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Album Review: Best of Christmas
John Paris
Cover image of the album Best of Christmas by John Paris
Best of Christmas
John Paris
2021 / John Paris Music
55 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
Best of Christmas is a compilation album of fourteen songs from pianist/composer John Paris' three previous Christmas albums (Christmas Past and Present 2016, The Joy of Christmas 2015, and The Heart of Christmas 2014). Paris chose the songs he feels are the best from those albums, and then re-edited and remastered them to improve the quality of the sound, which is warm, inviting and very expressive. The album also features a new version of "The Santa Shuffle" with vocals by Mark Kaye and more of a big band sound than the piano/vocal of the first version; it's the only track that isn't solo piano. Most of the tracks are energetic and jazzy, expressing the joy of the Christmas holidays, but there are several that are slow, pensive and graceful, which creates a beautiful contrast. Three songs were composed by Paris, including my all-time favorite, "Black Boots Boogie."

Best of Christmas begins with "We Three Kings," a carol that can handle all kinds of different musical treatments with ease. This one could have been inspired by Dave Brubeck with its jazz chords, rhythms and improvised passages. I really like Paris' arrangement! "A Waltz for Christmas" is a Paris original that overflows with romance and love - beautiful and heartfelt! "O Little Town of Bethlehem" has an unusual bossanova rhythm that works really well. Slow and relaxed, it's a unique arrangement! As I mentioned above, I love Paris' "Black Boots Boogie"! He has played it live at a couple of my house concerts and it's a real toe-tapper and smile-maker. Don't miss this one! "Toyland" is a beautifully nostalgic waltz and Paris' arrangement is tender and innocent. There has been a trend the last several years to make "Jingle Bells" a sentimental ballad, but Paris' version is full of fun and excitement - another jazzy toe-tapper! "O Christmas Tree" is a slow jazz ballad for most of the first half of the track and becomes brighter and livelier with each new verse before returning to the slow ballad style near the end. Paris pulls out all the stops for "Go Tell It On the Mountain," and I'd be willing to bet that no one can sit still all the way through this one! The pairing of "All Through the Night" and "Silent Night" is a lovely expression of what "Peace On Earth" could feel like - blissful! I haven't heard many jazz arrangements of "What Child Is This," but Paris' version is smooth and really works - another favorite. "Joy To the World" and "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" are almost euphoric as they dance all over the piano keyboard. At the beginning, "Auld Lang Syne" slows it way down to a nostalgic, wistful tempo, with some passages more improvised than others, returning to the melody near the end. The album closes with Paris' new version of "The Santa Shuffle," which is sure to bring a smile and make the holidays a little brighter!

Best of Christmas is available from Amazon, Apple Music/iTunes and streaming sites like Spotify. Enjoy!
November 27, 2021