Aina (world premiere, LA Phil commission with generous support from the Esa-Pekka Salonen Commission Fund)
Stylistically omnivorous, Hitomi Oba synthesizes a wide range of training and experience, from classical composition to straight-ahead jazz improvisation and fusions with several distinct world music genres. For young musicians, this has become more the norm than not, as she noted in a 2016 interview: “As musicians are becoming increasingly disciplined in a wide variety of genres, it has become more matter-of-fact for new musical works to be stylistic hybrids.”
The resolution of multiple influences can be highly personal and organic, as Oba’s new Aina reveals seductively. It opens in reverie, a kind of Bartókian nocturne, with the underlying jazz harmonies and the feathery whispers from the tenor saxophone giving it a bit of noir feeling and color.
From there, it takes off in bouncy dance grooves – with hints of the opening in the strings – of increasing intensity and agitation, leading to an improvised sax solo over gritty strings. This tapers and dissolves and the opening material makes its presence felt again, thought the rounded conclu- sion is punctuated with energetic string outbursts. — John Henken