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Hiroko Kokubu: Bridge

With an elegant, classical approach to the acoustic piano, Hiroko Kokubu has always had a way of adding substance to even the most ordinary arrangement. On Bridge (JVC 2067-2; 51:06), her eighth release, Kokubu utilizes her technical skill to bridge traditional gaps between genres. The overall result is a warm and stylish effort packed with surprises. Heading the list is an upbeat, rattling jazz arrangement of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” Tom Coster’s purring Hammond B-3 and Kokubu’s stiff-fingered bluesy play drain all sap from the piece, creating something exciting and different. Also unexpected is the sly “Essence,” pulling together a teasing bass line and other blues elements to complement Kokubu’s delicate play. Other highlights include the whimsical Caribbean-styled “Baked Potato Man,” featuring Andy Narell’s steel pan percussion, and the warmly nostalgic classical-to-pop piece, “Our Story.”

Originally Published