Hiromi, Jazz Bakery, 4/12/07

’Hiromi’Hiromi comes from a school of fusion jazz and progressive rock that gets a retrofit through the power of her genius, and also through the novelty of her very existence.

First, the basics. Hiromi’s sound and style is reminiscent of eighties fusion rock bands like Weather Report, Spiro Gyra, Return to Forever, Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, and the Yellow Jackets, and falls outside the discography of modern noise. I was most impressed when she told me she’d been playing piano for twenty-two years and cut her teeth on King Crimson’s “Frame by Frame” — meaning she was only six years old when she did. Wasn’t I getting piss drunk at The Foundry, New Haven’s premiere jazz club, when I first syncopated 7/8? Hard to believe these kids are under thirty.

Technically, Hiromi is the best living pianist in the world. Prog Rock monster Keith Emerson went to see last Thursday’s performance and had his head buried in his hands the entire time. Look upon her chops ye mighty and despair!

Theatrically, she splinters piano hammers with her dexterity and speed, jumps to her feet within a sixty-fourth beat of a song’s conclusion, and makes grimaced faces as if she’s having some private, beautiful orgasm on the piano bench — all while wearing a body sock akin to something from the recent Skin + Bones: Parallel Practices in Fashion and Architecture exhibit at MOCA.

In melody and composition, how like an angel, in performance and energy, how like a god.

Cue-ball-headed American David Fiuczynski dabbles on a double-neck against Hiromi’s strange counterpoints at the same speed and precision. I thought he was going to be such an asshole when he couldn’t figure out how to turn on his amp at the beginning of the performance, but he’s alright. She’s picked him, I think, for his vivacity on guitar, his unapologetic approach to inventive and deceptively complex solos in the style of Alan Holdsworth. Tony Grey is an English bassist extraordinaire, superficially likeable, frowning at mistakes only he could hear. He could lighten up — I met him in the lobby, a poor, thin, introverted and pallid being, but a good bassist, narcotic to listen to, never out of his depth, and technically perfect. Drummer Martin Valihora is the weakest link, breathtaking in performance but repetitive, as if trying to hide an absence of creativity in a barrage of flam. But a good kid. He dropped his stick and someone from the audience tossed it back to him. Valihora caught it and came right back in. Applause.

Okay. On the flip side, a few of her compositions like “Time Out” reinforce the clichés of her chosen genre, although she swears up and down on her web site that she doesn’t have one. I could have used less of those standard Planet Jazz numbers and more of the pure mind-blowing, technique-driven, frontal lobal shredder time jams on her latest, Time Control, put out by snobby European jazz label Telarc International.

Judge for yourself at her MySpace page.

Some of the stuff is so freaking abrasively random that it was on my nerves even as it blew me away. “Real Clock vs. Body Clock = Jet Lag,” a cartoonish experiment that gets pumping with unpredictability at odd moments, modulates from tormented elevator music to the personification of one of those fucked up Japanese grocery stores where frog’s legs are on the same shelf as Bactine. It’s… Well, what gives, Hiromi?

So picture a dream outfit with Allan Holdsworth on guitar, Jaco Pastorius and Trilok Gurtu on drums and percussion, shredding all the songs King Crimson ever wrote — hell, all the songs I never wrote — and you have a starting point. For $35, you too should witness her while she lives and breathes.

With guitarist DAVID FIUCZYNSKI, bassist TONY GREY & drummer MARTIN VALIHORA

Jazz Bakery
April 12, 2007