Genre: Jazz, Fusion
Territories: Europe in coop. Sgent Nation
Availability: 2021: apr, jul, oct, nov
Spectrum, released on October 4, 2019 on Telarc, presents the vibrant panorama of colors in Hiromi’s music
When she recorded her solo piano debut, Place to Be, in 2009, Hiromi was on the eve of her 30th birthday. She realized that the album would offer a snapshot of the chapter just ending, the ways in which her experiences and personal growth had shaped her sound over the course of her 20s. She decided then that she would revisit the solo format at least once a decade, building a sonic portrait of her evolution and artistry.
Ten years later, the prolific pianist goes it alone once again on the stunning new album Spectrum, a dazzling evocation of the vibrant array of colors that imbue her music. Released on October 4, 2019 on Telarc, a division of Concord Records, Spectrum celebrates the maturity and depth that have enriched Hiromi’s composing and playing over the course of her 30s, years in which she’s crisscrossed the globe thrilling audiences and embarked on collaborations with some of jazz’s most inventive artists, including Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke, Michel Camilo, Anthony Jackson, Simon Phillips, Steve Smith, Akiko Yano and Edmar Castañeda.
“The sound of a pianist changes with age and with every experience in life,” Hiromi says. “I wanted to set these milestones so that I can see from the outside how I’ve changed and grown. When I recorded Place To Bemy goal was recording the sound of my 20s; now I wanted to record the sound of my 30s.”
As she began to reflect back on the successful and rewarding years since her last solo outing, Hiromi quickly began to focus on the theme of colors and how they manifest in her music. That concept has always been central to her approach, from her earliest studies as a young prodigy.
“My first piano teacher always taught me to see colors through music,” she recalls. “When she wanted me to play something expressive or fiery, she colored the score paper with red pencil; when she wanted me to play something melancholic or sad, she would color my score with blue pencil. I thought it was fascinating because the piano itself is mostly black and white – the keys, the finish – but it can create so many colors.”
The full range of hues tumble together in a prismatic whirl on the album’s mesmerizing opening track, “Kaleidoscope.” Beginning with cyclical patterns reminiscent of minimalists like Philip Glass, the piece rapidly ripples outwards, the patterns expanding and transforming at the pace of the composer’s dizzying imagination. A similar approach marks the striking title tune, in which Hiromi introduces a dramatic central motif, then spins out a breathtaking series of variations, each viewing the theme through a different colored lens.
The achingly delicate “Whiteout” was born in a blizzard, and gorgeously captures the surreal hush and crystalline beauty of a layer of wandering through a blanket of new fallen snow. The piece’s wondrous elegance calls to mind the vivid impressionism of classical composers like Ravel or Debussy. “I remember walking on a street full of snow, and I just heard that song in my head,” Hiromi says. “Seeing everything covered in white felt really strange, like I was the only person in the city. I didn't really have to think or try to create that song; it just came to me.”
Hiromi’s playfully funky side emerges on the gritty, groovy “Yellow Wurlitzer Blues” – and no wonder given the song’s origins. “Whenever I have a little drink I feel like playing music,” Hiromi laughs. “But I can’t carry a piano around like a guitar or a trumpet. I was telling the owner of the bar that I go to that I really wanted to play, and the next time I walked in he’d bought a yellow Wurlitzer for me.” The instrument is now a focal point for casual outings, where Hiromi inevitably encourages her friends – and anyone else who happens to be out for a night on the town – to join her in singing an improvised blues.
“Of course they’re not all musicians so they don't know how, but I always say anyone can sing blues,” she says. “People tend to be a bit drunk so they’re more open, and they start telling stories about whatever happened during their day. I’ve had some amazing, memorable nights just having fun and playing the blues.”
The heartfelt “Blackbird” is another favorite when Hiromi gathers with friends, but while she says she’s played the Beatles favorite countless times in private settings she’d never performed it in a formal concert setting. Spectrum provided the ideal opportunity to capture the song, which feels as intimate and personal here as it surely does when the pianist plays it for her loved ones. “Whenever I play that song I feel like I’m playing towards someone – not any particular someone, but towards one person. For me, that is a one on one song. It’s such a beautiful song.”
