Hiroshima - Spirit of the Season


We have August. The sun is shining. More then 27 Celsius outside. Really a weather for relaxing and sweating. But Harrods in London have opened the Christmas season and Heads Up Records will release two Christmas albums in September 2004: Yellowjackets Peace Round and Hiroshima's Spirit Of the Season. My first impression: Hiroshima's album is the smoother one.

If you already listened to Hiroshima's music, you will know that they combine smooth jazz with the natural sound of the koto (a long Japanese multi-stringed instrument), which is performed by June Kuramoto. Hiroshima's multi-instrumentalist and co-founder Dan Kuramoto explains: " Our particular take on these traditional songs might say as much or maybe even more about who we are than our own music in some ways. These songs tap into common denominator among all of us."

Spirit of the Season is featuring Terry Steele's romantic and sensual vocals. The song is a smooth remembrance of the holidays of our youth and of our emotions we might have already lost. Kuramoto comments: " That song really talks about why we have Christmas in the first place. It's not about things you can buy, it's about the spirit you can share. We wanted to start with that notion, because that's the first thing that seems to get lost. When  most people think about Christmas, they think about going out and spending money and buying gifts. But they often don't think about taking the time to just be with people. That's the whole point of the record. It's about taking the time. Because that time is gone in a heartbeat. That's the truth for every single one of us."

Rudolph the red-nosed Reindeer came to life in 1939 when the Chicago-based Montgomery Ward company (operators of a chain of department stores) asked one of their copywriters, 34-year-old Robert L. May, to come up with a Christmas story they could give away to shoppers as a promotional gimmick. The story about this figure is told here. Hiroshima takes this old classic and add the typical koto sound. A nice variation.

You will love the Hiroshima version of Little Drummer Boy. This famous melody tells about a little boy who visits the young born Jesus in his manor. He has nothing to offer but his little drum. Harry Simeone wrote this with the help of Henry Onoroti and Katherine Davis. It is based on a Spanish song called "Tabolilleros." The group combines a jazzy piano and salsa rhythms with the synth-enhanced melody and delivers a fresh mixture.

Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas was composed by Hugh Martin and written by Ralph Blane for the film "Meet Me in St. Louis". The song was performed by Judy Garland. Dan Kuramoto's flute is the right instrument for this sensitive interpretation.

On Listen (To The Falling Snow) the band is using synth voices. 

Irving Berlin wrote the song White Christmas for the movie "Holiday Inn" starring Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire which was showed in 1942. Bing introduced "White Christmas" to the public on his NBC radio show, the Kraft Music Hall, December 25, 1941. Lead instrument of Hiroshima's song is the koto again.

I'll be Home for Christmas was written by Kim Gannon, Walter Kent, and Buck Ram and 
originally recorded by Bing Crosby in 1943. Hiroshima's R&B version is very contemporary. Kudos to the singer Terry Steele. Before he started as lead singer of Hiroshima, he has written a lot of songs for Luther Vandross, Whitney Houston and other stars of the R&B scene. He should really start a solo-career.

Peace on Earth begins in a smooth way but then this melody line is interrupted by Michael Sasaki's distortion guitar obviously to make some contrast. Originally Hiroshima borrows a riff from Mel Torme's classic "Christmas Song" but builds an entirely different theme around it.

Winter Wonderland was written by Felix Bernard and  Dick Smith and performed by Bob Hope. Since that time more then 1000 interprets have covered the original. You all know that jingle bells and Hiroshima's sledge-drive is very vivid. One of my favorites especially because of Kimo Cornwell's brilliant piano solo and Richie "Gajate" Garcia's excellent percussion arrangement.

Terry Steele shows up a special R&B/Gospel version with Thousand Cranes. He is backed by the 54th Street Choir. "Asia meets Gospel" describes the mood of this song. Tremendous!

Well, Silent Night is the classical Christmas song "par excellence". The song was originally composed by Franz Xaver Gruber in 1818. Which song could be better for the final curtain?

If you consider to buy a Christmas album this year, you should put this awesome album on your short list.