Makiko Hirabayashi ‘Hide and Seek’ (Enja) 4/5

makiko-hirabayashiTokyo born pianist Makiko Hirayabashi has undertaken an interesting career path before settling in Denmark and establishing her credentials there. Moving to Hong Kong as a child and enrolling in a British school unquestionably opened her horizons, and a further period of study in composition at the prestigious Berklee school of music as a twenty year old introduced her to jazz composition under Jerry Bergonzi. A surprising move to Denmark resulted in gigs at local cafes performing in a variety of styles. Guesting on numerous Danish jazz artist recordings, Hirabayashi finally debuted in her own right in 2006 with ‘Makiko’. This third album sees her in the intimate surroundings of a piano trio format with master percussionist Marilyn Mazur, who among other a multitude of renowned names, was a member of Miles Davis’ band. The quality and freshness of both the compositions and ensemble playing is exceptional and will surely establish an international reputation for the pianist. Influences discernible include the acoustic Chick Corea (a great favourite with Japanese jazz fans)and Ahmad Jamal in her careful use of space among others. Compositions, all originals, are divided between the pianist (six out of nine) and the rest from Mazur. From its Latin vamp intro, ‘Rain’ builds in intensity and recalls the feel of EST without being in any way derivative. Far more improvisatory in approach is ‘Deep Road’ during which bass and percussion solo to great effect. The balance between collective lyricism and interplay is found on ‘A Major’ on which Hirabayashi is reminiscent of Michel Camilo. Compositional strength shines though on the glorious ‘Remember the sun’ while ‘Shady’ is a beautiful ballad that reveals the sensitive side to the pianist’s playing. Overall there is a great storytelling quality to Makiko Hirabayahi’s craft that marks her out as one of the pianists to follow in the future. Japan has a long tradition of superb jazz pianists dating back from Toshiko Akiyoshi through to the vastly underrated Junko Onishi in the nineteen-nineties, and the recent collaboration of Hiromi with Chick Corea. With’ Hide and Seek’ Makiko Hirabayashi is deserving of a place among these pianists of distinction. One of the year’s revelations.

Tim Stenhouse