Snow began to fall for the first time this year as I listened to The Gate, by Taiko master Joji Hirota. As if they were suspended on the gentle melodies that rise from Hirota's shaku-hachi flute, soft white flakes floated down from a cool gray sky. The combination of the music and the moment filled the room with a peaceful mood that is sustained throughout the CD. Hirota's remarkable musical sensitivity is reflected in the synthesis of powerful Taiko percussion with sweeping orchestral movements and delicate solo vocal performances. The Gate captures the sublime and characteristically Japanese balance between the meticulously planned and the naturally emergent. If you are looking for the kind of thunder and fire produced by the Kodo drummers, The Gate will not lead you there. If, on the other hand, you desire a musical canvas that will melt the icicles off your day and wrap a blanket around your evening, Hirota's latest production has the gentle magic of snow. - Joshua S. Levin
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