Contemporary Jazz

Globetrotting With Hiromi

02 NOV 12 JASON SERINUS

Keyboard whiz Hiromi, contrabass guitarist Anthony Jackson, and percussionist Simon Phillips were at the top of their game when they came together for a fantastic concert in Marciac, France on July 31, 2011. That amazing gig, along with a documentary that explores the "Five Days, Five Countries" marathon have been gathered into a fabulous single Telarc DVD, Live In Marciac.

The "Five Days, Five Countries" outing saw them, just three months later, holding forth in strikingly different venues in Kîln, Germany; Bratislava, Slovakia; Salzburg, Austria; Zurich, Switzerland; and Sacile, Italy.

As someone whose love for jazz comes out of a grounding in classical music, I find Hiromi's pianism delicious. Energized beyond description, rolling out well over 120 notes per minute, she dances -- no, flies -- over the keyboard, her body pulsing with rhythm as Jackson and Phillips flawlessly groove with her every move. Although her classical training surfaces most clearly in the fifth piece, "Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 8, Pathétique," you can feel it throughout in the way that ideas bubble to the surface, develop, then morph into new thoughts that define the essence of jazz improvisation on the fly.

It's not that Hiromi's Beethoven is anywhere near orthodox. On the contrary, the piece begins as a mellow meditation, then quickly moves beyond Beethoven's iconic opening melody as the pace eventually picks up. It's another example of classic Hiromi, with she and her collaborators turning on a dime, changing tempi, and teasing out phrases as they give everything they've got.