It seems improbable that a classical pianist’s chance meeting with Chick Corea could start a young musician on a musical journey that leads to true innovation in Jazz. The latest offering from Hiromi Uehara, ‘Voice’, featuring Anthony Jackson on bass and Simon Phillips on drums proves that this chance meeting was in fact destiny.
With the notable exception of “Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 8, Pathetique”, the album exclusively features original compositions by Hiromi; and opens with a deceptive dirge in title track “Voice” before exploding into an energized frenzy of syncopated drumming and deft bass counterpoint. The focus required to keep track of this frenzy almost acts a prepatation guide for the rest of the album as Hiromi believes focus is required to “hear someone’s inner voice”.
Many of her compositions thrust the drums into the dynamic forefront; providing a rock-like feel to much of the album while skillfully maintaining its base in Jazz. This creates the unique opportunity for the drums and to take the melodic lead; which is put to great use throughout the album, most notably in “Labyrinth”. This occasional role switching also contributes a progressive and contemporary feel to the album, and acts as testament to the technical skill on show by the trio.
The sheer dynamic range and passion on display in the album is phenomenal. A special mention must go to Hiromi’s inspired and varied improvisation throughout the album, which draw inspiration from many sources to create a fusion of styles perfectly paired with the rest of her trio. Her solos act as an impromptu heart-to-heart conversation as she guides us through, as Hiromi describes, “the true voice that we don’t really put into words, but that we feel when it’s real.”
There is an oddly enjoyable complexity to the entire album that goes far beyond the constraints and limitations of any single genre or instrument, and could only have come from Hiromi. She delivers an absorbing insight into a musical dialogue through a complex technical proficiency that is delivered with laboratory precision without compromising on the emotion that forms the cornerstone of the album. ‘Voice’ is a shining example of a forward-thinking Jazz album that is enjoyable from beginning to end; and the first to album to receive 5-stars from The Jazz Line.
Key Personnel: Hiromi Uehara (Piano), Anthony Jackson (Bass), Simon Phillips (Drums).