Hiromi | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Hiromi 

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I doubt you'll hear a more impressive debut album this year than Another Mind (Telarc) by Japanese pianist Hiromi Uehara (Berklee College of Music, class of '03). The opener, a wickedly eddying tune called "XYZ," bursts out of the gate like Funny Cide on uppers--it's an all-acoustic trio performance powered by the same energy that ran classic fusion bands like the Mahavishnu Orchestra and Return to Forever. The nearly manic "Dancando no Paraiso" (an original, like all the songs here) takes Brazilian rhythms up into sixth gear; on the somewhat more reflective title track, Hiromi (she's gone the single-name route, in part to protect American tongues from her last name and vice versa) crafts a dark, modern song from the distinctly Japanese intervals set out in the track's brief introduction. "I want my piano trio music to sound different, bigger," the diminutive 24-year-old writes in the CD's notes, and it does, thanks to her outsize technique and voluptuously Romantic conception of the instrument. Channeling her predecessors--at times you'll hear brief homages to Erroll Garner, Ahmad Jamal, and Chick Corea, all of whom share this stylistic lineage--she attacks the piano with an almost operatic grandeur and the intensity of Rachmaninoff. Like the Bad Plus and Medeski, Martin & Wood (in their nonelectric performances), Hiromi is working to recast the standard jazz piano trio as a rock band: her startling gift for jazz improvisation lets her explore the last 20 years of nonjazz influences using the piano-trio format she loves. And on "010101 (binary system)"--the album's one tune that does use electronics--she spins shimmering synth melodies against the bass clef notes of the piano, creating a fresh electroacoustic fusion as savvy as anything heard along these lines over the last three decades. Watch out for her. Friday and Saturday, August 22 and 23, 9:30 and 11:30 PM, Green Dolphin Street, 2200 N. Ashland; 773-395-0066.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Mark L. Baer.

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