Artists Worth Knowing About: Hiroko Kokubu


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Here is another cool album to savor while you have family or friends over for dinner, have on as simple background music while you are at work, or driving around on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

Born in Tokyo, Japan, this pianist/composer studied classical piano at the famed Kunitachi Music College while playing classics such as Ravel and Schubert.  Once she graduated, she moved to New York and began studying under the steady guidance of some awesome musicians such as Barry Harris.

According to the website, she composed her first album in 1987 titled, “More Than You Know” which was released first in Japan under the JVC label (the same people that once made the popular VHS blank videocassettes for many years).  The album was also released in the U.S. and Canada by GRP Records and by most accounts at that time, it was very well received.

The album that I highlight this week is Bridge–recorded and mixed by Don Murry at Hollywood’s Sunset Sound Studios and released in 1997.  It is both a steady and consistent album with 2 of the first three tracks being medium paced in nature, and the remaining tracks all being very methodical and slow.

Of her nine remaining albums that were released in Japan, four made their way across the Pacific Ocean into the United States.  Other albums were also spotted in pockets of Europe and Asia, as Brazilian jazz continued its’ migration to other corners of the globe (please see my past blogs under the Cafe Roma heading to learn more about Brazilian jazz being a steady player in Italy).

In 1997, she moved to Los Angeles and played alongside the likes of Don Grusin and Ivan Lins–a future blog subject.  By summer 1998, she delighted the crowds at the Montreux Jazz Festival in her native Japan when she teamed up with legendary jazz artist George Duke along with Phil Perry.

Did you know…
Hiroko is also known for her unique ability to engage in periodic banter on-stage, a skill she developed while as a radio disk jockey and later as an anchor woman on CNN in Japan.

I also found interesting the album cover is not your typical plastic jewel case.  Rather, it is similar to holding a children’s picture book–complete hardcovers to boot.  When you finally get to the last page, the disk is enclosed inside a cardboard envelope–a similar practice many independent rock artists have been resorting to in recent years from the likes of Sleater-Kinney’s first ever live album from a March 2015 concert at Le Cigale in Paris to the Deluxe album by Great Britain’s popular indie artist Florence Welch from Florence and The Machine’s mega popular 2015 release, How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful.

Just fyi–the first few pages talked about the XRCD method that JVC used to make this recording sound beautiful on most CD players.  The extended resolution can really be felt with each piano key she hit on her piano.

Overall, it is a very nice album–definitely both on the calm and laid-back side.  Considering the state of the United States after Donald Trump’s first wild week in the White House, this album is a true keeper to have on hand.

Next week, I hope to highlight Salena Jones and a lady simply known as Ceu, who rocketed up the Brazilian charts shortly after the Olympic flame was finally extinguished inside Rio’s legendary Maracana Stadium.

Please enjoy the rest of your weekend and do your best to stay safe.




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