Art Hirahara: Balance Point

Kyle Simpler By

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Art Hirahara: Balance Point
There are times in life when many of us try to find a sense of stability in an uncertain world. New York-based pianist Art Hirahara refers to this as homeostasis, or "a sense of balance within ourselves regardless of what is happening around us." With Balance Point, his fifth release for Posi-Tone Records, Hirahara uses the idea of homeostasis as his central concept. He presents his own "transformative journey," inviting listeners come along for the ride.

Balance Point features an impressive lineup with Hirahara on piano along with bassist Joe Martin, Melissa Aldana on tenor saxophone, and Rudy Royston playing drums. Produced by Posi-Tone founder, Marc Free, the album presents an exploration into a variety of emotions and experiences.

While clearly a talented musician, Hirahara is also a composer who deserves recognition. He is a master of musical storytelling, and each of his compositions on Balance Point has its own unique landscape. The tracks included here range in mood from atmospheric to playful, offering the listener a broad selection of jazz styles that never seem out of place with each other. With the exception of Duke Ellington's "Prelude to a Kiss," which is given an excellent rendition, these are all original compositions.

The title track explores the underlying concept of balance that resonates throughout the entire album. Hirahara describes this balance as the ability to "look both backward and forward and accept where I am." The song "Fulcrum" further exemplifies this by presenting its own musical metaphor beginning with an avant-garde section that slowly resolves into unified melodic harmony.

With Balance Point, Hirahara recognizes some of his musical inspirations. The opening track, "Mother's Song" was inspired by a Brazilian children's song that reminded Hirahara of his own childhood. "Blessed Son, Mr. Weston" pays homage to pianist and composer Randy Weston, and the song "G-Yokoso" is a somewhat playful nod to Thelonious Monk. "Had it Happened" is a contrafact based over the chord changes to Jimmy Van Heusen's "It Could Happen to You."

There is a tight-knit interaction among the players here. Each of the musicians involved has plenty of room to showcase their own talents. In "A Fine Line Between," Royston and Martin engage in a musical conversation with Hirahara that showcases the excellent improvisational skills of each player. Melissa Aldana's contributions are also quite impressive. Her sax solo on "Like Water," for example, is a standout performance.

Balance Point offers a collection of excellent jazz compositions that express Hirahara's philosophical journey. The music here is adventurous, exciting and insightful. Most of all, though, this is a thoroughly enjoyable album.

Track Listing

Mother's Song; Blessed Son, Mr. Weston; Balance Point; Ascent; G-Yokoso; Had It Happened; A Fine Line Between; Like Water; Prelude To A Kiss; Fulcrum; The Path Of The Gods; Homage; Lament For The Fallen


Art Hirahara: piano; Melissa Aldana: saxophone; Rudy Royston: drums; Joe Martin: bass.

Album information

Title: Balance Point | Year Released: 2020 | Record Label: Posi-Tone Records

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