Japanese pianist Hiromi Uehara detonated on a major label with her debut release Another Mind . That recording was overwhelming in its power, technique, and intelligence. In short, it was like a swift kick in the privates, getting your attention while taking your breath away at the same time. While her new release, Brain , is no kick in the privates, it is an evocatively well dressed statement by a brashly intelligent young artist who has a lot to say for herself.
The diminutive Hiromi proves a huge funk jones on Brain, beginning with the disc opener, "Kung-Fu World Champion," where she mixes electronic and acoustic effortlessly and allows bassist Tony Grey to produce the love child of Bootsy Collins and Jaco Pastorious. Hiromi's musicianship is staggering, her sense of melody and harmony is secure and well-informed, whether electric or acoustic. She does provide two beautiful ballads, one up-beat and one ethereal. The former is "If," which employs a gentle velocity in a full orchestral setting. "Wind Song" resembles nothing else on this or the previous recording in its quiet contemplation. The title cut is similar to the opener with its mixture of electronics and acoustics.
All of the pieces are pregnant with ideas, very well thought out ideas. In spite of my prejudice against electric elements in jazz, it is impossible for me to state anything other than that Brain is very likely to be a highlight recording of 2004.