The Van Dyck Restaurant and Brewery

Schenectady, New York

Saturday May 15th 2004, 9:30pm Show

The Van Dyck is a nice restaurant in Schenectady, right on the edge of Schenectady's "nice" section. Their brewery is not working; from what I have heard the setup was built poorly, imparting off flavors and aromas to their brews, so all beer is made off site and shipped in. The Van Dyck was in the issue of Yankee Brew News I picked up after the show, but they said that the Dyck really needs to get some whiteout and remove the word brewery from their name. That said, I tried their IPA, which I found somewhat lacking. Their heffewiezen is passable. For mixed drinks, they were making strong Jameson and Cokes, very strong. The Van Dyck was in the paper that day, because they received a large business loan from the Metroplex Development Agency to stay open; they have been struggling financially for many years.

The concert space, and space is the only way I can describe it, is the second floor of the restaurant. I was shocked at how small the space is. The stage was triangle shaped, about 15 feet wide and five feet deep at its deepest point. My table was directly in front of Hiromi; I was about 3 feet from her pianos. She had her electric piano on top of the regular piano, and alternated back and forth. The drummer was set up in the middle and the bass setup on the right side of the stage. Suprisingly, there were under 20 people at the show. I arrived as the first show was letting out, and i don't think it sold that many tickets either. The poor attendance is probably due to the Van Dyck giving the show almost no press. I found out about it while checking Hiromi's website, and my attempt at getting tickets on the Monday before the show were unsuccessful due to ticket prices not being set yet. Tickets were finally available on Wednesday. For such an amazing talent, it should have been sold out, in my opinion.

Hiromi has a new band, and they were introduced as the Hiromi Trio. Tony Gray on bass and Martin Vilahora on drums compliment Hiromi's playing well. They looked like they were having fun, and kept in constant contact throughout. Tony Gray played an amazing bass solo in one of the songs (which was untitled) that blew me away. Drummer Martin Vilahora was impressive as well, Hiromi's new trio is a very accomplished and talented band.

Hiromi announced some of the songs, explaining what they were about in her broken english. At times she struggled to find the right word, but she had no problems finding the right keys. Watching the fluidity of her fingers as she played was jaw dropping. She played with the speed and precision of a hummingbird going spot to spot, note to note. Where at the Saratoga Jazz Festival in 2003, she stood and played with such intensity that she seemed to be standing on her fingers, at the Van Dyck she was more subdued. Her playing was more focused, but that is not to say that she wasn't fully into her music, enjoying herself and bouncing around.

She opened with "XYZ" off of her debut album Another Mind. After a rocking version of the song, which showed that her new band was up to the task of measuring up to the old band, she played songs from her upcoming album Brain, to be released May 25. Hiromi introduced the band (as she did many times during the set) and then described the title track as being about how what you want to do with your brain is often different than what you want to do with your heart and emotions. After "Brain" the band went right into another new song featuring incredible playing by all members of the band. Hiromi then introduced "Wind Song", which is about how the wind can be creative, helping plants and flowers to grow, and destructive, destroying houses. Hiromi then introduced "Legend of the Purple Valley", based on a Japanese folk legend, which she attempted to describe briefly, though she wound up going into some detail. The set closed with the opening track of Brain, "Kung-Fu World Champion" about her heros Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee. "Kung-Fu World Champion" is a very funky track.

While the setlist seems short, I was shocked to see that she played for over an hour and a half. I was mesmerized and amazed the entire perfomance. The new tunes seem to be a lightyear ahead of the old songs, and if this is where Hiromi is going I can't wait to hear what she does in the future. The show was very intimate due to the crowd size, and the crowd was well behaved and quiet. Amazing talent and amazing performance.

-- Joe Armer <joe_armer at hotmail dot com>

lou at louthompson dot com