Clarke is famliar to Utah fans for his recent tours with Return to Forever, the jazz fusion group founded by is a jazz fusion founded by Chick Corea, as well as being the first headliner at The State Room. Hiromi has never been to Utah though she knows the state hosted the Olympics in 2002.
The Philadelphia-born sexagenarian's chemistry with the Japan-based tricenarian has been on display since the two teamed up for the 2009 album "Jazz in the Garden." Then, they were joined by Clarke's Return to Forever band mate Lenny White, where the three added innovation and spirit to everything from Duke Ellington's "Take the Coltrane" to the Red Hot Chili Peppers' "Under the Bridge." It was a fruitful meeting that eliminated the idea of a generation gap.
Playing with the two legendary jazz-fusion figures from Return to Forever wasn't intimidating to Hiromi, who in a phone interview from Japan that she considered it a luxury to play with them. "They make such a great team. It was easy."
Clarke first investigated Hiromi when Corea suggested he check out her playing. Clarke said that Corea, who had played with Hiromi, doesn't recommend other musicians often, so he took the advice seriously.
"Every now and then, someone sticks out," Clarke said of the first time he watched her on video. "It's always great when you least expect it."
Hiromi had already developed a reputation by the time she collaborated with first Corea, and then Clarke. Although she began playing classical piano, her teacher Noriko Hakita exposed Hiromi to jazz records that entranced the pianist, noting that her teacher was very open-minded.
Hiromi eventually attended Boston's Berklee College of Music, where she was mentored by jazz icon Ahmad Jamal. Before graduation, she had already signed with jazz label Telarc, and has since become one of the highest regarded Japanese jazz musicians touring around the world.
"He called me first," Hiromi said of Clarke's request to play with him for "Jazz in the Garden." "I was very happy. Of course, I knew him from Chick Corea, and Return to Forever."
Clarke praised her musicianship. "She's always had a tremendous ability to physically play the piano," he said.
Gordon Hanks, founder of the local jazz series, terms Hiromi a "fireball."
Despite first playing as a trio when Clarke and Hiromi began collaborating, Clarke is looking forward to just the two of them sharing the stage. "We have a unique energy," he said, "This is more exciting than having a drummer."
Bass virtuoso Stanley Clarke duets with Hiromi, a young Japanese pianist.When • Friday, Sept. 14 at 7:30 p.m.Where • Capitol Theatre, 50 W. 200 South, Salt Lake CityTickets • $30 at ArtTix