Release Date:
August 18, 2009

Reviewed by:
Woody Wilkins

Where to begin?  It can be a tough choice when something is so good, you’re afraid of overlooking something.  That’s a quick summation of Legacy, Hiroshima’s retrospective of their first 30 years of recording.

In recent years, a number of artists have gone back into their collections and remade some favorites, freshening up arrangements here, adding in some concert-style solos there, and basically re-energizing their music.  One drawback: For the most part, it seems to be one and done.  If your favorite isn’t among those remade, too bad.

Hiroshima aims to change that.  Legacy is the first of what the band envisions as a series, this installment reflecting on the first decade.  The Los Angeles-based group debuted in 1979, merging the cultures of soft jazz, soul/R&B and Asian music -- an eclectic blend of contemporary jazz instruments, such as keyboards, saxophone, bass, and drums, with Asian instruments like the koto and some Latin percussion.

The six-piece ensemble now consists of June Kuramoto, vocals and koto; Dan Kuramoto, flutes, saxes, synths, shakuhachi and vocals; Kimo Cornwell, piano, keyboards and synths; Danny Yamamoto, drums and percussion; Dean Cortez, bass; and Shoji Kameda, taiko and percussion.  Guests who have contributed to previous recordings are Terry Steele, vocals; Yvette Nii, vocals; Jim Gilstrap, vocals; Richie Gajate Garcia, conga, timbales and percussion; and George del Barrio, string arrangements.

“One Wish,” the soulful track that broke onto mainstream radio in 1985, is juiced up a little.  The pace is slightly faster than the original.  The noticeable change is during the middle break.  Cortez’s funky bass and some sharp synths work by Dan Kuramoto and Kimo Cornwell precede June Kuramoto’s koto solo.
Guitarists John “Doc” McCourt and Leslie Chew add a rock flavor to “Dada,” which originally appeared on the group’s self-titled debut album.  Nii sings lead.

“Another Place,” the title song to their 1985 album, is a different animal here.  The original, a laid-back groove and arguably one of the coolest songs Hiroshima has ever done, was way too short.  In this version, the melody is faster, getting more notes in before the song morphs.  Starting at about the two-minute mark, the band goes through a series of improvisations.  Early on, the bass line is borrowed from The Temptations’ “Papa Was a Rolling Stone.”  After a quiet period, the energetic pace resumes with the koto solo.  In the next stage, the synth quotes from Bronislau Kaper’s “Invitation.”

Some of these songs are merely updates of Hiroshima favorites.  Others capture the mood of their live shows.  It all comes together wonderfully.