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Hiromi finds the bright side, with fast fingers, on 'Silver Lining Suite'

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Mari Amita
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Hiromi always strikes a chord with her explosive performances. Aside from her pyrotechnics and dramatics onstage, she's a composer at heart. We get a glimpse into her creative mind with Silver Lining Suite, out this Friday on Telarc.

She remembers writing music as a young child, and continues to jot down her ideas in a daily journal. While she was quarantining in Japan, she proposed doing some livestreams to benefit the employees at the Blue Note in Tokyo. Even though there was no live audience, it was her small contribution to keep folks working. At one point during those 16 nights, she set up four chairs onstage. What came next wasn't a complete hallucination, but close to it. She visualized a string quartet sitting there. Then, the musical ideas flowed from the air.

Later, she turned to violinist Tatsuo Nishie, a concertmaster at the New Japan Philharmonic, and proposed scoring for a Piano Quintet to document this unusual time.

“I wanted to write about my emotional journey during the pandemic. I think it was such an unhealthy environment, because we kind of lost the place to release our energy. The only thing I could do is to write some music and someday I’m going to perform this music in front of an audience. And that was the only thing that kept me going.”

On Thursday and Friday, Hiromi gets her wish, performing with her Piano Quintet at Sony Hall in New York City.

The movements in the suite may have dreary song titles like "Isolation" and "Uncertainty," but these compositions are meant to uplift, and often reference a jubilant and old-fashioned style of jazz piano playing.

"I grew up listening to Erroll Garner and Oscar Peterson since the age of 8," Hiromi says. "I'm a big fan of Art Tatum and Phineas Newborn, Jr., and transcribe their music, you get their chops for sure because it’s beautifully played. Oscar Peterson, he is known for amazingly fast chops, but he is much more than that."

Hiromi at the Olympics

We briefly talk about her penchant for "fast fingers," as she puts it — and touch upon maybe the biggest gig of her professional career: a dazzling performance on the opening ceremony at the Tokyo Olympics, which currently only lives on in this YouTube montage. For Hiromi, it was as powerful as any other gig. “Whenever I get to perform, it really doesn’t matter where it is. As long as there are people there to share the music with and they appreciate it, then I just give everything I have."

For more than 15 years, Simon Rentner has worked as a host, producer, broadcaster, web journalist, and music presenter in New York City. His career gives him the opportunity to cover a wide spectrum of topics including, history, culture, and, most importantly, his true passion of music from faraway places such as Europe, South America, and Africa.