As interesting and involving as pianist Art Hirahara’s debut recording, Noble Path (Posi-tone, 2011) was, his sophomore release gives him the chance to expand his creative palette. The intriguingly titled Libations and Meditations pairs Hirahara with superior musicians, the much in-demand bassist Linda Oh and furiously creative drummer John Davis. As a unit, they open up the leader’s compositions to their fullest, improvising together with a capacious degree of ingenuity.
The mostly original set – there are two excellent covers, including the swinging “Only Child” by Bill Evans – takes time to find its flow, but when it does about halfway through, we’re already invested in Hirahara’s musical stories. The best tunes include “Father’s Song,” perhaps a play on the title of the famous Horace Silver standard, but the melody is majestic and Hirahara injects a welcome intensity in his soloing in lock step with his trio. The suggestively titled “Dead Man Posed” is touching and beautifully lyrical, while the impressionistic “Big Country” has a sinewy modern pop groove. These tunes spotlight Hirahara’s songwriting and playing quality well.
The former Bay-area musician, now based in NY, is on solid ground on this disc. You can imagine the pleasure of hearing these tunes played live in a club. Libations has a late night vibe, where it’s easy to picture the proficient Hirahara leaning in at the keys, with his post-bop piano skills and self-assured sense of swing at the fore. (11 tracks; 52 minutes)