Oct. 14, 2013
With melodies as exotic and mystical as Japan itself, one of the most iconic cornerstones in contemporary jazz, Hiroshima, is back with a new set of hypnotic tracks that immediately capture your heart and imagination. This time, the gift of exoticism comes in the form of their new release J-Town Beat, a totally refreshing approach to the genre that offers a different direction for the band in some ways but still maintains the essence of their attractiveness. As leader Dan Kuramoto (saxes, flutes, shakuhachi, keys, percussion, and composer/co-composer) says: “J-Town refers to Japan Town USA. It’s a microcosm of all the multi-cultural communities that make America the most diverse country in the world, and how best to reflect that than in music?” When you listen to this latest project from the longstanding group (original instrumental members still intact, by the way!), you clearly understand what the always musically passionate and creative Kuramoto means.
Here, you will find dreamy, soulful lyrics sung by vocalists Terry Steele and Vinx De’Jon Parrette, the magical storytelling koto of June Kuramoto, and the compelling Far Eastern landscape offered up by her husband’s writing and others in the band who’ve lent their hand to the compositions. Not to be ignored, the up-tempo funky vibe of more typical contemporary jazz has a place here, as well…but that has always been Hiroshima’s way. You can hear that, as well as that awesome Japanese influence in pieces like “Cruisin’ J-Town.”
The album opens with an up-tempo and irresistible journey straight into the heart of Japan called “Red Buddha,” then goes a bit bossa nova with “Lost in Provence.” It then steps into the low romantic light of seduction with “State of Mind,” turns on the mid-tempo funk with “Da Kitchen,” and unleashes the powerfully caressing baritone vocals of Parrette (aka Vinx) on the sweet “Lady of Mystery” (and he does a remarkable job of painting a portrait of this mysterious lady for us). Equally effective are the magnificent and riveting vocals of Terry Steele on the deliciously lazy and soulful “Days Gone By.” This gem of an album ends with the beautiful track “To Say Goodbye,” written by June Kuramoto and keyboardist James “Kim” Cornwell.
As I implied above, the pleasantly uncanny thing about Hiroshima is that they can change moods, styles, etc., all while maintaining that signature sound that always includes June Kuramoto’s beckoning and ever-attractive koto…the vehicle we ride into that colorful Hiroshima world.
For Hiroshima fans, you already know what makes this group so incredibly magical. Well, it’s all here and more on J-Town Beat. I strongly suggest that you not let this one escape your ears and its ability to reach your soul and places in your mind that you may have thought couldn’t be touched. Trust me: You will think again. For those few who may be unfamiliar with the supergroup, now’s a great time to get acquainted. Two thumbs up to this remarkable band that always seems to make it happen time and time again. – Ronald Jackson