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For a band as long-lived as Hiroshimaand one that has enjoyed as extensive a recording careerthe gap in its career is the lack of a proper retrospective of 30 years in the music industry.
Legacy represents both a celebration of Hiroshima's first decade and something of a compromise. Over 11 tracks the group revisits some of its best-known recordings, including "One Wish," "Hawaiian Electric" and "Winds of Change," but these are new re-recordings of the songs, not the original studio versions.
Legacy isn't designed to be the definitive Hiroshima anthology, but it does represent a sampling of where the band was in the '80s and how it continues to evolve and explore the parameters of its unique blending of East-meets-West musical styles.
Hiroshima is not the same band in 2009 as it was in 1979, when it recorded its debut album. The band's personnel have changed, technology has changed and the music has evolved over three decades. Original memberssaxophonist/multi-instrumentalist Dan Kuramoto, kotoist June Kuramoto and drummer Danny Yamamotoare joined by longtime bassist Dean Cortez, keyboardist Kimo Cornwell, "new guy" Shoji Kameda on his big, booming taiko drum, and other members of the extended Hiroshima family.
Hiroshima maintains its innovative edge by being respectful to the original material, but not so slavishly faithful that it can't push the envelope a bit and stretch its musical muscles. June Kuramoto's koto remains at the core of the band, and the other instrumentalists build around her.
"One Wish" was the crossover hit that captured the attention of many listeners to the Hiroshima sound, and still retains a timeless beauty 24 years after its debut. The guitar leads by John "Doc" McCourt on "Dada" and Yvette Nil's vocals on "Dada," along with Yamamoto's pummeling drums, are reminders of where the "rock" in jazz/rock came from.
The lush and gorgeous "Thousand Cranes" is a tribute to Sadako Sasaki, who was two years old when the atomic bomb was dropped on the city of Hiroshima. Sasaki developed leukemia when she turned 11, and in following the advice of a friend that the gods would grant a wish if she folded 1000 paper cranes. Sasaki folded 644 cranes before passing away. Jim Gilstrap and Terry Steele's lead vocals are joined by the entire band's backing harmonies, lifting this ode to peace into the sonic stratosphere.
Hiroshima's career arc includes its share of peaks and valleys but it's a varied one, and Legacy makes a good jumping-on point for new fans and an essential addition for completists. The liner notes suggest Legacy is the first installment of a series. In the process of fondly looking back at where they've been, Hiroshima continues to boldly push forward.
Track Listing: Winds of Change, Turning Point, One Wish, Dada, I've Been Here Before, East, Roomful of Mirrors, Another Place, Save Yourself For Me, Hawaiian Electric, Thousand Cranes.
Personnel: June Kuramoto: koto, vocals; Dan Kuramoto: flutes, saxes, shakuhachi, synths, flute, vocals; Kimo Cornwell: piano, keyboards, synths; Danny Yamamoto: drums, percussion; Dean Cortez: bass; Shoji Kameda: taiko, percussion; Terry Steele: lead vocal (9), vocals; Yvette Nil: lead vocal (4, 7); Jim Gilstrap: vocals; Richie Gajate Garcia: congas, timbales, percussion; George Del Barrio: string arrangements; Derek Nakamoto: additional string programming; John
Jazz is a continuing revelation. The best show I ever attended was the
Roots Picnic at Penn's Landing in Philadelphia, or was it Robert
Glasper's Experiment at Lincoln Center, or was it Chick Corea with
Brian Blade at Oberlin College? Most of all I enjoy playing guitar and
composing beats with my Brooklyn-based group Space Captain.