By Paul de Barros | Published November 2021
Hiromi has forged a highly successful career, blending classical piano chops with jazz and rock feels, so a piece for piano and string quartet feels like a logical step. The challenge, of course, is making a true fusion. Are the strings there only for texture and color, or do they play a functional role? Do all the players improvise, or are the strings a static backdrop for the soloist? Is there a real conversation?
Jazz history offers a graveyard of bad answers to such questions and Hiromi has come up with at least a few good ones. In general, her strings have a percussive force and romantic sweep that feels quite in keeping with jazz, as she ushers us through the emotions she has experienced during the pandemic: fear, anxiety, yearning, confusion and, ultimately, joy and triumph. Cellist Wataru Mukai often provides a walking bass line for Hiromi’s churning piano and the string players also create percussive accompaniments. On the movement “Unknown,” pizzicato and an edgy, angular arco pattern help create the anxious mood. On “Fortitude,” the lush strings go far beyond the usual sweetener. Unfortunately, during many stretches Hiromi is, indeed, just a jazz pianist on a flying carpet of strings. But overall this is a credible and uplifting piece.
Three of the other tunes — familiar from earlier albums — also integrate piano and
strings well: the powerfully yearning “Someday”; the hand-wringing “11:49PM”; and the galloping “Jumpstart,” which features a pretty jazzy violin solo. By contrast, “Uncertainty” is saccharine and the speedy tango “Ribero Del Duero” is overly showy.
Silver Lining Suite: Silver Lining Suite: Isolation, The Unknown, Drifters, Fortitude; Uncertainty; Someday; Jumpstart; 11:49PM; Ribera Del Duero. (66:17)
Personnel: Hiromi, piano; Tatsuo Nishie, Sohei Birmann, violin; Meguna Naka, viola; Wataru Mukai, cello.
Ordering Info: concord.com/labels/telarc