Hiromi leaves the Dakota awestruck

I'm having a hard time putting my experience at the Hiromi show at the Dakota Jazz Club last night into words, and it's not for a lack of memorable moments worth describing. The show was so stupendous that it's nearly impossible to talk about her performance without treading in hyperbole. But that doesn't mean I shouldn't try.

Before Hiromi Uehara took the stage at the Dakota, an announcer told the audience that she had recently been named the best pianist in Japan. When she bounded out on the stage and started playing piano, it became obvious that Hiromi is one of the most talented and capable pianists not only in her native country Japan, but in the world. (See what I mean about the hyperbole?) It may seem over-the-top, but her prowess on the keys was unlike anything I had ever seen.

Hiromi was backed by a three-piece jazz group called Sonicbloom, and they were also extremely capable jazz musicians. David Fiuczynski wielded a double-neck guitar, one of the necks strung with 12 strings, while Tony Grey played a six-string bass. They took full advantage of all of their extra strings by providing cascading flurries of fills amidst Hiromi's swirling jazz melodies, creating a sound that was at once mesmerizing and dizzying. Drummer Mauricio Zottarelli guided the quartet through time-bending syncopations, grinning wildly as he watched Hiromi work her magic on the keys.

And in the center of it all was the star, a small-framed Japanese woman dressed in a baggy silk dress, black tights, and shiny gold sneakers. Hiromi was flanked by three different small keyboards and a grand piano, and would often play with her two hands on two different instruments. Her fingers moved so quickly that most of the show was spent in awe, trying to calculate how a person could move so fast without losing the rhythm or falling to the floor in fits of muscle spasms.

The highlight of the show came when Hiromi's backing band left the stage and she performed a song solo on the grand piano. She began with a playful rendition of "I've Got Rhythm" and then transitioned into a sprawling, banging collage of blues scales and melodies, including Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue," and by the time she finished the piece the entire room let out a collective "Wow!" and jumped to their feet with praise.

Here's a few videos that convey her unbelieveable talent. She plays the Dakota again tonight, and I highly recommend trying to snag a ticket if there are still some available.

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