Hiromi has a rare talent: She writes compositions for her piano trio that blossom into detailed, absorbing stories. You may not agree with my impression that "Old Castle, by the River, in the Middle of a Forest" describes an ancient royal family forced to flee by some water-borne evil, but either way you can't wait to hear its final chords to see how it turns out.
How does she do it? For one thing, each of her compositions has a structure that evolves unpredictably. In the title track, for example, Hiromi's numerous excursions and transformations make for a tremendous, heart-shaking climax when the opening music collapses on itself. She freely samples and combines styles to heighten the drama; "Music for Three-Piece Orchestra" begins with a limpid Chopinesque melody, develops it with blue notes and riffs, sharply changes direction a couple times through abrupt modulations and then ramps up the tension with a monster groove. Bassist Tony Grey and drummer Martin Valihora also provide dedicated support, doing everything from background shivers and tremblings to taking memorable solos.
Her less narrative-oriented pieces, like the genial "Love and Laughter" or the funk whirlwind "Return of Kung-Fu Champion," have lots of memorable moments as well, but Hiromi's absorbing storytelling is what makes Spiral something to really sink into.