Stacey Kent’s clear-as-light vocals and Art Hirahara’s lyrical piano make their duo outing exactly “what the world needs now.” On Songs from Other Places, their artistry is beautifully laid bare in classic songs including Weill and Gershwin’s “My Ship,” Jobim’s “Bonita,” and Paul Simon’s “American Tune”—once a protest against the Vietnam War, now a troubled elegy for a nation in even greater distress.
There are happy moments too: “Tango in Macao,” a fine reading of Paul McCartney’s “Blackbird” (where Hirahara shines), and Stevie Nicks’ “Landslide,” which Kent transforms into a message of optimism and hope. Kazuo Ishiguro and Jim Tomlinson’s “I Wish I Could Go Traveling Again” opens the album; the duo’s energetic rendition makes you forget the aptness of its title.
As always, Kent is something of a chameleon; whether swinging, singing ballads, or rendering folk songs in French, she makes each song unique in her trademark, subtly enthusiastic way. Hirahara, who plays every Wednesday at my favorite bar in Greenwich Village, is a veteran talent who should be trumpeted—his seven albums as a leader, including 2021’s Open Sky, are hard-swinging, extremely creative visions framed by beautiful writing and undeniably charismatic playing. Songs from Other Places is an exceptional vehicle for each artist, as Kent’s keen interpretations dance with Hirahara’s dynamic, empathetic piano, which equally leads and supports.
Some music seems fated to match a moment in time. Songs from Other Places provides that level of sublime solace for ours.