AMN Reviews: Patrick Shiroishi – Hidemi (2021; American Dreams)

Whether solo or group context, saxophonist Patrick Shiroishi is a remarkably adaptive player. He is capable of performing systemically complex music that is also emotive and expressive. These skills are exemplified in Hidemi. Titled after his grandfather, who was a prisoner in Japanese-American concentration camps during World War II, the album reflects not only on Hidemi’s journey from incarceration to freedom in a culture still suffering from xenophobia, but how this history echoes in the rise in anti-Asian hate crimes during the pandemic.

Unlike Shiroishi’s recent explorations of dark moments in our past through solo effort, here he overdubs himself on alto, baritone, tenor, C melody, and soprano sax, as well as vocals. While some moments skew outside, the overall tone is structured, with hints of minimalism and well as densely contrapuntal passages. There indeed is an inevitable pain in these pieces, with plaintive wails and melancholy tones.

But Shiroishi also offers up a hint at joy – not so much an acceptance of past, but an acknowledgment of how it has shaped the present – that leaves room for some degree of optimism in what the future holds. This emotional nuance is prevalent in The Long Bright Dark, the capstone piece of the album. Multitracked saxes provide floating rhythms for a melancholy soprano solo, followed by Shiroishi briefly singing in what might be a releasing of pain. The track finishes with discordant blasts, ending the album in a cautionary tone.

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