Hiromi
Alive


4.5
superb

Review

by Brendan Schroer USER (132 Reviews)
September 23rd, 2017 | 14 replies


Release Date: 2014 | Tracklist

Review Summary: The kind of album the phrase "modern classic" was made for.

There’s something so mesmerizing about watching Hiromi Uehara perform live. She’s one hell of a disciplined and articulate piano player, but the way her energy and spirit translate to the stage is what really makes her shine. The giddy smile she has, the eccentric movements of her fingers on the keys, and the way she casually performs such acrobatic feats of piano wizardry as if it were second nature… it’s all entrancing. Then again, I suppose being discovered by Chick Corea as a teenager could put a smile on a musician’s face with ease. Mr. Corea found Hiromi at age 17 and invited her to play at his next concert with him, which undoubtedly heightened her profile in the jazz world. But, as her many projects have proven, she’s much more than just another face in the sea of jazz pianists making a name for themselves. No, this virtuoso has plenty of tricks up her sleeve, and nowhere are they more apparent (at least to this reviewer) than on Alive, her third album in the Trio Project.

Going back to what I said about Hiromi’s spirit in a live setting, that same spirit absolutely translates to the studio on Alive. The playing is often highly precise and tight, but as the pianist whirls around the backing band on the ivories, each influence and layer unfolds slowly and delicately. One minute we’re listening to the free jazz powerhouse of “Player,” with its wildly shifting tempos and rhythms, but then we get a track like “Warrior” that plays out as a delicious pairing of jazz fusion and progressive rock. We also get a decent helping of classical (particularly romantic-era) to even things out, especially on the intimate balladry of “Firefly.” To say Hiromi’s playing has personality is an understatement, and the sense of atmosphere she brings to Alive is one of the biggest reasons to listen to it. Opening title track “Alive” is an amazing way to reveal her compositional and instrumental talents, storming in as a powerful statement of intent with its flashy piano runs and drum rolls. Once the proverbial smoke clears, the precision and sense of dynamics displayed by the trio is incredibly palpable. Even at nine minutes, the tune never feels like a drag to get through. But more importantly, it basically serves as an all-encompassing taste of what you’ll hear throughout the album.

Speaking of the trio, the two other musicians are fantastic as well. Anthony Jackson (bass) and Simon Phillips (drums) are a phenomenal fit to round out the group, playing complex motifs and chord progressions as tightly and neatly as they can. And yet, much like Hiromi, you can hear a ton of personality in their performances. I love when solos and jam sessions play out like miniature conversations akin to bickering with one another, and jazz is often quite loaded with these moments. Just listen to the slow rolling bass of “Player,” for instance. It sounds mischievous and almost sleazy combined with the subtle drumwork in the background, and the wacky piano licks provide an amazing counterpoint to the slow, lumbering bass lines beneath. These guys can also adapt to different moods and atmospheres incredibly well, such as when the energetic title track is succeeded by a much more subtle and understated tune like Wanderer. The song still has its flashy moments, but the overall feel is much more plaintive and melancholic, even down to how the fast piano and bass runs are executed. It often plays out like a jazz/classical mix, and the trio as a whole is incredibly adept at switching between the genres at will. With songs like “Wanderer” and “Warrior” in particular, it’s pretty amazing how well beauty and technicality collide on Alive.

As of this point, Hiromi’s been involved in a ton of projects. I could go on for hours about how influential she is in both her home country and the jazz world, as well as the fact that she’s performed with big names like Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke, and Japanese pop legend Akiko Yano. But if you want an amazing index of what Hiromi Uehara is all about, Alive is a wonderful way to get acquainted with her work. It’s the kind of album that displays just how much weight and power her work has in the world of jazz fusion, and it’s still among my favorite albums in that very genre. If you have even the slightest bit of interest in jazz or even progressive rock, this is a fantastic one to pick up.



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user ratings (23)
4
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
DivergentThinking
September 23rd 2017


6226 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

feelin' jazzy today

SteakByrnes
September 23rd 2017


17687 Comments


Is she waifu material?

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DivergentThinking
September 23rd 2017


6226 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Hellyeah she is!

MarsKid
Contributing Reviewer
September 24th 2017


10483 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Nice review, gives me a good picture of what this release would hold. Pos'd

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DivergentThinking
September 24th 2017


6226 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Thanks man. You should give it a shot :]

MarsKid
Contributing Reviewer
September 24th 2017


10483 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I do like jazz but I don't get around to it much. I put it on my rec list for what it's worth, might take time to get to it

DivergentThinking
September 24th 2017


6226 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

It's very much in the style of what you'd expect from a Chick Corea or Return to Forever album, just with a bit more classical flair :]

TundraL5Z
September 24th 2019


3833 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

this was flipping amazing

Brabiz
December 26th 2019


1057 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Bruh just 5 it already come on. Great review lol, this album is incredible.

JohnnyoftheWell
Contributing Reviewer
February 12th 2020


22490 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

This feels like something that'd be amazing to see in concert or convenient for some party playlists, but not feeling it as an armchair listen hmm

Digging: Bambara - Stray

TundraL5Z
February 12th 2020


3833 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I actually agree Johnny, full album listen gets pretty exhausting, but on a playlist it works better

JohnnyoftheWell
Contributing Reviewer
February 12th 2020


22490 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Which cuts dya tend to go for? Gonna give this some more time for sure and probably check Time Control sometime

TundraL5Z
February 12th 2020


3833 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

pff I mean all the tracks are pretty good lol, any will suffice in a playlist tbh

JohnnyoftheWell
Contributing Reviewer
February 15th 2020


22490 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

haha fair and true. finally made it to the end and glad of it - either it grew on me mid-listen or those final three are tasty



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