The Monarch And The Viceroy
Hideyuki Hashimoto: Earth
The words ‘prodigious talent' come quickly to mind as one listens to Carlos Cipa's debut album. Not only does this Munich, Germany-based pianist exhibit an exceptional technical command of his instrument, he possesses preternatural composing gifts, too. Remarkably, he's only twenty-two years old, is currently studying composition in Munich, and has even shared the stage with A Winged Victory For The Sullen and Library Tapes. Classical piano lessons began for Cipa at age six and were supplemented ten years later when he turned his attention to drumming, a detail that perhaps accounts in part for the pronounced percussive dimension that sometimes emerges in his piano playing.
Recorded on November 11th and 13th, 2011 at Cipa's home in Munich, the fifty-two-minute album's twelve pieces were played on a Steinway & Sons grand piano. Traces of Debussy and Satie surface now and then (the opening moments of “The Whole Truth” nod explicitly in the latter's direction, while the mere title of “Nocturne” can't help but evoke Debussy)—but no one should hold that against Cipa too much, as it's almost impossible not to fall under the spell of Satie's potent miniatures and Debussy's lyricism. Cipa's certainly no slouch in the composing department himself, as the graceful melodicism of settings such as “In Place of Anger” and “The Dream” make clear. His technical prowess is evident from the outset in the robust attack he brings to “Perfect Circles” and in the elegant trills and dramatic cascades that respectively lend “The Whole Truth” and “Cold Night” such distinction. “The Monarch and the Viceroy” is as stately as its title suggests it would be, and his refined, conservatory-styled playing is never less than stunning (“Lie With Me” is proof alone). One comes away from the recording imagining what the future will hold for this remarkably gifted player and composer.Cipa's bravura set dazzles, but Hideyuki Hashimoto's Earth impresses too, if in a different way. Recorded in its entirety on December 26, 2011 and issued on his own label Nlart, the Osaka, Japan-based pianist's first solo album is a thoroughly appealing collection that opts for restraint and understatement over virtuoso display and over-embellishment. All but one of its fourteen pieces (three of them improvisations) are miniatures, the exception being the closing “Grounding,” whose slow-motion unfolding entrances for the full measure of its eleven minutes. The overall mood of the forty-two-minute recording is melancholy, heartfelt, and wistful (the title track especially), without being dour or lugubrious. Moments of relative levity appear, too, such as during the pieces “Pop” and “Fake,” and one is repeatedly struck by the lyrical quality of Hashimoto's playing. One also hears echoes of Satie in Hashimoto's minimal playing style, and elegant, ruminative settings such as “Hikari,” “Elephant Walk,” and “Earth” suggest that he conceivably might regard Keith Jarrett and Bill Evans as kindred spirits. “Elephant Walk” in particular is so Evans-like, one could easily imagine it being identified as such in a Downbeat ‘Blindfold Test.' The sound presentation is undoctored, though one can't help but notice Hashimoto's love of sustain, which imbues the material with a degree of reverberation that's far from inconspicuous. That detail aside, listeners with a love for piano playing in its most pure and elegant form would be wise to track down Hashimoto's recording as well as look forward to the second half of the two-part work, Air, set to be released in winter of 2012.