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Live Reviews

January 17, 2006

By Ernest Barteldes
Blue Note
New York


Japanese-born Hiromi  is always a pleasure to listen to. The raw energy that she emanates, combined with her incredible skill and speed on the keys ,makes each performance a surprise. Not to mention her captivating charm, which wins audiences over immediately, which happened on January 17th, when she took the stage at New York's City's Blue Note jazz club on the first night of her week-long series of performances at that club backed Tony Grey (bs) and Martin Vallhora(dms), two young musicians who also appear on her latest album, Spiral (Telarc), which was released that night.

She opened the set with "Return of Kung-Fu Champion," a fiery electro-acoustic number inspired by the early Jackie Chan movies. Her band sounded as impeccable as it gets, but how exactly they manage to keep up with her is anyone's guess. The song itself is so fast-paced that you lose yourself while trying to follow what is going on. She greeted the audience, thanking for the applause, and  quickly moved on into "Music For Three-Piece Orchestra," a five-part suite that continued for about 30 minutes. The band is well-rehearsed, and sheet music was nowhere to be seen (another amazing thing, considering the complexities of the piece).

A keen observer can see that Hiromi feels every note she plays, letting. Her face is contorted at some moments, and she also smiles as she feels that the mood is in the right place, and that also happens with the other two musicians: Grey played with his eyes closed through a good portion of the songs, seeming as if he were in some faraway, distant dream world, while Vallhora seemed to focus his eyes on a specific (but undetermined) place.

She closed with "Love and Laughter," a bluesy tune which has a bit of a Dave Brubeck-meets-Vince Guaraldi feel, which allowed her to be more playful. In that number, one notices how much sense of humor she has. It was then that Vallhora and Grey showcased their individual talents, and as the show came to a close, the band got a standing ovation, something you don't see every day at the Blue Note.