Hiromi… My close friends understand how much I love jazz and piano, but they also do understand how much I LOVE Hiromi. You could probably say that I am obsessed with her. No. Kidding.
I’ve been playing piano since I was very little, I think either 4 or 5, I started getting private classical piano lessons. I can’t remember exactly when, but I knew I can’t live without piano. If I hadn’t chosen to become a scientist, I would have totally tried to become a professional pianist. I’m happy with how things are in my life right now, but that is how much I love piano and how much piano means to me.
When I moved to Arizona, I had a lot more free time than I did in Korea, so I was able to spend lots of time practicing piano. I continued expanding my classical repertoire, but at the same time, I became very interested in jazz. There was something special about it – jazz excited me so much and nothing else in musical genres other than classical piano could make me feel that way. I really wanted to learn jazz, and my sweet sister enrolled me in a jazz piano course in a community college. I made good friends there and my teacher was so great, (I’m actually still taking jazz piano lessons from him – I even had a lesson with him today!) and one of my friends showed me the video of Hiromi. It was very impressive – it was a video of her playing her original piece “Place To Be” and she was crying when she played the intro. It was very impressive and her intro was very beautiful. Since then, I got all her stuff from my buddy and started to check out her compositions and recordings. To be honest, I was still very new to jazz, so it sounded very crazy and I couldn’t really get any messages from her. Then, my best friend took me to her concert in Scottsdale, AZ. She was touring with the Stanley Clarke Band at that time, and they happened to be in Scottsdale! It was my first time going to a jazz concert, and it was AMAZING. I still remember the tunes they played – No Mystery, Paradigm Shift, Black Narcissus, and Song to John – all that I love!! But anyways, ever since that concert, I appreciated more of her recordings and compositions, and here I am now, a HUGE fan of Hiromi.
I always check on her website and see if she’s coming to Arizona. She did come back in 2012, did her solo concert at the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix, but she hasn’t come back since then… So last year was my first time flying out to a different state to see her – well, it happened to be the Newport Jazz Festival in 2015, and I got to see her with the Trio Project featuring Anthony Jackson on bass and Simon Phillips on drums, and I also got to see her with Michel Camilo! Both shows were PHENOMENAL. Man, I have so many shows to write about.
Hiromi’s been working with Anthony Jackson and Simon Phillips for 4 years now, and their 4th album together got released in April this year. I personally really liked her last album, Alive, but this album, Spark, really has something in it. I really do love her new album, so when I saw that she will be playing at the Blue Note in NYC, I came up with all the possible excuses so I can fly out to the east coast and see them. I just wanted to see them live, I wanted to see them playing this album right in front of me. I REALLY WANTED TO BE IN THE SAME SPACE WITH THEM WHILE THEY ARE CREATING ALL THAT MAGIC. (….that..has gotten a bit too crazy and creepy…) So she was going to be at the Blue Note 7/26-31, and my birthday happened to be on the 24th, and the Newport Jazz Festival this year happened to be 7/29-31. So, yeah, that’s how I managed myself to fly out to New York, that lovely city that I want to live in so soon, see Hiromi and go to Newport for one day, when Chick Corea is playing with Christian McBride and Brian Blade!!!
I asked my friend (who is so kind, so smart and is such a great friend!) if he wanted to come to the show with me, and he said he’s down. He lives near the Central Park (this guy is so so lucky) so we took the train down to the Greenwich Village and got there around 6:30pm because I wanted to get good seats. When we arrived, I noticed that there was only a grand piano on the stage, which means that it was her solo concert, not with her usual suspects. I was a little bit sad because I really really really wanted to see her playing Spark and all the other tunes in that album, but I was still very happy because I would be facing directly at her, and see her play! She was quite serious about no photographs at all during the show, and I wanted to get a sneak snapshot of her, but it was impossible… She even put her thumb up to the person who announced “DEFINITELY NO PHOTO DURING THE SHOW, PLEASE.” so I decided to respect her and just enjoy the show because my eyes and my ears would be recording everything happening anyway!
She started with “I Got Rhythm”, which was a perfect starter! Her touch was so delicate and her every touch made me feel that she put all her heart on every note she played! After that crazy, exciting rhythm changes that would possibly include +50,000 notes in 5-6 minutes, she said “Well, as you know, the first tune was I Got Rhythm, kind of,” haha! Her version was so exciting and fast-paced, but there was something that kept making me feel like crying. And she totally touched that “crying-like feeling” of mine when she continued with “Place To Be”, her original tune that I absolutely adore. Her intros are always so unexpected, and she did it so beautifully that I literally cried. Hiromi is very talented – no words can describe how well she plays, her techniques are just extraordinary, and her improvising is beyond excellent. On top of all her gifts, there is something else that makes Hiromi very special. Her performances, her recordings, and her compositions, they are all live things. They have emotions. They have feelings. And they make YOU feel something. Even just one touch, when Hiromi touches the piano, the music she creates starts speaking to me. I can’t quite describe how I’m feeling in more details, but her musical notes, her touches, and her expressions become one message and it speaks so much to me that I start contemplating while appreciating her music and getting stunned by her techniques and expressions. “Place To Be” is one of them – every time I listen to this, lots and lots of thoughts pass by in my mind, and eventually it heals my soul. I’ve cried many times when I listened to this, and it always helped me in a lot of ways! She played it so beautifully, and I fell in love with this even more…
She changed a gear a bit, and played BQE, which stands for “Brooklyn-Queens Expressway” then she played “Old Castle By The River In The Middle Of A Forest”!! I’ve never seen her playing this solo – this tune is in her album Spiral, and also in her Duet album with the great Chick Corea! She got the inspiration from a painting that had no title and it is a beautiful tune! At this point, you could probably say that I’m completely biased because I think all her compositions are beautiful. I don’t know if it’s just me, but I could get the image of this old castle when I listened to her performance. And that shady, scary, but yet sorrowful feeling of a lonely forest… She played her version of Pachelbel’s Canon, like her description, “That was Pachelbel’s Canon, kind of.” I love how she explores the grand piano and makes different sounds from a grand piano. She placed a metal ruler on the strings that connect keys, so when she plays the keys, it makes some metal-like, but still piano-like sounds. She definitely had a lot of fun playing this – she looked extremely happy when she played it. She also made it more delightful by repeating the same region over and over again!
She finally ended her great show with her “Viva! Vegas”. She wrote three tunes – “Show City, Show Girl”, “Daytime in Las Vegas”, and “The Gambler” – when she visited Vegas. She was so stunned by that party city, and she apparently was writing all those notes in her head and definitely had a jackpot! I could totally see that when she played “The Gambler”. It was so great to see everything happening in front of my eyes, and I was only a few feet away from her!!! Another thing is that I have so much fun listening to her especailly because I listen to her stuff all the time so I literally know the melodies of all her tunes and her “tricks”! It was so fun to play the melodies along with her, it is so special to me! (: Her concert excited me and energized me so much after a long day of exploration in Williamsburg and Brookyln, and I really was glad I came to NYC and saw her at Blue Note! This was my 4th time seeing her live, and I can’t wait to see her again soon! I found out that she is playing with her Trio Project in Vegas this November, and I am very VERY tempted to make that happen!! I am so proud to be her fan! (: #fangirlmode