Can you explain the “soundtrack of the day” concept behind Move?
Well, I was thinking about how there are certain emotions I
feel at particular times of the day. I wanted to write a kind of
soundtrack that followed the daily stream of time—like the sound of the
alarm clock going off in the morning, which I mimicked on the intro to
“Move.” Each song follows the passing of time during the day.
What inspired you to write an album with this premise?
I think it was the idea of how time affects my emotions. I
tend to write differently in the morning than I do in the afternoon or
at night. Also, when I travel, I sometimes actually lose the morning or
the night. So when the next day comes and that time comes around again, I
feel strange, like I haven’t had that feeling in a while. So one idea
on the album was to experiment with how different times of the day make
Move is your second album with Simon Phillips on drums and Anthony Jackson on bass. How did you choose them?
I had Anthony as a guest on my first two albums, and I had
always wanted to make a full album with him. I’d bump into him at
festivals or at clubs and we’d talk about working on future projects
together. In 2009, I felt like the time had come, so I brought up the
idea to him of doing a trio project together. As I started writing
songs, the drum sound I was looking for became clearer to me. That’s
when I thought about Simon. I knew his playing from the Who, Toto, and
his solo projects. When I told Anthony I was thinking of Simon, he was
thrilled. So my manager called Simon about playing on the project and
said, “Hiromi is interested in you for her new project. I can send you
samples because you’re probably not familiar with her music.” And that’s
when Simon said, “Actually, yesterday someone sent me a YouTube video
of her playing with Chick Corea and I’m watching it right now!”
That’s probably the easiest pitch your manager ever had to make!
[Laughs.] Yeah. Simon was also thrilled that
Anthony was in the trio because they’ve been playing together on and off
for the past 30 years. They both understand and can play all kinds of
music. Simon is probably most well known as a rock drummer, but his
father is a jazz musician, so he grew up listening to swing and jazz and
playing in big bands. Anthony loves classical music. We can really talk
deeply about classical pianists. It’s amazing how wide-ranging both of
their understandings are. So the three of us have that in common. We
love all kinds of great music.
I read that you wanted to write songs especially for
this band. Can you talk about the process of writing with specific
players in mind?
Since we made the album Voice, the three of us have
been touring and playing together a lot. We would jam together at sound
check, and the more we played, the deeper I understood Anthony and
Simon’s playing. Whenever I write music as a composer, I want to make
the other musicians shine. It’s also as if the composer Hiromi is writing for the pianist
Hiromi. They are different people, and sometimes I actually write
something that I can’t technically play! So the pianist part of me then
has to practice hard to satisfy the composer part of me. So that’s how I
write. I orchestrate everything for piano, bass, and drums, and I try
to make everybody shine in different ways.
Can you give an example of writing something that you then have to practice in order to perform?
For instance, I might hear different melodies in the upper
and lower registers of the piano, but playing them at the same time is
quite difficult. But when I hear it I can’t stop writing, so I just
write. When I’m writing, I’m not thinking about the fact that I can’t
play it. I just want to hear what I write, so later I have to practice to make that happen.
Why does the title track start with your piano impersonation of an alarm clock?
It comes from me traveling so much. I have to set an alarm
clock and take the earliest flight of the day to get to the next city
to play. So most of the time, my mornings start with an alarm clock. I
love all sorts of sounds in the world, but never liked that one, because
it’s such a frustrating, irritating sound. So I thought, “Maybe if I use this sound, I’ll come to like it.” I guess it worked because now I’ve been starting to sing it! [Laughs.]
Can you give us other examples of finding musical inspiration in ordinary sounds?
Sometimes when you’re crossing the street and all the
different cars are honking at the same time, you get these amazing
cluster chords. It makes me feel like I’m a conductor in an orchestra
and they’re all tuning up. Sometimes I just stop and listen to it.
You’ve said that “Move” one is one of the most difficult tunes you’ve ever written. Why?
Well, it’s difficult to make that tune sound easy, because
there are a lot of metric changes and there are also rhythmic unisons
between the three of us in the band, as well as high unisons between
Anthony and me. You really have to get used to the song to nail
everything down and still make it sound easy.
There’s a great musical dialogue between you and Simon
on that track, where you’re playing right-hand flourishes and he’s
responding. Was that written out?
No, that was improvised. Even if I’m a soloist, I think
there always needs to be group improvisation. It’s a constant
communication where we all try to surprise each other. That’s the most
fun part about improvised music. You never know what you’re getting and
you try to find a different routing every day to get from one section to
Next: Interview continues with details about the piano used to record Move, exclusive video, and more!