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Friday, Sept. 11, 2009

LISTENING POST

CD REVIEW

Hiromi "Place To Be"


After leading a trio, dabbling in a quartet and playing duets, Hiromi Uehara is going it alone.

News photo

The young pianist's sixth album starts off with her trademark virtuosity of fingers flying across the piano keys, creating a burst of notes that often dazzles. Upon looking up the title, "BQE," I could see what she was aiming for, since I remember as a child all those tiring trips on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. With all but two tracks written by Uehara, she knows what she intends with each song; her liner notes further explain the thinking behind her straightforward titles.

The album is like a short story collection written by a skilled author who can bend the instrument to her will and pull the chords just right to stir emotions. Far from being a showcase of her deftness on piano, the strongest pieces are usually in a slow tempo. "Somewhere" shows a lightness of touch that draws out a wistful, plaintive melody with occasional improvisational flourishes. Her take on Pachelbel's Canon starts as if it were a classical piano recital, but she plays around with the tune so effortlessly that I wondered why no one else had thought of improvising the piece before.

One nonsolo piece appears as a bonus track on the Japanese versions, with singer-songwriter Akiko Yano providing vocals.

The track that combines all of Uehara's best skills is "Island Azores," an arresting song that shows her creativity meld perfectly with a well-crafted melody. Her music — it would be an injustice to classify it — may not be for all ears, but she rewards listeners with a playful passion that is beyond words.

As a soloist, Uehara is at the place where she should be.



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