The last album I explored here from saxophonist Patrick Shiroishi, was his deeply personal exploration of his grandfather’s time in a U.S. internment camp, Descension, which was out last year. It would seem that a piece as bracing and as deeply emotional as that work would drain the most ardent artist, but that masterpiece found itself among more than eleven other splits and collaborations from 2020, each bearing the explosive fire and subtle shading inherent in Shiroishi’s playing. As might be imagined of an artist of such magnitude, 2021 has seen him grace another unimaginable barrage of releases, finding himself in good company with Camila Nebbia, Chris Williams, Luke Stewart and Claire Rousay among others. Yet it is his solo work on Hidemi, a companion piece to the aforementioned, Descension that packs the biggest imprint.
While the previous album packed pain, pressure, and anger into its bounds, focusing on the imprisonment of a generation, the follow-up deals with the fallout of the events following his grandfather’s release. Here anger, exuberance, and solace weave like strands of the same vine. Hidemi finds Shiroishi playing alto, baritone, tenor, C melody, and soprano saxophones, with the instruments harmonizing, conversing, and arguing for space like voices in a community. The voices are seething, soothing, grieving, and celebrating sometimes with one another, sometimes with the world itself. The album proves yet again that Shiroishi’s voice and playing grant a vitality to those emotions that lie between words, the immutable entanglement of soul and synapse and the subtleties that can’t often be put into speech. The images burnt into memory and transgressions that reshape the DNA of generations find their voice through Shiroishi’s sonic paintings.
While the human voice doesn’t grace more than the final moments of Hidemi, Shiroishi gathers voices in his own fashion with an accompanying chapbook featuring writings and art by fellow Asian-American artists – Tangled. Like the strands of sax intertwined, the essays seek to digest the current violence perpetrated against the Asian-American community due to racist pandemic misconceptions. He leads off the book with an essay on ‘gaman,’ a means to endure the seemingly unbearable with patience and dignity, a theme that runs throughout Hidemi’s core. The words that grace the album come in the last moments, a wish for a new world, a new society that warrants no gaman — a time without fear. It is prayer and promise in one — a tracing of history over photographs of the present.
Support the artist. Buy it HERE.