The Murasaki Ensemble is a musical experience of sounds unlike any other---elements of traditional Far Eastern subtleties, Near Eastern and Latin American rhythms with improvisational jazz converging, producing a sound that is extremely vibrant and innovative yet still familiar.
The Ensemble’s sound is built upon a sound which reaches the inner spirit and a unique ability to combine traditional instruments in exciting ways. Intricate Egyptian riqq (tambourine), Arabic tabla, Latin congas and bongos with the jazzy sounds of upright bass and acoustic guitar, providing a framework for the group’s musical explorations while Japanese koto and silver flute add texture, punctuating the rhythm with enticing melodies.
The meeting of old and new, east and west, The Murasaki Ensemble strives to present a new listening experience --- one which involves interaction among all participants and which flows with an intensely global, human quality.
Comments from contemporaries:
“…The CDs available by the group, while highly enjoyable, give only a taste of the expansive imagination and passion their concert appearance revealed. They have my vote as the jazz group most deserving wider recognition. I’ve seen one facet of the future of jazz, and it draws radiance from a rising sun in the East.” (Norman Weinstein, All About Jazz.com)
“…The Murasaki Ensemble eschews the melting pot and aims for the ‘salad bowl’ model of ethnic integration in its music---continually shifting the spotlight between Shirley Muramoto’s koto playing, guitarist Jeff Massanari’s liquid jazz licks, and flutist Matt Eakle’s soul-tickling reed action. Percussionist Vince Delgado directs traffic with congas, bongos, Indian temple bells, and Egyptian tabla and riqq at his disposal. Their willingness to step outside traditional technique makes for a lively give-and-go sound…” (Howard Myint, The San Francisco Bay Guardian)
“…The Murasaki Ensemble is not only unique for its focus on the koto, performed with reckless abandon by founder Shirley Kazuyo Muramoto. It eschews traditional drums for the percussive sounds of the tabla …. and the tambourine, played with driving force by Vince Delgado. Completing the ensemble are more traditional jazz instruments --- the soaring flute of Matt Eakle, the innovative guitar of Jeff Massanari and the funky upright bass of Alex Baum….a delightful mix of improvised melody and rhythm from all five instrumentalists, whether performed with eastern or western sensibility, or a combination of the two. …..The Murasaki's performance proved as entertaining as it was groundbreaking, a true East meets West experience.” (L. Pierce Carson, Napa Valley Register)
“I am truly honored and privileged to know Shirley for so many years. Her koto playing and energy for constant creativity is inspirational to me;. Her spirit and soul touches me deeply. I am forever grateful to her for her friendship and her sharing of musical knowledge and philosophies with me to help me grow as a musician and composer but most important as a person. Thank you, Shirley, and my best to you always!”
Hiroshima, jazz ensemble