domenica 23 ottobre 2016

Something about New Music Horizons - Hiromi and Esperanza

Hi to those who read me. 
I can see that even if I'm not as frequent as in the past (in no one of my activities, sadly!) there are lots of contacts on this blog!
This probably means that you're interested in good music or in amusing stuff, or both of them!

This time I'm not going to talk about proggeries. Or better... not in its common way.
I'm going to talk about something really new coming from two sweet and beautiful ladies, one from Japan - Shizuoka, the other from USA - Oregon. They both are genius in their instrumental and musical knowledge and composition.

If the first is following her own path of instinctive innovation since 13 years ago, playing her piano and synth in her own incredible way, the second one has recently broken the comfortable conventional jazz rules in which she was involved since the very first start (however greatly pleasant and exciting, having played with all the greatest living jazz players on the scene) to explode in something new, very surprising, innovative, catchy, rocky, broadway-ish and jazzy at the same time, enriched with a huge quantity of feeling, while singing and playing bass with great talent and power, as ever in her fast carrier (she's only 32).

I hate when someone says "There's nothing really new to listen to" or "In my times music was better".
It's pretty FALSE. As I tried to explain in other posts, it's just a matter of how you approach the music: if you try to make it always with the same passion, curiosity and will to discover something which makes you shiver... maybe you'll find it! 
For those who cannot reach  this goal maybe the right sentence should be: "I'm not really interested in something new because music isn't my passion anymore and I prefer to remain anchored to my old, comfortable, well known cliches".

But the worst sentence is "The latest xxx album isn't that good, but better than lots of new stuff around". This means: "I'm a xxx blind fan, I MUST appreciate everything he/she does and I HAVE to justify it to the world, neglecting or underestimating the good music around"

These are blind and poor listeners, generally not really emotionally involved in music (anymore?).
They often prefer an uninspired cover or tribute band to something new, because it's always easier to follow and appreciate something you already know in a nostalgic way, than to approach something new.

In his book The Music Insinct Philip Ball says (more or less... I've read an Italian translation): "The distracted listener prefers something he already knows, the passionate one needs something before unheard".

But let's give space to Music (what a great kind of it!), with the powerful, extremely talented and graceful Hiromi Uehara!

If I remember well this is one of the first videos I've seen.
It was in a couple of links my brother sent to me to let me know about her.
The first comment was "not so bad!", but then immediately I was totally captured by her music, her energy and her close, almost physical contact with her piano! I suddenly fell in love with Hiromi, this feeling carries on and renews every time I listen to some new stuff or go to see her to a concert.

Please notice how she leads the other musicians with her incredible sweet glances and little smiles over the piano, and pay attention to her great technical knowledge, while she continuously follows the bass pattern with her left hand and works variations with the right one! Astonishing and crazy!

This video is dated 2005 but we can already find something new born.
Hiromi mixes up all her musical preferences, from Liszt to King Crimson, passing to jazz, which is however the main character, but giving enhancement more to drums than to bass.
She shifts the musical power from the usual bass-piano pair, normally used in jazz trios, to the drums-piano one, never heard before in this way.

Hiromi is not only  a great composer, but also an incredible improviser, as it's shown in the following video in duet with Chick Corea, who has been her first mentor, after having seen what she was able to do on piano in a Yamaha piano shop in Tokyo.

Here you can see that she catches informations on how to go on from the master, looking with great attention to him and matching his glances. Can't you see how great is her work, also with the respect to Chick's one?
And it's beautiful to see her smiles when she realizes she's guided by him to do something maybe unknown one second before!

But let's go back to her beautiful compositions and the path she's following.
What she started about 13 years ago, you can find more enhanced in the latest work Spark, as you can listen in this magnificent piece of high Music.

The greatness of this piece of music is that we can notice the mood changing several times in the very start, but the central part, with that melancholic mood is really greatly emotional.

Here, as often in Hiromi's music, the drummer Simon Phillips is the second soloist, while Anthony Jackson's bass work is mainly the framework of the track.

