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Jazz’s Other Hiromi

Singer Hiromi Kanda releases her debut album

Hiromi Kanda
Hiromi Kanda
Hiromi Kanda

If someone asked you who Hiromi is, you’d surely respond that she’s a red-hot, Japanese piano virtuoso who graced the cover of JazzTimes a couple of months ago. But there’s another, less renowned Hiromi on the jazz scene. Hiromi Kanda. She, too, was born in Japan – Nagasaki, specifically – and spent most of her formative years in Osaka. There, courtesy of American music presented on armed forces radio broadcasts, she fell in love with the music of Sinatra, Nat “King” Cole and Peggy Lee. Determined to shape a singing career, at age 19 she, along with over two million other Japanese youngsters, auditioned for a regional, American Idol-esque talent show called A Star Is Born. Despite the seemingly insurmountable odds, she won the contest, was awarded a recording contract and delivered a debut album that earned respectable reviews and sales across Japan. But Hiromi decided she’d prefer to work on the opposite side of the microphone, so gave up performing to concentrate on songwriting.

Fast-forward several years. Hiromi, together with her husband Yusuke Hoguchi (a fellow enthusiast of the Great American Songbook), relocated to Seattle, and she decided it was time to step back into the spotlight. With her husband as producer, Hiromi last year spent time at Hollywood’s Siren Studios with a small army of musicians, under the direction of conductor, arranger, pianist and alto saxophonist Matt Catingub (perhaps best known to jazz fans as founder of Big Kahuna and the Copa Cat Pack and also for his work with Rosemary Clooney, as conductor of the Honolulu Symphony Pops, on her farewell album, The Last Concert). Working alongside Hiromi and Catingub were guitarist Jeff Peterson, bassist Steve Jones, drummer Darryl Pellegrini, pianist Dan Del Negro, percussionist Noel Okimoto, quadruple saxophonists Rocky Holmes, Scott Villiger, Larry Cook and Don Hutchison, backup vocalist Anita Hall and 27 members of the Honolulu Symphony Orchestra. (Clearly, someone in the Hiromi camp has very deep pockets). Together, they laid down the 13 tracks – 11 standards and two originals – that comprise Hiromi In Love.

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