There’s two things in play here for whyLibations & Meditations is such a strong album. First off, Art Hirahara situates his melodies at the center of each song’s universe. Those melodies are expertly crafted and supremely radiant… a melodic beauty that resonates strongly at any speed. And that leads into the second quality of this album’s success: The trio of pianist Hirahara, bassist Linda Oh and drummer John Davisare a seamless rhythmic unit, their intentions spread out like a map so that no matter how far and wide they travel, it’s simple to follow along. This, in addition to the North Star quality of each song’s melody is what makes this such a winning album.
The bubbling personality of up-tempo tunes is hard not to fall for. Hirahara leads out with the quirky “With Two Ice Cubes” and the speedy “D.A.Y.” is adorned with a series of missives and asides to keep the ear on its toes even as its attention stays riveted on the tightly focused stream of melody. The jaunty “Only Child” has a cadence made for a Sunday afternoon stroll through the park and is just as affecting as the melodically headstrong “Be Bim Bop” and “Bop Bim Be,” which offers up a rare instance of free, random motion before it transforms into something structurally straight-ahead.
However, the most striking album tracks are those where the trio eases off the gas pedal. The surging “Father’s Song” wears its heart on its sleeve, and it’s why the dramatics that mark the song ring with sincerity. It’s a similar effect with “Big Country,” but here, the melodic drama is paired with just the right amount of restraint, pulling it back in for a graceful landing. There’s also the graceful elegance of “Karatachi No Hana,” a quiet solo piece. “Dead Man Posed” exudes those same qualities, but gets expressed with greater emotion.
The album ends with “Nereids and Naiads,” a song that smolders with a magnetic quality, its embers growing brighter as the song approaches its conclusion. But even when the trio lights the song up bright in the home stretch, the melody never loses its comforting glow, radiating the strong beauty and powerful dialog that reflect the album in its entirety.