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4.5 stars


".... a gorgeous, intricately arranged offering"

- Michael Roberts,  JAZZIZ Magazine

"....Okura and her music are truly in

a class all their own"

- Dan Bilawsky,  All Aout Jazz

"grandiloquent beauty

that transitions easily from grooves to big cascades to buoyant swing"
- Giovanni Russonello, THE NEW YORK TIMES

IMA IMA by Me Okura & the Pan Asian Chamber Jazz Ensemble
Special Thanks to

Tom Harrell (tpt.)

Meg Okura (vn., voc., erhu)

Anne Drummond (fl., alt. fl, picc.)

Sam Newsome (sop. sax.)

Sam Sadigursky (bs. cl., cl.)

Brian Marsella (pf.,

Riza Printup (hp.)

Pablo Aslan (bs.)

Jared Schonig (dms.)

Rez Abbasi (gtr.)


1. Ima  (6:05)

2. A Summer In Jerusalem (10:22)

3. A Night Insomnia (8:35)

4. Birth of Shakyamuni (9:35)

5. Blues In Jade (8:45)

6. Black Rain (7:05)

7. Tomiya (7:41)

All compositions and arrangements by Meg Okura

Recorded on December 23, 2015 @ EastSide Sound by Marc Urselli

Mixed and mastered by Alfonso Almiñana at Audiomagic (Valencia, Spain)

Production and musical direction by Meg Okura

Associate production and conducting by Migiwa Miyajima

All additional recordings, editing, and production by Meg Okura

All additional recordings, editing, and production by Meg Okura

Sam Newsome plays RW Saxophones and RW Reeds.

IMAIMA by The Pan Asian Chamber Jazz Ensemble was supported by New Music USA. To follow the project as it unfolds, visit my project page.

a logo for New Music USA

"... it’s one of the best albums of any kind of music released

this year."

New York Music Daily

August 19, 2018

"Anne Drummond’s flute wafts over Brian Marsella’s uneasily rippling, neoromantic piano as the opening title track on violinist Meg Okura‘s Pan Asian Chamber Jazz Ensemble’s new album, Ima Ima gets underway. Then the piano gives way to Riza Printup’s spare harp melody before the rest of the orchestra waltz in elegantly. That kind of fearless eclecticism, love of unorthodox instrumentation and laserlike sense of catchy melodies have defined Okura’s work for over a decade. The new record is streaming at Bandcamp. She and the group are playing the album release show at Dizzy’s Club tomorrow night, August 20, with sets at 7:30 and 9:30 PM. Cover is steep, $35, but this is an amazing record with a brilliant band." - Alan Young, NEW YORK MUSIC DAILY

"It’s a record of grandiloquent beauty that transitions easily from grooves to big cascades to buoyant swing."



"“Ima Ima” is the new album from this impressive violinist and bandleader, and her fourth with the Pan Asian Chamber Jazz Ensemble. It’s a record of grandiloquent beauty that transitions easily from grooves to big cascades to buoyant swing. She composed it with syncretism in mind: Ima means “new” in Japanese and “mom” in Hebrew, the language of Ms. Okura’s recently adopted Jewish faith. Here she is joined by her 10-piece ensemble, which includes the eminent trumpeter Tom Harrell, a featured guest on the album as well as at the show."

- Giovanni Russonello, THE NEW YORK TIMES

"...a suite of knockout compositions...genre-bridging poetic sensibility and structural intelligence...A terrific album."


August, 2018

"She's an excellent player - in equal measure extrovert and swinging, mellow and thoughtful - and a refreshingly broad-minded composer and arranger, sensitive to both spare modal and enriching harmonic movement. If there are delicate textures and voicings here - witness the opening of Ima Ima - there is also plenty of diversely grooved muscle, epitomised by the burning development of the initially abstracted Blues In Jade, but one excellent piece in a suite of knockout compositions.

Okura's Pan Asian Chamber Jazz Ensemble has long gargered critical praise and with Ima Ima, she has fashioned a flowing, widely cast yet integrated album as poetically compelling as it is rhythmically energizing. Smaple the subtly swelling voicings of the beautifully driven Tomiya or the similarly shape-shifting and potent A Summer In Jerusalem..."

- Michael Tucker, JAZZ JOURNAL>

"Okura's classical virtuosity combines jazz, Jewish and Japanese cultures into a distinctive transcendental musical identity."

The New York City Jazz Record

August 2018

"...IMA IMA is Okura's personal journey as a Japanese woman into motherhood and Judaism. The music blends both classically informed jazz compositions scored into magnificent concert-level pieces. Ima means "mother" in Hebrew and "now" in Japanese with the Hebrew letters (aleph / mem) representing strong water, referring to the glue that holds a family together. Okura is both the literal "Ima", self-reflecting through these sweeping compositions, and the figurative "Ima" holding them together...." - Elliott Simon

"Heritage isn't merely defined by blood and DNA. It's about

who we are, who we choose to become, and what we take from the past to bring to our individual present and presence."



