Too much on display here is merely clever without really giving the listener space or...
Chris Jones 2008-06-27
With her usual trio now bumped up by the presence of guitarist David Fiuczynski (in their 'Sonicbloom' format), Hiromi Uehara continues the work of her previous album, Time Control, but this time it's cover versions all the way. The precocious pianist is undeniably, stunningly talented and though her brand of flash ivory tickling is jaw-dropping to behold it's often a little hard to process in digital form.
Beginning with a crackly segue into her own Time's Up and thence into Softly As In A Morning Sunrise, the album yields a fairly disparate selection of standards (Caravan, I've Got Rhythm) and more wayward choices (Jeff Beck's Led Boots?!?). Each one is given the usual fusion-in-a-flurry treatment that the Japanese keyboardist and her crew mete out. Depending on how flashy you like your jazz this is either good or bad.
Not unsurprisingly Sonicbloom's version of the only Japanese song ever to gain a US number one, Ue Wo Muite Aruyko, fares best of all here. Its cute melody resists too much mangling. Elsewhere the mix can be a little too rich, with Tony Grety's rubbery fretless interjections being a little too intrusive and Fiuczynski's flanged tones a little too retro in feel, especially when dissecting Debussy's Clair De Lune. However the re-versioned-for-four-piece, XYG (previously XYZ) is cleverly accomplished.
But that's the problem; too much on display here is merely clever without really giving the listener space or time to savour what's occurring. Maybe it's time for that solo album.