Debut album from young Japanese pianist presents an original take on technoflash...
Peter Marsh 2003-08-14
Instrumental virtuosity in jazz is a bit like athletic prowess; there are those coming up through the ranks who can break previous records with ease. As Roger Bannister's four minute mile is a distant memory, so the dexterity of past jazz masters is threatened daily by young turks posessed of more licks than a hyperactive Labrador. And here's another one...
Surrounding herself with a cast of young, gifted musicians (and a slightly older one in the shape of the great bassist Anthony Jackson), 24 year old Hiromi Uehara's music is audacious, hyperactive stuff. Sticking mainly to acoustic piano, her approach is reminiscent of Oscar Peterson on steroids. Few of the instrument's 88 keys remain untouched for long.
Things kick off with "XYZ", which announces itself with a count-in that the Ramones would be proud of. Immediately the leader dispels any notions that this is like any piano trio you might have heard before with a fiercelypercussive barrage of notes, delivered over a joyful thrash/fusion hybrid.
The energy level is pretty full on throughout as the players negotiate tricky time signatures, undertaken at fingerbreaking speeds.For about half the album, Hiromi's compositional sense and the crisply delivered pyrotechnics of her partners (particularly drummer Dave DiCenso)manage to keep proceedingsfromdescending into amerely technical exercise, but there are some exceptions.
"Double Personality" (one of three tracks straying from the trio format) sounds like it was pumped full of steroids and loaded with fusion cliches before being unleashed on an unsuspecting public. Jim Odgren's alto is too much in thrall to Dave Sanborn to offer anything much and Dave Fuczyinski's guitar pyrotechnics are grim in the extreme. Yuk.
After this eleven minute earbashing, Odgren'sshiny tonesteers "Summer Rain" towards smooth jazz territory and all seems lost.However, things take a turn for the better with the cryptic, synth driven funk of "010101 (binary system)". Anthony Jackson's low, warm growl works a treat here, and the remainder of the album offers a more coherentview of Hiromi's musical vision. Ultimately if you're like me, you might find yourself more in more in awe of the players technical audacity than anything else, but there's no doubt that Hiromi's is a name to watch.