Hiromi’s “Trio Project” Gives a Stellar Performance at B.B. King’s Blues Club

Nicholas Cho

Jazz pianist virtuoso, Hiromi Uehara, played two sets on April 10, 2012 at B.B. King’s Blues Club in New York City that brought musicians and the common listener together to listen, enjoy, and smile from her riveting playing.

Backed by world-renowned musicians, Anthony Jackson on contrabass guitar and Simon Phillips on drums, Hiromi performed a 70 minute set that brought jaws to the floor and sent smiles across faces.

The trio was touring in support of Hiromi’s most recent album titled Voice released in 2011, and her set mainly drew from tracks off of that album. The album was recorded in a mere three days nearby in Hoboken, NJ, and if you do not have this album yet, pick it up – you will not regret it.

Hiromi’s influences range from Oscar Peterson and Bach to progressive artists such as King Crimson and Dream Theater. As a result, her songs combine elements of classical, progressive, and jazz fusion music to evoke many different emotions and moods that the listener can easily feel.

I caught her second set at 10:30 and even though it was a fairly late show, about three quarters of the room was full with eager fans. As the lights dimmed, the trio entered the stage and started their set with “Voice,” the title track of Hiromi’s most recent album. It was a great start to the show; Simon Phillips’ thunderous drum solo captivated the audience and hooked them in right away. The tune started out mysterious and gloomy, but eventually turned into a frantic journey as Hiromi’s fingers darted all over the piano.

Next came “Now or Never,” which featured an incredible trade off section between Hiromi and Anthony Jackson. It was almost as if the two were having a conversation with their instruments. Their small solo lines carried a lot of emotion and blended with each other even though one would not imagine that fluidity between a piano and a contrabass guitar, and they left me in a musical daze for the rest of the night.

Later on in the set, Anthony Jackson and Simon Phillips left the stage, leaving only Hiromi to perform a solo piece called “Place to Be.” The notes she hit were meticulously played; there were phrases and individual notes that really struck the emotions of the audience during her solo piece. Bright and sad feelings, and the occasional questioning of “how does she do that?” were all fused into her solo performance. After, the trio gathered all back onstage, and they closed out the night with two energetic songs.

After her show, Hiromi did a meet and greet with her fans, as she did after her first set. She really does love and care for her fans, and she stayed to sign and take pictures with everybody after the show. Hiromi ended up signing my Voice CD, and we took a picture together to close the night.

Anthony Jackson and Simon Phillips truly added to Hiromi’s performance. Simon’s technicality and Anthony’s powerful bass playing were essential to making Hiromi’s show as great as it was.

The best part, though, is that Hiromi plays with 100% energy, and she is always smiling and occasionally even jumps up and down during her performance. As she smiles when she plays a quick run on the piano, we smile; as she jumps up and down when she hits an expressive chord, we want to jump up and down. She’s fun to watch, and her energy onstage is felt by the audience. Hiromi is not just a musician – she is also an incredible performer.

Everyone left B.B. Kings Blues Club that night in high spirits: smiling, laughing, and chatting enthusiastically about the show.

I know I did.