Hiromi, solo piano – Place To Be – Telarc CD 83695 ****½ [Distr. by Concord]:
This appears to be Hiromi’s sixth album for the Telarc label. There also appears to be another performer named Hiromi – also a pianist but with a different last name. That must cause some confusion.
The versatile and energetic young Japanese jazz pianist has recorded in a variety of settings, including straight-ahead jazz, punk/fusion-biased with her Sonic Bloom group, and recently recorded a wonderful two-piano jazz CD with Chick Corea. This time she courageously takes to the keyboard unaccompanied, for a program of a dozen tunes either completely her own, or in the case of the Pachebel Canon, her improvisation on that overdone classical piece.
That one employs paper on top of the strings; a not-very-effective trick that makes one wonder why she didn’t use at least an electronic harpsichord. Hiromi’s virtuosity, break-neck tempi and catchy original tunes are the stars of this most enjoyable CD. The opening BQE catches our attention immediately with wild arpeggios up and down the keyboard with a clever melody in the right hand – more Lisztian than jazz. Track 2 was inspired by the pianist’s favorite goodie – a French creampuff. It’s a funky and swinging spectacular run all over the keyboard. A middle section has some prepared piano effects again, with Hiromi holding down some of the bass strings while playing those keys. Burn Baby Berne! is a reference to her having concertised in the capital of Switzerland; it has almost an atonal but swinging melodic construction. Somewhere is a quite lyrical ballad with impressionistic fingerwork in the treble. Cape Cod Chips – yet another tune suggested by something Hiromi enjoys eating (yet she’s certainly not overweight!) – has a rolling boogie-woogie-style bass line under fleet swinging improvisations in the right hand. Her three-movement Las Vegas Suite was composed with the idea that eventually she will be performing there, to which she looks forward. The opening movement uses some stride piano style bass and has a general Broadway strut quality that is entirely appropriate.
The piano sonics on this Michael Bishop-engineered recording are excellent; too bad it’s not a SACD as some of her earlier releases.
– John Henry