Hiroshima Returning to Aratani Theatre

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From left: Dan Kuramoto, Kimo Cornwell, June Kuramoto, Dean Cortez, Danny Yamamoto. Photo credit: Jaimee Itagaki

From left: Dan Kuramoto, Kimo Cornwell, June Kuramoto, Dean Cortez, Danny Yamamoto. (Photo by Jaimee Itagaki)

Grammy Award nominee Hiroshima returns to the Aratani Theatre for its (nearly annual) 10th “Spirit of the Season” concert on Saturday, Dec. 14, at 7:30 p.m.

The concert provides a unique and engaging program of holiday songs done Hiroshima-style, and the Los Angeles premiere of their brand new CD, “J-Town Beat,” which is dedicated to JACCC visionary Duane Ebata, who passed away in 2000 at the age of 49.

Dan Kuramoto stated, “Hiroshima proudly presents our 10th ‘Spirit of the Season’ community event this year in partnership with Leslie Ito, the new president and CEO of the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center. We invite everyone to come out and support the JACCC and once again bring friends, see friends, and most importantly, celebrate our community, our heritage, and the true meaning of the holidays.

“We do this concert to encourage the community to come to Little Tokyo, visit favorite restaurants and sights, and to discover the new Little Tokyo and create new memories with family and friends. Please come and share in the fun and spirit of the season, meet the artists and do your holiday CD shopping at the show (at ‘show only’ discount prices).

“The JACCC and Ms. Ito support our mission to provide an opportunity for the community to experience artists they may not yet know. This year, Los AKAtombros, featuring Scott Nagatani, piano; Taiji Miyagawa, upright bass; Tracy Wannomae, alto saxophone; David Cheung, drums, will make its J-Town debut.”

A post-Holiday-Bowl-Crenshaw-District entity, LosAKAtombros formed in late 2012/early 2013 with the objective of serving as a vehicle for improvisational musical collaboration, including the use of traditional Japanese folk songs as exploratory springboards. Predominantly a Sansei group, the sensibilities are largely influenced by the works of African American composers Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane.

Special Hiroshima guest artists include Terry Steele (former Hiroshima lead vocalist) and internationally acclaimed harmonica virtuoso Tetsuya Nakamura (former member of War). The band will premiere songs from its new CD, and its program of holiday songs  will be highlighted by June Kuramoto’s hip version of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” Steele’s unforgettable version of “Silent Night,” a selection of new holiday hats, and much more.

“J-Town Beat” represents a new direction for Hiroshima, which features Dan Kuramoto on saxophone and flute, June Kuramoto on koto, Kimo Cornwell on keyboards, Danny Yamamoto on drums, and Dean Cortez on bass. Guest artists on the CD are Steele, master percussionist Kenny Endo, internationally renowned Latin percussionist Richie Gajate Garcia, and the extraordinary Vinx De’jon Parette, who lends his mysterious vocals to the project.

“We generally like to start a new CD with a concept,” stated Dan Kuramoto, “some notion, vibe, title that creates a ‘through line’ through the project. ‘J-Town Beat’ was really a concept conceived by our friend Duane Ebata. He was the driving force of the Japan America Theatre in Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo. Duane created a series of concerts that focused on Japanese American artists committed to exploring their own multiculturalism.

“We wanted to take Duane’s idea and apply it to an entire CD project. For us the preservation of ethnic enclaves is one of the keys to the cultural diversity of this country. That ‘mix’ is what makes this country so vibrant.”

“J-Town Beat” marks the 19th recording by Hiroshima, which has twice been nominated for a Grammy. With numerous gold records and nearing 4 million in worldwide record sales, this unique American ensemble embarks on a musical journey filled with colorful rhythms and melodies that evoke jazz, blues, R&B, Latin, pop — and their trademark blend of East and West.

The artists will be available to autograph CDs at special “Spirit of the Season” prices.

Tickets are available for $38 (orchestra) and $30 (balcony). JACCC members receive a special discount for tickets at $36 and $27, students and seniors $35 and $27, and groups of 10 or more $35 and $21. Call the Aratani Theatre box office at (213) 680-3700 to charge by phone, or buy tickets online at www.jaccc.org.

Visit www.hiroshimamusic.com to order the CD, check out the tour schedule, and sign up for the Hiroshima Community and receive special offers and discounts for members.

“J-Town Beat” is also available through cdbaby and Amazon.com. Visit Itunes to check out reviews or to post one. The CD can also be purchased in Little Tokyo at Rafu Bussan, 326 E. Second St. (closed Wednesday) and in Gardena at Cherrystones, 15501 S. Vermont Ave. (closed Monday).

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