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Hiromi: Place To Be

Jeff Winbush By

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Some musicians take the tortured artist thing too far. With their on-stage, "in the zone" demeanor, some pianists look as if they're on the verge of a heart attack. If they relaxed a bit would anyone think less of them? Hiromi Uehara is certainly a serious musician yet never leaves the impression of taking herself too seriously. She's having too much fun for that.

By any measurement, her last two years have been busy. Backed by her band, Hiromi's Sonicbloom, she toured behind her fifth album, Beyond Standard (Telarc, 2008), collaborated with Chick Corea in Duet (Concord, 2008), and joined another pair of Return to Forever expatriates, Stanley Clarke and Lenny White for the all-acoustic Jazz in the Garden (Heads Up, 2009).

Since her 2003 debut, Another Mind (Telarc), Hiromi has straddled genres of post-bop, acid jazz, and freewheeling improvisation while refusing to be neatly categorized. A leader in her own right and an accompanist,she's proven herself to be no neophyte and for seven years through growth and development, she continues to create challenging music that is both edifying and gratifying.

Place To Be is a based on a simple enough concept: put Hiromi in a studio with a piano, turn her loose on 11 out of 12 original compositions, turn on the recording equipment and get out of her way. What follows is a musical travelogue from the Brooklyn Queens Expressway to France, Switzerland, Cape Cod, Portugal, Germany, and Las Vegas and what an exhilarating ride it is. She is not simply interested in flaunting her technique; the art of improvisation nestles comfortably within her theme of movement, space, and "the place to be."

Blessed with a sense of timing and control, the young pianist plays with both finesse and passion, savvy and swagger. One minute she's hammering up and down the keys on "BQE" and "Choux A La Creme" and the next gently caressing them on "Somwhere" and "Pachelbel's Canon." Every step of the way her journey through music leaves an impression.

By its nature, solo piano has a degree of self-interest, but Hiromi is never a narcissist. She thoroughly enjoys what she does and at no time does the recording come off as a vanity project by a self-centered egotist. Place To Be is an exciting and brilliant romp through the life, time, and travels of Hiromi, one of the most consistently innovative and impressive artists in jazz today.

Track Listing: BQE; Choux A La Creme; Sicilian Blue; Berne, Baby, Berne!; Somewhere; Cape Cod Chips; Islands Azores; Pachelbel's Canon; Viva! Vegas: Show City, Show Girl/Daytime in Las Vegas/The Gambler; Place To Be.

Personnel: Hiromi Uehara: piano.

Title: Place To Be | Year Released: 2010 | Record Label: Telarc Records

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