Review Summary: Hiromi's "Voice" communicates the joy that music brings to life.
Hiromi might fall between two stools, or rather transcend between genres to the plane where guitar gods, drum deities and super-singers reside. She doesn’t just play the piano, she shares her joy, her passion and her soul with the world, and her voice transcends both genres and time.
Hiromi hails from Japan, where she has been making a name for herself in the jazz community since the early 2000s. She is no average jazz pianist, though, she is a piano adventurer who blends influences from classical music, prog rock, fusion, post-bop and stride. All these voices become one when she plays. It might not speak to all of her peers, but that doesn’t make her performance any less hypnotizing.
“I believe that people’s real voices are expressed in their emotions. It’s not something that you really say. It’s more something that you have in your heart.”
Hiromi – Concord Jazz Artist Page
Having played the piano since 6, performed with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra at 14, worked as a jingle writer in the Japanese advertisement industry, and studied at Berkeley College of Music, Hiromi developed an original voice of her own. Granted, it sounds like a million voices, or perhaps a schizophrenic conference of voices when her fingers are let loose on the piano. Still, she never fails to connect with her audience.
From the standpoint of a jazz novice, jazz songs often appear incoherent or overwhelming, but Hiromi’s voice always shine through, especially on this album. Each track has a voice of its own which is easy recognizable and equally memorable. Between the opening title track, with its whimsical storytelling qualities, and the laidback closing cover version of Beethoven’s “Piano Sonata No.8”, there are no fillers.
The playful “Now or Never” is a highlight, though. Anyone who has ever seen a live video clip of Hiromi will know what I talk about when I say that this song has Hiromi’s smile all over it. Few contemporary jazz pianists bring such joy to the stage, and “Now or Never” reflects the spirit of Hiromi and her companions perfectly.
Before “Voice”, she had already made seven albums on her own. This was the first time she brought with her Anthony Jackson on bass and Simon Philips on drums. They called it “The Trio Project”. Evidently, they enjoyed each other’s company so much that it turned into three more albums thereafter.
The performance on “Voice” is magnetic. It sounds like the trio have been playing together for a lifetime. It is tight, yet not constrictive, free flowing, yet composed with attention to detail. In fact, give the album a decade, and you will probably still have some details left to discover and some voices left to figure out.
“I really don’t have barriers to any type of music. I could listen to everything from metal to classical music to anything else.”
Hiromi – Concord Jazz Artist Page
Compared to Hiromi’s other albums, “Voice” stands out as career-defining moment. By then she had listened to her teacher’s voices, explored her own voice, taken influence from other’s voices, and finally brought in a couple of extra “voices” to complete her sound. By now, she was a confident pianist who leaned back, enjoyed the process, and I daresay created her best album to date (perhaps with the exception of “Time Control”).
Hiromi did more than put a voice to her heartfelt emotions with this album. “Voice” transcends genres, it transcends technical prowess, and speaks to anyone who ever felt the excitement of music shake our very core. Just like Hiromi smiles with all her being when performing these songs, so does “Voice” communicate the joy that music brings to life.