Powder-keg pianist Hiromi already occupies a place in the jazz-rock pantheon, here in a slightly more sensitive setting than earlier albums Voice and Move, again with contrabass guitarist Anthony Jackson and drummer Simon Phillips. Recorded in a New York studio in February this year all the tunes are Hiromi’s own moving far beyond the generic on ‘Wanderer’. There’s a playfulness on ‘Seeker’ that draws on a cutesy almost Vince Guaraldi-like motif, Hiromi on her own, before the trio journeys more deeply into bluesy bop with beefy bass figures from Jackson and the warmth of the Avatar studio sound emerges. Sometimes there is a relentlessness to Hiromi aided and abetted by her trio partners that can become too much yet there is more variety than on some of her earlier work. ‘Warrior’, like a lot of the tracks, has a warm and inviting opening that then gets ramped up, but the signposting can be a bit wearying. The airy a cappella solo piano track ‘Firefly’ is necessary balm with a hush-hush vibe and pretty tune again, a great contrast to the power elsewhere. ‘Life Goes On’ at the end is orthodox jazz-rock fusion, Phillips at his most Dave Weckl-like as Hiromi’s prodigious technical command of the piano asserts itself and Jackson cuts loose.
Released on 23 June
Hiromi, Alive, Telarc ***1/2