Let me say up front that I don't care
for solo piano. A song, yes. An album, no. Call it a limited attention
span. More like it’s a desire to hear a band: drums, bass, sax or trumpet,
and maybe a rhythm guitar in lieu of piano.
But take a master like Bob James or Chick Corea, and the format can be
quite engaging. Like those two, Japanese pianist Hiromi Uehara defies my
general attitude about this. Place to Be is her first
solo piano release. To no surprise, it has as much vigor as her other
The Telarc release is a musical documentary of Hiromi’s travels. Its title
is an acknowledgement to fans, whose presence at her performance venues
give her a place to be.
Hiromi debuted with Another Mind (Telarc, 2003). Since
then, she’s earned several major awards, and has performed with such
heavyweights as Corea, Stanley Clarke and Lenny White. Her Sonicbloom
group includes guitarist Dave “Fuze” Fiuczynski, bassist Tony Grey and
drummer Martin Valihora. With Sonicbloom, she plays electronic keyboard.
“BQE,” an abbreviation for Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, personifies the
energy and movement of the route. Even to one who has never been there,
the music creates a visual of fast-moving cars, headlights and taillights
becoming a blur. Hiromi’s combination of speed and dexterity is
captivating. Well into the piece, she plays a sweeping, orchestral
passage. For a moment, one forgets she has only two hands.
“Sicilian Blue” recalls Hiromi’s visit to Sicily and the blue sky and the
blue ocean, as well as beautiful streets. The selection moves from a
free-spirited jaunt to a tranquil melody and later to a frolicking
“Island Azores” is a tribute to the area of Portugal, its people, the
birds, ocean, land, animals -- everything. The ambient quality of this
selection creates a vision of a place where everything is in harmony and
everyone is happy.
“Viva! Vegas” captures the energy of the city, from show girls to daytime
scenery to gamblers. At times, Hiromi plays like a saloon pianist from the
Old West. Throughout, she’s clearly having fun. The playful nature of this
piece is among the collection’s highlights.
Hiromi composed eight of the ten tracks on Place to Be. The two covers are “Berne, Baby, Berne!” by Louie Bellson and Remo
Palmer, and “Pachelbel’s Canon.”
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