Art Hirahara

Noble Path

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The latest CD by Bay Area pianist Art Hirahara asks the question "Yes, but why?" It's a tasteful, swinging, well-played piano trio disc that features four standards (Arthur Altman's "All or Nothing at All," most strongly identified with Frank Sinatra; Dizzy Gillespie's "Con Alma"; Duke Ellington's "Isfahan"; and Cole Porter's "Ev'ry Time We Say Goodbye") sprinkled among eight Hirahara originals. The rhythm section -- bassist Yoshi Waki and drummer Dan Aran -- swings with subtle force, keeping the music moving forward at all times, even during ballads. Hirahara's playing is lyrical and yet somewhat middle of the road, somewhere between Bill Evans and Keith Jarrett, displaying plenty of technique and ably blending melody and groove. There's very little here that will convince any listener that he's an indispensable figure in jazz, though. He's just a capable pianist with a decent compositional voice, and this disc is the kind of thing one can put on in the background at a party without disturbing anyone's conversation.

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