Japanese pianist Hiromi exploded into the music world with her debut ‘Another Mind’. Displaying almost over-whelming technique and power at the keys, both she and her album grabbed your attention, took you on a rollercoaster and left you breathless and slightly dazed.
Album number 2, ‘Brain’, then does not grab you in the same way – it couldn’t - but still showcases an incredible and still very young artist who has plenty to say. Opening with the surprisingly electronics-heavy ‘Kung-Fu World Champion’, Hiromi displays a mastery of analog keyboards and squiggly sounding synths, with Tony Greys bass also perfectly melding into the mix. A few minutes in, Hiromi switches to building the pace with the acoustic piano, and the vibe generated is first rate. The next two tracks in comparison are entirely acoustic piano-trio pieces, with ‘If’ a perfect example of trio interplay, the bass and drums more to the fore than previously seen, and with ‘Wind Song’ displaying a dreamy waltz-like quality.
Throughout the album the piano does dominate, and rightly so - in Hiromi’s hands, the instrument is masterful and comes alive. However the keyboards that Hiromi also enjoys are more prominent than on her earlier recording. The title track for the most part, for example, sounds like a winning theme from an Oscar-nominated underdog epic, but is book-ended by some swirling keyboard effects that tend to jar and stand out. The penultimate ‘Keytalk’ too moves from an all-out jam with wonky sounding keyboards, before settling into first a more jazzy, then African sounding, dance groove. Sliding into a more European dance feel, the electronic sounds don’t truly gel with the rest of the music around it, and sounds much more ‘assembled’ than the more organic live interplay going on.
Much more successful are the acoustic piano pieces; ‘Desert Moon’ with its galloping pace but lightness of touch gives it a feel of a more sprightly Bill Evans, but perhaps as backed by Buddy Rich, whilst ‘Green Tea Farm’ with its moving slow and plaintive quality has more than a hint of prime era Keith Jarrett.
Best of all though is the ending ‘Legend Of The Purple Valley’. Epic in sound, it switches between jazz and film score music. Sounding like Hiromi is going for her very own concerto, it makes a truly great finale to the album.
After the success of her debut ‘Another Mind’, ‘Brain’ offers a follow-up that takes some new directions. Each of the pieces manages to be varied and interesting, while still holding as a complete album. Very occasionally the electronic sounds don’t gel with the acoustic. Make no mistake though; this is not a fusion record. Hiromi basically is making an album of music that she wants to make – some jazz, some some classical, a hint of rock, acoustic here, electronic there. Some listeners then won’t like what they hear, but everyone will find something here that will hook them. All of the pieces are bursting with incredible ideas, and for anyone willing to listen without prejudice to the electric elements, will find an awesome and satisfying musical journey.