June 2007

Hiromi’s Sonicbloom | Trio Beyond – double bill
at the Toronto Jazz Festival
June 26, 2007 Toronto Star Stage Nathan Phillips Square Toronto
A report by Paul J. Youngman with photos by Mike Colyer & Roger Humbert
Day 5 of the Toronto Jazz Festival, a real scorcher, 32 degrees “C” in the shade and the only shade offered is under the big tent at Nathan Phillips Square, the site of the Mainstage for the jazz festival. This night’s offering drew a very diverse crowd, young and old, including a large Japanese contingent, likely in support of award-winning Japanese superstar, Hiromi Uehara and her band Sonicbloom. The band Trio Beyond attracted the jazz fusion crowd, the followers of drumming idol Jack DeJohnette and the followers of guitar God John Scofield. I’m sure Larry Goldings, a keyboard master, has his fans as well. Also in attendance would be those who are aware that Trio Beyond pays tribute to drumming legend Tony Williams and his band Lifetime, a band that included John McLaughlin on guitar and Larry Young on organ. The show got under away in a timely manner, the sun set and the shade no longer made a difference. The crowd outside the tent (in the cheap seats) enjoyed the evening’s cooling breeze while the paying customers melted in the oven-like tent.

A Sonic Boom Hits Town

Hiromi Uehara is a pianist with intense energy; she plays with passion and creates vast amounts of excitement. She was playing the colour of red, for hot, hot, hot at this particular performance. The band came on strong with a funky rhythm and Hiromi laid down choppy sounding chords on her synthesizer. She would quickly switch to piano and let fly some bluesy sounding runs. The key term to this performance is sonic, utilizing low-end sound waves. The sound was overpowering at times, especially so when bassist Tony Grey (a nephew of guitarist John McLaughlin) played in the low register of his five string electric bass. Grey would drive the beat home with a pounding incessant sound, the low end frequencies seemed to lift Hiromi from the piano stool as she jumped in the air to land open hand slams to the piano keyboard.
Hiromi Uehara
Upon completion of the first song, “Time Travel,” Hiromi breathlessly announced the members of her band: Tony Grey on bass, drummer Martin Valihora and guitarist David “Fuze” Fiuczynski (jazz-rock guitarist with Screaming Headless Torsos as well as a collaborator with John Medeski). Hiromi ran through many of the songs from her most recent release, the fourth CD on the Telarc label, Time Control.

Hiromi Uehara bridges the gap between many genres of music; she is a piano virtuoso, comfortable with classical, jazz and rock. The opening to “Time Travel” featured Hiromi playing a small electric piano, positioned on top of the grand piano, a fast tempo developed and a full orchestral sound was produced with bassist Grey playing melodically in the high register and drummer Valihora playing at double time with a driving funky beat.

Fiuczynski, playing a double-necked guitar with six strings on the bottom and twelve on the top, entered the tune with sustained rock style fills. The song’s power continued to build arriving at a tight bridge consisting of sharp accented breaks, repeated four times and allowing the song to change motion. A free jazz event developed allowing Hiromi to lay down a mixture of lightning fast runs and slow syncopated fills, blending in against the drummers wildly fast metre. Hiromi continued to match the drummer’s pace with a frenetic, classical style bringing her to repeat the same measure over and over, building the dynamic into a grand fortissimo and a sudden silence. A change in mood. A fast swing feel developed, Hiromi playing in the high notes, a light and airy Ahmad Jamal feel for eight bars of serenity and back to a gatling gun attack as she ripped the notes from the keyboard and pitched them to the audience as 100 mph fastballs. Another rapid change in the dynamic and Hiromi was back to open hand slams at the piano producing punchy chords, her indicator to the band that they could go their own direction, or so it seemed, as guitarist Fiuczynski let loose his own volley of heavy runs on the six string, while Grey augmented the rhythm with bass melodicism.

The level of energy displayed by Hiromi is intense; the feeling of time rushing past us at a million miles an hour was prevalent throughout her performance. As I stood at the backstage entrance, a fireball seemed to rush by me. Hiromi Uehara was last seen on the way to her dressing room.

From A Lifetime To Fusion

The band Trio Beyond was all about poise, style and class. The band members have nothing to prove and seemed to be playing with the joy that comes from playing together and doing material that allows them to expand and explore on older themes with new ideas. Jack DeJohnette on drums, John Scofield on electric guitar and Larry Goldings on Hammond B3 are Trio Beyond. They would run through seven songs as well as an encore number.

Scofield and DeJohnette took turns announcing the songs, opening the show with “Saudades”, the title track of the Trio Beyond album, followed by “Allah Be Praised”, a Larry Young composition. The third number featured a Woody Shaw composition “Moon Train” found on Young’s Unity album.

The organ playing of Goldings held the low end, not an overpowering booming organ nor a typical Hammond sound but more like a refined church organ with jazz modal flavouring. Scofield played an arch top guitar, producing runs as fluid and smooth as the great blues masters of old, with the addition of 21st century technology — an array of electronic effects that had him duelling himself. As for Jack DeJohnette, what can you say that has not already been said about this master, creator of his own drumming dynasty?

John Scofield

On the Ornette Coleman song, “The Invisible”, I found the bottom end lacking and I wondered what Jack Bruce might have added to the mix. Bruce was one of the original Lifetime members. I was brought quickly back to reality as Jack DeJohnette launched into an inspired solo that was followed by an equally impressive solo by Scofield. The show stopping “Spectrum”, a Tony Williams Lifetime feature written by John McLaughlin, came off as a power trio song that could easily have been a tribute by Tony Williams to any of the rock power trios of the sixties. Heavy Lifetime influences shone brightly as Trio Beyond blew the roof off the tent to let the cool night air bring us back to the here and now.

Jack DeJohnette

Larry Goldings
We welcome your comments and feedback
Paul J. Youngman
• • • • • •
Mike Colyer
• •
The Live Music Report Roger Humbert
reporters@thelivemusicreport.com rogerh@thelivemusicreport.com

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