Hiromi Uehara may be a virtuoso, but she's no snob. The Berklee-educated jazz pianist and composer is on a first-name basis with her fans, and she considers each performance an opportunity to find a new home and surrogate family, if only for a day.
Along with Cedar Walton and Jacky Terrasson, Hiromi visits Overture Center March 22, a few days before her 32nd birthday, as part of George Wein's Piano Jazz Summit. She'll perform selections from her first solo album, Place to Be. Released in January, the collection features whimsically titled autobiographical sketches from her international travels, including "Berne, Baby, Berne!," a tribute to a jazz club in the Swiss city, and "The Gambler," a lightning-fast reflection on Sin City.
I chatted with Hiromi about the album and the whirlwind lifestyle of touring musicians.
How did you decide to make Place to Be a sort of musical travel journal?
My everyday life involves traveling all over the world, but sometimes I stop along the way. This is my "place to be." Wherever I go, I find a new one. So I started to write songs about these cities and their landscapes and the things I saw and thought about there. Once I started, it was hard to stop.
What's the most difficult aspect of touring constantly, and what keeps you motivated?
There are many difficult parts: playing through jet leg, sleeping in a different room every day, those sorts of things. I keep doing it because I love performing. When I play, I feel connected to the audience, and all these hard things just disappear. I feel so alive onstage. I'm giving out so much energy when I'm there, but I'm getting so much from the audience, too. It's mutual, it's transforming, and it's beautiful.
Where would you like to visit that you haven't been?
The more and more I travel, I realize where I feel at home. It doesn't have to be [full of] amazing landscapes or a national treasure. It just has to have people with warm hearts, somewhere I feel a "welcome back" feeling, even if I haven't traveled there before.