DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

Hiromi – The Trio Project – Live in Marciac (2012)

The enthusiastic Hiromi is a major talent at the piano keyboard and this is a trio which will hold your interest.

Published on November 1, 2012

Hiromi – The Trio Project – Live in Marciac (2012) 

The trio: Hiromi Uehara, piano and electronic keyboard; Anthony Jackson, elec. bass guitar; Somon Philips, drums
Program: Delusion, Now Or Newer, Voice, Flashback, Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 8 “Pathetique,” Dancando, No Paraiso, Joy
Studio: Yamaha Music/Telarc TEL-34112-09 [10/2/12] (Distr. by Concord Music)
Video: 16:9 color
Audio: DD 5.1, PCM stereo
Subtitles: English, Japanese
Extras: Documentary: “Five Days, Five Countries”
Length: 1 hr. 42 in.
Rating: *****

All seven of these numbers are Hiromi originals, although the Beethoven is really her improvisations on the main theme of the Pathetique piano sonata of that composer. Bass guitarist Johnson was last seen on a Lee Ritenour DVD and the track “Voice” here is from the album Hiromi recorded with Johnson. Hiromi said that as they were on the road together she began to understand the characteristics of both Johnson’s and Philip’s playing, and tried to create tunes especially for their unique styles of playing.

That may be something like the way Duke Ellington approached writing for this band members, but Hiromi’s style at the keyboard is nothing like Ellington’s or Basie’s even less. She attacks the entire keyboard from top to bottom, and when she really gets excited likes to storm the keyboard standing up. Yet she can switch to subdued lyric-style playing, though often with machine-gun-like note spinning. Also, I can’t think of any other jazz pianist today who seems to having such a complete ball at the keyboard. Hiromi doesn’t just smile, she has major laughs at her Yamaha. You can’t help feeling up and optimistic after a Hiromi concert, her enthusiasm is just boundless. And her face isn’t the only one to watch: Johnson has an almost too-expressive face.

The documentary showed how pressed the trio was, traveling to perform in a different European country on each of five days. It also showed that when she isn’t performing onstage, Hiromi sports a normal hair style—not the patented rat’s nest in which she performs. The connections with 5.1 Productions seem to be a thing of the past, and Japanese crews handle both the video and audio of Hiromi’s discs now, but the image and sound are still top-flight, with the drums (thank god) mixed in at a reasonable level, keeping the piano in the foreground where it should be. I noticed the clouds of smoke causing interesting effects with the stage lighting, and was thinking I didn’t know jazz groups did smoke and pyrotechnics onstage like rock groups, but then realized: This is France—it’s cigarette smoke! I guess standard DVDs are looking much better because the original source for them is a HD video. There have probably also been compression and pressing enhancements as well, just as occurred in the productions of standard CDs.

—John Henry




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