"...In staying the course with this music as a listener, it's readily apparent that there are several stars in the show; the writing, Okura's rich violin work, the sui generis combination of voices in the mix, and the individual soloists—Okura, Harrell, Sam Newsome, and pianist Brian Marsella chief among them—all deserve top-billing. The manner in which all of these aspects and artists magically meld together goes beyond words. Okura and her music are truly in a class all their own." - Dan Bilowsky, ALL ABOUT JAZZ


Anne Drummond

Anne Drummond

Pablo Aslan

Pablo Aslan

Sam Newsome

Sam Newsome



Miggy, Jared, Meg & Anne

Miggy, Jared, Meg & Anne

EastSide Sound

EastSide Sound

Brian Marsella

Brian Marsella

Sam Sadigursky

Sam Sadigursky

Tom Harrell

Tom Harrell

Jared Schonig

Jared Schonig

Marc Urselli

Marc Urselli

Meg Okura

Meg Okura

Anne Drummond & Miggy

Anne Drummond & Miggy


     I became an ima (“mom” in Hebrew) seven years ago. Ima also means “now” in Japanese. So I am an ima now, and always will be. The title track Ima Ima (Track 1) is a celebration of womanhood and motherhood, though I don’t believe motherhood automatically makes a woman a better person, or that all mothers are awesome just because. But for many of us, motherhood lets us experience and appreciate things we would never have had a chance to appreciate otherwise. Parents also jump through some unbelievable hoops for their children. For me, it was the arduous process of becoming a Jew just so I could raise our daughter as a Jew. But what this has brought to our lives has been beyond extraordinary, despite the religion. And I am thankful to my daughter.

     People often refer to a woman’s bearing a child as an “interruption”. For me, it actually has been a constant state of interruptions. As it turns out, the earliest compositions on this album date back to my pregnancy. For example, “A Night Insomnia” (Track 3) is filled with disruptive figures. After the Tchaikovsky-esque opening, it goes to the dotted eighth notes figure that hauntingly repeats throughout almost the entire piece. After the groove comes in on top of this ostinato, the drums stop suddenly for two measures, like a heart attack. When drums return again with the groove, they don’t stay there for long because the ostinato functions as the basis for the series of rapid metric modulations to come. The piece ends abruptly, after the chaotic soprano saxophone solo by Newsome.

      But there are things much worse than my child interrupting me while I was trying to prepare for a gig. In the summer of 2014, some of my friends were living in Israel with their small children while the cities were constantly under attack. They told me what was happening over there – the loud alarms going off, while they guided their children to safety in a shelter.

    Israel is a beautiful country. I had fallen in love with it three years earlier, while performing there. A Summer in Jerusalem (Track 2) is based on my romantic novel – only I don’t know how to write novels. I wrote this piece with a storyline in mind about two young people (a Jew and Arab) who fall in love in summer, despite everything that is happening in Israel.

       Black Rain (Track 6) is another war-related piece, only this one is from WWII. In Japan, Black Rain (kuroi ame) is the nuclear fallout from the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombs. This is just another story to pass on to my daughter in addition to what she will learn at school about that horrific period. One of my close relatives was a hibakusha (an Atomic Bomb survivor) – a very famous rakugoka (Edoya Nekohachi) who passed away in 2001 in my hometown of Ome. I used a Japanese minor pentatonic scale for the central theme and later juxtaposed it with jazz chord changes similar to those in Invitation.

      Another piece in which I have incorporated the Japanese minor pentatonic scale is Tomiya (Track 7). The piece is dedicated to Tomiya Okura, my father. In this composition I recreated the rhythm of a taiko drum ensemble by playing double and quadruple stops on the violin, and plucking two strings with my left hand while bowing the other two strings. The irony is that my father never allowed us to be a part of any kind of festival (matsuri), which is where children would normally hear taiko drumming. Since we were devout Christians, we always avoided activities involving other religions. The sound I emulate here is the sound Tomiya would have heard while growing up in Ome in the wake of WWII.

       Because my parents raised us strictly Protestant, I knew little about Buddhism. My parents went out of their way to shield us from it. When Rubin Museum asked me to compose a piece based on some artwork there, I chose Birth of Shakyamuni, a collage, which depicts the birth narrative of Buddha. And I finally discovered a commonality between Jesus and Buddha – the miraculous births! Buddha was conceived when a white elephant touched his mother’s side. The Birth of Shakyamuni (Track 4) consists of the Introduction, The White Elephant, Chase, Lustration, and Coda. Each section is performed back-to-back, without a break.

       Some of my peers describe my works as “unique”, implying “not exactly jazz.” Blues in Jade (Track 5) is my through-composed work based strictly on the blues form. What could be more jazz than the blues?​


New Music U.S.A.

Mr. Seikyo Sonoda

Mr. Masahiko Kotani

Mr. & Mrs. Tomiya Okura


Leslie Fair-Page

Rabbi David & Kathy Gelfand

Mark Handelman

Alan Polinsky


Audrey Lee

Henry Blumner

Tim Demmie & Sarah Okura

Stan Harrison

Smilio Solla

Eric Robert Thomas

Juha Ilari Uitto

Gail Zwiebel

JAZZIZ featuring Meg Okura

Meg Okura's  featured article on the

JAZZIZ Magazine SUMMER 2018 Issue!

"Meg Okura Combines Disciplines and Cultures With Joy, Riggor and Plenty of Color"

- Michael Roberts, JAZZIZ Magazine

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