

DownBeat Four-and-a-Half-Star Review




“Roots” is a tremendous accomplishment, and undoubtedly one of the most important and creative jazz albums produced by a violinist in recent history.
Whether you are a purist or a progressive proponent of the globalization of Jazz, Tomoko Omura’s offering here, both informed and boldly creative, commands your attention.
It’s hard to believe that within just the last ten years Miss Omura came to the U.S. from Japan and has already emerged as a proven powerhouse, one of the top calls in NYC on her instrument.
It might have been easier to stay in Japan and study Youtube videos… Instead, she learned a new language, made her way to one of the leading schools of Jazz at Berklee, and worked against the odds to ensconce herself in NYC amongst a community of world class young players who help to execute her exotic vision with perfect clarity on this recording.
Miss Omura answers the question here concerning what she, and she alone, can contribute to the evolving global jazz movement, by setting her voice as a bandleader, composer, arranger, and player-equally bold and sensitive- within the framework of her native culture’s folk songs. The fusion of traditional Japanese music that she heard as a child with the pushing sounds she has absorbed in New York mirror her evolving identity as a woman and artist who is now truly borderless.
Here she demonstrates mastery of the jazz tradition while pushing it unquestionably forward, setting a courageous example and bringing us all closer together in the process.
Christian Howes

Track Listing:

1. Where Are You From 05:43

2. Gegege 06:06        

3. National Anthem 01:07             

4. Castle In The Moonlight 06:16          

5. Balsam Flowers 07:46              

6. Green Tea Picking 06:59          

7. Lord Mito 07:03                

8. Soran Song 04:30           

9. Chakkiri Song 08:41                 

10. Hometown 04:22

11. National Anthem 00:59 


Tomoko Omura: violin, voice

Will Graefe: guitar

Glenn Zaleski: piano, keyboards

Noah Garabedian: bass

Colin Stranahan: drums

Recorded at Searsound, NYC

Produced by Tomoko Omura

Engineering: Jeremy Loucas

Engineering Assistant: Kevin Harper


Tomoko Omura grew up in Shizuoka, Japan, a city that lies not far south of Mount Fuji, one of her homeland’s most iconic geographic features. Living in New York, as she does today, the violinist no longer has a natural symbol of her nation standing as a backdrop to her town, but she does carry the traditional songs of her country with her. Roots, her second album as a leader, brings the music of her childhood memories squarely into the modern jazz world she inhabits today, often to beautiful effect. The first thing we hear is not her violin but her double-tracked voice; the singing is functional, but all the fireworks come from her fingerboard. On “Tinsagu Nu Hana (Balsam Flowers)” she begins by playing a gorgeous, unaccompanied melody, then warps to another galaxy for her later solo, which calls back to Jerry Goodman’s work with Mahavishnu Orchestra. The well-spaced moments where she plays pizzicato all add a sense of urgent drive; on “Chakkiri-bushi,” she nearly fuses with Noah Garabedian’s bass, and the result swings hard. Omura is a deft arranger, calling on her rhythm section to vary the feel and leading the charge through starts and stops. Will Graefe’s guitar is a wild card. On “Ge Ge Ge,” he plays with a spiky rock tone, shifting through several vastly different moods over the course of a wild solo. A good leader gets great performances from her band, and Omura provides a framework that brings out the best in her collaborators. Roots may look to the past for inspiration, but it showcases a leader with a fine future.

Joe Tangari (DownBeat)