The Bridge
(Heads Up, 2003)

I can remember listening to Hiroshima back in the late 1980s and early '90s when smooth jazz groups like the Rippingtons were quite the rage. Hiroshima's edge on this style was its seamless fusion of East meets West. Founding Hiroshima members June Kuramoto, Dan Kuramoto Johnny Mori and Danny Yamamoto have Japanese ancestry, but have grown up in the U.S. (Only June was born in Japan).

It appears I've missed a couple of albums, including Urban World Music (1996) and Between Black & White (1999), but it is nice to know that this band still knows how to put out great jazz. With the new CD, The Bridge, there is still a touch of the East, but the band has definitely moved on to some new ground.

For instance, the group performs variations of two soulful classics. Hiroshima covers the Isley Brother's "Caravan of Love" as well as George Benson's "I Just Want to Hang Around You." Back in 1989 when my favorite Hiroshima CD, East, was released, I would not have thought it possible for this group to incorporate songs of this nature in to their repertoire and put their stamp on them. More incredible to me is that I actually like these renditions enough to recommend you check them out!

So as not to disregard their past entirely, there are several instrumentals reminiscent of their former sound. "Manzanar" is a touching piece that is full of emotion. The promo sheet attributes this tune to what Dan Kuramoto's mother endured living in a World War II internment camp even though she was a citizen of the United States.

Hiroshima has been around for almost 30 years! The band was formed in 1974 in Los Angeles. While the core members have mostly remained the same, the lineup has changed a bit over the years. The current seven members include Dan Kuramoto (saxophones, flutes, shakuhachi, keyboards and vocals), June Kuramoto (koto, percussion), Danny Yamamoto (drums, taiko, percussion), Kimo Cornwell (keyboards, acoustic piano), Dean Cortez (bass, vocals), Terry Steels (lead vocals, percussion) and Fred Schreuders (guitars, vocals).

The Bridge is a very accessible smooth jazz CD. If you are a current fan, I do not see how you could be disappointed. If you have never heard the band before, The Bridge would be just as good a place to start as any of their many releases. Naturally, if you hear more of their work, you will find that there is quite a range to the music they play. However, there is a common theme that you will also find runs through their entire history -- East meets West. The Bridge, like their prior CDs, reaches across that gap.

- Rambles
written by Wil Owen
published 8 November 2003

Buy it from Amazon.com.