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Ahmad Jamal  • HiromiShahin Novrasli


Hiromi

Release date June 17, 2014

Features contra-bass guitarist
Anthony Jackson
And drummer Simon Phillips

"I don't want to put a name on my music. Other people can put a name on what I do. It’s just the union of what I've been listening to and what I've been learning. It has some elements of classical music, it has some rock, it has some jazz, but I don't want to give it a name."
—Hiromi

Japan has produced an impressive assemblage of jazz pianists, from Toshiko Akiyoshi and Makoto Ozone to Junko Onishi. And now, well into the change of the 21st century, the pianist/composer Hiromi Uehara is the latest in that line of amazing musicians. Ever since the 2003 release of her debut Telarc CD, Another Mind, Hiromi has electrified audiences and critics east and west, with a creative energy that encompasses and eclipses the boundaries of jazz, classical and pop parameters, taking improvisation and composition to new heights of complexity and sophistication. Her new CD, Alive, her ninth as a leader, features her critically-acclaimed Trio Project, consisting of contrabass guitarist Anthony Jackson (Steely Dan, Paul Simon, Michel Camilo, The O’Jays and Chick Corea) and drummer Simon Phillips (Toto, The Who, Judas Priest, David Gilmour, and Jack Bruce).

Born in Hamamatsu, Shizuoka, Japan on March 26, 1979, Hiromi’s piano lessons started when she was six, and she performed her first recital at that age. Her first teacher, Noriko Hikida, encouraged her to access both the intuitive and technical aspects of music. "Her energy was always so high, and she was so emotional," Hiromi says of Hikida. "When she wanted me to play with a certain kind of dynamics, she wouldn’t say it with technical terms. If the piece was something passionate, she would say, ‘Play red.’ Or if it was something mellow, she would say, ‘Play blue.’ I could really play from my heart that way, and not just from my ears."

Hikida also exposed Hiromi to jazz and introduced her to the great pianists Erroll Garner and Oscar Peterson. She enrolled in the Yamaha School of Music at age six and started to write music at that time.

Hiromi moved to the United States in 1999, and she matriculated at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, which extended her artistic sensibilities. "It expanded so much the way I see music," she says. "Some people dig jazz, some people dig classical music, some people dig rock. Everyone is so concerned about who they like. They always say, ‘This guy is the best,’ ‘No, this guy is the best.’ But I think everyone is great. I really don’t have barriers to any type of music. I could listen to everything from metal to classical music to anything else."

Hiromi
Photo (credit)

Among her mentors at Berklee was the veteran jazz bassist/arranger Richard Evans, who teaches arranging and orchestration. It was Evans who took Hiromi’s demo tape to his friend and collaborator: the legendary pianist/bandleader Ahmad Jamal. "[Professor Evans] really liked how I played," Hiromi fondly recalled. "And Ahmad loved the demo – I couldn’t believe it! He’s been very encouraging and supportive. He’s an amazing human being."

Evans co-produced her debut CD, Another Mind, with Jamal, who has also taken a personal interest in Hiromi’s artistic development. "She is nothing short of amazing," says Jamal. "Her music, together with her overwhelming charm and spirit, causes her to soar to unimaginable musical heights." Another Mind was a critical success in North America and in her native Japan, where the album shipped gold (100,000 units) and received the Recording Industry Association of Japan’s (RIAJ) Jazz Album of the Year Award. Hiromi’s astonishing debut was but a forecast of the shape of jazz to come.

Her second release, Brain, won the Horizon Award at the 2004 Surround Music Awards, Swing Journal’s New Star Award, Jazz Life’s Gold Album, HMV Japan’s Best Japanese Jazz Album and the Japan Music Pen Club’s Japanese Artist Award (the JMPC is a classical/jazz journalists club). Brain was also named Album of the Year in Swing Journal’s 2005 Readers Poll. In 2006, Hiromi won Best Jazz Act at the Boston Music Awards and the Guinness Jazz Festival’s Rising Star Award. She also claimed Jazzman of the Year, Pianist of the Year and Album of the Year in Swing Journal’s Readers Poll for her 2006 release, Spiral. Hiromi’s winning streak continued with the release of Time Control in 2007 and Beyond Standard in 2008. Both releases featured Sonicbloom: her hand-picked group that included guitarist Dave "Fuze" Fiuczynski, bassist Tony Grey and drummer Martin Valihora.

