The Heads Up label has made easily available two holiday releases that had previously only been available online. The Yellowjackets and Hiroshima both had seasonal CDs available through the web sites but, since both groups are on the label?s roster, they now enjoy retail exposure and greater online availability. You can hear music from both recordings on TomorrowJazz Radio throughout the holiday season. You can support this site by purchasing Hiroshima’s Spirit of the Season and Yellowjackets’ Peace Round from Amazon.com.
In my review of Peace Round last year, I said “Yellowjackets don?t stray too far from the familiarity of songs like ?Little Drummer Boy, ?God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,? and ?Deck the Halls? yet still jazz them enough to make them unique and interesting.” Read the whole review here.
Even though Hiroshima had songs on a couple of Windham Hill holiday compilations, Spirit of the Season is the first full holiday release from the band. After listening to this 11-song collection, I?m ready for the sequel. This is an excellent holiday recording and makes me wonder why they haven?t done it before. June Kuramoto?s koto again is the highlight. The distinctiveness of the koto sound makes many of the traditional holiday songs sound like new. June?s expressiveness on ?White Christmas? and playfulness on ?Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer? demonstrate her mastery of the instrument. The latter song is the best rendition I?ve heard of that song in a long time. Also notable, and appropriate given Hiroshima?s east-meets-west sound, is the use of taiko drums on ?Little Drummer Boy.? Two new instrumentals also add to the fun: the atmospheric ?Listen (To the Falling Snow)? and the uplifting ?Peace On Earth.? The group?s classic ?Thousand Cranes? is revisited and is enhanced with a gospel choir. Overall, Spirit of the Season succeeds in evoking that special feeling of the holiday. It?s perfect for every holiday occasion ? decorating your tree, dinner party, or just listening on your own. Even better, tell your friends!