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by Ron Sagye La Rue

The Murasaki Ensemble is a quintet led by kotoist, Shirley Muramoto
with an unusual instrumentation: Alex Baum,string bass;Vince Delgado
Egyptian tabla&riqq(tambourine),congas,bongos,Indian temple bells;
Matt Takle,flute and Jeff Massanari,guitar. Bringing indigenous melodies,rhythms,and musical instruments from one cultures music to another is not new. Saxophonist, Yusef Lateef has been doing this since the 1950s. During the 1970s Oregon(the group)used a sitar. Upon first hearing MEGENTA the total ensemble sound somewhat like Oregon. Possibly because of the prominence of the koto in place of the sitar,and the flute for the oboe and English horn. Yes, oboe and English horn are Western but their sound is not often used in improvisational music. And their general sound odd to the non-classical music listener.

But the resemblance in using non-western instruments ends there.
Murasaki Ensemble has its own sound! There are original compositions by each member of the ensemble except flutist,Takle.
Sakura is a traditional song and is identifiable to Japan as "Take the A train "is to Duke Ellington. "Next Time" is is by Muramoto and Ben Paderna with its stop/go style it has touches of the blues,Takle on flute takes some breathy passages in his solo almost shakuhachi in nature. Blues is definitely in the acoustic guitarist Massanari. He has great feeling in his playing,bassits Baum is very strong and unlike a lot of bassmen doesn't try to sound like a guitarist on fire.

One of the most interesting aspects of "Next" is the riff exchanges between the koto and guitar. Something that could be a first with these two string instruments. The tune actually has a cheerful melody medium tempo. Blues on a koto. Tambourine by Delgado creates a touch of mystery. Hatsu Yuki is a very deep piece of music and reminds this writer of "Soran Bushi" another traditional piece one could meditate to. Muramoto's solo is very sensitive and articulate in design peaceful with a great deal of feeling. Massanari's guitar is crystal clear and almost makes one wonder why guitars were ever electrified. One interesting note after the koto states the melody the chording of the guitar sounds like the "adagio" part of Joaquin Rodrigo's "Concierto De Aranjuez". That "Adagio" statement is used once again in the composition. Massanaric solo guitar is the equal to Muramoto's kotos in design and crystal clarity. Bassist Baum really sets moods with glissandos general intrigue in his playing
rumblings and all. Delgado contribution are his gently placed temple bells. The CD is worth having for "Hatsu Yuki" alone.

For more information about this music www.murasakiensemble.com
published 18.05.2005 2005 jazz news :: home page

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