Hiromi - The Trio Project

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Hiromi

First time at the Royal Festival Hall for Hiromi with what's become less of a trio 'project', more like her regular band of Anthony Jackson (contrabass guitar) and Simon Phillips (drums). In fact each musician has a strong following, and amongst the audience there are those who've come especially to see Jackson (for his work with Steely Dan, Chick Corea) or Phillips (The Who, Jack Bruce) as well as the powerhouse pianist herself. A moment of stillness as she lays her fingers on the keys and then they're off – this is a trio who love driving fast and pulling up sharp: it's never less than thrilling. Hands a-blur, feet off the ground (she's wearing her trademark trainers), powering through passagework at supersonic speeds, maintaining complex patterns seemingly indefinitely – Hiromi has the stamina of an athlete. She certainly gives her all and seems bursting with the sheer joy of performing. At the end of a particularly energetic passage she leaps from the piano as if it's scalding hot – which it probably is. There's obvious warmth and empathy between the members of the trio, and their listening is super-sharp – Hiromi has the look of a hunter as she leans forward over the keys to catch the essence of Phillips' drumming or trade eights with Jackson. If there's a criticism, it's that the full-steam intensity doesn't always give much chance for the personal – generic titles like 'Spark' and 'Alive' mark pieces that dazzle but don't always move. The most personal statement comes at the opening of the second set, when Hiromi, solo, gives a rendition of her signature piece 'Place To Be', and reminds us of that meltingly expressive touch. There's no doubt she's a generous soul who loves to make her audience happy, but perhaps with her trio there's still room to tell us more about how they really feel.

– Philip Hogg