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Hiromi

April 2012
NUVO
Jeff Reed -
Generation Next: Piano with Eldar & Hiromi Palladium at the Center for the Performing Arts, Carmel, Indiana

...

After intermission, short-statured but sure-footed Hiromi Uehara traipses across the Palladium stage in a black jumper with black leggings and leopard-print high-tops, her black hair scrunched above her grinning face. She sits, adjusts, then readjusts the stool height, sets her hands atop the keys, hesitates as if meditating, then sinks into the dark, moody, Beethoven-esque intro to "Voice," the title track from her latest album. Darkness soon fades into a bright 7/8 techno feel, reminiscent of the '70s rockers Rush, replete with lightning unison lines and kicks flawlessly executed by drummer Simon Phillips and legendary electric bassist Anthony Jackson.

Instantly and effortlessly, the pianist displays her superhuman technique—lightning repetition of a single right hand note against complex chordal melodies in the left, all the while maintaining poise enough to smile at the audience, reassuring us that yes, I am human. Whoa! Just when we thought we'd heard it all the hour before, our amazement gets ratcheted up a few more notches.

Hiromi performed lots of rapid-fire show-stoppers, as expected, most from her latest album, Voice, all made to look easy, as if she were devoting but half her concentration.

But just when it seems the pianist knows only fortissimo, she eases into her single solo piece of the night, "Place to Be," from her album of the same title, demonstrating that she can create intensity and finesse even at pianissimo.

Hiromi's sensitive recasting of the second movement of Beethoven's Pathetique sonata, which has long attracted jazzers, was the evening's highlight. Easing into this lush, lyrical piece, she played to about bar six "as written," then couldn't resist bending the harmony and the rhythm her own sweet way, each pass-through an imaginative re-harmonization of the first eight bars. Jackson and Phillips deftly followed every twist and turn.

Brilliant playing aside, Hiromi is plain fun to watch, her auditory performance delightfully enhanced by inadvertent sways of the back, shimmies of the shoulders, lollings of the head, big smiles projected to the audience, as if sharing some irresistibly funny joke. Surely, she's having more fun than anyone in the house.

It seems interesting to note that the two most explosive pianists of the age are both, well, rather petite, or "physically understated." Where does that power come from? And, while both bring exciting new life and electricity to the art, Hiromi, at age 33, is clearly the more seasoned, harmonically sophisticated, and lyrically expressive pianist of the two. But it will be interesting to listen to Eldar mature in the years to come.

This rare treat was not lost on the audience which, filling just over half the auditorium, extended a standing ovation to Eldar, and three to a smiling, almost giddy Hiromi.





   
   
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