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Hiroshima's Legacy

To celebrate their 30th anniversary, the group Hiroshima goes back to the first ten years of their musical existence. Instead of re-releasing tracks from that first decade, leader Dan Kuromoto decided to re-record those songs on their newest CD Legacy. He says, we really didn't feel like doing the best ofs. We didn't know what that means really. When you have 17 CDs, how do you do a best of. Actually we then put it on our website and asked people to submit what they thought were their favorites. That was interesting. We got so many hits and so many suggestions. If we did play something now, we would just paint ourselves in a corner because hundreds or thousands of people like this song and why wasn't it on there. Bottom line is what we thought we'd do instead is to go back and isolate our first ten years, which embraced five records during that time period, and revisit those songs with the band as we are now.

Kuromoto says Legacy was a combination of songs that appealed from both the public and the band. He says, we did songs that we thought both coincided with the e-mail hits that we got with people and with what we kind of knew the more popular songs. Most importantly, songs we enjoy playing that we find ourselves going back to now and then to this day. We picked songs from the first ten years which embraced two of our gold records. We felt that we wouldn't deny fans of ours songs that were their favorites and not exclude the possibility that we might do another legacy or retrospective CD at a future date.

However, the approach for Legacy made a different turn. Dan Kuramoto says, we wanted to make a real simple record, so we did it pretty much live. There's not a whole bunch of other stuff on it. On some of the songs, we got the original string arrangements. In all honesty, we couldn't afford a huge string section, so what we did was producer Kimo Cornwell took the charts and rearranged them for string samples and synthesizers. We let the songs define us rather than we defining the songs. You can really hear people play.

One of the examples on the new CD is a remake of the song "Another Place." Kuromoto says, "Another Place" was recorded in 1985. That album was our first gold record. The title track "Another Place" was three minutes long. "Another Place" on our "Legacy" version is over nine minutes long. We know it's a no no, but in all honesty, if we're going to be responsible to who we are and to the music, and really this is how people that come to the shows and these are the songs that they love, then we're going to play it the way we play it. Everything about it is utterly spontaneous and it sounds like it. It's all about the vibe and that's fundamentally what this new project is all about.

Even though the group is in its third decade of existence, Hiroshima keeps on evolving. So much so that smooth jazz radio stations have not played most of their recent material. Kuromoto says, where we're coming from is doing music that's signature to us and trying to evolve it as much as possible. Where radio has gone is in an utterly different direction. They'll play some of our songs, but they won't play most of our recent things because we keep changing. Part of what I think smooth jazz has offered to people is a sound that is quite very much the same. I'm not putting it down, it's part of the times. There's a comfort and a security in things familiar.

Also, Dan Kuromoto says radio has also changed in terms of how songs are written and produced. He says, there's no emphasis on songs and the uniqueness of them. Therefore people couldn't name ten songs they liked that were released in the last two years. That's not the nature of what radio is looking for right now. We're not interested in pursuing that. We feel like that's not what we started out to do and that's not what our fans look to us for. They look to us to inspire in a lot of ways, to give them a spirit and to take them to different kinds of emotional places. It's all about being soulful from our point of view. If radio doesn't see fit to play us, it's disappointing to us and our fans, but we have to go the way we go.

Hiroshima is a group that goes its own way. Kuramoto says, our journey is our own personal journey. When you start out and you call your band Hiroshima and you have a koto and a taiko and shakuhachi along with jazz playing and R&B and Latin, you're not right away going to be embraced as a pop formula. We knew that from the onset and that is not at all what we intended to do. We wanted to do something different, something uniquely our own. In our case, something that reflects our Southern California environment that's extremely multicultural, was from day one from when we were little kids. We infuse that into the music as part of our own personal culture.

When listeners hear a Hiroshima CD, they will find many musical genres that mix in perfectly. Dan Kuromoto says, they're going to hear so much about the landscape of music. It's so much about who we are and what we grew up with. If it's a Cuban montuno, it's a real montuno. We would have spent the time to really know what we're doing because we grew up in it. I grew up in East LA in a fundamentally Latin-black community. That's why I was an arranger for the Los Angeles Broadway production of "Zoot Suit" because I was more familiar with regional salsas than anyone else they could find in Southern California.

Other Hiroshima band member have similar backgrounds. Kuromoto says, bass player Dean Cortez' family is from Puerto Rico, his dad was a jazz drummer, his Latin roots are absolute, even though he's played on over 300 records and films. Clearly, kotoist June Kuromoto's roots are very deep in Japanese music, which she grew up in a black community in Los Angeles and so her R&B roots are so solid. Keyboardist Kimo Cornwell embraced all those things. When drummer Danny Yamamoto was in high school, he was playing jazz drums with Billy Childs, who was generally recognized as the number one jazz keyboardist player in the world.

Hiroshima is one of the most diversed band in the country. Dan Kuromoto says, this is why we're together. We all dig what each other has to offer. Let's not make it impossible for people to connect with. Let's just do it suttlely for those to dig it. It's slightly different in flavor and that's what we've been trying to do for 30 years. Let's hope that they're around for 30 more.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Hiroshima
  • Subtitle: Their 30th Year Anniversary
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