Hiromi Uehara ‎’Spark’ CD/DVD/DIG (Telarc/Concord) 3/5

hiromiOK, if there was a single criticism I would make of this and in fact most other Hiromi releases, it would be the covers. The covers give no clue to her talent as an extraordinary pianist & composer. I am a great believer in an album cover ‘drawing you in’ and have discovered many an artist over the years just by picking up the record based on the cover and reading the sleeve notes and taking a chance on it. Hiromi is a beautiful young lady but her talent is her playing and not her looks. This kind of marketing just feels a little regressive in my mind and detracts from the matter at hand and I feel could denigrate her as an artist.
I must admit coming to the ‘party’ late on Hiromi – I had only heard of her about 3 or 4 months ago via an online video. That video woke me up to an artist who has been recording & releasing music for 13 years now; who has duetted with Chick Corea and also recorded a trio album with bassist Stanley Clarke and drummer Lenny White.
The jazz piano trio format has come a long way since the days of Art Tatum, Nat King Cole and Bill Evans and now takes on an all-powerful edict that could rival a rock band.
The Hiromi sound does have a Neil Cowley Trio feel at times and when the group do veer towards a fusion direction, you will hear little murmurings of the aforementioned Mr. Corea.

This is the 4th outing as ‘The Trio Project’ with the UK’s own Simon Phillips on drums and ex Bob James bass man Anthony Jackson and the evidence of their continued success is clear – they work extremely well together and sound like a power trio to be reckoned with.
The title track of the album epitomises this – starting with a light piano theme which then opens up into a world of sound, rhythms and varying time signatures – her playing is always sharp and on point here and her 2 comrades do not let her down.
‘In a Trance’ seems to carry on where the previous left off – more odd time signatures but just upping the tempo and throwing in a little Afro-Cuban section in for good measure.

We take things a little easier on for ‘Take me Away’ & ‘Indulgence’ but the trio never lets you forget what they can do and throw in the odd tempo change and time shift.

The CD goes through this pattern on the other tracks with the track ‘Wake up & Dream’ being a solo piece sounding quite classical in its structure.

Overall, a nice album but not one that will leave a lasting impression on me. There are a couple of tracks that contain some use of synthesizers which sounds a little ‘clunky’ and a little too retro for my liking and that is a shame.

If you are a Hiromi fan then I don’t think you will be disappointed with this release. I for one cannot wait to hear what a future project could sound like.

Sammy Goulbourne