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Keigo Hirakawa Trio – “And Then There Were Three”

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by Andrew Patton on April 8, 2015

The Dayton-based Keigo Hirakawa Trio is releasing their new album And Then There Were Three this week. Hirakawa is an acclaimed pianist, active in the Dayton and Cincinnati jazz scenes as faculty at the University of Dayton and member of both the Eddie Brookshire Quintet and the Brandon Coleman Quartet alongside his own solo and trio projects. This is the second album by Hirakawa, but the first for the trio, which is a new twist on his longtime musical partnership with bassist Eddie Brookshire and drummer Fenton Sparks, his bandmates in the Brookshire Quintet. As discussed in Stephen Scott’s liner notes, making a unique and interesting piano trio album is difficult in the modern era, but Hirakawa and the trio succeed in this mission through inventive writing and passionate performances by three musicians who are very much in sync.

The core sound of And Then There Were Three is swinging, mid- to up-tempo modern jazz, but there ample additions and changes to the formula that keep the presentation fresh. Opening track “Myth of Poseidon” gets the album off to a cooking start, with top-flight solos from Hirakawa and Brookshire. The head of “Minus Ten” makes it feel like it’s heading in a similar direction, but soon gives way to more abstract, detached passages from all of the trio before they reunite for the conclusion. The majestic call-and-response chorus of “Unmarked Path” is a highlight – the tune also shows up in setlists for Brandon Coleman’s group. Brookshire takes the lead on the slower, more reserved title track, and turns in a heartfelt solo that is soon matched by a stirring romp by Hirakawa. The aptly-titled “Sparks Plug” is a nod to Hirakawa and Sparks’ warm-up exercises in their rehearsals, and the electric track is peppered with quickfire fills and frills by the drummer. The tempo slows for the beautiful “Daisy,” written by Hirakawa for his wife Wenbi Lai, whose striking wordless vocals are the centerpiece of the composition. After eight Hirakawa originals, the album ends with two renditions of classics – a spirited spin through Bud Powell’s “Dance Of The Infidels” and a peaceful yet emotional solo take on the traditional gospel tune “Precious Lord.” And Then There Were Three is a warm collection of excellent modern jazz that takes a few intriguing detours but always comes back to a loving reverence for tradition.

The trio is celebrating the release of And Then There Were Three with a performance at Gilly’s Jazz in Dayton on Sunday, April 12th at 7pm. A Columbus show is anticipated for the tour that Hirakawa is planning for the near future, so stay tuned to our site for updates. CDs are available for purchase here (shipping starts April 12th), and the digital album will be available at Amazon and iTunes. “Myth of Poseidon” and the album’s title track can be streamed from Hirakawa’s website.

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