Hiroshima

Spirit of the Season

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Just when you thought it wasn't possible to add another twist to traditional Christmas music, here come the soft jazz stalwarts of Hiroshima to prove you wrong. Spirit of the Season may offer only mild and gentle surprises, but they're surprises nonetheless: "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" as a big-band samba with koto; "Little Drummer Boy" in a plodding orchestral arrangement with heavy metal guitar obbligato and taiko drums (and koto); "I'll Be Home for Christmas" as a sort of gently funky quiet storm ballad, with koto -- you get the idea. Granted that challenging people's ears has never really been Hiroshima's gig, but it's still kind of disappointing that they didn't do a bit more with some of these arrangements. That version of "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" really could have swung a bit harder, and "Little Drummer Boy" could have swung at all. On the other hand, their version of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," which puts a closely miked alto flute at the center of the arrangement, is simply gorgeous, and their take on "White Christmas" offers a perfect balance between celebration and sadness. Nice, but not essential.

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