Mari Okubo was studiying Italian Opera and German lied in Italy in the 1980's when she first encountered the music of avant-garde composer Ornette Coleman. From the moment of that first concert Ms. Okubo was completely captivated. She approached Coleman and requested him to create some music that would include the instrument of her voice in accord with her vocal idea.
In contrast with the ever-shifting, expanding and contracting, kaleidoscopic quality of Coleman's music, moving freely as it does from macro to micro, that small part of the human physiology which produces the voice might seem all too limited. Yet, by virtue of the very clear vision she held of Coleman's music, and by dint of a severe self-imposed discipline through which she practically sweated blood, Mari was able to alter her voice and singing in an almost mystical way. It was as though she had learned to transcend the physical limitation of the human voice and enable it to reverberate with the particles of the cosmos. Her voice had become a truly unique instrument.
Coleman took the image of this voice and composed music around it.
The result was something far removed from what is usually evoked by the word "song," something that could only be called "voice," -- the motions and scintillation of the stars, the exquisite movement of an effusion of gas plumes rising in the heavens. The "words" to the songs were virtual quizzes; at times she was even reciting the Buddhist text of the "Heart Sutra."
It was a beautiful wedding of composer and performer. Mari Okubo's voice began to take on an allure born out of the hybridization of two different cultures and two very different personalities.
Then, in the summer of 1998, Mari appeared in Perugia, Italy at the Umbria Jazz Festival with Coleman and another giant of the music world, classical Indian musician Ustad Sultan Khan. The exotic sound they produced together claimed enormous attention at this celebrated European Jazz festival.
"After mastering the techniques of BelCanto singing, I was looking for the best way to develop it when I found Ornette's music. A whole new world was opened to me.
Now I'm trying to take off from there..."
As a star born from an ancient nebula reflects the light of other stars and begins its metamorphosis...
By Akiko Iimura
Photograph © JackVartoogian/FrontRowPhotos
New York Times
"Japanese singer Mari Okubo came on stage to further enhance the multi-kulti vibe. Her style sounded like a mix of classical opera singing Japanese folk and modern pop,and fit right into the group's global expression."
- the Ornette Coleman concert, at the Bell Atlantic Jazz Festival -
- Jazz weekly -
"MARI OKUBO is the ideal singer who is chosen by Ornette Coloman to sing his music. She has a command of the material of the songs which proves she is making a contribution to the Classical, Rock, Avant Garde and to modern improvisational forms. Ms. Okubo is possibly the best singer today singing this concept."
- Note of the Program for Art Project '92
International Contemporary Music Festival
Munich, Germany -