At first glance the title of “Mr. C.C.,” a play on Coltrane’s “Mr. P.C.,” might suggest a tribute to one of Hiromi’s close collaborators, the legendary pianist Chick Corea. But one listen to the silent-era antics of the song and its true inspiration becomes immediately clear: the song is an imaginary score for a Charlie Chaplin film (“I guess the initials C.C. are for the geniuses,” she suggests).
Hiromi was introduced to Chaplin’s films while a student at Berklee College of Music, where she was asked to perform a live score for a silent comedy during a school event. “I was fascinated by how the music can change the image of the film,” she says. “Since then I’ve always wanted to write something for Charlie Chaplin because he’s a true genius and extremely inspirational.”
The introspective “Once In a Blue Moon” muses on the many times in her life that Hiromi feels that she’s experienced a brush with miraculous, those moments when a prayer seems to have been answered or that hope pulls her through a struggle. The title comes from a phrase that she became enchanted with when she discovered it while learning English. The album closes with the equally emotional “Sepia Effect,” which wistfully evokes the faded beauty of a favorite memory.
The album’s penultimate track is an epic reimagining of George Gershwin’s masterpiece, “Rhapsody in Blue,” which becomes a medley of unexpected classics involving the same color. After taking the Gershwin classic through a number of virtuosic transformations, Hiromi suddenly twists the piece into John Coltrane’s “Blue Train” – and then again into The Who’s “Behind Blue Eyes.” It would be hard to imagine three more disparate artists, though each changed the landscape of popular music in their own unique an innovate fashion.
“When Coltrane’s music landed in this world, I’m sure it was as shocking as when Gershwin landed, and the same thing for The Who,” Hiromi says. “When I first listened to these artists it was a mind-blowing experience, so I wanted to put them together. Each color can be interpreted very differently, depending on who sees it, and each of these artists came up with a different image of ‘blue.’ By joining them together, I wanted to create my own version of ‘blue.’”
As a whole, Spectrum is a vibrant tour of the rainbow panorama of Hiromi’s sound; in contrast with Place To Be it’s an enthralling encapsulation of her musical maturity. “I feel I’m a little closer to the piano,” Hiromi concludes. “All the pianists that I really respect not only love but are loved by the piano, and that’s the relationship that I would love to build through my life.”
HIROMI – Biography
“I don't want to put a name on my music. Other people can put a name on what I do. It’s just the union of what I've been listening to and what I've been learning. It has some elements of classical music, it has some rock, it has some jazz, but I don't need to give it a name.”
Japan has produced an impressive assemblage of jazz pianists, from Toshiko Akiyoshi and Makoto Ozone. And now, well into the change of the 21st century, the pianist/composer Hiromi is the latest in that line of amazing musicians. Ever since the 2003 release of her debut Telarc CD, Another Mind, Hiromi has electrified audiences and critics east and west, with a creative energy that encompasses and eclipses the boundaries of jazz, classical and pop parameters, taking improvisation and composition to new heights of complexity and sophistication. Her latest album, the vivid solo piano outing Spectrum, offers a dazzling evocation of the vibrant array of colors that imbue her music.
With her 2009 solo debut Place to Be, Hiromi decided to go it alone once a decade in order to capture the ways in which her experiences and personal growth had shaped her sound during the preceding years. Recorded shortly before her 40th birthday, Spectrum celebrates the maturity and depth that have enriched Hiromi’s composing and playing over the course of her 30s, years in which she’s crisscrossed the globe thrilling audiences and embarked on collaborations with some of jazz’s most inventive artists.
“The sound of a pianist changes with age and with every experience in life,” Hiromi says. “I wanted to set these milestones so that I can see from the outside how I’ve changed and grown.”
Born in Hamamatsu, Shizuoka, Japan on March 26, 1979, Hiromi’s piano lessons started when she was six. Her first teacher, Noriko Hikida, encouraged her to access both the intuitive and technical aspects of music, introducing the concept of color to her approach to the piano. “Her energy was always so high, and she was so emotional,” Hiromi says of Hikida. “When she wanted me to play with a certain kind of dynamics, she wouldn’t say it with technical terms. If the piece was something passionate, she would say, ‘Play red.’ Or if it was something mellow, she would say, ‘Play blue.’ I could really play from my heart that way, and not just from my ears.”
