Just a few notes out of Ayako Shirasaki’s piano are enough to realize you are listening to a very special musician. With her amazing combination of feeling, inventiveness and impressive virtuosity, Ayako is one of those musicians that make an unforgettable impression.
Ayako grew up listening to all the Bebop greats, and by age 10 she was transcribing Bud Powell and Charlie Parker solos. She also began studying classical piano at age 5 and both, Jazz and Classical shows off in her style and technique. Even though she is still young, Ayako is already a veteran in the jazz world with four previous solo albums, Existence (2003), Loved Ones (2004), Musically Yours (2005), Home Alone (2006), one live album, Live in New York (2001), two duo albums with vibraphonist Tim Collins in 2002 and Live in Concert (2002).
This is a live solo piano recital CD, (ala Keith Jarrett) recorded in Hamburg, and showcase Ayako at his best. An intro similar in style to Bud Powell starts the album with Charlie Parker Confirmation, a masterful homage to Ayako Bebop heroes, followed by a sublime interpretation of Ellington In a sentimental mood.
Ayako has no problem playing Sonny Rollins difficult composition Airegin (Nigeria backwards). Her playing is flawless and with lots of energy on this one, with a nice stride piano in the middle. Jazz and Classical music are mix beautifully in Ayako version of Chick Corea waltz "Mirror Mirror."
The next section of the recital is dedicated to the four seasons starting with the beautiful Japanese song Sakura Sakura (Cherry blossom, cherry blossom) representing the spring season. Back to the Jazz feel in the classic Summertime before getting into the fall and winter seasons with Ayako original, "Falling Leaves," and the Christmas classic "Sleigh Ride."
The interesting harmonies and delightful melodies of the two Ayako originals, the Monk like Monkey Punch and the ballad "Far Away" proves she is also a master of composition. Ayako shows her versatility with the Barry Harris Samba, Nascimento.
The last four pieces are songs requested by the audience, "Moonglow," "My Romance," Brubeck's "Take Five" and Rollins' "St. Thomas."