Hiromi Interview – Musical Visions “Spiral” to a Higher Level
|Pianist/composer Hiromi mesmerized the jazz community with her 2003 Telarc debut, Another Mind. The buzz started by her debut album spread all the way back to her native Japan, where Another Mind shipped gold (100,000 units) and won the Recording Industry Association of Japan’s (RIAJ) “Jazz Album of the Year” Award. Hiromi’s second release, Brain, followed a year later. Brain received Swing Journal’s “New Star Award,” Jazz Life’s “Gold Album,” HMV Japan’s “Best Japanese Jazz Album” and the Japan Music Pen Club’s “Japanese Artist Award.” When Swing Journal announced the results of its 2005 Readers Poll, Brain won “Album of the Year.” Hiromi takes it up another notch with her January 2006 release, SPIRAL. Born in Shizuoka, Japan, in 1979, Hiromi took her first piano lessons at age six. She learned from her earliest teacher to tap into the intuitive as well as the technical aspects of music. Hiromi took that intuitive approach a step further when she enrolled in the Yamaha School of Music less then a year after her first piano lessons. By age 12, she was performing in public, sometimes with very high-profile orchestras. “When I was 14, I went to Czechoslovakia and played with the Czech Philharmonic,” she says. “That was a great experience, to play with such a professional orchestra.” At 26, Hiromi stands at the threshold of limitless possibility, constantly drawing inspiration from virtually everyone and everything around her. Her list of influences, like her music itself, is boundless. “I love Bach, I love Oscar Peterson, I love Franz Liszt, I love Ahmad Jamal,” she says. “I also love people like Sly and the Family Stone, Dream Theatre and King Crimson. Also, I’m so much inspired by sports players like Carl Lewis and Michael Jordan. Basically, I’m inspired by anyone who has big, big energy. They really come straight to my heart.” Sounds of Timeless Jazz spoke to Hiromi during a break between her Asian and American tours and here’s what she told us.|
Hiromi’s New Musical Visions
“Spiral” to a Higher Level
by Paula Edelstein
P.E.: Omedeto gozaimasu! Congratulations on the release of your new CD called SPIRAL. I had the pleasure to see your “live” performance at the California Plaza in Los Angeles last summer but the new DVD that is included in SPIRAL really gives your fans an up-close and personal look at your technical skills. What is your keyboard of choice and why?
Hiromi: It’s the Nord Lead 2x made by Clavia. I like this one because it’s a 49-Key Virtual Analog Keyboard that comes with 20 voices polyphony – very useful when creating layered sounds, and programming the sounds that I want. It has power pads, awesome leads and booming basses. 20 voices are also very beneficial in sequencing situations when you use more than one sound at a time.
P.E.: Not many keyboardist/pianists stand during their performances! Does standing while you play your Clavia keyboard give you an extra sense of interaction with the audience and the band?
Hiromi: Well the reason I started standing up is because I’m very small. To have a big, big variety of sounds and dynamics, I needed to use my full body and back muscles and strength to achieve the sounds I wanted.
P.E.: Oscar Peterson, Ahmad Jamal, Chick Corea are but three jazz greats that have been named as being major influences on your music. When did you first become aware of Chick Corea and what composition of his would you add to your own repertoire at this point in your career? Ahmad Jamal? Oscar Peterson?
Hiromi: I played with Chick Corea at age 17 while in Tokyo. He happened to be in Tokyo and I was taking music lessons there. My teacher introduced me to him and he asked me to play one song. Later that evening he asked me to play with him on one song and it was a magic moment and a real blessing to play with him. I don’t play any of his songs in my show but one of my favorite compositions of his is “Humpty Dumpty.”
P.E.: Congratulations on the many awards you’ve received for ANOTHER MIND and BRAIN. Do you have plans to tour now that your class schedule is no longer a consideration?
Hiromi: We have completed our tour of Asia in support of SPIRAL and we start our tour of the USA this month January at the Blue Note in New York City.
P.E.: Let’s talk about SPIRAL, your third release for Telarc. It’s the absolute opposite from BRAIN, your second release and ANOTHER MIND, which was your Telarc debut and produced by Ahmad Jamal. The title track “Spiral” is beautiful. You choose distinct descriptions to title your CDs. Is that something of a subjective metaphor or just an attempt to abbreviate titles for easy memorization and reference? (Smile)
Hiromi: I always try to title the song so that one note will involve everyone in the concert hall. It’s in B-flat minor. “Spiral” shows that some things seem to change but actually always keep coming back. One tries to let go, but cannot; when one forgets about it, it always comes back to haunt you. Life is like a spiral.
P.E.: What are some of the feelings you’d like your listeners to experience when hearing your music?
Hiromi: I don’t really want to force anyone to feel a specific way, but if they can keep their body and mind “floating” with the music, that pleases me.
P.E.: The four-part suite titled “Music For A Three Piece Orchestra” is absolutely brilliant. What is the inspiration behind this composition?
Hiromi: I have been playing with my band for about 3 years now and as I tour with them, I realize that I wanted to expand the music that we three are playing. The first movement, “Open Door Tuning Prologue” symbolizes being in a concert hall and feeling the atmosphere before the music even begins. That is all part of the show. Part two is “Déjà vu” and that is something one has experienced before, but when? Where? How? I go on a journey inside to try to figure it all out. On “Reverse” we come back from the dreamy déjà vu world, going back and forth between dream and reality. The fourth movement is “Edge” and this is the welcome back to reality. It is sometimes hard to face, but it is, indeed part of my world.
P.E.: “Love and Laughter is also quite beautiful. It is dedicated to Ahmad Jamal who just so happens to be one of my favs also. What is the story behind this song?
Hiromi: He has always been so encouraging, always making jokes and is full of love and always has this unique happy laughter. I really love him.
P.E.: It’s totally engaging. Then there’s the exciting, fast action, energetic piece “Return of Kung-Fu World Champion.” The jazz/rock fusion elements, humorous riffs and traditional oriental music really form the great musical language that brings the imagery to life. Was the song written after you’d actually seen a kung-fu match?
Hiromi: I really think that martial arts and music are very close to each other and both require a lot of focus and improvisation because you don’t know where or when you’re going to get kicked! (Smile) I was watching a movie with Bruce Lee and noticed his form and improvisation and realized that it was very close to music.
P.E.: What is the most memorable event that has taken place during your concerts?
Hiromi: It happened during a tour of Japan. I was snapping the piano strings three days in a row but I hadn’t noticed. On the final day, one of the strings snapped off and landed over on the drums! The audience noticed it and said, something flew across the stage.” I thought it was my hairpin and was feeling my hair and everything. So we found it and I threw the piano string into the audience like the rock stars throw their picks after a show!
P.E.: That’s funny, but a very memorable ending for what I know was a great show. Domo arigato gozaimasu Hiromi san. I really enjoyed talking to you. Sayonara.
Hiromi: Dotashimashite Paula san.
P.E.: Keep in touch with Hiromi at www.hiromimusic.com.