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The Energy Is One: An Interview with Hiromi Uehara

By Published: October 20, 2003

HU: No. But he's, like, my hero! I really like his music. I've listened to his new solo album.

AAJ: In your liner notes to your CD, you describe the inspiration you get from other musicians as a kind of energy. You also mentioned that you are inspired by great athletes, such as Michael Jordan. Do you include Japanese baseball players?

HU: Yes, yes, of course. I love Ichiro. I think it's very encouraging that more Japanese ballplayers are playing in the States now.

AAJ: Can you tell me more about the energy of inspiration?

HU: Take Michael Jordan, for example. When he shoots, when he goes up, when he jumps and is in the air, everyone is with him'there is so much concentration, everyone is amazed, and happy, and feel as if they are flying too. In the whole gym, the energy is one. The crowd is one. It's a most amazing, beautiful thing.

AAJ: And music can be this kind of energy, this unifying force.

HU: Yes, I think so.

AAJ: On Another Mind, your new CD, you perform your own compositions exclusively. Can you tell me about your writing process?

HU: I write every day. I'm trying to write every day. I'm always looking for ideas, trying to get my antennae out for ideas, inspiration. I'm a really curious person. Sometimes I sit in front of the piano, trying to play what I hear, and then I write. But sometimes when I come back from an event, maybe a concert, maybe a football game, where I've seen some amazing thing, I can get ideas for compositions.

AAJ: In composing, are you at all aware of the influence of Japanese musical traditions? Sources, anything that you might be responding to?

HU: I've never really thought about that when I write. But I'm sure, on some level, that this is present somehow. I'm sure that I must be influenced by so much Japanese folk music because I grew up listening to that and that's where I came from. But the influence is not a conscious one.

AAJ: On Another Mind, the trio of piano, bass, and drums is the core unit, as in much of jazz. What do you think are the expressive possibilities of the trio format?

HU: What I love about the trio format is its rich history. There are so many great trios in the history of jazz. It offers such simple instrumentation, but the orchestral possibilities are so profound. I'm really interested in how I can use each instrument, and there are just so many possiblities.

AAJ: And the musicians can really listen to one another too.

HU: The interplay is incredible.

AAJ: To me, at least, in listening to your CD, I sensed a lot of attention to the order of the pieces'the whole emerges a little like a novel, or play. Did you think much about this?

HU: Oh, I talked about this so much with my producer. I had so many of my own ideas, but she had her ideas too, and we talked about them. We discussed this so much, and it took a long while. This is something I look for and study in the music I listen to. The creation of a unified effect, an atmosphere, is so important.

AAJ: What lies ahead for you now?

HU: I'll be touring a lot now. There were several dates on the east coast during June, and then I'll be playing in the Midwest. Chicago. And after that, on the west coast, California. Later in the summer there's a date at Tanglewood. The tour continues in September, and then in October, I'll be going to Europe. Sometime I would love to go to South America too, but there are no plans now.

AAJ: Will you be touring in Japan too?

HU: I did a small tour there early in June. Only two places, Tokyo and Shizuoka, my hometown. My parents live in Shizuoka, so that is still my home. Right now I have no idea if I'll return to live in Japan permanently. At this time I would like to continue to stay in the States as much as I can. I meet so many amazing musicians here. I really like the creative atmopshere. I like the food in Japan better, but I'll be staying in the States for now.

AAJ: I know that someday you would like to write an extended piece, a piano concerto. Do you think this is something you'll do soon?

HU: I'm writing a lot of sketches, pieces. I think this will take a long time to write. I'm writing a lot for orchestra now, but I'm not satisfied with that yet. But it is definitely my dream'someday.

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