Focus – Reviews

ART HIRAHARA NOBLE PATH

Several years after his debut record “Edge Of This Earth” (2000), California pianist Art Hirahara releases his new album “Noble Path”. Here Hirahara offers a classical conception of piano trio. Its strength lies in the cohesion between the musicians and gets to its best in the constant and apparently infinitely creative dialogue between the three instruments. The leader’s solos are memorable and show a remarkable melodic, harmonic and rhythmic inventive talent.

The repertoire offers some entirely rearranged classics (the beautiful “Con Alma,” written by Dizzy Gillespie, whose melody is kept intact while the rhythm is completely subverted) and eight excellent original compositions by Hirahara that stand out for their harmonic interest and the richness of the themes. In the complex “Change Your Look,” for instance, the pianist develops numerous expressive and heterogeneous sketches: from the latin introduction to the free jazz section, seamlessly going through assertive funk-rock etc.

Hirahara shows an amazing technique, and the thoughtful use that he makes of it is fascinating. In the opening tune “I’m Ok” (a medium swing AABA and a good theme harmonized with block chords), the balance between virtuosity and melodic exploration by the pianist is very evident. Waki and Aran’s rhythmic interaction is cohesive and comfortable in the more classic and swinging tunes (the super fast “All Or Nothing At All”), in those of a modal flavor (“Peace Unknown” with clear Debussy-like atmospheres) and the ballad (the famous “Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye” by Cole Porter).

The exchange between bass and drums is excellent in this interpretation of “Isfahan” by Duke Ellington. In fact, this version shows another aspect of Hirahara’s musical conception. Its elegance and lightness is built by an apparently retro approach and is constantly enriched by contemporary fragments. The same happens in “Nocturne,” whose title is emblematic and describes well its mysterious theme rich in contrast and shadows (highlighted by the bowed bass) and pauses. After the lyrical introduction, the tune unexpectedly turns into a free collective improvisation and becomes more and more rhythmic and articulated.

The strongest point and interest of “Noble Path” lies in the personal eclecticism of Hirahara, who operates within an amazingly wide sonic landscape. He is comfortable with a recognizable sound playing standards and more traditional tunes, as much as in the more free and avant-garde incursions.

Eugenio Mirti
Jazzit – Jazz Magazine N. 68
(Italy 2012)

Translation by Sara Pettinella