You may have heard of wonderkid piano player extraordinaire Hiromi Uehara, usually known simply as Hiromi. You may not. Chances are that if you have, then her name was more than likely mentioned accompanied with a gushing side of superlatives. Always dangerous, as when an artist then fails to be anything other than ‘the best thing you have ever heard up until this point right now’, criticisms come to you just as easily as the superlatives do to the gushing fan.
Hiromi grew up listening to a number of jazz players and took up the piano at the tender age of six, where she then quickly (very quickly just under a year later) became a student at the Yamaha School of Music. At the age of twenty, she then found herself at the prestigious Berklee School of Music. But as if that weren’t impressive enough, she also found the time to both meet and be mentored by such legends as Oscar Peterson and Chick Corea. Ahmad Jamal though saw such a talent, that the two became close friends and it is his production work that features on this, her debut album.
With such close mentorship, problems and accusations of having too similar a sound often arise. Here though, that is not the case. The aggressive opener ‘XYZ’ displays a driving rhythm with some beautiful cascading piano lines, before settling into a hypnotic bass and drum groove with some impressive piano variations skipping over the top. A great beginning, it sets the tone brilliantly for the rest of the album.
‘Double Personality’ that follows features again a strong band, this time with additional guitar and saxophone. A taut balance of rhythm and melody, the band speeds from one variation to another. At the nine-minute mark, it sounds like a party you wish you’d been invited to.
Similarly ‘Summer Rain’ and ‘Joy’ maintain the uptempo mood, but with more of a funk feeling. After the weaves of the first two tracks, these two pieces are easily the most accessible tunes here. ‘01010101’ alternatively has a surprising electronic sound that warrants its title, even if the keyboards featured sound out of place, played on the piano or organ, this would have been sublime. When the piano does come in much later, it fits much better. None-the-less, the track oozes fun.
‘Truth And Lies’ and the title track offer much heavier and moodier themes, whereas ‘Dancando No Paraiso’ sandwiched between them possesses a fun fast jaunt that settles into a slow groove but Hiromi still tinkling like a fast-flowing stream. A brief and enjoyable drum solo then gives way to a perfect salsa-esque piano run, that can’t help but raise a smile to your face.
Bassists Mitch Cohn and Anthony Jackson, drummer Dave Di Censo and guests Jim Ogden on alto saxophone and Dave Fiuczynski on guitar give fine support, and Hiromi in turn gives them great solo spots. Together the music encompasses a wide variety of musical tastes, taken in such luminaries as diverse as JS Bach through to King Crimson. An incredible debut performance, this amazingly was made while Hiromi was still attending music school. One can only wonder at what she’ll come up with upon graduating.
The ending bonus solo piece ‘The Tom And Jerry Show’ is a superb display of Hiromis dexterity and also her strong sense of melody. Playful and energetic, its sense of infectious fun seems to mirror the feel, as well as the pacing, of a Tom and Jerry cartoon. It is a perfect ending to a great album. The only problem is that by the end you’ve run out of superlatives.