Hiromi - Alive - the trio project featuring Anthony Jackson and Simon Phillips
(Telarc TEL-35307-02. CD Review by Eric Ford)
There's no doubt that pianist Hiromi Uehara occupies a special place in the world as one of the few musicians who could hypothetically have an audience which didn't think it liked jazz on its feet and begging for more at the end of a gig. She's an excellent performer, the music's enjoyable, groovy, "accessible" and brilliantly-played, and the fact that she's cute and radiates positivity is the icing on the cake. Add to that electric bass guru Anthony Jackson and rock / fusion drum god Simon Phillips and you have a heavyweight trio, who, in her ninth album as leader, have produced a continually-engaging 75 minutes of music.
Without wishing to spoil the surprises within each song, maybe the easiest way to give you an idea of the overall tone is to think of the Michel Camilo trio but with a "prog rock" instead of a "Latin" influence. (Anthony Jackson was of course a member of said trio.) So, blistering displays of chops, tight arrangements and ensemble sections, some (actually lots of ) odd meters, STRONG grooves, plenty of solo space for everyone, lots of good vibes, and a couple of emotive ballads.
The set is very varied and clearly well-rehearsed. In addition to what Hiromi wrote for them, Jackson and Phillips have come up with great and interesting parts that bass guitarists and drummers will want to check out. As you'd expect from players of this stature who've made 3 albums and gigged intensively together, they make a formidable unit.
It's clear that Hiromi's absorbed the breadth of the jazz piano tradition and can summon up the ghosts of Erroll Garner and Oscar Peterson in between pretty much everything else you can imagine being played on a piano. This stylistic eclecticism and the (often very unusual) feisty rhythmic shenanigans give her trio a unique identity. This is a great context in which to hear Jackson and Phillips (who - note ye LondonJazz News readers - is from London).
If you were unaware (as I was) that this trio's previous cd was called "Move" and that there's a new DVD of the band playing that material live in Tokyo, I can wholeheartedly recommend both of those too.
Hiromi Interview 2014
Review: Live at Cadogan Hall 2014
Review: Live at the Barbican (solo) 2009