Hiromi Uehara (上原ひろみ)

Hiromi Uehara (上原ひろみ)

Since her arrival on the international jazz scene in 2003, Hiromi has been one of the most exciting, engaging, phenomenal and spirited pianists around. When listening to her music, her enthusiasm and passion immediately envelopes the listener. Born in the Hamamatsu prefecture of Shizuoka, Japan on March 26, 1979, she began studies in classical at age five. Her teacher, Noriko Hikida would ask her to play based on emotions by announcing colors. Hikida also exposed her to jazz, where Uehara was drawn immediately to the music of Oscar Peterson and Ahmad Jamal. In her teens, Hiromi was very fortunate to have played with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra and three years later, she caught the attention of one of her heroes, pianist Chick Corea, who invited her to play at his concert the very next day. The Corea/Uehara simpatico was captured for the excellent double album Duet (Concord, 2009).

After working in Japan writing music for commercials, she attended the Berklee College of Music where her talents were noticed by a professor who knew her only as a student of his composition and arranging class. She brought her CD which moved the professor so much that he requested a very close friend hear the recording. Unbeknownst to Uehara, that friend turned out to be legendary pianist Ahmad Jamal. Hiromi’s debut Another Mind (Telarc, 2003) opened a window into her unique musical universe. Hiromi combined now what is her signature: jaw dropping metrically complex rhythms, combining her love of influences ranging from Oscar Peterson to King Crimson, maintaining constant interest compositionally. She released a string of albums with her regular group of bassist Tony Grey (guitarist John McLaughlin’s nephew) and fellow Berklee alumnus Martin Valihora on drums.

Her musical palette broadened considerably with her group Sonicbloom, 2008’s Beyond Standard in particular was a refreshing look at well worn standards, with guitarist Dave Fiucynski adding a biting edge in these imaginative interpretations with his electric and fretless guitar work. At this point, none of Hiromi’s recordings had been in an in the tradition, straight ahead jazz context, so the aforementioned duet album with Corea, and her participation in a trio with the classic Return to Forever rhythm section of bassist Stanley Clarke and Lenny White for Clarke’s Jazz In the Garden (Heads up! International 2009) showcased her versatility on record even further. Her 2010 solo piano release Place to Be (Telarc) exhibited supreme melodicism, and light touch; a change of pace from her fiery, go for broke approach on albums up to that time, though strong melody has always been a feature of her music. She was also a featured soloist again with Stanley Clarke for the Stanley Clarke Band (Heads up! International, 2011).

Hiromi has focused her recent efforts again on a trio context, with bassist Anthony Jackson and drummer Simon Phillips–most known for his session work and tenures with Toto and Judas Priest. This unit has been perhaps her tightest band to date, where they have been again exploring her unique mix of jazz, progressive rock and other genre leanings, with an added degree of hard swing. The musical land scape is wide open for Hiromi Uehara, and there are no limits.