Hikida also exposed Hiromi to jazz and introduced her to the great pianists Erroll Garner and Oscar Peterson. She enrolled in the Yamaha School of Music at age six and started to write music at that time.
Hiromi moved to the United States in 1999, and she matriculated at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, which extended her artistic sensibilities. “It expanded so much the way I see music,” she says. “Some people dig jazz, some people dig classical music, some people dig rock. Everyone is so concerned about who they like. They always say, ‘This guy is the best,’ ‘No, this guy is the best.’ But I think there are so many great ones. I really don’t have barriers to any type of music. I could listen to everything from metal to classical music to anything else.”
Among her mentors at Berklee was the veteran jazz bassist/arranger Richard Evans, who teaches arranging and orchestration. It was Evans who took Hiromi’s demo tape to his friend and collaborator: the legendary pianist/bandleader Ahmad Jamal. “[Professor Evans] really liked how I played,” Hiromi fondly recalled. “And Ahmad loved the demo – I couldn’t believe it! He’s been very encouraging and supportive. He’s an amazing human being.”
Evans co-produced her debut album, Another Mind, with Jamal, who has also taken a personal interest in Hiromi’s artistic development. “She is nothing short of amazing,” says Jamal. “Her music, together with her overwhelming charm and spirit, causes her to soar to unimaginable musical heights.” Another Mind was a critical success in North America and in her native Japan, where the album shipped gold (100,000 units) and received the Recording Industry Association of Japan’s (RIAJ) Jazz Album of the Year Award. Hiromi’s astonishing debut was but a forecast of the shape of jazz to come.
Her second release, Brain, won the Horizon Award at the 2004 Surround Music Awards, Swing Journal’s New Star Award, Jazz Life’s Gold Album, HMV Japan’s Best Japanese Jazz Album and the Japan Music Pen Club’s Japanese Artist Award (the JMPC is a classical/jazz journalists club). Brain was also named Album of the Year in Swing Journal’s 2005 Readers Poll. In 2006, Hiromi won Best Jazz Act at the Boston Music Awards and the Guinness Jazz Festival’s Rising Star Award. She also claimed Jazzman of the Year, Pianist of the Year and Album of the Year in Swing Journal’s Readers Poll for her 2006 release, Spiral. Hiromi’s winning streak continued with the release of Time Control in 2007 and Beyond Standard in 2008. Both releases featured Sonicbloom: her hand-picked group that included guitarist Dave “Fuze” Fiuczynski, bassist Tony Grey and drummer Martin Valihora.
Hiromi achieved a number of milestones in 2009. She recorded with pianist Chick Corea – who she met in Japan when she was seventeen on Duet, a two-disc live recording of their transcendent, transgenerational and transcultural duo concert in Tokyo. She also appeared on bassist Stanley Clarke’s Heads Up International release, Jazz in the Garden, which also featured former Chick Corea bandmate, drummer Lenny White.
In June of that same year, Hiromi simultaneously released two concert DVDs, both recorded in Tokyo: Hiromi Live in Concert (recorded in December 2005) and Hiromi’s Sonicbloom Live in Concert (recorded in December 2007). The former features the rhythm section of Grey and Valihora, while the latter includes Fiuczynski’s incendiary fretwork.
In 2010, Hiromi released Place to Be, an impressive and intimate solo piano session; her evocative aural travelogue of the many places and spaces she visited around the world. “I wanted to record the sound of my twenties for archival purposes,” she says. “I felt like the people whom I met on the road during my twenties really helped me develop and mature as a musician and as a person. So in addition to making a record that represented all of these places that have inspired my music, I also wanted it to be a thank-you to those people.”
She followed up Place to Bewith a DVD, Hiromi Solo Live at Blue Note New York. Recorded on August 20 and 21, 2010, at the Blue Note in New York City, the video includes 11 originals and a special bonus feature with interview clips and performance footage from some of Hiromi’s favorite cities around the world.
