One of the sheer joys of life is celebrating the many gifts and unique treasures that we meet along the way. In this case, what I’ve encountered for the first time is the new instrumental project by one of the premier voices in contemporary jazz Hiroshima. Their new offering is appropriately titled “Obon,” which celebrates they’re 25th anniversary of recording a cauldron of Asian American music melded with the haunting melodies and penetrating rhythms of the Orient. (“There are Obon festivals all over Japan and even in Los Angles during July and August each year.”)Originating in the Buddhist legend,” collectively as a project “Obon” pays homage to the spirit of the ensemble ancestors, friends, and relatives that have passed away with an abundance of blissful admiration for a continued celebration of life.


The Players: June Kuramoto ~ koto, Kimo Cornwell ~ piano and keyboards, Danny Yamamoto ~ drums, Dean Cortez ~ bass, Shoji Kameda ~ Taiko & percussion and Dan Kuramoto ~ tenor & soprano saxophones, flutes, shakuhachi and keyboards with special guests, 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, Produced by Dan Kuramoto, co-produced by June Kuramoto & Kimo Cornwell (*Atomic Café co-produced with Leslie Chew.) Heads Up International © 2005


The legendary Les McCann and Eddie Harris’s album “Swiss Movement” influences the opening track “Swiss Ming,” penned by multi-instrumentalist Dan Kuramoto. Chef Ming Tsai also inspires this engaging composition (he hosts a cooking show called “Simply Ming” on public television). “Swiss Ming,” is a rival of global fusion compositionally that opens with a throbbing “gong” sound featuring the newest member Shoji Kameda on the Taiko and percussion.


Bassist Dean Cortez and multi-instrumentalist Dan Kuramoto co-wrote “China Latina,” (girl from Japan) with classically trained kotoist June Kuramoto in mind. “China Latina,” has a Latin touch with a twist of classic Hiroshima embedded with smooth- ambient flavorings featuring the gifted kotoist June, with special guest artist Karen Hwa-Chee on “er-hu” (instrument).


 Kototsu-han (San Kyoku),” penned by Dan Kuramoto falls into the 3rd spot and features Kenny Endo’s cameo appearance on the “tsutsumi hand drum”. This piece embraces the traditional Asian instrumentation while coupled with Western influences makes “Kototsu-han (San Kyoku) a highlight within itself on Obon!


Producer Dan Kuramoto, to say the least, is one busy man on this project. He scores “Atomic Café,” which features guest artist Dj T-Rockscratching” on the turntables. Yeah, this is another tasty funk laced groove, which is reflective of “an urban late night/ club vibe, as Dan recalls from a “1970’s hangout in the Tokyo district.” (Kimo Cornwell’s piano solo is reminiscent of the late Donny Hathaway’s playing) As a soloist June Kuramoto’s presence is heartfelt, whereby the beauty of her Koto paints an underpinning tapestry resembling the white-capped mountains in Tokyo.


Obon Two-five,” co-written by Dan & June Kuramoto is sonically on point, hmmm! … This could be another Hiroshima classic in the making. “Obon Two-five,” features not only June on Koto but newcomer Shoji Kameda pounding Taiko drum that resonates with each vibrant and pulsating beat! Pianist Kimo Cornwell expressive piano playing illustrates why his voice once again is one to pay close attention to.


One Thursday Morning,” is another winner by co-writers Dan & June Kuramoto. On this selection June’s playing is brilliant, memorable and melodically beautiful. This composition is draped with the compelling nuances that have made Hiroshima a household name from within the ghettos of Inner-cities in America and eventually encompassing the International landscape with their imaginative and creative voice. 


Keyboardist Kimo Cornwell pens the 7th selection on “Obon” titled “Mr. Robben” which is a tribute to Nelson Mandela. This track is filled with hypnotic passages and torched with traces of fusion that at points reminds me of Weather Report. 


Fans of Hiroshima will adore the artistry that propels within the transcending moodscapes of “Obon.” The next cut “Paris (Ici Avec Moi),” is (a lullaby to the City of Light) which is also co-authored by June & Dan.Paris (Ici Avec Moi),” is non-intrusive! Its eclectic musings is drawn onto a canvas with underlying melodies that calls upon you for another engaging listen.


Up next in rotation is “Pharoah,” which is scored by Dan Kuramoto and dedicated to jazz saxophone legend Pharoah Sanders. For the first time, I hear Dan Kuramoto play his saxophone with an anointed and relentless passion for jazz!


The Lighthouse,” is a nod to the legendary West Coast jazz spot in Hermosa Beach, CA (the Jazz Crusaders recorded a few live records at this club back in the 60’s). Dan Kuramoto sax playing it timeless on this track he also pens “The Lighthouse,” he truly delivers by pouring out his heart and soul with compassion for jazz. I dig this cut because much like the previous selection it embraces the intimacy and soul of jazz at the root of it. Cornwell once again, handles his business working the piano therefore providing unblemished chords and melodies.


June Kuramoto and keyboardist Kimo Cornwell co-authors the enchanting “Heritage,” is the closing selection on “Obon.” “Heritage,” is a tribute featuring the talented June, Kimo and Dan (“We are forever indebted to our ancestors,” says June.) “Heritage,” is truly a gem surrounded by the grace and splendor that echoes from within the sentiment of our hearts that we should all have for our forefathers.


“For 25 years we have had the opportunity to explore a new kind of American music, one that embraces cultures and music. Obon is both a tribute and celebration and a new beginning for us … says Dan Kuramoto.” Wow, after taking a glimpse at the career of Hiroshima one can’t help but celebrate with an enormous passion for the group’s diversity in music with great joy on this commemorative occasion titled “Obon.” As a group, Hiroshima multicultural and universal appeal has blessed us with their poignant diversity by blending and integrating their distinctive, ambient, exotic, spiritual, and urban rhythms into one groovescape that continues to resonate and captivate the minds, bodies and hearts of listeners worldwide. Virtual dap to Dan & June Kuramoto and the band for sharing with us this enriched and joyous celebration of life and spirited music titled “Obon.”





q       Visit Hiroshima’s web space:

q       Purchase their new cd “Obon” on April 26th 2005 at a fine music store near you.