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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf



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HIROMI

Place to Be

Telarc CD83695

 

 


1. BQE
2. Choux à la Crème
3. Sicilian Blue
4. Berne, Baby, Berne!
5. Somewhere
6. Cape Cod Chips
7. Islands Azores
8. Pachelbel's Canon
9. Viva! Vegas: Show City, Show Girl
10. Daytime in Las Vegas
11. The Gambler
12. Place To Be

Hiromi - Piano

 

The two previous albums I have reviewed by Hiromi have been with her "Sonicbloom" group. They were full of interest but occasionally marred by the excessively noisy guitar of David Fiuczynski. Here, however, the Japanese pianist plays entirely alone, and it enables you to hear Hiromi pure, without any distractions. Having studied at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, she has already made several albums under her own name and also recorded with the likes of Stanley Clarke and Chick Corea.

The most immediately striking thing about Hiromi's playing is its technical brilliance. Some of the tracks here sound as if they are reproduced at twice the recorded speed, with astonishing runs up and down the keyboard like a whole cattery of kittens on the keys. Hiromi (full name Hiromi Uehara) is well-travelled and she says that she wanted this CD "to be a kind of travel journey" and most of the pieces on the album portray her reactions to particular places.

The opening BQE is a picture of the Brooklyn Queens Expressway. The music vividly captures the feeling of what Hiromi's sleeve-notes describe as "crazy traffic" and "mad fast cars". Choux à la Crème is less showy but it captures the yummy essence of the French cream bun. The bluesy melody is slightly reminiscent of Christopher Columbus and, halfway through, it goes into Erroll Garneresque mischief and some funny business with the piano strings. This illustrates the witty streak in Hiromi's playing, which is also notable in Islands Azores, which starts with plangent lyricism but moves into an impish dance. Compare this with Pachelbel's Canon where the serious, stately theme develops with increasingly complex lines. Yet however complicated Hiromi's improvisations become, she maintains a melodic sense.

Viva!Vegas is a kind of three-part suite encapsulating the frisky atmosphere of the show town, with a middle section - Daytime in Las Vegas - which takes time to wonder what Vegas is all about. The tender Somewhere (a Hiromi original, not the West Side Story song) proves that the pianist has more than just technique: she can also express deep feeling.

These are just a few of the highlights in an album where every track is a highlight. Hiromi's remarkable pianism doesn't preclude thoughtfulnesss or emotion - indeed, it is her way of expressing a wide range of moods and feelings. Apparently the Japanese version of this album includes a bonus DVD. It would be nice to see Hiromi in action. But the CD conjures up plenty of pictures for the listener.

Tony Augarde



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