Friday, June 10, 2011

Atsuko Hashimoto: Until the Sun Comes Up

Capri Records
By Ric Bang
Buy CD: Until the Sun Comes Up

I’ve always enjoyed small groups that feature the Hammond B3 organ. In the right hands, that instrument can swing wonderfully ... and Atsuko Hashimoto is among the artists who can bring out the best in that big beast. Hashimoto, born and raised in Japan, began her musical training on an actual organ — as opposed to those who start on a piano — then switched to the B3.

Many pianists at some point in their career have played that instrument — even Oscar Peterson, for example — but those who have made it their primary “horn” are limited: Jimmy Smith, Jimmy McGriff, Jack McDuff and Joey DeFrancesco come to mind.

We can add Hashimoto to that list.

The size of the keyboard, coupled with the simultaneous use of foot pedals and a plethora of hand-operated controls/stops to achieve the various volumes and tonal styles, makes it one of the more difficult instruments to play well ... particularly for somebody of small physical stature. Although Hashimoto is tiny, her small size may contribute to a “light” touch that avoids the excess volume which can be a problem. She’s also quick; she plays lightning phrases and minimizes an organ’s natural “carry-over” resonance.

The artists who support her here are two of the best: Guitarist Graham Dechter is a fast-rising star, and drummer Jeff Hamilton is one of tastiest percussionists working today. The menu includes covers of some wonderful tunes, all played at tempos that are perfect for the instrumentation.

The opener, “All or Nothing At All,” seldom is heard at an up-tempo meter ... but it works. The same is true for “Moon River,” “Yours Is My Heart Alone,” “Cherry” and “The Good Life.” And a couple of oldies — “You Are My Sunshine” and “Hallelujah, I Love Her So” — really rock. Finally, those who love the blues will find that “Soul Station” and “Blues for Naka” fill that bill nicely.

This trio is as good as it gets; these musicians sound like they’ve been together for years.

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