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Jazz After Hours writes up Art Hirahara’s new CD…



Libations and Meditations

Art Hirahara is a jazz keyboardist and composer based in Brooklyn, NY. Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, Art moved to New York in 2003 to be challenged by its pool of world-class musicians. There he has honed his craft, performing in a wide range of musical situations ranging from straight ahead standards to time cycle-based progressive jazz to free improvisation. From the traditional to the avant-garde, Art has found a sound of his own that cuts across genres and boundaries.

Art began his training in music at the age of four, studying with Sue Shannon, an unconventional classical piano teacher who taught improvisation and composition from the earliest stages of musical development. This provided the foundation for his awakening to jazz during his studies at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, where he earned a degree in Electronic and Computer Music. During his junior year, he began jazz piano studies with the Cleveland jazz giant, Neal Creque.

He then continued at California Institute of the Arts, where he was mentored by David Roitstein, Charlie Haden and Wadada Leo Smith. It was there that he immersed himself in world music, focusing on West African drumming and dance, Balinese gamelan and North Indian tabla. After his move to New York, Art studied at the Banff Workshop in Jazz and Creative Music program with Dave Douglas in 2004.

Art has had the privilege to perform with Stacey Kent, Freddy Cole, Akira Tana, Rufus Reid, Don Braden, Roseanna Vitro, Dave Douglas, Vincent Herring, Victor Lewis, Travis Sullivan’s Bjorkestra, Jim Black, Jenny Scheinman, Greg Cohen, Fred Ho, Sean Nowell, royal hartigan and Hafez Modirzadeh. He has performed around the world in Europe, Asia, South America, the Middle East and extensively around the United States.

In New York, he has played at the city’s premier venues, including Birdland, Smalls, the Jazz Standard and 55 Bar. In addition to performing, Art is an educator. He has taught master classes both domestically and abroad. He taught at the Brooklyn-Queens Conservatory and is currently a performing member of NY PopsEd, an educational organization focusing on bringing music to elementary and secondary schools.

Art’s piano and compositional sound are an amalgamation of the varied musical influences he has studied and the wide range of leaders he has worked for. Art is constantly seeking new situations to challenge his musicality. Most recently this manifested itself when he was Musical Director of an off-Broadway show.


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D4M reviews Art Hirahara “Libations & Meditations”…



Piano isn’t boring. Art Hirahara takes the organic foundation of subtle keys and harsh melodies, and blends them together with a modern jazz touch along with some friends. You’ll be hearing Linda Oh on bass, John Davis on drums, and a lot of chemistry. There’s only one song made publicly available from the album, and it’s pretty great all on its own. It’s a quick bebop based jam that only lasts a good two minutes; but it’ll give you a clear view at what can be in store, if nothing more.

Give this one a listen, and then maybe repeat the listen. Let your ear wander around all the talents forming one single piece, and that’s what you can expect from the album. You can almost hear the joy, you can understand the relationship they have with each other and their instruments. Now, this single is just misleading. It’s the stuff just about everyone should enjoy, which means that this is just slightly more commercial than the rest of the album is intended to be. This isn’t bad, it’s just sad that this is the only song right now. Besides catching Art live, how will a true jazz aficionado understand the depth this man and his band can achieve? 

I guess that’s where I come in. You should expect a slightly more erratic display of talent, some fluid progressions, and a lot of relatively smooth original work. Out of the 11 tracks, Only Child by Bill Evans and Karatachi No Hana (traditional Japanese song by Kosaku Yamada) are the only non-original compositions.

If you enjoy the talent, this album is most definitely worth checking out. If you enjoy the pace, I’d recommend staying away. This is best left for wandering ears in search of new jazz, and for piano jazz enthusiasts.


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Bird is the Worm recommends Art Hirahara’s new CD…



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.


