Monday, August 4, 2014

Day 1: World Port, Parranderos and Hiroshima

“Teaching music is not my main purpose. I want to make good citizens. If children hear fine music from the day of their birth and learn to play it, they develop sensitivity, discipline and endurance. They get a beautiful heart.” — Shinichi Suzuki, inventor of the international Suzuki method of music education

THE FIRST Music Under the Canopy Des Moines Jazz Festival kicked off the evening of August 1. World Port, featuring Paul Micich, was first up. They have such a cool vibe; I could listen to them for hours and hours. 

World-Port-Paul was gracious enough to ask my Paul to sit in on a couple of tunes.

The two Pauls are on the right.

The percussionist on the left is playing a cajón.

Among other instruments, the percussionist played a drum called a cajón. I'd never seen one before, and when I asked Paul what it was and he told me, I thought he said "cojones" which I thought rather scatalogical. 

Here's the definition from Wikipedia:

A cajón (Spanish pronunciation: [kaˈxon] (Ka-hon), "crate", "drawer", or "box with a hole in it") is nominally a six sided, box-shaped percussion instrument originally from Peru, played by slapping the front or rear faces (generally thin plywood) with the hands, fingers, or sometimes various implements such as brushes, mallets, or sticks.

Next in the lineup was the Latin band Parranderos with a very South American sound. Paul subbed for the regular trombone player, reading the whole set. It was all non-stop, very fast and loud which meant brass chops got a serious work out. The same percussionist played the cajón with Parranderos as well.

A reference photo from Google of a cajón, so you can
get a better idea of what one looks like.

The grand finale was Hiroshima. Here's what Wikipedia has to say about them:

Hiroshima is an American jazz fusion/smooth jazz/Asian-American jazz band formed in 1974 by Sansei Japanese American Dan Kuramoto (wind instruments and band leader), Peter Hata (guitar), June Kuramoto (koto), Johnny Mori (percussion and taiko), Dave Iwataki (keyboards) and Danny Yamamoto (drums). Named for the Japanese city of Hiroshima, the band is best known for the fusing of Japanese music and other forms of world music into its playing. Its early jazz-pop R&B sound gave the group a huge following among the African American community, and they are regarded as musical pioneers among the Asian American and Japanese American community. 

The twice-Grammy-nominated group has been extremely prolific. Below is a discography: 

Hiroshima (Arista/BMG) 1979
Odori (Razor & Tie/BMG) 1980
Third Generation (Epic/CBS) 1983
Another Place (Epic/CBS) 1985
Go (Epic/CBS) 1987
East (Epic/CBS) 1989
Providence (Epic/SME) 1992
L.A. (Qwest/Reprise/Warner Bros.) 1994
Urban World Music (Qwest/Warner Bros.) 1996
Between Black and White (Windham Hill/BMG) 1999
The Bridge (Heads Up) 2003
Spirit of the Season (Heads Up) 2004
Obon (Heads Up) 2005
Little Tõkyõ (Heads Up) 2007
Legacy 2009
Departure 2011

Current members of the band are:

June Kuramoto (Koto)
Dan Kuramoto (Flute)
 • Danny Yamamoto (Drums)
Kimo Cornwell (Keyboard)
Dean Cortez (Bass guitar)

Of those June, Dan and Danny are original founding members. 

I found their bios intriguing. June was born in Japan and raised in Los Angeles. As fate would have it, a renown koto master immigrated to the US and began teaching koto in June's family home. June started learning the instrument when she was just six years old. Besides being "the driving artistic force" of Hiroshima, she has performed with Ravi Shankar, Manhattan Transfer, Taste of Honey, Teddy Pendergrass and David Benoit. She also has major television and movie score performances to her credit such as the NBC show Heroes and movies Pirates of the Caribbean and The Last Samurai

I was particularly enamored of Dean, the bass player, who used to play with Boz Skaggs and the keyboardist, Kimo Cornwell.

Interestingly, before I knew their last names or read their bios, I got a sense that June and Dan were two people who used to be married, but were no longer. I was right. I picked up on the vibe.

Paul and I got some good pictures of them.

June on koto and Dan on flute.

Kimo Cornwell on keyboards.

Danny Yamamoto on drums.

Dan on flute.

The striking, June.

The only picture I got of Dean, the bass player, was in silhouette. I'm bummed.
He was the heartbeat of the band.

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