There’s jazz, and then there’s jazz — there’s traditional jazz that has not changed since the ’50s, and there’s a newer breed of jazz informed by pop. Hiromi is a jazz pianist who fits into neither camp. Her work blurs the distinctions of what it means to be a modern jazz pianist. For added effect she decorates her music with confounding little phrases culled from funk or from the avant or classical and ends up with a complex brew of meters and notes that enthrall even as they divide and scatter. Hiromi’s musical world is fluid and dizzying.
Hiromi is Hiromi Uehara. She is a Japanese-born keyboard wizard who began piano lessons in earnest at the age of six. Some listeners might have a problem with the random starkness of her sound and argue that Hiromi’s big-energy technical brilliance is nothing more than a cool neon-blue reserve. Art Tatum, after all, was lightning fast, accurate to a fault, and still had bucketloads of soul.
As for Hiromi, I think emotional aloofness is a choice and not a mandate. Among her stated influences are Sly Stone and King Crimson — the latter a somewhat forgotten (if trend-setting) ’70s prog-rock band. She shares the same thematic, urban wit as those two bands in a form of new-age expression meets the darker recess of traditional jazz.
At times her vision exceeds her grasp, and I’m okay with that. Hiromi comes across as an artist looking for the next new thing in jazz, and I’m okay with that, too. Not every single note in contemporary jazz needs to sound as if it was invented back in the day at the Village Vanguard.
HIROMI, Anthology, June 18, 7:30 p.m. 619-595-0300. $24.