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Hiromi and Edmar Castañeda "Live in Montreal" CD

Ahmad Jamal  • HiromiMarialy Pacheco


Release date October 6, 2017

Hiromi's Surprising New Duo Project with Harpist Edmar Castañeda

Two of the most electrifying and original voices in contemporary jazz come together on Live in Montreal, the thrilling new album from Hiromi and Edmar Castañeda. Captured live at the 2017 Montreal International Jazz Festival, the album features the Japanese pianist/composer and the Colombian harpist finding common ground on Canadian soil, joining forces for a duo set that’s alternately – and at times simultaneously – engaging, explosive, moving, intricate and infectious.

Set for release October 6, 2017 on Telarc, a division of Concord Music Group, Live in Montreal was recorded exactly one year from the day when Hiromi and Castañeda first met. It was at the 2016 edition of the Montreal International Jazz Festival that the harpist was scheduled to open for a performance of Hiromi’s Trio Project. Each caught the other’s set and instantly fell under one another’s spell, as so many audiences had done before.

"I didn't really know what to expect," Hiromi remembers. "When I heard Edmar play I couldn't believe what I was witnessing. It was a jaw-dropping experience. I didn't realize the harp could create such rhythm and groove. I only knew about classical harp, so my image of the instrument was very different. His way of playing was pure energy, full of passion - I was just blown away."

For his part, Castañeda was equally awed by Hiromi’s set that night. "Her trio was burning, really crazy. The energy that she produced was the same as I like to play. I realized that we share the same passion for our instruments."

After the show that night the two broached the topic of a collaboration, but so often that kind of backstage talk gets forgotten the moment that each side moves on to the next town. Fortunately, that didn’t happen this time around, and it was less than two weeks later that Castañeda’s phone rang with an invitation to join Hiromi for a weeklong engagement at New York’s Blue Note Jazz Club. The moment they began to meld their distinctive sounds, the chemistry they’d suspected was more than confirmed.

"We both clearly remember the first few minutes of playing together in soundcheck," Hiromi says. "It was really magical and effortless. It felt like all the musical notes that we created were happy to be together. It was like dancing."/p>

From the blooming string swell that opens Castañeda’s "A Harp in New York," the duo’s synchronicity is gorgeously apparent. As a duo, their shared intuitions lead them from moments of serene beauty into bursts of propulsive momentum, leaving the listener floating with the perfect balance of tranquility and drive. The opening tug-of-war on "For Jaco" elicits appreciative laughter from the Montreal audience, providing a glimpse of the sheer joy that the pair finds in playing together. The tune’s buoyant groove was created in tribute to the legendary bassist Jaco Pastorius, whose brilliant art and tragic life proved both inspiration and cautionary tale for Castañeda.

"I was so impressed - and I’m still impressed - by all the tones and options Jaco created on the four-string bass," Castañeda says. "He inspired me to keep doing what I do on the harp, to try to show a different face of the instrument to people. At the same time, he showed me what not to do, how to try to be a musician but not try to go on the bad path that he took. I learned a lot from him, both personal and technical."

Hiromi’s stunningly lyrical "Moonlight Sunshine" was written in response to the devastating tsunami and earthquake suffered by her native Japan in 2011. Though she’s performed it in the past with bass giant Stanley Clarke, it’s a perfect fit for the soul-stirring virtuosity of both of these players. Their shared musical passions turn more fiery on the album’s closer, an entrancingly sultry take on Astor Piazzolla’s immortal "Libertango."

John Williams’ familiar "Cantina Band" from Star Wars swings the mood in the other direction, its playful spirit rendered in an arrangement that evokes Django Reinhardt’s gypsy swing, Calypso rhythms, and saloon-style stride piano. Hiromi, a diehard Star Wars fan from childhood, had long been looking for an outlet to tackle the tune, while Castañeda, shockingly for anyone born in the late ‘70s, has still never seen the film.

