So good you can't ignore her
From the Spring 2003 issue.
By Hiromi Uehara
Telarc Records: 2002
To hear sound clips or learn more about this release, Turbula recommends viewing its Amazon.com entry.
For those of you who judge a CD by its cover, a glance at Hiromi Uehara's "Another Mind" might fool you. The young pianist is a small wisp of a woman, delicately pretty; the cover photo shows her clad in black, with a splash of a pastel wrapped about her shoulders. Her head is tilted back, arms spread, like a bird just an eye blink away from flight. And you might guess that you were in for some light and insubstantial sounds, smooth stuff, some inobtrusive background pleasantry.
Well guess again. Appearances, as they say, can be deceiving. This tiny woman is a driven dynamo; "Another Mind" is one of the finest jazz debuts of the year.
The very first notes of "XYZ," the CD's opener, will especially if you were expecting jazz lite knock you back in your chair. Hiromi (her apparent stage name) attacks the keyboard; Hiromi owns the keyboard. The boundlessly energetic Hiromi conveys the feeling that anything is possible with those black and white keys, and she very nearly proves it.
Hiromi Uehara studied piano at The Yamaha School of Music, and she still studies at Berklee two institutions that obviously encourage the finding of one's own voice. And she is only twenty-four years old, which makes this wide-screen approach of hers all the more remarkable. She apparently follows the dictum: Be so good that they can't ignore you.
She is; you can't.
Six of the nine tunes on "Another Mind" are trio workouts; a format in which she plays big, full, lush, almost brazenly at times; at other times delicately, her demure side shining through. A bit of rock flavoring, a tint of the classical side, some fusion overtones.
Of the trio's tunes, the high-energy "XYZ" and the brooding "Truth and Lies" are the highlights, each showing a different layer of the ebullient energies and spontanaities of Hiromi.
The highlight of the CD is and there's a lot of competition here the eleven-minute-plus "Double Personality," a fusion-leaning sound with sharp guitar and alto sax work by Dave Fiucynski and Jim Odgren, respectively. Hiromi opens up the song with a rapid-fire string of individual notes, leading into a fusion-esque sax/guitar conversation, Hiromi interjecting. Part of the success of the tune is the disparity in styles: fusion crispness juxtaposed with Hiromi's ebullient, classically-tinged bird flight dance on the keys. A small symphony of a new century.
"Another Mind" is a grand and eloquent debut, the emergence of a joyous and unrestrained musical spirit. So good you can't ignore it.
Review by Dan McClenaghan. Dan is a writer living in Oceanside, Calif. Read his biography on his AllAboutJazz.com page.