By Ric Bang
Buy CD: A-mé
Hiroe Sekine, a native of Japan, has been composing, arranging and playing the piano for almost 20 years, but she has remained below the radar in the United States. This debut album’s 10 songs include four of her own compositions; the rest are covers of both old and new jazz standards. She arranged all of them.
Cole Porter’s “Every Time We Say Good-bye” is done as a piano solo, while the rest feature groups ranging in size from a trio to a septet. A total of nine musicians were involved in the session.
So, what about the music? Well, Sekine evidently favors mid- to up-tempos; only her solo piano track is done as a ballad. That’s not a criticism, but an indication that the lady likes to swing.
Her style as an instrumentalist is more relaxed and “looser” than other artists from her part of the world, which is good: She achieves a real groove in her solos. It’s also obvious that she loves the melodic lines of the jazz standards she includes in this album. Her arrangements maintain the primary melodies, but she tinkers with the harmonies and meters to achieve an “everything old is new again” result, and it’s very appealing.
The supporting personnel are excellent, during both ensemble and solo passages. You can tell that the sidemen genuinely enjoy her arrangements, and have a good time playing with her.
I expect Sekine to make it big, and it’ll be fun to hear it happen.