Release date April 1, 2016
Hiromi’s 10th album features the return of The Trio Project with contrabass guitarist Anthony Jackson and drummer Simon Phillips
All great human passions – whether romantic, creative, inventive, or transformative – begin with a single spark. On her tenth album as a leader, Japanese pianist/composer Hiromi traces the path of the flame ignited by that spark as it consumes and inspires. Over the course of nine expressively charged songs, the listener is carried away on an impassioned spiritual journey that might tell the story of a personal discovery, a love affair, or the creation of the music itself.
Released April 1st, 2016 on Telarc, a division of Concord Music Group, Spark showcases the always thrilling sound of Hiromi’s Trio Project with her most narratively sweeping and emotionally overflowing set of music to date. The pianist finds her own spark in her interaction with her triomates of the last five years, contrabass guitarist Anthony Jackson (Paul Simon, Steely Dan, Chick Corea, The O’Jays) and drummer Simon Phillips (The Who, David Gilmour, Judas Priest, Toto, Jack Bruce).
Since forming in 2010, The Trio Project has explored the richness of the inner voice on their 2011 debut, Voice; the dynamic, unceasing motion of time on their 2013 follow-up, Move; and captured the feeling of their electrifying live performances on 2014’s brilliant Alive. With Spark, the trio again exemplifies why DownBeat magazine has called them “one of the most exciting groups working in any genre today,” with the leader’s effusive, heartfelt virtuosity supported by Jackson’s vigorously fluid basslines and Phillips’ ability to be simultaneously propulsive and witty behind the kit.
“Playing with this trio is like a never-ending adventure,” Hiromi says. “They never play safe and they always look for new things; we always play as if this is our first and last show. With how much passion and love we feel for the music, every show I feel a spark.”
The recording begins with faint, delicate solo piano, lending a sense of magical anticipation that Hiromi likens to opening the first page of a book, “the moment that you bring yourself into the story.” A slowly dawning wash of keyboards ushers in the title track’s buoyant groove, illustrating the very moment of spark or inspiration that sets the whole album in motion.
“In a Trance” is anything but hypnotic. The fleet and fiery tune, accented by Latin rhythms, depicts the next stage of the album’s nascent passion as the spark catches hold and becomes all-consuming. The frantic pace spurs stunning and heart-racing solos from both Hiromi and Phillips. At its most powerful, the trance can carry you to another place, as on the next piece, the wondrous “Take Me Away.”
“When I perform, I always want to go to somewhere that I haven’t discovered,” Hiromi explains. “A new place, a new zone in the heart that I’ve never been. New things require more risk and can be scary, but because you’ve never seen it before it can also be extremely beautiful and that’s always what I’m looking for.”
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The destination in this case is “Wonderland,” that place on the border of imagination only visited by those brave and adventurous enough to discover it. The piece is based around the distinctive sound of Phillips’ octobans, a set of high-pitched, melodically-tuned tom-toms. The drummer thus establishes the tune’s celebratory melody with its hint of Afro-Caribbean rhythm before it’s picked up by the piano and gradually driven into a harder, rock-influenced churn before Hiromi responds with soulful flourishes.
“When you’re in Wonderland, you indulge yourself and can really forget time,” says Hiromi about the next piece, “Indulgence.” She continues, “It can go really fast or really slow, and for that moment you’re the master of time. That’s the feeling that I really wanted to capture.” Here the pace slows to a free-floating stroll interrupted by sudden, darting digressions. Jackson is at his most elastic throughout, adding immensely to a feeling of distorted time that even Dalí would appreciate.
Urgency returns with a vengeance on “Dilemma,” which Hiromi jokingly describes as the price paid for indulgence. “You stop and think, ‘Should I go farther or step back?’ This song is very dramatic to express the sense of going back and forth in your mind.” With its constantly shifting sections and bristling 11/8 tempo, the tune vividly embodies that sense of tension and struggle, with the pianist’s most dark-hued solo of the set responding to its roiling, tempestuous beat.
The mood is eased by the playful, funky groove of “What Will Be, Will Be,” which echoes Doris Day’s familiar advice about maintaining a laissez-faire attitude and letting fate take over. That brisk jaunt gives way to the hushed, introspective elegant of “Wake Up and Dream,” a solo piano piece that finds Hiromi finally emerging from her trance, only to stay inside the dream state while wide awake. Finally, the trio’s handclaps state the valedictory beat of “All’s Well,” an optimistic conclusion that Hiromi sees as the album’s end credit sequence.
Having traveled through the varied and wide-ranging stages of Hiromi’s inspiration, it’s as if she’s pulled the curtain back on her own creative process to reveal the spark that’s been evident since she first emerged on the scene with her 2003 Telarc debut, Another Mind. Since then, Hiromi has been mentored and praised by such greats as Ahmad Jamal and Chick Corea while garnering a host of awards in North America and Japan and forging her own effervescent, instantly recognizable voice.
“Life is full of continuous sparks,” concludes Hiromi, whose ten albums certainly bear out that contention. “It can be anything that you can feel passionate about, but when that huge spark happens, the story begins.”
"SPARK" Recording (2016)
"ALIVE" Trio Recording (2014)
"MOVE" Trio Recording (2013)
"Voice" Trio Recording (2011)
"Place to Be" Solo CD (2010)
Hiromi Place to be
Beyond Standard (2008)
Another Mind (2003) CD-83558
What others are saying:
"Spark draws its energy from the interaction of Hiromi's precision, clarity and speed with Phillips' detail-oriented drumming and Jackson's unique melodic facility for an exciting, well-put together statement."
