Hiroshima's newest release, appropriately entitled "Departure" after leaving their label behind to pursue a career on their own terms as independent recording artists, is a solid and thoroughly enjoyable jazz album. Although the group is so distinctive that they probably should have their own genre to better describe their songs (perhaps Urban World Music), jazz lovers and music enthusiasts of every genre can enjoy this CD, which just may be their greatest work yet. Hiroshima's style has yet to be duplicated, and "Departure," which boasts nine tracks, is pure listening pleasure from the first track to the last.
My personal favorite on the album was the first track, "Have You Ever Wondered," which is a sensual and romantic piece, featuring Tetsuya "Tex" Nakamura. "Koto Cruise" allows Kimo Cornwell to really shine along with June Kuramoto , with a big Hiroshima signature sound and perfect chord ."Blues for Sendai" is a grooving mid tempo jazz waltz with soft intimate fluting played at a leisurely pace and a rich, warm sound. Cascading pads, cleverly punctuated rhythms, great piano and continuous bass along with great voicing enhance this song, which clearly shows that Hiroshima is still at the top of their game and stronger than ever. "Smiling Jack" features a funky drum solo with a Koto and flute melody, and big tenor sax exchanges. A nice B section with the Tenor sax and a funky breakdown with building organ padding into a nice solo and string section are the reason Jack must be smiling.
"See You Again" is a tribute to the late, great James Moody who was a mentor and friend to Hiroshima. The song is a tender farewell with a beautiful melody, tinged with heartfelt tones, with the Tenor and Koto interplay over the soft Rhodes textures engaging the listener. The touch of "Moody's Mood For Love," is quoted from sax solo to Rhodes solo, "There I go. There I go."
The vocal drone sets the tone for "Yamasong Duet," which is a cool and interesting piece with a unique chant and serious groove. The tempo change as a transition to a Taiko type percussion section adds an unexpected but exciting bit of spice to this number. "First Nation," showcases sounds of the Shakuhachi Flute and the Koto, and vocal textures build into a cool jazzy horn section with some great soprano sax, which are very reminiscent of Weather Report. The unmistakable style of Hiroshima is driven by a McCoy Tyner type piano solo that show the group's tremendous fusion of traditional jazz with the world of Japanese instrumental textures. The quoting of ‘Afro Blue' adds major coolness here.
"Thousand Cranes" is a beautiful, expansive piece which is greatly complemented by the Koto and orchestral arrangements. The melody is simply enchanting, and fans will find this to be one of the best tracks on the album. The last song, "One Wish," has a nice intimate sound with piano and the breathy flute tones without drums, followed by the classic reprise of the Hiroshima Classic, yet unplugged version. With the world in such chaos and turmoil today, "One Wish" is a fantastic way to speak to many hearts, sending a message through music that mere words cannot properly convey.
Hiroshima is a master jazz band, legends in their own time, and "Departure" will take you to many moods and places – all of them exciting and wonderful, hypnotic and tranquil. There's something for everyone here, and this reviewer is both amazed and pleased that the band, after more than 30 years in the music business and 18 CDs, continues to push the envelope and remain innovative, genuine, and extraordinary.