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Jazz rulebreaker Hiromi: ‘The piano is a plane that can take me anywhere’

There aren’t many jazz performers like Japanese pianist Hiromi Uehara. With her hair artfully piled almost a foot above her head, the 44-year-old launches into muscular assaults that traverse everything from fast-paced bebop to contemporary classical, monumental power chords and prog-fuelled excursions on the synth: a maximal sound that brings crowds to their feet, whooping instead of the usual respectful applause of the jazz club.

“My audience is so wide-ranging; I remember a recent show in Italy where there was a very well-dressed older woman in pearls on the front row and next to her was a guy in an Iron Maiden T-shirt,” she says with a laugh. “Further along there was a seven-year-old kid who I could tell was learning the piano.”

Video calling from a grey hotel room in Stanford, California, where she is due to play in the evening before embarking on a global tour – she reaches London jazz festival later this month – Hiromi is softly spoken (in contrast to her music), explaining how her formidable stage presence was born out of a depressing necessity.

Read the interview in the Guardian.

[This piece was published on 10/11/23]

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