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Miki Hirose: Scratch

Karl Ackermann By

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Trumpeter Miki Hirose is a relatively new talent on the domestic jazz front, but the Japanese native has been kicking around the New York circuit for close to ten years now. Having won a number of prestigious awards in Japan, Hirose went on to play with a number of prominent U.S. musicians including Benny Golson, Lonnie Smith, Frank Wess and Billy Harper. On Scratch—his second release as leader—Hirose has re-assembled (but slightly tweaked) an international sextet that is proficient in combining native influences with top-flight musicianship. In a variation from Hirose's debut, A Day in New York (JazzLab, 2010) Hirose sheds a fraction of the previous band's lineup replacing the trombone and adding more percussion with the presence of conga player Mauricio Herrera.

Six of the seven compositions on Scratch are originals and though the band's roots span the globe, there is a strong prominence of Latin rhythms throughout the collection. The emphasis is on ensemble playing but there are adequate opportunities for individual solos incorporated into a number of pieces. The title track opens the set and encompasses the tone for much of the upcoming venue. The piece opens with synchronous group playing before saxophonist Xavier Perez takes an extended solo. Hirose—and then pianist Toru Dodo—follow with expressive turns of their own. The rhythm sections burns through the rest of the piece with Herrera adding his own fuel to the fire.

Scotland native and bassist Aidan O'Donnell shares composing credits with Hirose on "Run & Gun" and he wades in with a deep, woody solo before Dodo joins in on fender. The effect is a funky groove that brings in Hirose and Perez to fill out the sound. The tempo slows a bit on the bolero themed "Reasons" and Hirose and O'Donnell are joined by drummer Jerome Jennings, in crafting a striking interpretation within the larger group. Switching to the flugelhorn, Hirose takes a heartfelt solo before the piece wraps up. The complex "61-17" is yet another Latin oriented number and one of the more challenging pieces in the collection. Duke Ellington's "In a Sentimental Mood" is true to the original but with a slightly more modern and spacious felling.

Hirose's recent sideman recording credits have demonstrated a wide range of stylistic abilities. Dulces (Clean Feed, 2010)—with its Middle-Eastern flavor—and Flashpoint (Self-Produced, 2011) featuring the modern jazz orchestra of David White, demonstrate a sweeping variety of interests and talents. As solid a recording as Scratch is, it does more to create an additional sense of anticipation about the future of Hirose and all the talented artists involved in this project.

Track Listing: Scratch; Run & Gun; Reasons; 61-17; In Need; In a Sentimental Mood; Brand New Year.

Personnel: Miki Hirose: trumpet, flugelhorn; Xavier Perez: tenor saxophone; Toru Dodo: piano, fender rhodes; Aidan O'Donnell: bass; Jerome Jennings: drums; Mauricio Herrera: congas.

Title: Scratch | Year Released: 2013 | Record Label: JAZZ LAB.


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