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Back in 2009, when she was on the verge of turning 30, Hiromi recorded the solo piano album Place To Be. Her remarkable virtuosity was on full display throughout that set. While utilizing a technique on the level of Art Tatum and Oscar Peterson, Hiromi also tempered it with quietly emotional versions of some thoughtful ballads.
Since that time, Hiromi has mostly been heard with fusion-oriented trios that, while impressive and fiery, lack subtlety and generally do not live up to her potential. But now, at age 40, she has finally returned with a new solo piano album, Spectrum. While some of her earlier zany humor is largely missing (other than on “Mr. C.C.”), both her technique and her creativity are very much present.
The opening “Kaleidoscope” utilizes cyclical patterns and rapid lines in the background that achieve a rippling effect. “Whiteout” is a picturesque ballad inspired by a blizzard that displays Hiromi’s classical technique. After a swinging and joyful “Yellow Wurlitzer Blues,” the pianist performs the episodic “Spectrum,” which has its breathtaking moments, and an affectionate version of “Blackbird.” “Mr. C.C.” is a soundtrack for an imaginary Charlie Chaplin film; one can easily imagine Chaplin developing a hilarious story to this music.
The program also includes an introspective “Once In a Blue Moon” (about the surprised joy one feels when something miraculous happens), a nostalgic tribute to a fading memory (“Sepia Effect”)and “Rhapsody in Various Shades of Blue,” which clocks in at nearly 23 minutes. While much of the latter performance is a fairly straightforward version of Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” (with an extended rendition of the closing part), Hiromi also takes the “blues” piece on visits to John Coltrane’s “Blue Train” and The Who’s “Behind Blue Eyes.” As on Place To Be, Spectrum features Hiromi at her most inventive and memorable.— Scott Yanow
Featured photo by Muga Muyaha.