My brain exploded last night. It was a mess.
Went to the Jazz Showcase in Chicago, my hometown, to hear a solo gig by the greatest jazz virtuoso now performing, the young Japanese pianist who goes by the single name Hiromi. I've been a huge fan since I first discovered her maybe a year ago on YouTube. At first I didn't trust my judgment. Hiromi is beautiful, with a delightfully flamboyant style of dress (her husband is a fashion designer). Visually, she comes off like schoolgirl in an Anime movie. And when she plays, she dances: stands, sits, moans, kicks the piano, punches the piano, gaping wide-eyed and open mouthed. Was it the mere novelty that was grabbing me? The undeniable sex appeal?
And then there's the virtuosity. Her control of the instrument is so staggering, her figures so fast, her dynamic range so intense—is she just showing off? What's there beneath the surface? I'm a piano player; what if I wasn't? Absent the awe of understanding that she's moving her fingers with fifty times the speed and precision I could ever must, would this music still be that impressive?
Well, I've been listening, and listening, and listening. In fact, I can't stop listening. So there must be something going on here. Then, last night, I watched her command a room. The soul, funk, delicacy, and power she conveyed was earth-shaking. I decided that what is so disconcerting about Hiromi is the way she combines child-like joy and utter artistic maturity. My doubts disappeared. What she did for that room of people: it made me proud to be a human being.
Even if the cheesiness of Japanese popular culture does still skeeve me out a little bit.
Hiromi's new album is called Place to Be. Well worth the listen.
What are you listening to this evening?
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