Listening prerequisites: Well caffeinated, thoughtful and contemplative mood
This is a real contemporary Jazz album, full of epic changes and tweaked drums. Holy smokes, Simon Phillips on the drums, (This guy drummed with Art Blakey back in the day!) with the sound of "I think Hiromi just told Simon to do whatever he please, and go as nuts as possible". 🙂
For what it's worth, Hiromi is a Berklee music school piano teacher. She is very technically minded (modal jazz is so last century- we're talking cutting edge theory) and likes creative ways to use keyboards and time signature.
Three first songs sum up the album:
Spark & In A Trance: These tracks seem to be the hallmarks of this album (Simon has drum solos in both). Spark starts off sounding very subdued and surreal; this quickly changes when Simon and Anthony Jackson (the bassist) comes in, effectively "dropping the bass". Speaking of which, Anthony doesn't go too big in most of this album. I think that is due to how much space Hiromi and Simon are taking up- it is Hiromi's trio project after all. There are a great deal of mini-build ups and sections all over these tracks, creating more of a rolling landscape than a traditional song structure. Simon's first drum solo is still accompanied by the other two- listen for the use of hi hat and ride/cymbals (AFAIK Simon has more cymbals than Guitar Center before black friday)
In A Trance epic drum solo: Skipping ahead (all this stuff is great) one will notice in a trance is a ~9 minute song, and it seems the whole thing is setting a magnificent, sharp, and well polished table- just so Simon can rip the tablecloth off and generally wreak havoc. This is a jazz album, but it is not subtle. The use of instrument volume and intensity, as well as repeating motifs and phrases build up to exactly 5 minutes into the song, at which point Anthony and Hiromi stop completely and wait for simon to finish.
The dynamics, use of the snare in relation to toms in relation to cymbals is unbelievable. At 7:04 Simon seems to start whispering via his drums, playing a quieter but still with a certain vigor. 7:18, dropping the bass again the other two start. 7:20 is the greatest thwack ever to be heard. The End.
Take Me Away: This one starts with less energy of the first two, up through about 2:00. Here, Hiromi is toning the complexity down to set up for a straight up jazz groove, starting at 2:28. Anthony can be heard burbling around in there. Hiromi is doing a sort of conversational jazz with this groove, laid back and breathing with the other two. At 5:00, again Simon can be heard banging his drums, particularly the hi hat with quick, decisive strokes. Good low end on this track after 2:00 ala Hiromi's root notes and similar notes played by Anthony.
...The rest of the album is yours to enjoy and decipher; it does seem to fall under these three songs framework (or lack thereof).