DB [04.2013] Hiromi

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HiromiAll the KeysBY MICHAEL GALLANTHiromi 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.

Transcript of DB [04.2013] Hiromi

Bobby Hutcherson Paolo Fresu Bobby Hutcherson


IROMIsSam NewsomeBlindfold Test

BRASS SCHOOLWynton MarsalisJazz On Campus

Allen VizzuttiMaster Class

Enrico RavaHot BoxedAPRIL 2013$4.99

Trombone ShortyTranscriptionU.K. 3.50



09281 01493



By Michael Gallant

Photography by Jimmy & Dena Katz

all the keysLEANING BACK IN HER CHAIR, a baby grand piano nearby in the green room at New York Citys Yamaha Artist Services, Inc., Hiromi says, When you write a piece of dicult music, it shouldnt sound dicult. But to make this music sound as if it was easy to play, that was dicult.


Hiromi was photographed in New York City at Yamaha Artist Services, Inc.




The internationally renowned pianist and composer is referring to the blisteringly virtuosic title track to her new album, Move (Telarc), recorded with contrabass guitarist Anthony Jackson and drummer Simon Phillips. Every bar is in a different meter for a couple of minutes and we also had a lot of odd meters, lots of different things going on, she says. We practiced so much, running just four bars again and again, until we sounded tight enough to make the song groove. Its still challenging to play, Hiromi, who turns 34 in late March, adds with a smile. Thats good. Its a testament both to the individual talent of each trio member, and to their collective vibe, that Move sounds equally energetic, organic and just plain monumental throughout. Even midway through the opening track when Hiromis solo crescendos upwards in angularly timed cascades of notes, locked in tight with Jacksons anchoring bass but pushed and pulled with Phillips eruptions of even more angularly timed llsthe chaos is an illusion. Everything ts together by strange but beautiful design. This is one of the most exciting gigs I have had to date, says Phillips, who is largely known for his work with rock groups such as Toto and The Who, but grew up playing Dixieland jazz and swing and idolizing Buddy Rich. Every night is phenomenally fun and extremely challenging, made more so by the fact that there are only three of us, so we can go anywhere we want in terms of improvisation. Every night is different. Its also very challenging for me because Ive played in fairly loud ensembles with a guitar, and this was the rst time I have had just acoustic piano, bass and drums. I had to learn how to play extremely quietlyand the interesting thing is that Hiromi wanted the whole nine yards in terms of bringing my entire rock n roll drum kit. The creation of Move demanded the throwing of oneself on the bonre, and thats what we did, says Jackson, whose gilded resume includes recordings with Paul Simon, Chick Corea and Steely Dan. It took a great deal of study, a lot of self-analysis, and thats just before we ever played together. Its something you long forno pain, no gain. Theres always that technical intensity with Hiromi. Its always there with the very great projects and players. Even at its thickest and most explosive, Move never crosses the line into complexity for sheer complexitys sake. Rather, from Hiromis rigorously composed three-part Suite Escapism to the effervescent Brand New Day and morphing textures of 11:49 PM, the album illustrates the sophisticated application of outstanding skillwith just the right amount of quirk thrown in. Its a difcult alchemy, perhaps, but one that Hiromi has been honing from her rst notes as a recording artist. Hiromi Uehara was born in Shizuoka, Japan, and began studying piano at age 6. She enrolled26 DOWNBEAT APRIL 2013

at Berklee College of Music in Boston in 1999, and attracted the attention of Richard Evans and Ahmad Jamal, who co-produced her debut album, Another Mind (Telarc), in 2003. The disc generated an international critical buzz and became a best-seller, achieving gold status in Japan and winning Jazz Album of the Year from that countrys Recording Industry Association. In the aftermath of such a high-momentum launch, Hiromi has gone on to collaborate onstage and in the studio with Corea, Stanley Clarke, Lenny White and Dave Fiuczynski. An artist with a strong international following, Hiromi routinely follows a rigorous touring schedule: Shell travel to Istanbul, San Francisco, Finland and Slovakia in the rst half of 2013. We have a lot of shows set up for this album, so I think the next year will be another traveling year, she says. Well just keep going.

