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"I don't want to put a name on my music. Other people can put a name on what I do. It's just the union of what I've been listening to and what I've been learning. It has some elements of classical music, it has some rock, it has some jazz, but I don't want to give it a name." —Hiromi Uehara
Japanese native Hiromi Uehara may still be a student at Berklee School of Music in Boston, but there's already a great deal that she could teach those in the music world whose ears and minds are sufficiently open. Her debut album, Another Mind, offers a glimpse into the highly creative inner world of a gifted young pianist whose roots are in jazz but whose potential is unlimited. Mentored by keyboard giants like Oscar Peterson, Ahmad Jamal and Chick Corea, Hiromi turns jazz tradition on its head and plunges into a universe of new ideas where others of her generation have barely scratched the surface.
Born in Shizuoka, Japan, in 1979, Hiromi took up the piano at age six. Within a year, she was a student of the Yamaha School of Music, whose progressive approach to musical training allowed the young student to tap into her emotions as well as mastering the technical aspects of writing and performing. "I could really play from my heart," she says, "and not just from my ears."
She came to the United States in 1999 to continue her studies at Berklee. The cross-cultural experience has opened her ears and her mind to new and varied musical tastes that encompass everyone from J.S. Bach to Franz Liszt to Sly and the Family Stone to King Crimson.
An ambitious and engaging debut, Another Mind is a distillation of all of these sensibilities and more. Though rooted in jazz, the album's nine tracks make frequent forays into pop, R&B and avant-garde. From the first measures of "XYZ," Hiromi commands the listener's attention with insistent, syncopated keyboard riffs that churn forward with locomotive intensity. "Double Personality" sets up a taut balance of rhythm and melody that careens through various interludes of high-speed and high-energy freeform.
Later in the sequence, the relaxed and easygoing "Joy" is a departure from the intensity that characterizes the lion's share of the album. Also noteworthy are the quirky, techo-flavored "010101 Binary System," the melodic and hypnotic title track and the whimsical bonus track, "The Tom & Jerry Show." Along the way, Hiromi is supported by a fine team of musicians that includes her own backup unit of bassist Mitch Cohn and drummer Dave Di Censo, as well as three formidable guest players: bassist Anthony Jackson, alto saxophonist Jim Odgren and guitarist Dave Fiuczynski.
Jackson, a seasoned session player with a mile-long list of credits dating back to the early '70s, heaps high praise on the young talent: "Hiromi stands in the front rank of the greatest players that I've ever worked with," he says, "and I've worked with quite a few of them."
"Hiromi continues to change the musical landscape everywhere she performs," says pianist Ahmad Jamal, who co-produced Another Mind (along with veteran bassist/ arranger/producer and Berklee professor Richard Evans) and has taken an active interest in her career. "Her music, together with her overwhelming charm and spirit, causes her to soar to unimaginable musical heights. She is nothing short of amazing."