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Kayo: I Wish You Love

Edward Blanco By

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Kayoko Hiraki may not be familiar to most jazz audiences but this is a musician whose pedigree alone makes her a unique artist. A native of Japan, Kayo—the name by which she prefers to be called—is the daughter of a classical pianist and began playing the piano at the tender age of three. A classically-trained pianist herself, when not touring in Japan and throughout Europe, Kayo, who calls New York home, can usually be found performing at Arturo's in Greenwich Village several nights a week. No novice in the jazz world, I Wish You Love is her fifth album as a leader, leading a standard trio on a dozen well-known classic standards, with finesse and fire.

Along with bassist Pat O'Leary and drummer Matthew Crawford, Kayo kicks the music off with a sizzling read of "You And The Night And The Music," followed by another strong performance on the Sammy Cahn favorite, "It's You Or No One." Cole Porter's "So In Love" features the pianist playing alone for the first minute and forty seconds and then the bass and drums gently enter turning the tune into a lively jazz samba. "Autumn In New York" comes across quite soft and somber, featuring the trumpet voice of Ryo Sasaki.

The great trumpeter Lee Morgan may well be best known for his composition "Ceora," an oft-performed piece by many jazz artists. Kayo's treatment does it justice, delivering one of the best recorded trio performances of this immortal tune. The piano master becomes a singer on Charles Trenet's title tune, a slow deliberate and delicate chart that Kayo nails. On "What Is This Thing Called Love," the group becomes a quintet, with Sasaki on trumpet and alto saxophonist Nick Hempton joining in for the best upbeat number of the disc.

Kayo demonstrates her fine technique and virtuoso piano skills best on a blazing rendition of "The Night Has A Thousand Eyes," accompanied well by spurts of solos from both O'Leary and Crawford. Hempton returns for another appearance on "Crazeology," delivering powerful solos of his own. Johnny Mercer's standard, "Dream," closes the set, featuring Kayo's vocal talents one more time on what is truly a dream of a session.

Trios happen to be the musical format most often found in the landscape of jazz—some poor, many mediocre and a few, exceptional. Kayo and her group clearly deserve to be categorized as exceptional. Kayo is a pianist of the first order commanding serious attention, as I Wish You Love may surely draw.

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