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Wonderful feature on Art Hirahara and his new CD…



Art Hirahara’s new album: a spiritual journey to Japan

After having moved from San Francisco Bay Area to New York in 2003, jazz pianist and composer Art Hirahara challenged the city’s prominent jazz scene, and its pool of world-class musicians by performing at historic venues such as Smalls, Birdland, Jazz Standard and 55 bar.  He has been privileged to work alongside Stacey Kent, Freddy Cole and Akira Tana to name a few. It was a matter of time that the musician would immerse his talent and conquer the jazz world, where his success and talent has been lavishly recognized for an on-going decade.


His recent album release Libations and Meditations (Jan. 6th) features eleven pieces of storytelling that journeyed into musical notes shortly after his father’s death. It was during this time that Art became involved in yoga, which eventually transcended into his music. He was able to harness the relaxation and mediation through the practice, and portray that inspiration into the new album title, ‘meditations’, and incorporate that into all the tracks within. Yoga has not only expanded his perspective of musical space, but also allowed him to find comfort in taking time and developing a larger sense of density or emptiness. “Dead Man Posed” is a musical representation of his yoga exploration that adroitly expresses the feelings of suspension and resolution that one tends to experience at the end of every yoga practice in Savasana (“corpse pose”).

“With Two Ice Cubes”, although written on a last minute whim of inspiration, is everything if not a savor of fulfillment. It reflects on the ‘libations’ of the album title, where it thoughtfully focuses on the musician’s liquor enthusiasm on fine cocktails and whiskey. Recently, the artist has been traveling frequently to Japan, exposing himself to an extensive selection of Japanese whiskeys (Nikka is his favorite). Aside from that being benignly lenient, the meaning of the album title also seeks a deeper sentiment that correlates to pouring an offering to elders, deity or those who have passed. For Art, this album has become an offering to his father who passed away recently, as well as a stretch in time for his ancestors who where in Hiroshima and Saga.

In perspective of Art’s Japanese heritage, his cultural upbringing shaped his musical perspective, where as a child, he attended various festivals such as Nikkei Matsuri and San Jose Taiko. During this time, he acquainted himself to the art of Japanese Folk, and its powerful traditional folk drumming. His first taste of rhythm was evoked at that time, which cultivated his passion for jazz and swing. His new album includes a constructive jazz piece titled ”Karatachi No Hana (K. Yamada)”,  a Japanese song originally introduced by his mother. This piece tends to differentiate from the rest of the track list because it journeys into his heritage and reconnects with that part of his past. The course of development for this traditional Japanese piece was specifically produced for the 50th Anniversary of the Northern California chapter of Ikenobo Ikebana (a Buddhist floral offering, referring to the name of the buildings associated with the Shiunzan Chohojo or Rokkakudo Temple in Kyoto, as well as the name of the members who served generations as head priests of the temple). His aunt was president of the chapter, and requested that he perform traditional Japanese pieces with an American jazz perspective.

Other notable pieces on the album include one titled “D.A.Y”, which represents the initials of his previous trio, Dan Aran and Yoshi Waki. It also stands as the in-between of his past and new record albums. “Only Child” was a track written by the great pianist, Bill Evans who has heavily influenced Art with his concept of interplay between members in the piano trio setting, deeply shaping Art’s approach to playing and writing.

The artist has taken his carefully anticipated musical stories to countries like Europe, Asia, South America, the Middle East and the United States. He has also exposed himself to handfuls of experience to challenge his musicality by teaching at the Brooklyn-Queens Conservatory, being the Musical Director of an Off-Broadway show, and experimenting with world music like West African drumming and dance.Libations and Meditations has compiled all these musical experiences achieved by Art, and gathered them into a piano bebop bliss one song after another.




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Art Hirahara CD release event at Small’s gets some jazz afterhours coverage…





Jazz Concerts and Shows

Art Hirahara CD release party
Mon, Feb 16

Art Hirahara is a jazz keyboardist and composer based in Brooklyn, NY. Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, Art moved to New York in 2003 to be challenged by its pool of world-class musicians. There he has honed his craft, performing in a wide range of musical situations ranging from straight ahead standards to time cycle-based progressive jazz to free improvisation. From the traditional to the avant-garde, Art has found a sound of his own that cuts across genres and boundaries.


