The one that got away for 2011?
Art Hirahars began turning heads with his work on saxophonist Fred Ho's more out of the box releases, but Hirahara's voicing on Noble Path are a mirror image of this aptly titled release from Posi-Tone. While occasionally pushing the musical envelope as fitting the composition there is an intimate charm to this release featuring eight Hirahara tunes an a slightly eclectic mix of standards that includes Dizzy Gillespie and Cole Porter.
Capturing the tradition of a straight ahead piano trio while maintaining the virtuosity to literally play outside the box as the situation dictates and to be done with elegance and flair makes Noble Path unique and at times a release of indescribable joy. The ability to change dynamics at will and work without the proverbial harmonic net are due largely in part to the chemistry of working with bassist Yoshi Waki and drummer/percussionist Dan Aran. There is an intense and at times all most intuitive connection within this trio that takes the music to another level. There is your standard piano trio set list including "All Or Nothing At All" and the iconic Cole Porter tune " Ev'ry Time We Say Goodbye." The odd metered "All Or Nothing At All" still retains a level of charm and sophistication other pianists would be hard pressed to match. A distinct ebb and flow permeates this well thought out release with the more Brazilian flavored "Stood Down" and another Hirahara tune "Peace Unknown" is a dark yet more emotionally charged tune played with a sense of lyrical urgency. Despite the slightly darker voicing on "Peace Unknown" there is a sonic grandeur this trio captures that would be a daunting task indeed for lesser talent. While a release of the standard bill of fare works incredible well, Hirahara's compositional genius is just that. "Vast" kicks off with bassist Yoshi Waki coupled with a deceptively subtle sonic exploratory from Hirahara who seems to command this as he does the release in its entirety with utter fearlessness.
While the four covers certainly stand on their own merit, were it not for that knowledge then the difference between these and the original compositions seems at times razor thin. Hirahara is a dynamic voice and a fresh sonic infusion into the straight ahead jazz dynamic. A first call rhythm section that plays with and not around Hirahara and this is what separates the mundane trio from the outstanding artistic voice that is Art Hirahara. Clearly Hirahara colored outside the lines as a child but brings all those vivid colors back in a harmonious union on an incredible release!
Track Listing: I'm OK; All Or Nothing At All; Stood Down; Ebb And Flow; Noble Path; Con Alma; Peace Unknown; Change Your Look; Isfahan; Nocturne; Vast; Ev'ry Time We Say Goodbye.
Personnel: Art Hirahara: piano; Yoshi Waki: bass; Dan Aran: drums.