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The centerpiece of the set is Hiromi’s four-part suite "The Elements," composed especially for this duo. "I couldn't find anything written for this particular instrument combination, and I also wanted to write something for the way we played," Hiromi explains. "I was imagining Edmar’s sound and it reminded me a lot of sounds in nature." Each piece imaginatively reflects its subject: the weightless of "air," the gritty, deep-rooted groove of "earth," the shimmering fluidity of "water," the roiling simmer of "fire."

Most importantly, the suite allows the duo to show off the limitless range of their approaches to their instruments, especially Castañeda’s relatively unfamiliar (in jazz settings) harp. "She really studied what I do and wrote for the way that I play," Castañeda says. "I always try to be away from ‘harp,’ all these glissandos and soft sounds. It was really nice to have grooves and a different approach to harmony and the combination of the voices in this suite."

The final element in the concert was provided by the famously appreciative Montreal audience. One of the most renowned jazz festivals in the world, the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal, as it’s known north of the border, attracts true lovers of the music, who listen raptly and respond enthusiastically. It was as much for that reason as for the nostalgic thrill of returning to the same site where they’d met a year prior that the duo chose to record at the festival.

"I always love the audience in Montreal," Hiromi says. "I always felt that they listen to the music with the same dynamics that we play it. They can be really loud and cheerful, but at the same time, they can be really focused and quiet. That combination is very rare and amazing, and it puts me in the perfect mood to record."

Not that either she or Castañeda need much encouragement beyond the spark they feel from each other’s inspiration. Live in Montreal captures all the exuberance and virtuosity that both bring to all of their music, with the added thrill of the new that comes with such an unusual pairing. "It takes courage to come hear a new combination of instruments," Hiromi says – though she shrugs off the courage it takes to be part of creating such a new sound. "I can assure everyone that it will be a very exciting, brand new experience."

Order Hiromi's
"Live in Montreal" Recording (2017)

Order Hiromi's
"SPARK" Recording (2016)

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:

"Spark draws its energy from the interaction of Hiromi's precision, clarity and speed with Phillips' detail-oriented drumming and Jackson's unique melodic facility for an exciting, well-put together statement."
New York City Jazz Record

"Hiromi is an omni-style fusion virtuoso who seems able to do everything possible at the keyboard and to prove it before her records are over. She can be a keyboard-gobbling virtuoso and then, a few bars later, a master of musical space like one of her best 'discoverers' and early mentors, Ahmad Jamal. Spark is abundant with exactly what its title promises…a fascinating player - always." ***1/2
Buffalo News

"And for all that distinguishes Hiromi and her crew from the typical piano trio, she is possessed of abundant sense of elegant swing,"
Jazz & Blues Report

"Spark showcases Hiromi's Trio Project with sweeping narrative and emotive content. The pianist finds her own spark in the interaction with her triomates of the last five years, beloved contrabass guitarist Anthony Jackson (Paul Simon, Steely Dan, Chick Corea, The O'Jays) and legendary drummer Simon Phillips (The Who, David Gilmour, Judas Priest, Toto, Jack Bruce)."

"With Spark, Hiromi has not veered from her path of musical exploration, and the tunes have welcome twists that surprise even fans familiar with her previous works."
Music Whatever

"With Spark, the trio again exemplifies why DownBeat magazine has called them "one of the most exciting groups working in any genre today," with the leader's effusive, heartfelt virtuosity supported by Jackson's vigorously fluid basslines and Phillips' ability to be simultaneously propulsive and witty behind the kit."
Enjoy the Music.com

"Spark is Hiromi's tenth album as a leader. This recording proves that she is without a doubt one of the most original and exciting artists in any genre of music with a brilliant trio."
Dr. Jazz

"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."

"Even without the electric guitar of John McLaughlin, or the arsenal of synthesizers employed by Herbie Hancock, The Trio Project is a legitimate inheritor of the legacy left behind by Joe Zawinul, Wayne Shorter and Jaco Pastorius when Weather Report called it a day. That's heavy company, but Hiromi's Trio Project is one of the most consistently exciting and accomplished bands making music in any genre of music. Period. End of sentence."
All About Jazz

"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.."

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

"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."

"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."


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