Black and White
Now in its third decade, Hiroshima still boasts an instantly recognizable, one-of-a-kind sound, evidenced on the band's new release Black & White (Windham Hill 01934-11464-2; 51:54). What keeps founding partners Dan and June Kuramoto going is a unique ability to stretch boundaries, interweaving the magical, delicate strains of the koto in all kinds of unexpected areas. On Black & White, these wild frontiers include Latin percussion-scapes (the salsafied Asian "Sol Cruz," featuring Richie Garcia and Luis Conte), and bluesy Hammond B-3 textures ("Sup Pose," providing a stretch for keyboardist Kimo Cornwell). Hiroshima's fans will find plenty of the band's trademark dreamy moodscapes here, on sensual melodies like "World of Dreams," and the shuffling "Mix Plate," but also key surprises. "Dreams" spotlights Karen Hwa-chee Han on the Er-hu, a Chinese violin which warbles in delicate quavering tones as harmony to Kuramoto's koto-in a thoroughly modern snap-beat rhythm. Best (and, appropriately, strangest) of all may be "Picasso's Dance," which finds Kuramoto strumming a brisk, cornered flamenco-styled koto, which on the light-toned instrument produces an eerie, delicate effect. Add in dark percussion, resonating like distant thunder, and you have an instant classic from the endlessly creative minds of Hiroshima.