TO Jazz Review: Hiromi, June 24, Nathan Phillips

It’s difficult to describe Hiromi’s performance last Sunday at Nathan Phillips Square. It was my most anticipated of the festival, so the expectations were running wild. For a show to move from good to great requires a lot of moving pieces working in tandem. Both the musicians and the crowd need to be plugged in, the venue needs to work and the sound levels need to be right. For a show to move from great to truly memorable requires a little something more.

Hiromi is one of the most talented of modern day pianists. She’s all restrained fire with virtuosity. She plays with emotion that shines through. Joy, excitement, humility, it’s all painted on her face. These qualities have earned her the privilege of playing with the top brass in the jazz world. Lately she has chosen bassist Anthony Jackson and drummer Simon Philips to round out the trio. Their 2011 effort is Voice. I wasn’t yet familiar with this album, but from the very first song, I knew it was on my wavelength.

There are musicians that play songs. Then there are musicians that take you on journeys.

One of the most rewarding experiences live music can offer is getting lost in what’s going on. For many adults, years of practice erecting shields makes that harder than it sounds. Most of us aren’t willing to go there; it requires too much exposure and emotional investment. When it does happen, it’s mostly with artists we are already comfortable with. It can be really special when the musicians that you inherently trust play songs you don’t quite know. It’s the perfect mix of the familiar and the foreign.

So there you have the perfect storm: the right musician playing the right music in the right venue. Just add a bit of pixie dust and you have the show. I was thoroughly disarmed. There are musicians that play songs. Then there are musicians that take you on journeys.

Click here for a great video of Hiromi playing Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 8 from Voice.

Posted on by Mark in Concerts, Toronto Jazz Festival