Composer and pianist Hiromi set out to create an musical novel or play with her new album Spark, which was created with her Trio Project bandmates Simon Phillips and Anthony Jackson. Many times, when artists have these ambitious, cross-medium concept projects, they get too heady or even stall out before reaching completion.
That’s not the case with Hiromi’s new record, which has both narrative and drama. And, she said that creating the album in this way came naturally to her. It wasn’t forced.
“In the process of writing songs, it really came naturally,” she said. “I didn’t really try to artificially try to fit something together. It didn’t force myself. It just came out really naturally, one song flowed into another. It was a very easy, smooth, natural process for me to make the songs for this album.”
Spark, which is being released on Telarc, a division of Concord Music Group, is due out on Friday, April 1. She said that she feels confident about the record.
“We’re very happy about how it turned out,” Hiromi said. “I think it’s the best work that we’ve done together as a trio and I think that we could really introduce the parts that we haven’t really revealed yet. This is the fourth record of the trio but there is so much to explore still…. [There was] great teamwork and teamwork is really what made this record happen.”
One instance of the teamwork that made Spark happen can be heard on “Wonderland,” a track on the album that lives up to its title and contains several journeys within itself. Hiromi said that she noticed the that Phillips, the group’s drummer, had octobans – deep, single-head tom-toms with a small diameter – in his vast arsenal of percussion instruments. Then she learned while Phillips was sound checking the drums that each of them was melodically-tuned and wrote the beginning of “Wonderland” to take advantage of that feature of the drums.
The result is drum-driven melody and a fun, fresh beginning to a song that takes several twists and turns, with the octobans as the foundation, that ends on tonic in a rare fashion.
“I realized that those tom-toms have a real clear pitch of A, B, C sharp and D. And then I realized that if I write a song with that pitch, then he can play the melody,” Hiromi said.
“So I started to write a song with that melody using those four notes and, when I gave all the sheet music to Anthony and Simon, I remember Simon asked, ‘Who’s playing this melody?’ and I said ‘You’re playing this melody.’ And I think it’s one of his favorite tracks on the record now, but in the beginning he was really surprised that I wrote a complete melody just dedicated to octobans.”
The day after her album is released, Hiromi and her Trio Project are coming to Washington, D.C. to play a show at the Howard Theater. She said that every one of her band’s live shows are unique and not just because they are what people might label an improvisational jazz outfit.
“Every show is a once in a lifetime show,” Hiromi said. “Not only because it’s improvisational. I try to play every show like it’s my first and last show, so that I give everything that I have, and I hope I can experience that with as many people as I can.”
• For more information about Hiromi, visit hiromiuehara.com.