If you are like me, the last thing you are looking for in a modern jazz album is another run-out cut of “All The Things You Are.” During my first listen of Hiroe Sekine’s debut album A-mé, I found myself stopped in the middle of the street (I was walking the dog at the time), fumbling for my i-Pod, trying to find the name of the track I was listening. It sounded so familiar, yet I couldn’t put my finger on it. As it progressed, the ostinato of the piano with a subtle Latin groove gently underneath draws you in. The first entrance of the melody is so familiar, yet everything sounds upside-down. It is not until the third or fourth chorus that you really start to get settled in and it is all confirmed. This is not your everyday “All The Things You Are.” This is different. This is what it means to put a new spin on an old tune.
Born in Japan, Hiroe began playing the piano at age four and went on to study jazz and composition at the University of Southern California. While at USC, she earned the “Discovery Scholars” and “Jazz Chamber Music Ensemble” Awards in 2009.
Among the outstanding players featured on this album are: Peter Erskine, drums; Bob McChesney, trombone; Bob Sheppard, saxophone; Russell Ferrante, synthesizer. Each bring their “A” game creating tight horn harmonies and solid solos throughout. McChesney’s trombone solo on “Vera Cruz,” Sheppard’s tenor solo on “If I Were A Bell,” and Erskine’s drumming on Isham Jones’ “There Is No Greater Love” are worth the price of admission alone. Holding the band together is bass player Tony Dumas who doesn't seem to miss a beat while fueling the band with his strong bass sound. Hiroe’s arrangements and own compositions are impeccably done with the originality of the arrangement to Gigi Gryce’s “Minority,” to the album's closer. “Sand-Smog” is a fantastic, up-tempo jaunt featuring everyone in the band. However, the one track I keep coming back to over and over again is her solo piano take on Cole Porter’s “Every Time We Say Good-Bye.” Stripped down and to-the-point, beautiful music always speaks for itself and this is no exception.
A-mé is a solid album that will be on my playlist for some time to come. Tracks to listen to: “Minority,” “All The Things You Are,” “A-mé,” and “Every Time We Say Good-Bye.”