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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf

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Solo: Live at Blue Note, New York

Telarc TEL 32866-09



1. BQE
2. Sicilian Blue
3. Choux à la Crème
4. Green Tea Farm
5. Cape Cod Chips
6. Old Castle, By the River, In the Middle of a Forest
7. Pachelbel's Canon

Viva! Vegas
8. Show City, Show Girl
9. Daytime in Las Vegas
10. The Gambler

11. Place to Be
12. Special feature

Hiromi Uehara - Piano


Filmed at New York's Blue Note club on two nights in August 2010, this DVD repeats most of the tunes from Hiromi's Place To Be album, which I reviewed on this website last year.

Hearing Hiromi on CDs established for me that this Japanese pianist is a remarkable player, but seeing her on DVD makes you realise what a startlingly accomplished player she is. Her small fingers flicker over the keyboard at an incredible rate and the smiles on her face suggest just how miuch she enjoys improvising. The opening BQE is a good example of her ultra-fast playing, which conveys the effect of a jazzed-up version of The Flight of the Bumble Bee.

Hiromi is equally adept at slower tempos, as in the rhapsodic Sicilian Blue, where she strums the piano strings to set up some introductory chords. Choux à la Crème has a humorous feel which matches the possibly jokey title (Cabbage with Cream?). Hiromi pushes the rhythm along with boogie-woogie and striding left hand which develops into a joyful Garnerian impulse. Here and elsewhere, Hiromi makes great use of the piano strings: strumming them or deadening them so as to give the notes a thudding effect.

Green Tea Farm is placid and pensive, showing how the pianist is not afraid to vary the tempo as the mood takes her. At this point I got rather lost, as there is no indication on the film of which tune is which, and there is only an index at the end of the disc - very unhelpful.

I found my way again when we reached Pachelbel's Canon, in which Hiromi creates the sound of a harpsichord by putting sticks on the piano strings. Viva! Vegas is a kind of three-part suite depicting Las Vegas in various moods, and Place to Be is performed as an encore.

The "Special Feature" has film clips of Hiromi in Boston (where she got a taste for Cape Cod Chips), Bern and Tbilisi. She talks about the importance of the places she has been. The filming here is clearer than it was in the club, where the surrounding darkness sometimes made it difficult to see everything the viewer might want.

Throughout the DVD, Hiromi's technique never ceases to surprise. Yet the technique would have little point without the abundance of ideas and emotion that Hiromi pours into every piece.

Tony Augarde

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