Jazz CD Reviews

Hiroshima – Little Tokyo – Heads Up

East again meets West in the latest from the 30+ year-old sextet

Published on August 19, 2007

Hiroshima – Little Tokyo – Heads Up
Hiroshima – Little Tokyo – Heads Up HUCD 3123 ****:

(Dan Kuramoto, keyboards/winds/composer & producer; June Okida Kuramoto, koto; Danny Yamamoto, drums; Kimo Cornwell, keyboards; Dean Cortez, bass; Shoji Kameda, taiko drum/percussion)

For the past over 30 years Hiroshima has been exploring cross-cultural themes in their mix of world music and smooth jazz.  The news release on their latest CD mentions Duke Ellington’s statement back in l971 that “the whole world was going Asian,” Well, it’s happened and Hiroshima is right in the middle of it, at least from the jazz angle. (From the classical Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble would have to be mentioned.) 

Only kotoist June was born in Japan. Both she and her ex-husband Dan lived in an African-American neighborhood in LA and so were exposed to multiculturalism early on. Little Tokyo is their fourth album for Heads Up, and refers to the Japanese neighborhood in the LA area. But many Asian and African influences can be heard in this very creative set of 11 tracks.  I immediately zeroed in on Red Beans and Rice, thinking it was a cover of a tune by one of my favorite groups of the past which also showed Asian influences.  It wasn’t, being an original by Hiroshima’s keyboardist; it’s more uptempo and swinging and I liked it just as much. Hearing the prominent koto solos on many of the tracks is fun and certainly a sound you don’t hear every day. (When June was studying classical koto playing she was already also playing songs by The Temptations on her koto.)

Sonics and presentation is up to the label’s usual high standards, but I’m sorry Heads Up seems to have stopped offering Enhanced CD videos of the performers in action – it would be a kick to see the band playing. I have noticed some labels now give you in the album the URL of their video on YouTube as a more direct and economical solution. (The note booklet’s “Domo” page gives major domos to Head Monster Noel Lee, so there’s some connection with Monster Cable here.)

TrackList: Midnight Sun, On the Fence, Lanai, Red Beans and Rice, Sir Charles, Hidden Times, Shades of Honor, Quan Yin, Drama, Hiro Chill, Little Tokyo Underground.

– John Henry

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