Monday, January 15, 2018

Hiromi and Edmar Castaneda Live in Montreal

Hiromi and Edmar Castaneda
Live in Montreal

Recorded at the 2017 Montreal Jazz Festival, this new release brings together the Japanese pianist/composer and the Colombian harpist. The two first met when the harpist opened for Hiromi's Trio project at the 2016 Festival. Catching each other's set, they were enthralled with each other's music. Hiromi herself recalled, "I didn't really know what to expect. When I heard Edmar play I couldn't believe what I was witnessing. It was a jaw-dropping experience. I didn't realize the harp could create such rhythm and groove." Castaneda had a similar reaction to her music observing, "The energy that she produced was the same as I like to play. I realized that we share the same passion for our instruments.”

The pair first played together for a week at the Blue Note in New York City, and they recall the almost instantaneous chemistry that happened and evident in these Montreal performances starting with Castaneda's "A Harp in New York" where they move from tranquility to propulsive drive with their mix of virtuosity and melodic invention and their playing off each other with Castaneda playing harp almost like a manic finger-style guitarist with his flamenco accents, and driving chording complemented by Hiromi's dazzling arpeggios as the two shift tempos and feeling. On his tribute "For Jaco," the two play with each other at the lower register of their instruments before joining in a playful romp in tribute to the bass legend. Hiromi's lovely "Moonlight Sunshine," written in response to the devastating tsunami and earthquake suffered by her native Japan in 2011, exhibits the lyrical side of both before an exhilarating romp through a composition from "Star Wars," John Williams' "Cantina Band," sort of a boogie woogie on hyperdrive.

The centerpiece of the performance was a four-part suite Hiromi composed, "The Elements," that was written specifically with his jazz approach to harp in mind. She explained, "“I was imagining Edmar’s sound and it reminded me a lot of sounds in nature.” Each part imaginatively reflects its subject: the weightless of “air,” the gritty, deep-rooted groove of “earth,” the shimmering fluidity of “water,” the roiling simmer of “fire.” And the four parts each have their own flavor, the light, dancing quality of "Air"; the rumbling undercurrent to "Earth"; the tranquility of "Water"; and the heated intensity of "Fire."

Their inspired playing as well as how they complement and interact with the other, results in some brilliant, enthralling performances, that concludes with a vigorous take on Astor Piazzolla's "Liberating," adding fieriness to the romantic core of the tango. "Live in Montreal" is a superb debut of a duet that one hopes to have more to enjoy in the not too distant future.

I received my review copy from a publicist. Here is the performance of "Fire," from the Montreal Jazz Festival.

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