Art Hirahara – ‘Echo Canyon’
(Posi-Tone. Album review by Adam Sieff)
It’s twenty years since the pianist and composer Art Hirahara moved to New York City from the Bay Area, and in that time he’s become highly respected as a leader, sideman and educator. This is Hirahara’s ninth album for Posi-Tone Records, the Los Angeles-based independent label owned and operated by producer Marc Free and engineer Nick O’Toole.
Echo Canyon was recorded on 9 February this year at Acoustic Recording in Brooklyn with Hirahara’s close collaborators, double bassist Boris Kozlov and drummer Rudy Royston, both Posi-Tone regulars and leaders in their own right. O’Toole then mixed and mastered the results at his own Woodland Studio in Oregon. The sound quality is excellent.
The opportunity to record had come at the last minute, taking advantage of a studio cancellation by another artist. As there was little specific new music to work with, this became an opportunity to revisit repertoire that had previously been written for and recorded on other releases by the label. There are six of Hirahara’s compositions and three by Kozlov, but if you didn’t know how this album had come together, it wouldn’t make any difference, as listening to it in one sitting it feels cohesive, complete and immensely satisfying.
A couple of the tracks were written for trumpeter Alex Sipiagin, Hirahara’s deftly repeating (echoing) title track and Koslov’s driving Shura with a fine drum solo from Royston. There’s a deeply swinging The More Things Change written by Hirahara for Kozlov and the closing Spider Dance written for the saxophonist Alexa Tarentino also works extremely well. There are deeply moving moments, especially the reverential To The Sky, a hymn resonating with deep respect in honour of the young black photographer Tyre Nichols who was murdered by the Memphis police at the beginning of this year.
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One particular favourite is the deftly performed and beguiling Aoi Blu, the title made up of the Japanese and Italian words for the colour blue, reflecting on his heritage and that of his Italian wife Sara and the parallels in the two cultures. Another is the cinematic Mia Bella, again written for his wife, and it’s simply beautiful. The superb musicianship is almost taken for granted, as on this, and throughout the album, Hirahara, Kozlov and Royston sound so comfortable together and play for each composition, with just the right balance of economy with every melodic note in its rightful place.
Adam Sieff’s “Jazz on the Beach” is on Substack
Release date: 20 October 2023