For the record I enjoy Asian influences in cuisine, art, decor, music and just about every aspect of culture you can imagine. Just not here.
Japan's musical answer to Bela Fleck and The Fleck Tones is not making some dramatic departure away from the smooth jazz clay pigeons they have been tossing out over the past several years. Departure acknowledges artists that cover a multitude of genres be they jazz or not, you simply have to be able to pull your own commercial weight if you desire the major label tag next to your name. Hiroshima has racked up roughly 30 years in the recording industry which alone is worth serious consideration as a group of artistic merit. While taste is subjective perhaps the Koto performances have started to wear as thin as Bela Fleck's passing off Dave Brubeck banjo solos as jazz has become for a significant portion of their audience. A solid case as to why Hiroshima finds themselves one of the many talented independent artists attempting to continue to peddle their musical wares is a lack any real originality.
Departure is like Charlie Brown's Christmas tree. Not necessarily bad, Departure may simply need a little love. "Have You Ever Wondered" may be the highlight of the release with a marvelous harmonica solo and "Blues For Sendai" is an inspired piece paying homage to those that perished during the catastrophic earthquake of 2011. Outside of a few bright spots the band continues to rehash old news if not old tunes one of which being "A Thousand Cranes."
Hard core fans of Hiroshima should find plenty to take solace in while potential new fans may well never find this release. There is essentially no new ground cut here, not that there has to be. Departure may be an apt title that finds some fans moving on to greener pastures.
Tracks: Have You Wondered; Koto Cruise; Blues For Sendai; Smiling Jack; See You Again; Yamasong Duet; First Nation; Thousand Cranes; One Wish.
Personnel: Dan Kuramoto: saxophones, flutes, synths, shakuhachi; percussion; June Kuramoto: koto; Kimo Cornwell: piano, keyboards, synths; Danny Yamamoto: drums, percussion; Dean Cortez: bass; Shoji Kameda: taiko, percussion, throat singing; Tetsuya "Tex" Nakamura: harmonica.