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Music DVD Review: Hiromi Solo Live at the Blue Note New York

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To say that Hiromi Uehara is a hypnotic performer would be an incredible understatement. With her live DVD, Hiromi Solo Live at Blue Note New York, the pianist electrifies, stimulates, intoxicates. She’s done the very same to audiences throughout the United States, Asia and Europe, blowing the lid off of what to expect from a performance with her complete and utter surrender to her art.

The DVD allows those of us who lack the fortune to see her in person a window to what we’re missing. Hiromi rolls through a number of tracks from Place to Be, her critically-acclaimed solo release, and dedicates herself entirely to the discovery and joy of music.

Recorded live on August 20 and 21, 2010, Live at the Blue Note New York features 11 songs and a bonus feature that includes an interview and some footage from her performances around the world.

Born in Shizuoka, Japan, in 1979, Hiromi started taking piano lessons at the age of six. She became instantly engaged in the process of understanding and feeling the music. As well as she grasped the technical side, it was her emotional connection to the instrument that really impressed.

The emotion shows, shining through in every single moment as Hiromi embraces the piano fully. She plays with her eyes closed, smiling and moving around to every note. Sometimes she responds with blissful surprise, as though she’s caught off guard by the beautiful sounds coming off of the ivories. Other times Hiromi’s playful nature shines through as she toys with the crowd.

Unafraid of defying the ridiculous and useless borders of jazz and classical music, Hiromi immerses herself in nothing less than the pursuit of passion.

The show begins with “BQE,” a piece that starts with flourishes of carefully calculated playing. Hiromi whacks the lower keys, pausing and looking around like a child caught doing something wrong. She slaps the keys, interrupting the melodic butterflies with a hard thump and then drawing them back around into the light. The melody emerges and Hiromi plays with elegant spirit, fingers fast as hell.

Hiromi’s “method” of playing piano is inspiring. She uses the entirety of the instrument, going far beyond the keys to whack the inside for rhythm or pull at the wiring for a “bass solo.”

Hiromi’s methods are never gimmicky, though. Each moment of divine drama takes its place in service of the overall composition. She is, therefore, as precise as she is wild, nurturing the guts of the song to its consequential fruition as she plays the field and slams the piano with her forearm. Everything has a purpose.

Whether it’s the haunting and delicate string intro of “Sicilian Blue” or the deliciously playful spirit of her “Viva! Vegas” suite, Hiromi is as self-assured and precise a performer as I’ve seen. Thanks to this DVD, fans of this amazing artist can take in the sheer fun over and over again.

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