In person Japanese pianist Hiromi exudes pure effervescent joy. A remarkable instrumentalist, she regularly combines a powerful freneticism with tender moments of heartfelt swing, and when she’s really feeling it, she jumps excitedly to her feet, as she pounds away at the keys. She’s a performer where the way she plays the instrument is clearly an extension of her personality, and her trio with bassist Anthony Jackson (Paul Simon, Steely Dan, Chick Corea) and drummer Simon Phillips (Toto, The Who, Judas Priest) was one of the more anticipated at this years festival.
She began by dipping into her recent album Spark/ The Trio Project, and the title track which begins with a few synth chords before Hiromi returns to the piano, offering some high speed quite complex piano flourishes as Phillips erupts and a seated Jackson, on electric bass is the glue keeping things from falling apart. The dynamics between the trio is palpable, with Hiromi in particular, craning her neck or even jumping to her feet to watch her bandmates.
The highlights though come from the light and dark, the simplicity and complexity. It’s in those moments of quiet simplicity, of soulful solo piano, where Hiromi will close her eyes and conjure a gentle lullaby that you just lose yourself in, before the band kicks in and take things in a whole other direction.
Over the course of an hour and a bit the breadth of the trio’s music is simply astounding and the energy and sheer exuberance of the players nothing short of infectious. “The organisers gave me a boomerang,” she offers early on tonight, referencing her 2012 visit. Let’s hope they gave her another one.