I've seen Hiromi LIVE several times, with different drummers and bass players, and every time is a new exciting, involving and satisfying experience. She moves on the stage in deep contact with her piano, almost as they are merged together!
Even if the other instrumentalists are great and talented performers with years of experience, your attention will be caught by 'Her Sweetness and Power' Hiromi, that's for sure!

If you have knowldege of an Hiromi Trio Project gig in your neighbourhood don't miss it! You will thank me for this advice, as many other friends of mine before!

Now take a look (and both ears) at the following video...

Or to the next one:

What a grace in her voice, how talkative and elegant is her presence on stage, what greatness in her hands and fingers!
Esperanza Spalding is a multi-instrumentalist, being able to play violin, guitar and piano. She is a contrabass virtuoso and a lovely jazz singer.
Her melodic and high tuned voice matches with her bass playing and no one can win!
Pay attention on how easy is to her to sing going up and down through the musical scales, while she's playing complicated patterns on the contrabass!

Until the end of 2015 she's been in her comfortable shoes of what she studied and loved at Berklee.
She flyed between the jazz standards and her own jazz-bossa compositions, good to exalt her warm, virtuoso and inspired vocalism. And made us happy!

But something new and explosive was growing in her heart and mind...

Have you heard how powerful is the killer attack in this song?
The dissonant electric distorted guitar chords and the powerful electric bass pattern are the carpet on which Esperanza's great voice sings about her hidden personality (Emily) finally exploded!
No more classic and elegant outfit, no more hair leonine mane but dreadlocks, no more contrabass in her hands (not always)!
Please notice how she sings up and down the beat, making the pair tempo odd and vice versa!
And pay attention to the choir (three women and a tall man who participate to her Broadway-ish gigs as actors and singers)... It's not a simple one: the lines and harmonizations are different from a usual choir and somehow special and previously unheard!
I have the feeling that she thought about the choir contribution, making them the substitutes of keyboards or piano, as you can argue in the following:

If you mentally substitute the "oh-oh" with a piano chord you'll have similar contribution to the song, but less innovative and pleasantly impressive.
Can you hear the drums pattern how far is from a jazz one, though you can't say this isn't a easy jazz song? The key is in her magnificent vocals and bass lines!

Esperanza's late music is mainly soft, graceful, but also rich of power and passion. But not only... please notice the first lines of the following lyrics:

"We could change the whole story of love
 Same old play I'm getting tired of
 No more acting these predictable roles
 Just us living
 Unconditional love

Don't you think it's the same thing we all hope when we start a new relationship?
Heart bumping fast when, after her first words the song starts so intense, powerful and sweet at the same time!
...and that unusual bass & drums patterns that seems to sigh at every line, what a great sensation of short breath at every sigh! Highly inspired song!

Please don't trust those who say that musical theory and technical improvement aren't any necessary to play good music.
These skills are fundamental to transform what the artist has in his heart and mind in the best way he can, and we can feel it...This is the magic of Music!
Obviously there is some exception, almost as if someone has nothing but technical knowledge, his music will be only a sequence of exercises to demonstrate how high is his skill, but without feeling and emotion... and this sadly happens quite often, as you know.

But Hiromi and Esperanza are not the case, as you may notice from what you have heard in this post.

The Music you tasted in this post is not far away from the Progressive area, in its actual meaning of "something which takes basis from the past but it's in progression towards the future", even if in different ways and directions. The most of prog musicians and listeners seem to have lost this important meaning.
Luckily there are musicians like Hiromi and Esperanza who strongly believe in it, work on it, giving to their passionate fans incredible moments of astonishing music, without Dilemma... with Unconditional Love!

Together on stage?
It would be to me a dream fulfilled, but I don't think it can be realized.
They are two great front-women and they cannot share the stage (strongly because they're women!).
It would be as they would be forced to make love with the same beloved and possessed man at the same time... impossible!

Enjoy their music, go and see their incredible gigs and don't forget to occasionally take a look at this blog!

Hope we'll get soon in contact again!

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