Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Review: Hiromi - Spiral

After her first two superb releases ‘Another Mind’ and ‘Brain’, Hiromi hits the ground running with her third, and best, album yet, ‘Spiral’. Comprised entirely of self-penned compositions, her music mixs a heady brew of various dramatic themes, and places them into a distinctive kinetic jazz setting.

The lead-off title track begins with a slow build before crescendoing into a full jazz workout, where the trio gets to flex their muscle. Possessing a strong bluesy feel, it continues throughout the second more melancholic number, before hitting a peak on the following piece, which winningly displays strong percussive flourishes from Martin Valihora. Outstanding though is Tony Grey, who having more than proven himself both on Hiromi’s previous two recordings and live on stage, steps up a further gear and delivers some awesome high-end bass work, that at first adopts a solo guitar role before returning to its rhythm nature and provides a truly hypnotising groove.

Penultimate track ‘Love And Laughter’ takes on a nice swing jazz feel, and stands out as being the piece to play the uninitiated. Comparisons abound still with her heroes Jamal, Corea and of course Peterson, but the most present voice here, overwhelmingly is her own; her piano at the same time driving and elegant, and crucially hitting the mark in both intellectually and soulfully.

What comes next though completely changes tact; ‘Return Of Kung-Fu World Champion’ energetically leaps into the fray with Hiromi employing analogue keyboards and electronics to power forward an exhilarating update on her earlier ‘Kung-Fu World Champion’. Hiromi’s switch to grand piano midway through too adds a dramatic thrilling touch, with a driving low-end rhythm, and even if not a fan of the previous incarnation, this new one is simply stunning and all of the band are on full-throttle, going to show how not just Hiromi, but all of the band have improved.

‘Spiral’ then is a brilliant work that has so far best realised Hiromi’s potential (no easy feat). Where brilliance was in spades on her first two albums, occasionally mis-placed effects and electronics could put off some listeners. Here however, the balance between the sounds is perfect, and just as importantly the album flows astonishingly well. If you have to start with one Hiromi record, make it this one. We can only salivate at the prospect of her future works.


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