Japanese pianist and composer Hiromi Uehara dazzled the jazz world with her 2003 debut, Another Mind. Its mash of keyboard pyrotechnics and range of compositional styles was multiplied exponentially by her irrepressible energy. On that set she used variously sized ensembles to articulate her compositions. On Brain, Hiromi strips it back to a trio and offers a more intimate look at her wide musical universe, utilizing drummer Martin Valihora, bassist Tony Grey (both fellow Berklee College of Music alums), and alternately bassist Anthony Jackson. The album opens with the wacky "Kung-Fu World Champion" with its mélange of sequenced keyboards. It's a fusion tune to be sure, but it's so kooky and funky that it transcends the label despite its reliance on staggering time signatures and stop-on-air turnarounds and changes. It's a careening tour de force where electronic keyboards and pianos are layered over a scattershot rhythm that pulls and pushes the deep pocket funk and strafes it with a post-bop sensibility. Grey's bassing here is so choice, so utterly fluid and physical. But it's back to jazz on "If..." with Jackson taking the bass chair. It's a strolling soul-jazz figure, bubbling over a series of chromatically arranged ostinati. Its beauty is crystalline despite all the activity. "Wind Song" is a mid-tempo ballad with beautiful ringing lines in the middle register. Its repetitive figure shifts and shapes an alternate melodic line in the solo. The knottiness of the title track offers a close, scrutinizing view of Hiromi's mad muse; using her piano to articulate a figure she creates a warped and angular counterpoint with electronic keyboards keeping the rhythm section striating in between, with precise interstitial motifs before the entire cut gives way to a blessed out of minor key prelude on the piano and her rhythm section dancing around the changes in hushed tones. The centerpiece of the set is a stunningly beautiful tune called "Green Tea Farm." A solo piece, it is pastoral. In sum, Hiromi has built upon her previous effort by stripping down her band and showcasing the less physical but no less ambitious side of her improvisational and compositional flair. Her sound might still be confounding to the purists, but who cares? Hiromi is a jazz pianist for the new century, one whose "yes" to the wealth of musical styles that are available to her is only eclipsed by her ability to work them into a unique whole that bears her signature.
- Release Date:
Performance CreditsHiromi Primary Artist,Piano,Keyboards
Anthony Jackson Bass
Hiromi Uehara Piano
Tony Grey Bass
Martin Valihora Drums
Technical CreditsMichael Bishop Producer,Engineer
Robert Woods Executive Producer
Anilda Carrasquillo Art Direction
Hiromi Uehara Producer,Liner Notes
Tracy Martinson Engineer
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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As a piano teacher and player of both classical and jazz, this album is outstanding because Hiromi has dazzling virtuoso soloing skills, beautiful themes, and surprisingly, reflects the best influences from all African American jazz legends from bebop to present. She made me go back and listen to my favorite Bud Powell and Billy Taylor albums just to compare her solo runs with these legends. There is even a strong reminder of Joe Sample in her very pleasing "If". "Green Tea Farm" is a lovely theme that resembles an Irish folk tune with its melodic trills. "Wind Song" is particularly intriguing with its modal and tonal ambiguity (is it major or minor?). "Desert on the Moon" is my favorite, it blazes with amazing finesse from the starting gate while the rhythm section simmers its smooth jazz Latin groove. The funky synthesizer stuff, "Kung Fu World Fighter", "Brain", and "Keytalk" remind me of Herbie Hancock - fun, crazy, a great sense of humor. "Legend of the Purple Valley" is another beautiful theme that is once again reminiscent of Joe Sample because of her ability to weave very lyrical melodies with smooth harmonies and an exquisite touch. Every time I play this album for my adult piano students, male or female, young or older, they are amazed and want to go out and get a copy right away. I will be buying this album many times over as gifts for many people. This is the album you buy for people not very familiar with much jazz, because it sells them on it, completely!!
If your a fan of electronics of Herbie Hancock's Headhunters or a fan of the speed of Art Tatum and The genious thought of Chick Corea or Oscar Peterson then this is the album for you. Easily one of my favorite jazz albums ever.