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Hiromi achieved a number of milestones in 2009. She recorded with pianist Chick Corea – who she met in Japan when she was seventeen – on Duet, a two-disc live recording of their transcendent, trans-generational and transcultural duo concert in Tokyo. She also appeared on bassist Stanley Clarke’s Heads Up International release, Jazz in the Garden, which also featured former Chick Corea bandmate, drummer Lenny White.

In June of that same year, Hiromi simultaneously released two concert DVDs, both recorded in Tokyo: Hiromi Live in Concert (recorded in December 2005) and Hiromi’s Sonicbloom Live in Concert (recorded in December 2007). The former features the rhythm section of Grey and Valihora, while the latter includes Fiuczynski’s incendiary fretwork.

In 2010, Hiromi released A Place to Be, an impressive and intimate solo piano CD; her evocative aural travelogue of the many places and spaces she visited around the world. "I wanted to record the sound of my twenties for archival purposes," she says. "I felt like the people whom I met on the road during my twenties really helped me develop and mature as a musician and as a person. So in addition to making a record that represented all of these places that have inspired my music, I also wanted it to be a thank-you to those people."

Photos (credit)

She followed up A Place to Be with a DVD, Hiromi Solo Live at Blue Note New York. Recorded on August 20 and 21, 2010, at the Blue Note in New York City, the video includes 11 originals and a special bonus feature with interview clips and performance footage from some of Hiromi’s favorite cities around the world.

On her 2011 album, Voice, Hiromi’s goal was to capture people’s "inner voices" to create what she called a "three-dimensional sound." On that album, she assembled a trio that included herself and two veteran players: contrabass guitarist Anthony Jackson and drummer Simon Phillips. While Hiromi had played with Jackson prior to recording Voice, she had never recorded an entire album with either him or Phillips, the latter who had been recommended to her by legendary bassist Stanley Clarke, a mutual acquaintance.

Also in 2011, The Stanley Clarke Band CD featuring Hiromi won the GRAMMY® Award for Best Contemporary Jazz Album.

While on the road, Hiromi started writing music for the follow-up CD, Move, released in 2013. "Because I had been playing with Anthony and Simon for quite a bit, I just started to understand their characteristics, and I could find a hidden gem in their playing," she explains. "There’s so much more to their playing. As a composer, I really wanted to write the songs especially for them, and I wanted to extract the unique beauty of their playing." Move, like Voice, had an overriding theme, which Hiromi describes as "time in one day." "You wake up and go to work and then hang out," she says. "The album is like a soundtrack for a day." That same year, she had several impressive placements in DownBeat magazine’s 61st Annual International Critics Poll, in the Jazz Artist, Piano, Keyboard and Rising Star: Piano categories. Also, in 2013, she performed at George Wein’s Newport Jazz Festival and will perform there for the festival’s sixtieth anniversary in 2014.

Alive is the latest chapter in Hiromi’s ever-evolving musical life. "I’m hungry to learn," she told DownBeat magazine, "so I’ll always keep my big ears open fully, ready to learn every single minute that I play."

