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Hiromi, “Alive: The Trio Project” (Telarc). Should a jazz piano trio be a “project?” Can you trust a musician who seems to need it to be one? The answers on this disc are “no” to question one but, nevertheless, “yes” to question two. Hiromi is still a tremendous pianist as both Ahmad Jamal and Oscar Peterson knew when, as a young girl, she dazzled them both. She is a young veteran now and while it’s obvious here that she is unashamedly interested in playing precise and difficult tunes and then overwhelming you with virtuosic bedazzlement (the stuff of fusion that can be so empty in others’ hands), it’s also true here that her harmonic imagination is impressive and she can communicate as much light as she can heat. You can be strong-armed by her bombast because, as always, she is so open about her poetic vulnerability. She’s never lost either her incredible chops or her innocence. Her bassist Anthony Jackson and drummer Simon Phillips – especially the latter – are ideal for her. It’s, quite simply, a terrific piano trio disc in an era when acoustic piano trios so often take on the coloration of the Bad Plus. ΩΩΩ½ (Jeff Simon)