On her 2011 album, Voice, Hiromi’s goal was to capture people’s “inner voices” to create what she called a “three-dimensional sound.” On that album, she assembled a trio that included herself and two veteran players: contrabass guitarist Anthony Jackson and drummer Simon Phillips. While Hiromi had played with Jackson prior to recordingVoice, she had never recorded an entire album with either him or Phillips, the latter who had been recommended to her by legendary bassist Stanley Clarke, a mutual acquaintance.
Also in 2011, The Stanley Clarke Band album, featuring Hiromi, won the GRAMMY®Award for Best Contemporary Jazz Album. While on the road, Hiromi started writing music for her follow-up, Move, released in 2013. That same year, she had several impressive placements in DownBeat magazine’s 61st Annual International Critics Poll, in the Jazz Artist, Piano, Keyboard and Rising Star: Piano categories. In 2013, she performed at George Wein’s Newport Jazz Festival and also performed there for the festival’s sixtieth anniversary in 2014.
Alive, released in 2014, heralded the return of The Trio Project, featuring Phillips’ powerful, yet poetic percussion and Jackson’s flowing, glow-in-the-dark basslines beautifully buoying and supporting Hiromi’s ingenious and impassioned improvisations. Her evocative and expansive compositions evoke the myriad moods and mysteries of life and reveal the soulful, syncopated simpatico of her thrilling threesome. Her tenth CD, Spark, also featured the trio, this time igniting her most narratively sweeping and emotionally overflowing set of music to date. No wonder DownBeat magazine proclaimed the terrific triad as “one of the most exciting groups working in any genre today.”
In 2017, Live in Montreal found her veering off in yet another new direction, exploring a wholly unique sonic palette in collaboration with the Colombian harp virtuoso Edmar Castaneda (Paquito D’Rivera, Wynton Marsalis).
Spectrum is the latest chapter in Hiromi’s ever-evolving musical life. “I’m hungry to learn,” she told DownBeat magazine, “so I’ll always keep my big ears open fully, ready to learn every single minute that I play.”
Place to Be (2009)
Beyond Standard (2008)
Time Control (2007)
Another Mind (2003)
"She’s to the piano what a Hendrix and Van Halen are to the guitar. Yeah, she’s that good."
All About Jazz
"Hiromi is one of the most remarkable pianists of the past half century."
Hiromi/ Piano, solo
HIROMI DUET feat. Edmar Castaneda
After several successful world tours with Hiromi: The Trio Project, we are excited to present a new and electrifying collaboration, Hiromi Duet featuring Edmar Castaneda.
When Hiromi met Edmar Castaneda at The Montreal Jazz Festival this year, she found him so amazing musically that she knew at some point they should collaborate together. "The first time I heard Edmar I simply said "WOW!” in awe of his artistry. So now, I would like all of you to hear his music so you can go "WOW!” too," said Hiromi.
It wasn’t long before Hiromi had the opportunity to call on Edmar for a collaboration. Their debut performance this past July at The Blue Note in NY was unexpected and impulsive, a truly electrifying coupling. What they created together musically was simply mesmerizing. The audience was spellbound and the music was magic. Because of this connection musically, these 2 great talents decided to join forces as a duet for 2017.
|16 Apr 2021||Hiromi||Kilden Performing Arts Centre||Kristiansand||Norway|
|17 Apr 2021||Hiromi||Bærum Kulturhus||Sandvika||Norway|
|20 Apr 2021||Hiromi||National Palace of Cultura||Sofia||Bulgaria|
|22 Apr 2021||Hiromi||Dom Umenia||Piestany||Slovakia|
|24 Apr 2021||Hiromi||Festspielhaus||St. Pölten||Austria|
|01 May 2021||Hiromi||Jazz Tournai Festival||Tournai||Belgium|
|07 Jul 2021||Hiromi||Montreux Jazz Festival||Montreux||Switzerland|
|09 Jul 2021||Hiromi||Philharmonie Essen||Essen||Germany|
|05 Nov 2021||Hiromi||Prinzregentheater||München||Germany|