Up to this point in time, Ark Sano is best known as the pianist with
the impressive Los Angeles-based group Black/Note. The pacesetting hard
bop band has recorded four CDs and has created quite a stir in straight-ahead
Born in Gifu, Japan, Ark Sano began playing organ when he was 12. He
developed so quickly as a musician that within two years he was leading his
own band. Switching to piano when he was 16, Ark discovered jazz as a
teenager and moved to the U.S. to study at the Berklee College of Music. In
1989 he entered the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Piano Competition
where he was a finalist. A year later he graduated from Berklee and, after
relocating to Los Angeles, he met the members of Black/Note at a jam session
hosted by Billy Higgins' World Stage.
For his debut as a leader, Ark Sano is joined by bassist Dan Lutz and
drummer Rob Perkins, two young players who, like Sano, work steadily in Los
Angeles area clubs. The interplay between the three musicians is quite
impressive and intuitive; they often seem to think as one. Their repertoire
mixes together original tunes by the pianist with fresh versions of
standards. Although there are spots where Ark Sano will remind listeners a
bit of McCoy Tyner, Red Garland and Bill Evans, he is an original pianist who
has developed his own individual voice.
The program begins with the altered blues "Let's Listen To It," has
an unusual somber ballad version of "The Best Thing For You" and follows it
up with a driving 6/4 jazz waltz "Willie Come Lately." The relaxed
"Monopoly" is quite boppish while the bridge of the song is a little
reminiscent of Fats Waller's "Honeysuckle Rose." "Blue Pearl" gives Perkins
a chance for some drum breaks, "Dedicated To Mothers" is introspective yet
purposeful and Thelonious Monk's "Hackensack" is given surprise parade
rhythms before cooking hard. The well-rounded debut concludes with the
thoughtful "Red Blue" and a sly and witty version of the vintage "I'm
Confessin' That I Love You."
This one's a keeper and an impressive start to Ark Sano's solo career.
--- Scott Yanow
Editor, All Music Guide To Jazz