Jazz Tunes entitled “Hiroshima” and “Nagasaki”

For most of the people born and raised in Japan, every August means very special, making them feel very solemn – Nuclear bombing in Hiroshima (Sunday, 8:15 AM, August 6, 1945) and Nagasaki (Thursday, 11:02 AM, August 9, 1945); the end of the World War II aka the Pacific War (Wednesday, August 15, 1945); and coincidentally Aug. 15 is the “Obon” day – Buddist custom to honor the spirits of ancestors. Although I really do know (even as a native Japanese) that there’s been many public debates and controversies around the world relating to the use of nuclear weapons, every August we Japanese renew our determination to attain peace, talking to ourselves we never want to repeat the tragedy.



HiroshimaCenotaph 2008 01.JPG
HiroshimaCenotaph 2008 01” by Taisyo – photo taken by Taisyo.
Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.


On the other hand, some of the Japanese have been enthusiastic about Jazz music for many years (even since before the end of the WWII) – of course I’m one of such Jazz fans for dozens of years. And I sometimes encounter the Jazz/Popular songs that make me feel very confused with mixed emotions. “Hiroshima” by Albert Ammons is one of them.

その一方で、日本人の中には熱狂的なジャズファンが長らくいたわけで、私もその1人なのですが、そんな私がたまに複雑な気持ちにさせられたり、どう受け止めたらいいのかよく分からなくなる、そんなジャズやポピュラーの楽曲に出会うことがあります。アルバート・アモンズ (Albert Ammons) の「Hiroshima」という演奏もそんな曲です。


Albert Ammons And His Rhythm Kings:

Gene Ammons (ts), Albert Ammons (p), Ike Perkins (g), Israel Crosby (b), Al Burroughs (ds).
                                                 Recorded in Chicago, IL on August 6, 1947

931-1    S.P. Blues      Mercury 8063; Mercury MG 25012; EmArcy EMS 2-400
932-1    Hiroshima       Mercury 8063; EmArcy EMS 2-400

The tune entitled “Hiroshima” was recorded on August 6, 1947 – second anniversary of Hiroshima bombing. On the other hand, this tune is the retitling of “Nagasaki”, a typical Tin Pan Alley song and Jazz standard tune composed way back in 1928 by Harry Warren and Mort Dixon. Ammons recorded “Nagasaki” in 1936, and the rendition by the sextet is the definite classic.

この「Hiroshima」という曲は、1947年8月6日、即ち広島に原子爆弾が投下された2年後に録音されました。またこの曲はもともと「Nagasaki」という曲の改題でもあります。「Nagasaki」は、1928年に ハリー・ウォレン (Harry Warren) と モート・ディクソン (Mort Dixon) によって作曲された、典型的なティン・パン・アレーの楽曲で、ジャズのスタンダードでもあります。アモンズは 1936年にこの曲を録音し、決定的な名演奏となっています。

Albert Ammons And His Rhythm Kings:

Guy Kelly (tp), Dalbert Bright (as, cl),
Albert Ammons (p), Ike Perkins (g), Israel Crosby (b), Al Burroughs (ds).
                                                Recorded in Chicago, IL on February 13, 1936

90567-A    Nagasaki                  Decca 749
90568-A    Boogie Woogie Stomp       Decca 749

The performances of “Nagasaki” (1936) and “Hiroshima” (1947) themselves by Albert Ammons are simply awesome. Ammons’ Boogie Woogie piano is rolling and romping, “Hiroshima” even featuring magnificent tenor improvisasion by Gene Ammons (Albert’s son).

Nagasaki」(1936) と「Hiroshima」(1947) の演奏自体は、本当に素晴らしいものです。アモンズのブギウギピアノはどこまでもロールし跳ねまくり、「Hiroshima」では息子の ジーン・アモンズ (Gene Ammons) による素晴らしいテナーソロも聴かれます。

Decca 749

Boogie Woogie Stomp c/w Nagasaki
Albert Ammons and His Rhythm Kings
(Decca 749)

When the tune “Nagasaki” was composed in 1928, the title itself meant almost nothing – it was just one of the “exotic” novelty songs, and the lyrics only have the vaguest relation to the port city in Kyushu, the southwest island among the main four. Then during the 1930s and early 1940s it became one of the jam classics. And after the WWII, Albert Ammons recorded the tune again with his son Gene for Mercury Records on August 6, 1947, retitling it to “Hiroshima”, two years after the Hiroshima bombing.



I don’t have any offensive emotion to these musicians and this weird, peculiar story. Nevertheless, as a Japanese, I always have very strange feeling when listening to these tunes, no matter what the performances are really great. Also, “Hiroshima” and “Nagasaki” always come in my mind in August every year somehow.


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