New York City Jazz Record
"Hiromi is an omni-style fusion virtuoso who seems able to do everything possible at the keyboard and to prove it before her records are over. She can be a keyboard-gobbling virtuoso and then, a few bars later, a master of musical space like one of her best 'discoverers' and early mentors, Ahmad Jamal. Spark is abundant with exactly what its title promises…a fascinating player - always." ***1/2
"And for all that distinguishes Hiromi and her crew from the typical piano trio, she is possessed of abundant sense of elegant swing,"
Jazz & Blues Report
"Spark showcases Hiromi's Trio Project with sweeping narrative and emotive content. The pianist finds her own spark in the interaction with her triomates of the last five years, beloved contrabass guitarist Anthony Jackson (Paul Simon, Steely Dan, Chick Corea, The O'Jays) and legendary drummer Simon Phillips (The Who, David Gilmour, Judas Priest, Toto, Jack Bruce)."
"With Spark, Hiromi has not veered from her path of musical exploration, and the tunes have welcome twists that surprise even fans familiar with her previous works."
"With Spark, the trio again exemplifies why DownBeat magazine has called them "one of the most exciting groups working in any genre today," with the leader's effusive, heartfelt virtuosity supported by Jackson's vigorously fluid basslines and Phillips' ability to be simultaneously propulsive and witty behind the kit."
Enjoy the Music.com
"Spark is Hiromi's tenth album as a leader. This recording proves that she is without a doubt one of the most original and exciting artists in any genre of music with a brilliant trio."
"Hiromi brings an incredible amount of energy to every show, whether she's playing a jazz festival, a rock club or a classical music hall. After touring the world, the pianist's Trio Project with contrabass guitarist Anthony Jackson and drummer Simon Phillips has become one of the most exciting groups working in any genre today."
"Even without the electric guitar of John McLaughlin, or the arsenal of synthesizers employed by Herbie Hancock, The Trio Project is a legitimate inheritor of the legacy left behind by Joe Zawinul, Wayne Shorter and Jaco Pastorius when Weather Report called it a day. That's heavy company, but Hiromi's Trio Project is one of the most consistently exciting and accomplished bands making music in any genre of music. Period. End of sentence."
All About Jazz
"Move is the soundtrack of a day, with each piece of music representing a different moment - from sunrise to sunset and the momentum, malaise, joy and quiet reflection that are all part of one day on earth. To round out the project, Hiromi teamed up with two of the music world's hardest-working session men, bass guitarist Anthony Jackson and drummer Simon Phillips."
NPR Weekend Edition Sunday
"State-of-the-art playing meets state-of-the-art recording."
"...the longer you listen and learn about Hiromi's music, the more profound and coherent her muse appears-and she isn't about to compromise it. The arpeggios, tremolos and genre-melting proceed with a vengeance on Move, the second disc with her Trio Project.."
"...Move is yet more proof of Hiromi's lasting power and limitless potential."
"Recorded with an impeccable trio of Anthony Jackson on contrabass and noted drummer Simon Phillips, Move may be Hiromi's most accomplished work yet."
"Hiromi's mix of storyline and conceptual contemporary instrumentals is both fascinating and visionary. Highly recommended!"
Jazz Inside Magazine
"Hiromi's modern jazz music is outstanding, I absolutely love it. It's what I often want to listen to because it kicks my mood up a notch. Her songs combine many styles that include a mix of contemporary, jazz fusion, post-bop, and a little bit of classical music. Hiromi's latest release, Move, features contrabass guitarist Anthony Jackson who played with Paul Simon and Chick Corea, and drummer Simon Phillips who performed with The Who, David Gilmour, and Jack Bruce."
Voice of America
"The music of pianist Hiromi defies easy categorization. Her breadth of play makes Move an album that requires some concentration, but if you give it that effort you will be satisfied at the results. Playing with drummer Simon Phillips and bassist Anthony Jackson, Hiromi would seem to be in a typical jazz trio. But the music that emerges in an eight-minute title track is more like a bit of serious concert music than a jazz trio offering."
"Hiromi describes Move as 'a soundtrack for a day,' a sequence of sonic representations of life from the sounding of the alarm clock ('Move') to day's end ("11:49 pm"), with various adventures and emotions in-between, from work ('Endeavor') to unexpected rain shower ('Rainmaker') to party ('Margarita!'), as well as 'Suite Escapism.' From dawn til dusk, the trio mixes fire and rain, motion and emotion, a rollercoaster ride we've come to expect from a pianist who can dazzle like Tatum and sing like Jarrett, often within the span of a few notes. And on Move, all notes belong to Hiromi."
"By splitting the difference between a post-bop trio and a muscular fusion trio, she found a spot that's ideally suited for not just her talents, but also those of her band. And Move goes a long way toward her further establishing her own identity."
"These new and original compositions are structured around a 'soundtrack for a day'... just twenty-four little hours, yet listening to Move there is an abundance of magnificent and emotive qualities in the experience. From the routine of daily life on to the dreams imagined and the flights of fancy in those unexpected moments, Hiromi has conjured up a loose yet concentrated passion in her playing for each of the nine selections. Move proves once more that Hiromi adds magic, creative ingenuity, and passion to a brilliant fusion of styles."
"Other than calling her a wildly, uninhibited player, pinning Hiromi down is no easy task. Recording a second album in a row with the same players, this is the closest she's come to having a band--even though she remains front and center, the vibes that comes from the interplay and trust push her to the new levels her believers always knew she was capable of...A winner throughout and quite likely the best entry in her canon yet."
"...one of the most versatile pianists on the scene today."