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Q&A: Japanese pianist Hiromi on Zappa and working with Simon Phillips

The Japanese piano prodigy jammed with Chick Corea in her teens, signed a record deal while still a student at Berklee College Of Music and has just topped the Billboard Jazz chart with Spark

Over the course of 10 albums beginning with her 2003 debut Another Mind, plus collaborations with Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke and Lenny White, Hiromi has established a reputation as one of the most dynamic and daring pianists of her generation. Her technically demanding music is rooted in jazz but respects no boundaries, freely pulling in progressive rock, classical, fusion and whatever else takes her fancy.

Are you influenced by musicians other than pianists?

“Oh yeah, definitely. I was always fascinated by guitar, especially the rock guitar players like Jeff Beck and Frank Zappa. A lot of music I grew up listening to involved guitar so that’s why I’m fascinated by the sound. Zappa, I love his writing very much. I love music with humour, that’s another reason I love Zappa. I love musicians who have such a strong personality, when I first listened to them I had never heard anything like that before. Jeff, his sound just makes me cry.”

How do you choose a set list for the duo with Stanley Clarke?

“It depends. For this tour he sent me some music and I sent him some music, some new material that I wrote, we try it in soundcheck to see if it works as a duet and if we feel like it, we play it. There are a couple of pieces we’ve been playing as a duet for the past couple of years, but yesterday in soundcheck at Istanbul he suddenly said,
‘We should play Mercy Mercy Mercy. I was just thinking about Joe [Zawinul], so we should play that.’ We tried it and it worked so we actually played Mercy Mercy Mercy as an encore and people loved it. So it’s very jazz in a way.”


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