Having loved all of Hiromi’s albums to date, I have for years been trying desperately to attend one of her concerts – in any format; be it solo, in a trio, with her electric Sonicbloom group, duetting…
Alas, I’ve been thwarted for about five years, with various issues and other events getting in the way. This year seemed to be no different either, with my wedding and honeymoon seemingly topping three nights of Hiromi live in London in the importance stakes. Luckily I’ve married the right woman, who was more than happy to attend a gig of some of the most exuberant piano jazz artists of the moment during our honeymoon.
I’ve attended Cadogan Hall in Sloane Square too (very upmarket – go for a drink elsewhere first rather than locally) before, and approved of the venue; about a thousand people capacity, very good sound, excellent views for anyone in the audience, and very easy to get to (one minute walk from the tube), it’s a fantastic live music choice.
No support, and with the trio walking straight on to the stage, to thunderous applause, the trio of Hiromi Uehara, Anthony Jackson, and Simon Philips dived right in to playing some incredible dexterous and complex music, that managed to be both exhilarating and playful.
Playing largely a mix of music of her ‘Voice’ and ‘Move’ albums, which both Jackson and Philips have played with the pianist on, the group also played a few tunes from the upcoming ‘Alive’. Another welcome variance though was that it wasn’t just always the trio playing – after a short interval following the first half of the show, just Hiromi herself returned for the first number of the second half, and it was a winner from start to finish. Playing a typically dazzling array of notes, Hiromi did so in a way that created a kind of slow yet up-tempo glittering waterfall of piano that rose and fell, and went all kind of directions. Keith Jarrett may be the reigning king of the solo piano, but on the evidence tonight, the just 34 years old Hiromi could very much give him a run for his money.
Hiromi is without doubt an incredible pianist, but aside from her technical prowess, it is also her winningly fun personality that comes through that really makes her music. And tonight, this was in abundance – musically and visually. And you certainly won’t see any player having more fun on stage. Throughout Hiromi leapt about the piano and displayed a wild abandon in showing a full range of facial expressions (though to fair, mostly a big smile).
An even better bonus however is the band. Anthony Jackson and Simon Philips have already astounded on record, but live they excel. Jackson plays a relatively rare contra-bass guitar, that possesses a truly great range and sound, and in Jacksons hands, is something truly awe-inspiring, while Philips’ drumming (and drum kit) was just huge; able to play subtle and quiet one minute, and loud and driving the next, he has a great show stopping range and easily matched his two band mates in virtuosity and skill. Together though they made a killer unit, playing together and interweaving with wonderful finesse.
Overall the whole night was a great show, and huge fun. Somehow Hiromi managed to play jazz, and not yet jazz, taking in classical, rock, a little salsa, blues…anything went, and it went well. The audience all looked like they were having a fantastic time, applause was loud and plentiful, and the entire band looked invigorated and happy throughout.
The gig was over all too soon, and the encore was a wonderful thank you, but in all honesty everyone almost certainly wanted a whole lot more. I’d always expected to love Hiromi as a live performer, and on this night I was not only not let down, but was even further bowled over – not just by her playing, but by her groups, their interplay, and just by the sheer musicality on display. I really must catch her and her ‘Trio Project’ again.