The perfect storm that is Hiroshima continues into its fourth decade
By J. Doug Gill
As soon as Hiroshima’s Dan Kuramoto grasps he’s being phone-interviewed from Maryland, the greetings took an immediate turn.
“Awww, man, I love Maryland oysters,” the multi-instrumentalist said before steering the interview toward one of what would be many varied directions.
With the common denominator being food, Kuramoto mentioned David Bowie, Iman, Cheech Marin and many other celebrity notables with whom he has a culinary connection.
“This band travels on its stomach, man,” Kuramoto cheerfully admits. “We’ve been known to select tour dates based on the location of nearby noteworthy restaurants.”
Kuramoto is a third generation Asian-American who grew up absorbing the Latin and African American cultures of East Los Angeles. Calling him “energetic” is similar to describing a tornado as just another whirlwind; there’s simply no descriptor that can do him justice.
He can rollercoaster through subjects ranging from the lack of arts education for children to his own art school days, from his multicultural upbringing to the diversity of the musical education received on the road with the legendary Miles Davis, and from the exceptional musicians and vocalists he’s been “blessed” to play alongside to the incredible 30 years of music he and his bandmates have provided.
The genre-defying ensemble that is Hiroshima has sold millions of records, garnered a couple Grammy nominations, had albums reach Gold status, topped the Billboard Contemporary Jazz chart for months, won a Soul Train ward, had their music featured on the PBS cooking show “Simply Ming” and toured with Davis. And that’s just an overview of their career––a musical vocation that is well into its fourth decade.
Still, Kuramoto––who was fresh from a morning appearance on the Pat & Kim show with Pat Prescott and Kim Amidon on Los Angeles-based radio station 94.7 The WAVE––finds it difficult to explain why the band enjoys continuing success, but he’s more than willing to take several stabs at it.
“Well, we’re totally multicultural and have always had a diverse musical palette to draw from,” Kuramoto began. “I don’t think we would have had such a long run had we settled into one particular genre.”
Instead, Hiroshima draws primarily from the influences of its two founding members, Dan and June Kuramoto.
“June started the band, man,” explained Dan Kuramoto, crediting the koto player for Hiroshima’s humble beginnings. “We all just kind of vibe into her world and become a band. Hiroshima has always been about the band.”
For all the dense diversity of Hiroshima’s music and influence, it is June’s koto––a 6-foot long, 13-string member of the zither family––that stamps this band with its inimitable sound.
“June is an extraordinary musician,” Kuramoto stated emphatically about the woman who has been his friend for nearly four decades and was his wife for nine of those years.
“The band is an arts community,” Kuramoto continued, confident he had adequately represented Hiroshima’s exotic blend of jazz, pop, R&B, Latin and traditional Japanese influences.
“You could always go with the Bill Cosby vibe,” he chuckled, reminiscing about an appearance at the Playboy Jazz Festival where the legendary comedian took a shot at describing the band.
“After our set, Cosby walked up to us,” Kuramoto said in his rapid-fire style, “and may have summed it all up by saying: ‘You know, you guys are a lot weirder than you think.’”
Nowhere is Hiroshima’s weirdly enticing musical stew as tasty as it is on 2009’s Legacy, a recording not only released in conjunction with the band’s 30th anniversary, but one that Kuramoto calls a “best of” collection (“It’s not a greatest hits album,” he repeated with each mention of the Grammy-nominated effort) because the band went in to the studio to “revisit” the most significant songs from their first decade.
“There were just so many songs to choose from,” Kuramoto said, referring to the tremendous catalog of material that had to be whittled down for inclusion on a single or double album. “Album, CD, tape,” Kuramoto added dryly, “whatever it is we’re calling them these days.”**
**The complete Hiroshima story can be found in the June issue of Smooth Jazz News. Pick up your free copy at our radio station affiliates (see radio station page for listings), various concerts, festivals and select Southern California outlets. Or you can subscribe and receive 10 issues of Smooth Jazz News per year, mailed monthly (except November and January), for $32. Click here to subscribe online today.
For more information on Hiroshima, including a complete tour schedule, visit www.hiroshimamusic.com.
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