BWW Review: HIROMI Duet Featuring EDMAR CASTANEDA at the TD Toronto Jazz Festival

BWW Review: HIROMI Duet Featuring EDMAR CASTANEDA at the TD Toronto Jazz Festival

Two musicians, engulfed by the spirit of jazz. Presented by the TD Toronto Jazz Festival, Hiromi played the Koerner Hall on Wednesday evening, joined by jazz harpist Edmar Castañeda. A mélange of rock, pop, and jazz - the duo proved that the world needs more piano and harp.

The evening got off to a mellow start, before an explosion of Hiromi's famous driving tempo - the two musicians, showing off their impressive musical dexterity and improvisation skills. As the intensity picked up, Hiromi's voice slipped into the mic beside her piano, feeding the audience her groans of inspiration. Hiromi and Castañeda become a cohesive unit of manic, frenetic jazz. The music almost seems to escape their grasp at times - like a run away train - until you realize that they are in complete control. They're driving. The first piece, A Harp in New York, reflects the congestion of a busy city - Hiromi added, "but today it's called, A Harp in Toronto."

Castañeda introduced the second piece, noting inspiration from his move from Colombia to New York City - the piece was a tribute to jazz bassist, Jaco Pastorius. For Jaco is more like a duel than a duet. Hiromi rocked the strings from the inside of the grand piano (sponsored by Yamaha), strategically placing items inside the piano to create a harder, honky-tonk sound - matching the aggressive plucking from Castañeda's harp in what we could call a "jazz-off".

Hiromi brought the pace back down with Moonlight, Sunshine, originally written in 2011 after the big earthquake in Japan. Hiromi introduced the piece in a quiet tone, "I hope that moon and sun are always watching over you and there for you." A sentimental piece, she let Castañeda take the lead on the melodic elaboration, as she accompanied. A man walking in late after the piece produced a comedic moment - a testament to Hiromi's humorous personality. She stopped speaking to say, "Welcome." Hiromi continued, "that was Moonlight, Sunshine," then turned to the man, saying, " just missed it."

The highlight of the evening was an original Hiromi composition, a four-piece suite called The Elements. She mentioned that she was inspired to write it because there was not really anything written in this style for piano and harp. The suite began with Air, fittingly lit in the back by pastel pink lights. Castañeda glides his palms across the harp, creating a sound reminiscent of gusts of wind. Hiromi's hands sat at the top of the piano, tinkling on the higher pitched keys - the piece expanding into an almost Celtic sound. Earth was next, lit with warm, brown lighting - the piece was grounded by its focus on bass - their feet stomping to keep the rhythm. Water and Fire followed - the latter, a frenzy of musicality. An inferno of their abilities in pace and a rampage of improvisation - Fire provided the perfect ending to the concert. The audience seemed to agree, pleading for an encore from the duo.

HIROMI Duet, featuring EDMAR CASTANEDA was presented by the TD Toronto Jazz Festival, running through July 2, 2017.

For more information on the festival and to purchase tickets, visit

(photo credit: Juan Patino Photography)

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