How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
The Japanese-American band Hiroshima's Windham Hill Jazz debut,Between Black and White, offers its most memorable moments when the band leans closer to its Japanese roots, such as on the ethereal "Dreams" the mysterious, percussive "Picasso's Dance," and the brief percussion-only interlude "Omo Tai." But on many other cuts, only June Kuramoto's koto saves the band from sounding like any generic, faceless contemporary ensemble. At one time, the band had a highly recognizable, energetic and personable sound, but on their last several releases they've absorbed so much formula that they've lost most of their uniqueness. The potent rhythm team of founding members Danny Yamamoto (drums) and Johnny Mori (taiko) have been supplanted by drum loops, and they make only occasional appearances (Yamamoto often provides only cymbals). Likewise, guitarist Fred Schreuders and bassist Dean Cortez see only limited action; the musical focus is primarily on the keyboards and programming of Kimo Cornwell and Dan Kuramoto. It's a sufficiently enjoyable program, I just think that the band could exploit their special musical personality more fully and consistently throughout the date. (Windham Hill Jazz 11464)
Tracks:Mix Plate; Dreams; The Door is Open; Joe Jazz; Sup Poze; Picasso's Dance; After the Rain; Things Unsaid; Circle of Friends; World of Dreams; Omotai; Sol Cruz. (51:53)
June Kuramoto, koto; Dan Kuramoto, soprano and tenor sax, keyboards, synthesizers, programming, shakuhachi, alto flute; Kimo Cornwell, keyboards; Rhodes, acoustic piano, synthesizers, programming, Hammond B-3; Danny Yamamoto, drums, cymbals, djembe; Johnny Mori, taiko, okedo, odaiko; Dean Cortez, bass; Fred Schreuders, guitar; Land Richards, drums; Michael Paulo, drum programming; Karen Hwa-Chee, Han, Er-Hu, Richie Gajate-Garcia, Luis Conte, percussion, Hammer Smith, chromatic harmonica; Vince Charles, vibraphone; Mary Garcia, flute; Terry Steele, vocals.