Jazz Fusion at the Broad

Japanese traditional instruments were in perfect harmony with western instruments at the Broad Stage at SMC Performing Arts Center on Friday night. The collaboration of those musical instruments formulated brilliant Smooth Jazz numbers which entertained the audience in the hall.

A talented Jazz fusion band "Hiroshima" was on the stage on May 1. Dan Kuramoto, the leader of the band, alternately played saxophone, flute, shakuhachi (Japanese end-blown flute) and keyboard. June Kuramoto who is the driving artistic force of Hiroshima plucked the strings of Koto (Japanese stringed musical instrument) and James "Kimo" Cornwell putting on a cool black hunting cap played keyboard. Danny Yamamoto with a towel tied around his head in Japanese traditional style beat a western drum. Shoji Kameda, the newest member of the band, beat Taiko (a Japanese drum) dynamically next to the western drum set. Dean Cortez who is known as "Brother" in the band played the bass guitar. Dynamic Taiko sounds and the high tone of Koto were distinguished in the Jazz numbers they played.

Hiroshima debuted with the album self-titled "Hiroshima" in 1979. Since then, the band has focused on a "one world philosophy which seamlessly blends Asian and North American culture to reflect both cultural and spiritual connections." Indeed, Dan Kuramoto, Yamamoto, and Kameda are Japanese American and June Kuramoto is a Japan native (she was born in Saitama prefecture in Japan and came to L.A. at a young age) in the band. Cornwell was born in Hawaii and has Chinese and English ancestry. And Cortez is originally from Florida. Yamamoto said that the members leaned how to play Japanese instruments from Japanese Americans in the U.S.

Hiroshima played one jazz number after another with warm applause from the audience. June Kuramoto said that the nature bounty in Hawaii inspired them and they composed one number to save the place. As she said, the number was very peaceful. Also, Hiroshima played Koto blues because they want more Americans to know Koto. It appealed to not only American but also one of Japanese audience. Yoichi Higuchi, a student who is majoring in film studies at SMC said "I like Koto blues because it took more advantage of the original characteristic Koto has than other numbers." In the latter portion of the show, the collaboration of Taiko and western drums had no sense of discomfort and formulated energetic music.

The audience consisted largely of people who were the same generation as Hiroshima, members in their forties and fifties. Some people looked like they came there after work. Everyone was keeping their eyes on the band with a smile on their face. When the members snapped, the audience pumped up the show by doing it together. In each solo part, they cheered on the musician. At the end of the show, Hiroshima received a long standing ovation.

As Hiroshima used both Japanese and western instruments, their music didn't have any borders. We can't categorize their music as country. That's why their music is popular among various people. It was expected that a more Japanese audience would visit the show at SMC because of Japanese traditional instruments. However the majority of audience members were American which are in various race groups. It indicates that borderless and great music is accepted by many people beyond national borders and the difference of race and ethnicity matters not. "It was a good show and really fun," Yamamoto said after the show. He looked fulfilled because audience took in Hiroshima. "They gave us energy back," he said.