TotW: Hiromi Uehara – Place To Be

The second female artist in the Track of the Week series, Hiromi Uehara, is an enormously talented jazz pianist. I chose to feature Place To Be, which I’ve been in love with ever since I heard it.

Before you listen to the album version on Spotify though, consider watching the video below it first. It’s one of Hiromi’s best performances in my opinion.

Hiromi’s Live Performance

I’ve included a YouTube video of Hiromi’s performance of Place To Be at Tokyo Jazz 2008. When I watched this video, I had never heard of her before. And what a good first impression to have.

Something that’s evident during all of Hiromi’s performances is the joy she finds in playing. This is even more visible in the video. Her teary eyes and broad smile are hard to miss. I’ve read that Place To Be was a tribute to Oscar Peterson (1925 – 2007), so maybe that has something to do with the emotions she’s showing. But regardless of if that’s true or not, the fact remains that her emotions flowed over perfectly well through her piano towards her audience.

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The Choice

So apart from this being my first impression of Hiromi Uehara’s work, why did I choose Place To Be as Track of the Week? It’s arguable that there are more musically interesting pieces that she’s done. She’s combined the piano with synth sounds on numerous occasions, she’s played on the inside of a piano together with Chick Corea, she even once laid a metal ruler on the piano strings to create a harpsichord effect. However, this doesn’t take away from the beauty of Place To Be.

Aside from the wonderful tempo variations, Place To Be does a very good job at telling a story. Of course everyone can interpret the story differently, but it’s certain that something’s being told. I don’t mean to say that Hiromi rarely tells a good story with her music, but this story has touched me most.

Experiencing the Story

I’ll discuss what I experience when I listen to the live performance in the video, including links to specific places in it:

The first feeling I get when listening to the intro is one of nostalgia. It’s like the long sustained notes (0:12) at the beginning are short fragments of the past, slowly fading away.

Once the song turns into a kind of walz, a setting is made (0:41). I’m somewhere I used to be, and there are things I remember being there. It’s a place I remember well.


Then the musical theme joins in (1:04). It tells of who I was during that time, and why. It looks back with nostalgia at both the times that were happy, and those that were sad. I take a moment to remember how I felt back then (2:44), and I look at how I feel about those times right now.

A little bit before the middle of the song, more fragments fill my mind (3:31). I look back at the happiest time of my life. I was free and unburdened. Nothing could hurt me. Oh yeah, I remember those days very well and fondly.

I had some very good times (6:39), and some less so. But I’m here now, I’m doing well, and I carry all of those memories with me with great pleasure.

Your Opinion

That was, of course, my own experience. Other people will likely have another.
What do you think of Place To Be and/or Hiromi Uehara? Is there a specific story you‘re hearing?
You can leave a comment below to let me know.

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