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All About Jazz writer Dan Bilawsky’s thoughts on “Libations & Meditations” by Art Hirahara…





Pianist Art Hirahara’s latest release on the Posi-Tone label is, as the title implies, music to drink in and think in. It’s a collection of aural offerings tied to Hirahara’s experiences coping with the loss of his father, but it’s not a somber program. In fact, quite the opposite. The first three numbers—a brief, up-tempo display of pianistic agility (“With Two Ice Cubes”), a piece born with pulsation that travels to a joyous space (“Father’s Song”), and a number that highlights the grooving interplay between Hirahara, bassist Linda Oh, and drummer John Davis (“Be Bim Bop”)—make it clear that Hirahara is celebrating life, not dwelling on loss.

As the program continues, Hirahara and his trio mates continue to work with good cheer. “D.A.Y.” opens with a swampy groove from Davis and a hint of mystery in Hirahara’s fingers, but it’s off to the races when Davis and Oh open up their stride and let the swing feel take hold. Davis proves to be the star on this piece, stealing the show when he solos and steering the band back into line. Bill Evans‘ “Only Child” proves to be another winner. It’s a fine example of tripartite synergy, highlighting the connections between Oh’s springy bass, Davis’ brush work, independence, and stick-on-ride play, and Hirahara’s firm pianistic direction(s).

Those waiting for overly reflective moments will find few on this album. In fact, “Dead Man Posed,” a number that delivers peace and tranquility in swelling and receding fashion, is it. The album-ending “Nereids And Naiads” is a ruminative and soul-searching number in five that builds into something bolder; “Big Country” develops with thoughtfulness and optimism, though it’s hardly calm; and “The Looking Glass” leaves Hirahara to work out his thoughts, which are not sentimental, by himself. The message in the music seems to be that we all need to eventually look beyond the grief and pain. Loved ones are never really gone, as those that remain continue to carry them forward through stories, deeds, memories, and, in this case, music.

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SomethingElse takes a peek into Art Hirahara “Libations & Meditations”…




2014 has been a great year for jazz releases, and 2015 will already get off to a strong start with the January 6 release of Art Hirahara’s new LP, Libations & Meditations. We noted when sizing up his 2010 debut for Posi-Tone RecordsNoble Path, that the ace pianist only occasionally leads dates.

True to form, he’s taken nearly five years to follow up on Noble Path, primarily because of so many sideman gigs for the likes of Sarah Manning, Tom Tillitsch and Nick Hempton. On those records, his deep feel for melody makes him a sax player’s best friend and he brings that same sense to his own music.

Such as, Libations & Meditations. It’s another trio setting, this time with John Davis (Cassandra Wilson) on drums and the exciting young bassist Linda Oh, currently a part of Dave Douglas’ small combo. They get the ball rolling with Hirahara’s “With Two Ice Cubes,” a rollicking, snappy and clever rewrite of “What Is This Thing Called Love.” When he kicks it into overdrive, Oh’s taut walking bass and Davis’ supple snare work put a firm but not overbearing swing into the proceedings. In the meantime, Hirahara goes on a bop-ish chase for notes that never gets out of control.

And in two minutes, it’s done; nothing more needed to be said.


