Art Hirahara Open Sky Review
by Ferell Aubre
Art Hirahara is a jazz pianist, keyboardist, and composer building his discography as a leader and side musician. Hirahara’s compositional influences shape a sound that incorporates a varied musical influence resulting in an engaging modern jazz tonal palette. Open Sky is his latest release on the Posi-Tone record label. His sixth release on Posi-Tone encompasses a brilliant mix of compositions and graceful interpretations from the jazz repertoire. His accompaniment is from some of the finest musicians today, with the core trio being bassist Boris Kozlov and drummer Rudy Royston. In addition, the album has guest appearances from saxophonist Nicole Glover and vibraphonist Behn Gillece, giving the thirteen songs set a varied palette of instrument colors.
“Groundswell” is a Hirahara original composition and the opening track of the album. The solo piano intro and the trio’s power during the melody are attention-grabbing and places the music on a clear modern jazz trajectory. Hirahara’s harmonic structures are varied and always in the pocket as he unfolds his improvisation through the form. Kozlov and Royston hold the groove and interact with meaningful motifs and colors. Royston’s solo is building with rolling tom work and accenting cymbal crashes.
“I’m Getting Sentimental Over You” is a George Bassman composition that is taken from the standards repertoire. Hearing the trio approach this standard is exciting and shows respect for the jazz heritage of tradition. Hirahara’s harmonic investigation is something to behold, exciting and exploratory. Kozlov’s bass lines follow him effortlessly and without ambiguity.
Open Sky has moments ranging from introspective to raging romps through a set of nuanced arrangements, clever originals, and selections that benefit from guest artists. In addition, the album’s excellent sound quality lets the cavalcade of contrapuntal rhythms distinctly be heard. In general, this is a set of brilliant musicianship, with a wide variety settings that will be of interest to jazz fans.