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Album Review: Hidden Flowers
Masako
Cover image of the album Hidden Flowers by Masako
Hidden Flowers
Masako
2020 / Masako Music
62 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
Hidden Flowers is the fifth album from pianist/composer Masako. Co-produced with Will Ackerman and Tom Eaton and recorded at Ackerman’s Imaginary Road Studios in Vermont, the album contains twelve original compositions by Masako and features several of the excellent musicians who often appear on Imaginary Road productions. Masako started studying the piano at the age of four in Japan and her piano touch is always graceful and elegant. All twelve tracks are very peaceful and soothing - a welcome retreat from the challenges of this year! My only complaint is that there aren’t more piano solos - only two this time - as Masako is a truly exceptional pianist and I love being able to focus on her playing. Nevertheless, I really love this album!

Hidden Flowers begins with “Harajuku Memoir,” a piano solo that looks back on when Masako was a fashion design student many years ago. Harajuku is a “fashion town” in Tokyo that is known for reflecting the youth culture at all times, and Masako often wonders how it has changed over the years. The piece is dreamy and uncomplicated with a freely-changing tempo that supports the lovely melody. “Age of Flowers” begins as a piano solo, and then includes Eugene Friesen on cello, Premik Russell Tubbs on wind synth, and Jeff Haynes on percussion. The title refers to the time of Woodstock, nearly fifty years ago, and how that music has influenced the artists who came after. Far from being a rock anthem, it is a tribute to how artists often unknowingly help each other to find their own voices. “Acadia” is a celebration of the only national park in the Northeastern US (I didn’t know that!) and is performed by the trio of Masako on piano, Jeff Oster on trumpet and Tom Eaton with the sounds of ocean waves that Masako wanted to be an integral part of the piece like another instrument - a favorite! “Remember the Rainy Day” is the second piano solo and is a quiet meditation on remembering the bad times as well as the good ones in order to fully express an emotional range in the arts - and to help us empathize with others going through something similar. The piano always seems like the perfect instrument to express the sound and feel of different types of rain, and Masako proves that point! “Blossom River” is a beautiful trio for piano, cello (Friesen) and alto flute (Tubbs) that paints a very peaceful picture of masses of cherry blossoms covering the surface of a river and their gentle movement in the water - another favorite. “Eternal Bliss” is the first of two pieces that feature violinist Charlie Bisharat, one of my favorite musicians! This one is an expressive piano/violin duet that is truly blissful! The second piece with Charlie is called “Southbound Flyway” and refers to the migrating birds that fly over Masako’s house in a “V” formation early every fall. Jeff Oster (trumpet), Tom Eaton (bass) and Jeff Haynes (percussion) join in to form a wonderful quintet. I love duets for piano and cello, and “Suddenly Cherry Blossoms” is breathtaking - soulful, poignant and deeply heartfelt. “Central Park Retreat” recalls time Masako spent in the NYC park with her son when he was little. Piano, cello, percussion, flute, synth and Noah Wilding’s wordless vocals bring images of people from all walks of life enjoying the sun-drenched park in their own special ways, bringing the album to a serene close.

Masako has become one of my favorite artists, and a new album from her is always a treat! Hidden Flowers. Is available from Masako-Music.com, Amazon, iTunes, Spotify and various other streaming sites.
June 17, 2020
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