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animated film composed by Hiromi Uehara
WORDS by Tessa Swantek TALENT Hiromi PR°1824
In the animated feature film, BLUE GIANT, the main protagonist, Dai, walks into a golden low-lit Jazz bar. The only visitors are the raindrops tapping on the blue hazy windows, as if to knock but turn away languidly. The grand piano in the corner sits with an open mouth, flashing its white plastic teeth, welcoming no one. The bartender plays a Sonny Clark record which Dai knew she picked because it sounded and felt like the weather that day. BLUE GIANT is about this sentiment; the feel of music, the color of music. The track spins and burns blue, intense and serene.
Based on Shinichi Ishizuka’s manga series of the same name, BLUE GIANT comes to life in swirls of crashing color through direction by Yuzuru Tachikawa, writing by NUMBER 8, production by NUT, and of course composition by world-renowned pianist, Hiromi Uehara. Hiromi plays piano for the role of Yukinori Sawabe, while Tomoaki Baba plays tenor saxophone as Dai, and Shun Ishiwaka plays drums as Shunji Tamada, Dai’s friend who is inspired by his passion.
The empty Jazz bars make clear that Jazz is a dying art. Much of the film’s beauty is in its night scenes, in Tokyo’s vivid vacancy, when the only life is found in circular eye shaped neon lights and brass and ivory voices. The music is like a toy soldier that wakes at night when everyone has shut their eyes.
Saxophonist Dai embodies Jazz. He burns like a star at night as his saxophone scatters golden light across the sapphire river. He does everything he can to become the best Jazz musician in the world, running at night to keep his heart healthy so that he can improve his breath control and lung capacity. Yukinori and Shunji join Dai to form the Jazz band, JASS, and it’s Dai’s dedication that creates the film’s steady beat so that every other note and improvisation can exist around it without just sounding like “noise.”
The trio’s performances are genuinely thrilling as the scenes fire in quick succession like music notes from beads of glinting sweat to dashing fingers, and streaming kaleidoscopic soundwaves to the golden sparks firing in the audience’s irises, and their open mouths hung wide like a saxophone bell.
The music struck the small audience in Universal Music Group’s screening room in much the same way as the audiences in the film. Particularly during the pianist Yukinori's improvisation performance, played by Hiromi, I watched as viewers lifted off their chairs involuntarily with open mouths and paused breath. At the end of the piano performance in the film, the audience in the screening room erupted with applause in time with the audience in the film. In the film’s final performance, “BLUE GIANT,” character Yukinori plays the piano with his left hand, which Hiromi says she really did when composing the track.
After the screening, Hiromi performed three songs - “BLUE GIANT” from the soundtrack, and “Up” and “Reminiscence” from her newest album, Sonicwonderland. Her performance was genuinely unlike anything I had ever heard before, and much like Yukinori in the film, the music moved her body involuntarily on and off the piano bench. Listening to her was as if having a conversation, as she would play notes and smile in such a way as if telling a joke. The audience laughed in response to these words never having been said, yet they were understood throughout the room, which a Verve Records manager called “the smallest venue she will ever play.”
I felt like Shunji when he heard Dai perform for the first time in the film; “This is Jazz?!?!”
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