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Hiromi Uehara - Brain CD (album) cover


Hiromi Uehara


Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.96 | 48 ratings

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3 stars Possibly the cutest artist on prog archives, I was intrigued by Hiromi Uehara as soon as I heard of her. Besides being a rare prog hottie, she was mentored by the great Chick Corea and additionally, listening to many records by Caucasian men, it was refreshing to hear the work of an Asian female.

I felt I was onto a winner when I heard the opening track Kungfu World Champion. An interesting fusion of wierd electronic keyboard sounds and smooth piano mixed in with rich traditional bass lines and sharp drumming, it manages to be humorous with its sarcastic Oriental refrain yet also genuinely technically impressive- they even interpolate Entrance Of The Gladiators.

Unfortunately, for me at least, this track is not representative of the album. After this exciting and playful introduction, the album settles into much more vanilla territory which for the most part is not particularly fusion or prog to my ears. Second track If may run for 7 minutes but there are no real shifts in dynamic or unusual instrumentation. You could play it by the fireside on a romantic night- it is warm, excellently played music, but I really don't see it satisfying a prog fan. And while the quality of the playing sustains across the album, the lack of surprises in the songwriting mean the album doesn't stand out. The gentle experimentation of Kungfu World Champion is never seen again (aside from a short, bizarre intro and outro of otherworldly noise on the otherwise pedestrian title track) which leads to disappointment.

There is one other track that really works for me though and that is Desert On The Moon. Despite having as desolate a title as you could think of, it begins with Uehara laying down the melodies in a welcomely uncalculated fashion before drummer Valihora joins her with some very nice cymbal work. He uses more of his kit as the song, essentially one excellent Uehara from solo, rolls along and really gives it a sense of pace.

Desert On The Moon uses its time well but on the ten minute each pair that closes the album, Keytalk and Legend Of The Purple Valley, I ended up looking at my watch. The vocal synths used on Keytalk sound silly to me, even stupid, and it feels a bit like Uehara's just goofing off rather than doing something that should be on an LP. Legend Of The Purple Valley is perfectly.... nice... it just never gets beyond that, plodding along with the expected sleepy/mysterious nightime vibe you expect a jazz instrumental to end an album with.

Uehara can certainly play and I am not doubting her or her bands abilities. What's bringing this down to 3 stars is a lack of mentally stimulating structures in the songs- the album pootles along pleasantly for the most part but rarely, if ever, will you go "Wow that's nice." I can see real jazz/keys fans adding another star but for the dedicated progger, there's little here to write home about.

Textbook | 3/5 |


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