RISING SUN - . 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,
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.