So cool, it's smokin' hot. Hiro Honshuku (with the A-No-Ne Christmas) has once again brewed stunningly stylish jazz vibes in Not That Silent Night. I reviewed another Honshuku holiday release earlier this season (check it out here), and it also epitomized "cool."
Honshuku's flute artistry is joined by the guitar (Gustavo Assis-Brasil) and vibraphone (Natalie Dietrich), making for a neat trio that spends more than eight minutes per track (on average) reconstructing six well-known holiday gems in tricked-out ways that delight and satisfy. This is spontaneous, vibrant jazz a la Miles Davis, and the musicians are sharp and sweet. As each lengthy cut develops, the artists bob and weave with exceptional artistry, and the listener loses touch with the original melody for long sections of glorious improvisation before the players swing back to the holiday number's core. The production values shimmer, and the three musicians are a delight. The three instruments--flute, guitar, and vibraphone--are so distinctive, yet the voices complement each other unusually well, and the listener can easily track the different voices as the fluid arrangements progress. Wonderful!
True jazz aficionados should enthusiastically embrace this offering without hesitation. Every track has something special to offer. The minor interpretations on Drummer Boy cast a mystical aura that contrasts nicely with the major bars, a juxtaposition that keeps listeners guessing throughout the number. The opener, Angel, is probably my favorite cut; the guitar foundation is folksy, the vibraphone runs are inspired, and Honshuku's fantastic flute flies above the fray. It's a charmer.
Congratulations to Hiro Honshuku and the A-No-Ne Christmas. Not That Silent Night is an outstanding jazz instrumental album that will render even the coldest December night far cooler.
--Carol Swanson (Reviewed in 2006)