three of a kindMOVE IS THE SECOND installment in what Hiromi describes as The Trio Project, an endeavor that began with her 2011 album Voice. I had wanted to work with Anthony Jackson on a full album for many years, she explains. I had him as a special guest for my

rst two albums, Another Mind and Brain, but I was waiting for the right time to work with him for a complete project. After crossing paths with Jackson in numerous cities and at various festivals, she broached the topic and got the sign-on she had hoped for. The more Hiromi wrote the music that would become Move, the more she homed in on the drum sound that would bring her album to life. I was mixing a record at my studio, and somebody sent me a YouTube link of Hiromi and Chick Corea playing together, says Phillips of the rst time he became aware of his current collaborator. I was working on a mix for Toto, and David Paich and Steve Porcaro were doing some keyboard overdubs the next day. When we took a break, we pulled up the clip, and their jaws were on the oor. We wrapped up to run an errand and I was two blocks away in my car when the phone rang. It was Hiromis manager inviting me to play on the project. It was fate! says Hiromi laughing at the serendipitous timing. Whether drawn together by fortune or just a good sense of casting, the trio displays unmistakable chemistry throughout Movedue in no small part to tremendous mutual respect and admiration. I love his tone, his beautiful sound, and his understanding of a wide range of music, Hiromi says of Phillips. Some people ask me,

Why did you want to play with a rock drummer? But I never considered Simon Phillips a rock drummer. He did a lot of projects with socalled rock music, but hes an amazing drummer who can play anything. I felt that the sound of the three of us, the tone, would meld well. Hiromi has glowing words for Jackson as well. I always tell Anthony that, when I play my solos, I feel like Im cheating, she says. He can make anybody sound good with his bass lines. He really improvises counterpoint toward how I solo and his ears are so big. Hes an improviser and composer, and for him, its continuous composing during the song. Playing with him is an amazing experience and I enjoy every minute of it. If I go outside the harmony, he comes along on the ride with me. In Jackson, Hiromi found not only a kindred spirit on stage, but in front of a pair of speakers. We often talk about great classical composers and pianists; its amazing how wide his interest for music is. We can be listening to a track that he did for Steely Dan and, the next day, listen to a piece by Franz Liszt. Thats how I love to listen to music. Hiromi shaped the compositions and arrangements of Move to accent her favorite aspects of Phillips and Jacksons playing. Since I worked with them for many, many shows, I started to understand the depths and secret beauty of their playing, she says. For example, because Ive been playing with Simon, I could write a song like Brand New Day. His accompaniment on that song is loose, and his cymbal playing sings. Such a style may not be synonymous with Phillips name, Hiromi afrms, pointing out that he is generally known for playing in the pocket. When I was jamming with him, I realizedwow!how beautifully he played that kind of music, so free and loose, she says. It gave me the idea to write music like that. One portion of Move that Hiromi crafted specically with Jackson in mind was the second movement of her suite, a composition format that she has greatly enjoyed exploring on previous albums as well. For the Fantasy section, Anthony plays all of the melody for the rst couple of minutes, she says. He uses his volume pedal so beautifully that I wanted to hear itnot just as the composer, but as a big fan of Anthony. Im such a big fan of both these guys. Interestingly enough, the third player in the trio often has the hardest job. As a player, I always feel like Im hired by the composer Hiromi, she says. When I write, sometimes I put together lines that I can play separately, but I want to hear them together as counterpoint. Its a cool combination, but can I play it? she continues, laughing. Sometimes I ask, Who wrote this?

was an exceptional talent, including both her raw skill and her exploitation of it. You come across many people who are very gifted but who have not formed themselves so much you hear enormous potential and a great deal of strength, but it can be raggedy. But with Hiromi, there was a great deal of sophistication and control, he continues. She clearly had not gotten stuck in the mold of childhood prodigy who is getting older and is now an older childhood prodigy that will always be a childhood prodigya term that indicates enormous talent that has yet to really coalesce.

A few words from the pianist make it clear just how and why she has avoided such pitfalls. Im hungry to learn, so I always have my big ears open fully, ready to learn every single minute when I play, she says. People like Anthony and Simon are living dictionaries. Im always trying to study and grow as much as I can. Much of Hiromis study is manifested in a dedication to listening not just to her immediate collaborators, but to great instrumentalists of all shapes and avors. It also means diving deep into classical piano. Cla