New Ari Hest Release One of the Year's Best

The Fire Plays
Project 4 Records
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Ari Hest is the best thing to happen to baritones since the emergence of John Gorka. It must be the harbor waters—Gorka is from metro New Jersey and Hest from the Bronx. And Paul Simon, whose pen prowess Hest sometimes approaches, is from Newark. Go figure. Hest’s newest release—his twelfth since 1999—is a small masterpiece, a blend of solid hooks, poetic imagery, and soulful vocals. Among its many impressive dimensions is the ease with which Hest moves from a simple acoustic guitar backed melody such as “Concrete Sky” to a textured composition such as “Know Where,” a big arrangement offering with anthem-like lyrical tag lines. The lust arrangements come when Hest sits down at the piano and dips his keys into an instrumental potage that includes brass, strings, drums, and electric guitars.  But one of the things that struck me was how easily he shifts from a song that could be a late Billy Joel arrangement to stripped down Gorka-like songs that are just acoustic guitar and voice. And what a voice it is, husky and edgy one moment, and as soothing as caramel the next. Check out tracks two through six, a five-song sequence as good as any I’ve heard in some time. This is one of my favorite releases of 2012.  (You may have to wait until November 13, its official release date.)

Here are a few links: “The Fire Plays” (audio only): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-8FUvA6cEfk

“All Because I Love You” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kS_4QiR1S9w

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