CD Review: Hiromi "Alive"

July 21, 2014

Having made three recordings and played countless concerts with Anthony Jackson and drummer Simon Phillips, gifted piano goddess Hiromi set out to capture the super-trio’s live spontaneity and vivacity on her latest studio effort. Mission accomplished. The interval-twisting, chamber-jazz title track opener, as well as the more classically attuned exploration “Wanderer,” boast drum step-outs—while the pop-leaning “Seeker,” a nod to Hiromi’s ever-present Ahmad Jamal influence, ends with a call-and-response improv between Jackson (still on his solidbody Fodera contrabass guitar “No. 10,” having not yet received his hollowbody Presentation II) and the pianist. Most exhilarating is when the trio merges approaches: “Player” begins as an angular meter mash, gives way to “Spinning Wheel” changes for Jackson’s groove solo, and morphs to double-time swing for Hiromi’s stompin’ solo turn. “Spirit” starts reverent and bluesy, settling in a halftime gospel feel for Jackson and Hiromi’s extended features, and riding out as a Chicago shuffle. “Life Goes On” alternates between modal and R&B changes before Hiromi lays out, revealing Jackson and Phillips’ premium pocket-lock and telepathic time manipulation. The tour de force is “Warrior,” which starts as a stately sonata, evolves into a unison Brubeck-ian strain, and includes drum breaks and a robust, range-reaching bass flight. The true magic, however, comes via the interplay during Hiromi’s solo, as Jackson and Phillips spontaneously support, suggest, and react. The art of the piano trio is alive and well.

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