Hammond B3 organist Atsuko Hashimoto bookended the Oregon Coast Jazz Party. The diminutive bundle of energy from Osaka performed on opening night, again on Saturday and in the Sunday morning wrap session. Her set with drummer Jeff Hamilton and guitarist Graham Dechter began with the ballad “All or Nothing at All” from their most recent CD. She and Hamilton kicked it off at a blistering non-balladic tempo, as later they did “Yours is My Heart Alone,” another piece that began life as a tender expression of sentiment and takes on a different character at top speed.
In their decade of playing together, Hashimoto and Hamilton have developed an easy relationship into which Dechter fits as a full partner. The trio locked in tightly through Hank Mobley’s “Soul Station,” “Always Trust Your Heart” with Hamilton’s hand drumming introduction, and “I’ve Never Been in Love Before.” The closing blues had stop-time breaks for Dechter, Hamilton’s compelling shuffle beat and Hashimoto in flurries that swelled and receded in waves up and down the keyboard. The three smiled continually through the piece.
They were back the next morning, each playing an unaccompanied solo in a set that also included clarinetist Ken Peplowski, bassist John Clayton, pianist Gerald Clayton and vibraharpist Chuck Redd. In the Sunday wrap session, Hashimoto, Hamilton and Peplowski—this time on tenor saxophone— played an organ trio set that began with “Sunny,” leading Terell Stafford, listening backstage, to say of Peplowski, “Wow, he sounds like Stanley Turrentine.” They followed with “If I Had You,” Hashimoto applying dynamics reminiscent of Jimmy Smith, her early inspiration. Peplowski announced the final tune of the set as “Wagner’s Ring Cycle. We’re going to try to get through it in three-and-a-half hours.” He looked over at Hashimoto shuffling through lead sheets and said, “She’s looking for the music.” The piece turned out to be “Shiny Stockings.”