If you’ve been following Hiromi’s career up until this point, especially chronologically, then ‘Time Control’ - her forth - will come as no surprise. With each release featuring more adept electronic work, here she acquires a full-time guitarist in the form of David Fiuczynski and in doing so becomes the leader of a band that in set-up (and occasionally sound) will draw many comparisons with ‘Return To Forever’.
Curiously though, despite the addition of an electric guitarist, Hiromi almost entirely restricts herself to the acoustic piano. The effect of this though is spellbinding, with Hiromi’s classical training and the guitar-piano interplay taking on an impressive velocity and blend. Album opener ‘Time Difference’ showcases some excellent solo work and highlights just how well the band meshes, with Fiuczynski’s guitar throwing in some considerable punch. The call-and-response at the halfway mark is worth the price of entrance alone.
‘Time Out’, the second track, takes on a more swaggering blues persona, while bizarrely ‘Deep Into The Night’ two numbers later sounds at times, with its angular guitar and tinkling piano mix, uncannily like David Bowie’s classic album ‘Diamond Dogs’.
The highlight appears at the half-way point in ‘Real Clock vs. Body Clock = Jet Lag’, where the entire band synch together sublimely to play what sounds like a forgotten 60s jazz spy-theme. With its twanging guitar and running rhythm, it’s a wonder why no-one has yet attempted to poach this for sampling or remixing (at least at the time of writing this). Elsewhere, ‘Time And Space’ offers a slower and more spacious sound, with a great solo by Hiromi, and ‘Time Control, Or Controlled By Time’ that follows it sounds just like you imagine ‘Return To Forever’ would sound if they did record a new album today, albeit in a different dimension.
All of the band are on fine form here. Fiuczynski, on fretted and fretless guitars, is given the rock-start treatment, and thrives on it. And with his superb chops, his presence greatly helps the bandleader in achieving the fusion sound she is clearly aiming for. Martin Valihora again provides the solid and strong rhythm we’ve come to expect, and Tony Grey gives us his best performance yet, ably switching smoothly between soulful and moving to full-on rock attack in the space of a single bar.
Here and there, you can feel the influences of her three biggest mentors, Oscar, Chick and Ahmad, emerging - but where Hiromi truly succeeds is melding all of these very different influences into something her own. At times melodic, quirky and complex, Hiromi’s music possess a certain edge that won’t be for everyone, but this is music as it should be – with the freedom to both explore and express without restriction on length or sound or having to play to a demographic. The addition of electric guitar to the stellar trio may not be to all tastes, but Hiromi Uehara has rapidly become known as an important artist who will contribute no small changes to the music of jazz and jazz fusion. And ‘Time Control’ is another great entry in an already enviably strong catalogue.