Hiromi Uehara – Voice

I think Hiromi Uehara is one of the most important names in jazz fusion in early 21st century. Unlike many other artists she continues to evolve and redefine her style to the point where fulfilling the implications of the latter becomes impossible. She’s a perfect storm of technical talent and musical creativity. She blends disparate elements of classical music, bebop, jazz fusion, and prog rock together like no one else has before.

Unlike her last album, which was pure solo piano, her new album takes her back to the piano trio format of Spiral and Another Mind, though on the latter there were guests and the style was much more intense. Indeed, Spiral is the album that Voice evokes the most, though they don’t sound entirely too similar. I should point out that Spiral is possibly my favorite album of hers, with my favorite track being “Old Castle”. Spiral was, for the most part, rather reserved and many of the tracks were jazz epics that had a slow buildup. Voice is not structured the same way, though the music is similarly reserved in many cases.

This album boasts a new “band” called the Trio Project, though as noted before it’s still a simple piano trio format. The bassist is the renowned Anthony Jackson, who worked with Al Di Meola on his landmark trio of fusion albums in the 70’s. He’s worked with tons of people over the years, and indeed played on Hiromi’s previous albums Another Mind and Brain (though in the former only as a guest). The drummer is the equally wonderful Simon Phillips, who is possibly somewhat better-known for playing metal than jazz. He has worked with Derek Sherinian on quite a few of his recent solo albums, as well as even the likes of Judas Priest on their old album Sin after Sin. I still remember Diamonds and Rust from my days as a teenager when I still enjoyed NWBHM. Hiromi, Jackson, and Phillips complement each other in incredible ways. Hiromi brings almost a Third-Stream finesse, Jackson brings pure jazz fusion through the bass, and Phillips brings the intensity of metal drumming, though with the obvious skill of someone who knows the difference between Return to Forever’s “Excerpt From the First Movement of Heavy Metal” and Iron Maiden’s “Hallowed Be Thy Name”.

I would highly recommend this album to anyone and everyone. In Hiromi’s own marvelous, way, she manages to make jazz fusion sound almost like symphonic prog, though it obviously isn’t remotely similar. There are bits of bebop, pure jazz fusion, funk, whatever the hell you like, it shows up, but you never notice the difference.

The only downside is that the album doesn’t come out in the U.S. or Europe for a looooong time! I’m not sure where the release dates are listed, however. It’s been out in Japan for a short time though, so you can probably get an import copy if you want to pay extra. Or just wait, I think it’s worth it either way.

Tracklist:

1. Voice (9:13)
2. Flashback (8:39)
3. Now or Never (6:16)
4. Temptation (7:54)
5. Labyrinth (7:40)
6. Desire (7:19)
7. Haze (5:54)
8. Delusion (7:47
9. Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 8, Pathetique (5:13)

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