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Obon by Hiroshima

For more than 25 years, Hiroshima has followed a long-standing tradition of excellence by combining traditional Asian stylized music with R&B and jazz in a contemporary setting. No other group in the history of jazz and R&B music has had the kind of impact that they have had on modern culture. Although the basic nucleus of the group has changed at various times over the years, Hiroshima has been able to endure the endless transformation between smooth and contemporary jazz. They have survived as a group in spite of the down-sizing popularity of jazz as a whole. With more than 15 albums to their credit, they have recently released Ôbôn, their third and most ambitious album to date on the Heads Up International Record Label. This time out, Hiroshima continues a formula that reflects upon the group’s diversity and adherence to Asian-induced dynamics. The basic premise behind this recording is Hiroshima's ability to touch upon the very essence of jazz’s overall impact on society and contemporary music.

Ôbôn is very special because it marks the first instrumental recording during Hiroshima’s 25 year history. With composer, instrumentalist and founding member Dan Kuramoto at the helm, kotoist June Kuramoto, pianist Kimo Cornwall, drummer Danny Yamamoto, bass guitarist Dean Cortez, as well as Taiko drummer and percussionist Shoji Kameda have embarked upon an excursion into sound activated energy. In addition, other components making this release another stand-out effort is the inclusion of the shakuhachi, a five-holed traditional Asian bamboo flute, which blends well with the Taiko drum and June Kuramoto’s koto. According to Dan Kuramoto, "Ôbôn is a tribute as well as a celebration and stands as a new beginning for the group."

Throughout Ôbôn, every member of Hiroshima is prominently featured. There are also reflective influences revolving around Pharoah Sanders, Nelson Mandela, Les McCann and Eddie Harris on such notable tunes as "Swiss Ming," "Mr. Robben" and "Pharoah." The other remaining songs take advantage of Shoji Kameda’s dynamic Taiko drum rhythms, along with the melodious blends of June Kuramoto and keyboardist Kimo Cornwall that provides a musical overview of Hiroshima’s 25-year history. In contrast, "The Lighthouse" is a tune honoring the hallowed venue that was located in Hermosa Beach, California, once considered the center of west coast jazz in America during the 50s and 60s.

When examining the historical significance of Hiroshima’s impact on jazz, one must first examine their longevity and approach to their craft. The highly eclectic and stylized music that is conveyed is based upon Asian influences and the inclusion of all aspects of American society. Dan and June Kuramoto grew up in the Crenshaw area of Los Angeles, California; as such they both have a spirit that is rooted in the traditions of other cultures and influences. With the release of Ôbôn, a musical message has been sent that says it is music that allows us to be one as human beings, which is also one of the most universal forms of communication.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Hiroshima
  • CD Title: Obon
  • Genre: Cool Jazz
  • Year Released: 2005
  • Record Label: Heads Up
  • Tracks: Swiss Ming, China Italia, Kotosu-Han (San Kyoku), Atomic Cafe, Obon Two-Five, One Thursday Morning, Mr. Robben, Paris (Ici Avec Moi), Pharoh, The Lighthouse, Heritage
  • Musicians: Dan Kuramoto (tenor & soprano saxophones, flutes, shakuhachi, keyboards), June Kuramoto (koto), Kimo Cornwell (piano, keyboards), Danny Yamamoto (drums), Dean Cortez (bass), Shoji Kameda (taiko, percussion), Kenny Endo (tsutsumi, percussion), Allen Hinds (guitar), Richie Gajate Garcia (percussion), Mary Garcia (flan), Karen Hwa-Chee Han (er-hu), Munyungo Jackson (percussion), Ira Nepus (trombone), Dean Taba (acoustic bass), DJ T-Rock (scratching), Princess and Master Noga (the floor)
  • Rating: Four Stars
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