Japan has added a wealth of fine pianists to the jazz genre. That said, few -- if any -- are as relentlessly inventive and stylistically mercurial as the award-winning Hiromi Uehara. Whether she is playing solo, with a trio, or a full-on electric band, she is as likely to meld post-bop and funk as she is rock and classical, and sometimes all four in the same composition. Beginning with Another Mind, her 2003 Telarc debut, she challenged genre classifications with her technical command of the instrument, her dynamic feel for harmony, and a complex rhythmic sensibility alternately athletic and soulful. Combined with a musical sense of humor, she pushed boundaries as part of her natural approach to jazz. Spiral, recorded live in 2005, was cut direct to disc with her then-working studio trio and celebrated internationally. In 2008, she and Corea recorded a double-length series of provocative and swinging piano duets in front of Tokyo's Blue Note audience. A year later, she appeared with Corea's former Return to Forever bandmates Lenny White and Stanley Clarke in the bassist's trio for Jazz in the Garden, and the Stanley Clarke Band on the following year's Larry Has Traveled 11 Miles and Waited a Lifetime for the Return of Vishnu's Report. Her longstanding Trio Project, with contra-bassist Anthony Jackson and drummer Simon Phillips, made its debut on Voice in 2011, where progressive, vanguard, and post-bop jazz were wed to fiery improvisation and bluesy readings of Beethoven. The same year she released Get Together: Live in Tokyo, the first of two live albums with pianist/vocalist Akiko Yano. It showcased funk and pop, bop and jazz ballads. The Trio Project became her primary vehicle, touring and recording almost constantly, with each album different and more challenging than the last. She also found time to release Live in Montreal, a duet offering with composer and harpist Edmar Castaneda in 2017.
Hiromi was born in Shizuoka, Japan, in 1979. At the age of six she started playing piano. Within a year, she was a student of the Yamaha School of Music, whose progressive approach to musical training allowed the young student to shape her technical skills, writing, and performing. After relocating to the United States in 1999, she continued her studies at the Berklee School of Music in Boston, where she received a full scholarship. It was there that Hiromi developed her varied musical taste, encompassing everyone from J.S. Bach to Sly & the Family Stone. While at Berklee, she also had the opportunity to play with jazz piano legends Oscar Peterson, Chick Corea, and her mentor, Ahmad Jamal. In 2003, Hiromi recorded her first disc, Another Mind, on the Telarc label, produced by Jamal. Brain was released a year later, followed by the pianist's third trio album for Telarc, Spiral, in 2006. For her next album, Hiromi augmented her trio with avant-fusion guitarist Dave Fiuczynski, releasing Time Control in early 2007. Beyond Standard, a thematic continuation of Time Control, was also recorded with her Sonicbloom trio and released a year later. The solo piano set Place to Be followed in 2010.
For 2011's electro-acoustic Voice, Hiromi formed the Trio Project with bassist Anthony Jackson and Simon Phillips. 2012 saw the issue of the Live at Marciac DVD. After a break and festival appearances, Hiromi & the Trio Project returned to the studio and delivered Move in 2013; it was followed by the all-acoustic Alive in the summer of 2014, and a world tour. The Trio Project returned to recording in 2015, emerging from the studio with The Spark in April 2016. In 2017, she and harpist Edmar Castaneda released Live in Montreal, followed by a second offering with Akiko Yano, Move: Live in Tokyo. Hiromi recorded solo for only the second time on 2019's Spectrum. ~ Al Campbell