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Brent Black reviews Art Hirahara’s new CD….







bop n’ jazz

As a leader, Art Hirahara comes into his own with Libations and Meditations!
Nine originals with a variety of style and flexibility in meter have Art Hirahara quickly moving to the front of the pack for pianists and especially the predictable tedium of the average piano trio. Joining the session we have the rhythmic direction of John Davis and the great bassist Linda Oh. An all star trio would be an understatement as a free flowing movement across a wide harmonic spectrum pushes Libations & Meditations to the next level.
Within the variety there is a cliché zen like quality of introspection and emotive exploration. Hirahara is widely regarded as an A list session artist yet his latest release as a leader may well have his career moving front and center as one of the finest pianists in the Big Apple and beyond. While the originals show an incredible depth of harmonic movement, the Bill Evans cover of “Only Child” is but one of many standout tracks. The original “Big Country” is certainly another standout track.
The exponential growth and development shown with Libations & Meditations is nothing short of stunning, Bill Evans meets McCoy Tyner buy with the unique style of Art Hirahara. Easily one of the best for 2014, virtually flawless!


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The Jazz Breakfast serves up Art Hirahara “Libations & Meditations”….

Art Hirahara – Libations & Meditations







(Post-Tone PR8131)

If all the new tricksy piano trios – you know the ones, they shift time signature every other bar, they imitate loops and stuck CDs, they wear skinny jeans – are proving a little exhausting and you long for a more “in the classic tradition” approach, then do try this San Franciscan relocated to Brooklyn.

Hirahara has sometime Dave Douglas sidewoman Linda Oh on bass and John Davis on drums for this 11-track exploration of where he’s currently at. At times it is “in the classic tradition” – the opener With Two Ice Cubes or the solo The Looking Glass, for example; at others the band gets more abstract and free – the opening of Bop Bim Be – while when Hirahara chooses a tune he hasn’t composed it’s either the unmistakeable cool groove of Bill Evans’ Only Child or the gentle, folky anthem of Kosaku Yamada’s Karatachi No Hana.

It’s a wide-ranging yet cohesive programme from this solid student of the jazz tradition and practitioner of the jazz present.


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Richard Kamins reviews Art Hirahara “Libations & Meditations”…





Pianist and composer Art Hirahara has worked and continues to work with a varied group of artists, from the late baritone saxophonist/activist Fred Ho to vocalist Bianca Wu to Travis Sullivan’s Björkestra, bringing a fine sense of melody and rhythmic sophistication to each project. “Libations and Meditations” is his 2nd release as a leader for Posi-Tone Records and features his current working trio of bassist Linda Oh and drummer John Davis. In the 4 years since his previous release, the pianist has been extremely busy as a sideman yet his own music feels as if it has been matured like a good wine.  One should enjoy listening to the interactions of the trio, especially how Davis locks into the groove and drives the uptempo tracks (most effectively on tracks such as “D.A.Y.“, “Be Bim Bop” and its partner “Bop Bim Be.”) Besides leading her own group, Ms. Oh has become quite an in-demand “side person”, working with Dave Douglas, Pascal LeBoueuf, and Kenny Barron.  Her playing here frames most of the pieces on the disc, from the insistent pulse that lies underneath “Father’s Song” to the “get-up-and-go” walking lines on “D.A.Y.” to the impressionistic bowed bass beneath the rippling piano lines and cymbal washes of “Dead Man Posed.”

Upon repeated listenings, one can hear just how distinctive a pianist and composer Art Hirahara has become.  Many of his pieces have strong melodies, rich chords patterns (there are moments when “Big Country” sounds like a Lennon-McCartney compositions) and his playing favors a 2-handed approach. There are 2 handsome solo piano tracks; “The Looking Glass“, which has the elegance of a George Gershwin song, and “Karatachi No Hana“, a work from Japanese composer Kosaku Yamada (1886-1965) that is lovely, with a flowing melody line and sounds quite Western.  He can also swing quite delightfully – just listen to how the Trio navigates the variable rhythms of “Be Bim Bop” and you hear musicians who certainly have great “chops” but who are also having great fun.

Libations and Meditations” is music that deserves to be heard, not only on “record” but in person. The program has everything a piano trio – actually any sized ensemble – should have, in the intelligent melodies, great interactions and strong solos.   This is music that is full of life and deserves to be part of yours.