RISING SUN - www.hiromikasuga.net . Forgotten

 Beauty; House of the Rising Sun; Hydrangea;

I Dreamed a Dream; I Wish You Were

Here; Lush Life; Lullaby of Itsuki; Smoke Gets

in Your Eyes; Laura; W.S. (Wayne & Woody).

 

PERSONNEL: Hiromi Kasuga, piano; Seamus

Blake, saxophones; Joe Magnarelli, trumpet &

flugelhorn; Boris Kozlov, bass; Mark Taylor,

drums.

 

By Eric Harabadian

 

This is a streamlined and taut album filled

with well crafted original compositions and

choice standards. Kasuga shines on both acoustic

and electric pianos and is backed by a stellar

aggregation of players. Many of the pieces glow

with a lyrical resonance that makes for a seamless

flow between tunes.

 

The leader is also the producer of this project

and has an innate sense of giving each track

what it needs, without overplaying or pretense.

The aptly titled “Forgotten Beauty” is one of

Kasuga’s compositions and kicks off the album.

It is a lovely samba that effortlessly evolves to

reveal the leader as a formidable and extremely

tasteful pianist. Her solos define the term lyrical;

concise, well devised and engaging.

 

Perhaps, a reference to the album title, “House of the Rising Sun” is, indeed, the traditional folk tune adapted by The Animals and so many other ‘60s/’70s rock bands. But you’ve never heard it like this!  The arrangement is a total restructuring and reimagining of the piece, with long sustained

melodies by Seamus Blake, ostinato bass holding

down the pocket and a breezy open feel.

 

Another Kasuga piece “Hydrangea” follows and

has all the makings of a classic standard. The

pianist approaches it with the grace of Bill Evans

and is accompanied in a trio setting by Boris

Kozlov and Mark Taylor.

 

“I Dreamed a Dream”from Les Miserables is another track that stands out. The group pursues a brisk take here, with an outstanding trumpet outing by Joe Magnarelli.

Kasuga and her crew turn a very stately sounding

show tune into a real swinging affair.

 

Darting around the track list this is a solid work from start to finish, with Jerome Kern’s “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” and the serene “Laura” rounding out the latter part of the song order.

 

Hiromi Kasuga is an artist who plays it straight ahead and swinging but also is immensely

inventive and unique when it comes to arranging and inspiring high level contributions

from collaborators and inspired creations herself.