Too much talent at one time and in one place 

Hiromi & Edmar Castaneda – Live In Montreal – Telarc 00026 72:11****

( Hiromi – piano; Edmar Castaneda – harp)

Sometimes too much talent at one time and in one place is recipe for auditory overload. Such might be the case for the album Hiromi & Edmar Castaneda Live In Montreal. Recorded on June 30, 2017, at the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal, the two artists put a display of technical and harmonic wizardry that often defies description. So fasten your seat belts as you hit the play button.

The compositions presented in the recital for the most part, come from the pens of Hiromi and Castaneda with two exceptions. First John Williams “Cantina Band” was used in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope film released in 1977 and the other is Astor Piazzolla’s “Libertango”. The breezy interpretation of the former offered by the duo is restlessly creative with each partner smoking out unlikely connections to the music that is filled with harmonic edginess and rhythmic boldness. On the Piazzolla composition, the Latin flavour is defined by Castaneda’s harp as he picks the strings with a rhythmic sure footed style that captures the tango flavour. Hiromi is continuously restive, probing the keyboard with unflappable virtuosity.

The remaining compositions are equally divided between Hiromi and Castaneda although Hiromi takes up most of the running time with her four part composition “The Elements”: Air, Earth, Fire, Water. Throughout this composition, the two artists inundate the listener with a methodical dedication to innovation, driven by unflappable technical facility. While it does not necessarily signify an accessible view of jazz, it is certainly filled with abundant inventiveness. Perhaps the most satisfying section is Fire which is in many respects harkens to Manuel Da Falla’s Ritual Fire Dance and both Hiromi and Castaneda develop a rhythmic interplay that keeps the musical fires  stoked.

The two compositions by Edmar Castaneda are “A Harp In New York” and “For Jaco” this later piece was dedicated to electric bassist Jaco Pastorius who was a member of the jazz group Weather Report form 1976 to 1981. The number opens with some bass like lines from Castaneda’s harp and are picked up by Hiromi, which then segues into a brooding interplay between the two. The sound world that is created by the two artists throughout the piece is an invigorating adventure filled with chord development and harmonic tone.

TrackList: A Harp In New York; For Jaco; Moonlight Sunshine; Cantina Band; The Elements: Air, Earth, Water, Fire; Libertango

—Pierre Giroux