Hiromi – Spiral – (Hiromi Uehara, piano/Tony Grey, bass/ Martin Valihora, drums) – Telarc

by | Jan 17, 2006 | SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews | 0 comments

Hiromi – Spiral – (Hiromi Uehara, piano/Tony Grey, bass/ Martin Valihora, drums) – Telarc multichannel SACD-63631, 65:40 ****:

Released just today, this is the latest Telarc disc from the young Japanese keyboard sensation who only recently graduated from the Berklee College of Music.  She was a student at the Yamaha School of Music in Japan at age 7 and at age 14 traveled to Czechoslovakia to play with the Czech Philharmonic. Her rapid rise in the ranks of jazz pianists was due both to her innate talents and also to her mentoring by such keyboard lights as Ahmad Jamal, Oscar Peterson and Chick Corea. On this new disc – a follow-up to her previous Telarc SACD Brain –  every one of the eight tracks is an original, and Hiromi’s distinctive and original style blends elements of pop, classical and avantgarde with modern jazz.

Hiromi had a special vision for Spiral – what she called “three-piece orchestral music,”  exploring the richest sonic texture possible with just her trio.  In fact the centerpiece of the SACD is a suite with that title.  The pianist-composer’s great compositional skills are shown in the four sections: Open Door/Tuning/Prologue, Deja vu, Reverse, and Edge. A painting provided the stimulus for the track with the lengthy titled Old Castle, by the river, in the middle of a forest.  The closing bonus track is just one of several of her compositions inspired by her love of kung-fu and especially Jackie Chan. Return of King-Fu World Champion makes use of Hiromi’s synth-programming skills and really jumps. She seems to have an ability to integrate both this sort of funk, as well as some fairly stringent avantgarde jazz, into her playing without turning off the more conservative listener.

The CD-only version of Spiral was a kick but of course this multichannel hi-res issue has the clear edge; and more so than if this was a typical straight piano trio because Hiromi’s super-colorful works do often approach an orchestral-sort of sound.  The CD-only version comes, however, with a bonus separate DVD sporting a DTS 5.1 track for a live performance of Return…, and it is a kick to see Hiromi in action on this ten-minute track.  One understands immediately why this particular selection was chosen for the video. When first seen from the back Hiromi – with her huge wild hairdo – looks like Tina Turner!
Tracks: Spiral, Music for Three-Piece-Orchestra, Old Castle by the river in the middle of a forest, Love and Laughter, Return of Kung-Fu World Champion.

– John Henry

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