Hiroshima is a talented collage of musical styles

Published on April 1st, 2021

By Jim Dail

It’s a puzzling thing for a group of musicians to consistently wonder
exactly where they fit in the music industry. Yet, for Hiroshima, who play
Sunday at Thornton Winery as part of the 2006 Champagne Jazz Series, that’s
exactly what happens.
“We always struggle to figure out where we fit in,“ said band leader Dan
Kuramoto. “We’ve done this 20 years now and there’s still no place in a
record store to consistently find us. We are in 6 different bins. It’s
always an ongoing journey.”
It’s safe to say that Hiroshima may have actually created the problem
themselves because there’s really no category for the long-running band.
Made up of The band is essentially a combination of Japanese koto music,
taiko drumming, funk, pop, urban and jazz.
Last year’s performance at Thornton was centered around their latest
release, “obon,” a tribute to their culture, ancestors and history, received
rave reviews.
This time around the band doesn’t have a new album to work with.
“We’re going to try to record during the summer,” Kuramoto said. “We’ve
written a lot of material, more than on previous albums. We’ve done a lot of
records and we don’t really have a formula approach. We take it as it
comes.”
Part of that approach stems from the legendary Miles Davis.
“We toured with Miles Davis and we try to build on that experience,“ he
said. “Hearing Miles lecture his band he told them to play it like it’s the
first time and don’t play the same thing twice. We take that same approach
whether we are in the studio or live.”
“There are about 7 or 8 songs I know will be on the next album, but I don’t
know if we will try to create a theme or just put them together.”
The band uses the same approach for concerts.
“The natural point of the group is to be as original as we can be,” he said.
“The only way to do it is to draw it out of ourselves.  We really try to
preserve the soul of June’s material, but we are always trying different
things.“
A good case in point is the band’s focus on individual concerts and play
lists from prior performances.
“We play Thornton every year, so we go into computer where we have saved
each set list and go back three years to see what we’ve done there before,“
he said. “We try to never play the same song twice. It reinvigorates us to
keep doing new things.”
Naturally, like most jazz artists, Kuramoto loves being on stage.
“Recording can’t match the live concerts,“ he said. “Things we can do in the
recording studio we cant do live, and live is truly interactive. It’s really
a moment as an artist you are trapping the gift if you don’t explore it, it
might leave you.”
He’s especially wary of the modern pop movement.
“You can’t really vary much in modern pop production,“ Kuramoto said. “For
awhile, full production is a lot of fun. But now even some smooth jazz acts
have lots of pre-recorded stuff on stage to recreate a sound but its not
them on stage doing it. I’m not comfortable with that.“
What keeps them fresh after 20-plus years is the arrangements.
“We change arrangements to the songs all the time,“ he said. “We have so
many different styles – jazz, latin, hip hop. When you have a great musician
like June you can create a situation where you can do things for yourself.
She likes to be pushed. At least once every concert she starts a solo and
everyone just stops and she plays what she wants. We feed off that, and we
really don’t know where its going.”
For Kuramoto it’s all about the audience.
“There’s a creative energy every single time.” he said. “The audience pushes
us to do it. It’s what we are. We mix elements that no other band would or
at least not in the same way.”
As it turns out, maybe it’s good that Hiroshima doesn’t fit into an easy
niche when it comes to the music business.
“We can only do what we do,” he said. “As a result, we get pretty excited
about being creative. And when people at your shows follow your projects and
focus with you, it makes it that much better.

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