Order Hiromi's
"ALIVE" Trio Recording (2014)

Order Hiromi's
"MOVE" Trio Recording (2013)

Order her
"Voice" Trio Recording (2011)

Order her
"Place to Be" Solo CD (2010)


Order the
Hiromi Place to be Song Book


Beyond Standard (2008) CD-83686
Time Control (2007) CD-83655
Spiral (2006) CD-83631
Brain (2004) CD-83600
Another Mind (2003) CD-83558


What others are saying:

"Hiromi brings an incredible amount of energy to every show, whether she's playing a jazz festival, a rock club or a classical music hall. After touring the world, the pianist's Trio Project with contrabass guitarist Anthony Jackson and drummer Simon Phillips has become one of the most exciting groups working in any genre today."
DownBeat

"Move is the soundtrack of a day, with each piece of music representing a different moment - from sunrise to sunset and the momentum, malaise, joy and quiet reflection that are all part of one day on earth. To round out the project, Hiromi teamed up with two of the music world's hardest-working session men, bass guitarist Anthony Jackson and drummer Simon Phillips."
NPR Weekend Edition Sunday

"State-of-the-art playing meets state-of-the-art recording."
Bass Player

"...the longer you listen and learn about Hiromi's music, the more profound and coherent her muse appears-and she isn't about to compromise it. The arpeggios, tremolos and genre-melting proceed with a vengeance on Move, the second disc with her Trio Project.."
JazzTimes

"...Move is yet more proof of Hiromi's lasting power and limitless potential."
Elmore

"Recorded with an impeccable trio of Anthony Jackson on contrabass and noted drummer Simon Phillips, Move may be Hiromi's most accomplished work yet."
Technology Tell

"Hiromi's mix of storyline and conceptual contemporary instrumentals is both fascinating and visionary. Highly recommended!"
Jazz Inside Magazine

"Hiromi's modern jazz music is outstanding, I absolutely love it. It's what I often want to listen to because it kicks my mood up a notch. Her songs combine many styles that include a mix of contemporary, jazz fusion, post-bop, and a little bit of classical music. Hiromi's latest release, Move, features contrabass guitarist Anthony Jackson who played with Paul Simon and Chick Corea, and drummer Simon Phillips who performed with The Who, David Gilmour, and Jack Bruce."
Voice of America

"The music of pianist Hiromi defies easy categorization. Her breadth of play makes Move an album that requires some concentration, but if you give it that effort you will be satisfied at the results. Playing with drummer Simon Phillips and bassist Anthony Jackson, Hiromi would seem to be in a typical jazz trio. But the music that emerges in an eight-minute title track is more like a bit of serious concert music than a jazz trio offering."
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

"Hiromi describes Move as 'a soundtrack for a day,' a sequence of sonic representations of life from the sounding of the alarm clock ('Move') to day's end ("11:49 pm"), with various adventures and emotions in-between, from work ('Endeavor') to unexpected rain shower ('Rainmaker') to party ('Margarita!'), as well as 'Suite Escapism.' From dawn til dusk, the trio mixes fire and rain, motion and emotion, a rollercoaster ride we've come to expect from a pianist who can dazzle like Tatum and sing like Jarrett, often within the span of a few notes. And on Move, all notes belong to Hiromi."
Jazz Police

"By splitting the difference between a post-bop trio and a muscular fusion trio, she found a spot that's ideally suited for not just her talents, but also those of her band. And Move goes a long way toward her further establishing her own identity."
Something Else!

"These new and original compositions are structured around a 'soundtrack for a day'... just twenty-four little hours, yet listening to Move there is an abundance of magnificent and emotive qualities in the experience. From the routine of daily life on to the dreams imagined and the flights of fancy in those unexpected moments, Hiromi has conjured up a loose yet concentrated passion in her playing for each of the nine selections. Move proves once more that Hiromi adds magic, creative ingenuity, and passion to a brilliant fusion of styles."
EDGEonthenet

"Other than calling her a wildly, uninhibited player, pinning Hiromi down is no easy task. Recording a second album in a row with the same players, this is the closest she's come to having a band--even though she remains front and center, the vibes that comes from the interplay and trust push her to the new levels her believers always knew she was capable of...A winner throughout and quite likely the best entry in her canon yet."
Midwest Record

"...one of the most versatile pianists on the scene today."
@CriticalJazz

   
 

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