For better and for worse, Hiromi plays like a prodigy, coloring the listener’s first and second impressions in neon with her dazzling technique. Dense arpeggios circle with a gale force, yet the pianist’s crisp intonation never turns them to porridge. Dynamic tremolos rise and fall with a seething intensity that can abruptly turn whimsical. Euro-classical refinements and rock ’n’ roll amplitude are bent to the service of jazz improvisation. The approach is so brash, and its effect so stunning—especially in concert, where this petite Japanese woman assaults the ivories with a consuming gusto—that it’s tempting to dock it a notch for gimmickry.
Yet the longer you listen and learn about Hiromi’s music, the more profound and coherent her muse appears—and she isn’t about to compromise it. The arpeggios, tremolos and genre-melting proceed with a vengeance on Move, the second disc with her Trio Project, written specifically to emphasize the strength of her two cohorts, contrabass guitarist Anthony Jackson and especially drummer Simon Phillips. The theme is a chronological day in the life as mapped out by Hiromi originals that include a three-song suite. But the abiding purpose for many of these compositions seems to be the stretching of a taut canvas that Hiromi and Phillips can use as a trampoline to bounce ideas off each other while Jackson barks advice from below.
Phillips, whose résumé includes work for Judas Priest, the Who, Toto and other rockers, supplants Hiromi’s Sonicbloom guitarist David Fiuczynski as her most rugged foil. But Move isn’t all resounding tom-toms and breakneck keyboards. As with nearly every one of her nine records, Hiromi dots the mix with a few numbers to ease the mind and silence detractors who think she’s nothing but glitz and caffeine.
“Brand New Day” is a masterfully calibrated midtempo idyll with shimmering harmonies, the closing “11:49 PM” succeeds as a musical recreation of one’s pre-sleep emotional inventory, and, purposeful or not, dipping into the blues on a tune called “Fantasy” fits her buoyant journey against the grain.