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Hiromi Uehara - Beyond Standard CD (album) cover

BEYOND STANDARD

Hiromi Uehara

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.56 | 33 ratings

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ProgressiveAttic
4 stars

Hiromi has never been closer to Mahavishnu Orchestra and Return to Forever before this album, ironically this is achieved through re-workings of classic jazz standards (obviously excluding Jeff Beck's Led Boots and Hiromi's own XYG). The album's name is very representative of the content, the standards are taken to new frontiers beyond anything that the original composers thought possible.

To be perfectly honest, I didn't enjoy this effort as much as I did with her early works. First of all, the rhythm section is as competent and talented as the original one, as I said on a previous review: musicians would kill for such backing band, but I think I like better the previous' approach to the music. Added to that I am not too keen to Fiuczynski's guitar playing style... maybe too weird (but on the other hand I do enjoy weird music and experimental playing). At the end this is a matter of taste.

Enough of what I dislike.... Now to the ups, which are more abundant than the downs. I've always been a huge fan of percussive piano playing of the likes of Chick Corea, Keith Tippett and Keith Emerson, so this is piano heaven for me. Hiromi's tasteful acoustic approach to fusion with small reliance on synths is highly enjoyable and refreshing, this combined with crazy electric guitars produces a very interesting avant-garde sound. Another thing I enjoyed is how the album is introduced by presenting the contrast between the original versions and Hiromi's fusion renditions with a mono short version of Softly As In A Morning Sunrise as a prelude to the re-worked version of the piece in a pristine stereo sound quality.

The last three tracks of the album are quite different from the rest. Beck's Led Boots isn't really radically different from the original, although it receives a nice Hiromi/Fiuczynski electronic treatment. XYG is another fusion track and the only complete Hiromi original in the album, originally released as the opening track of her debut (Another Mind) under the name XYZ, this time the composition features Fiuczynski's strange guitar playing and I must say that, although I enjoyed this version, I still prefer XYZ (great piano performance here, by the way). I've Got Rhythm closes the album masterfully with Hiromi playing solo an acoustic piano, really breath-taking (I won't describe it here, you'll have to listen to this yourself).

This album features some of the meanest, fastest, more technical, innovative and imaginative piano/keyboard playing I've ever witnessed. And the sound quality couldn't be better.

Do not expect a standards album because you are not going to get anything like it. These are electric re-workings of (mostly) well known jazz standards, which at the end are almost unrecognizable anyways. The highlights of the album are Hiromi's solo piano parts, the bass, the masterful drumming and, if you enjoy this kind of things, Fiuczynski's guitar.

Not a masterpiece, at least for me (although I understand the reasons of someone considering this 5 star material), and a must for every fusion lover out there. Not recommended for the fainthearted. 4 stars for this amazing fusion piece of work.

ProgressiveAttic | 4/5 |

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