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What's so good about Hiromi?
As I indicated in yesterday's post about Bettye LaVette, some artists resonate with me from the first note I hear. Others take a little more time to sink in. For me, Hiromi Uehara falls into the latter category.
Before spending some time listening to Hiromi, I knew she was an exciting and popular pianist. Hers is one name mentioned frequently when we ask our audience which artists they'd like to see at the festival; her performance with the Stanley Clarke Band on the mainstage in 2010 was high-energy from start to finish. I didn't have a sense, though, of her true mastery not only of her instrument, but of her ability to represent on the piano the wide range of emotions which inspire her each time she plays.
Hiromi arrived on the international jazz scene in 2003, having been signed to the Telarc label even before completing her studies at Berklee College of Music. She was quickly recognized as a monster pianist, and clips like this one demonstrate how well she moves around the 88 keys:
Fiery technique is certainly key to creating an exciting performance...but it's the more subtle moments that tend to really connect me to what I'm hearing. If an artist can maintain my interest in the quiet (but no less intense) moments, then I start to feel like I'm in the presence of a master. Here's a great example: in this performance of her tune "Place to Be", I notice Hiromi's delicate touch on the keys and the emotion coming across in her playing but also, when she moves into the solo section (right around 3:35), there's a sense of groove - appropriate to the tune, but swinging all the same. Check it out:
Hiromi will be joined onstage by Anthony Jackson on bass and Simon Phillips on drums; their performance will feature music from the trio's 2011 release Voice. About the album's title, Hiromi says: "When I play music, I realize that it really filters emotions. I called this album Voice because I believe that people's real voices are expressed in their emotions." Here's a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the album:
Hiromi: The Trio Project hits the Mainstage at Nathan Phillips Square on Sunday, June 24 at 8 pm; the second half of the double bill features The Bad Plus with special guest Joshua Redman. For more information, visit the show's concert page.