The Joy of Christmas
2015 / John Paris Music
Review by Kathy Parsons
The Joy of Christmas is the follow-up to John Paris’ 2014 solo piano release, The Heart of Christmas, and contains ten traditional carols and four originals all composed and/or arranged in Paris’ inimitable jazz piano style. Sometimes smooth and easy, and sometimes more driving and upbeat, most of the fourteen tracks feel as though they were recorded with a big smile, truly expressing the joy of the Christmas season. Paris was awarded the 2015 Enlightened Piano Radio Jazz Piano Album of the Year for his previous Piano Jazz My Way and The Joy of Christmas clearly demonstrates why. Paris has had a long and very impressive musical career, so it’s a delight to see his musical gifts being more widely recognized and appreciated.
The Joy of Christmas begins and ends with different, very upbeat arrangements of “Go Tell It On the Mountain.” Paris’ walking bass and nimble right hand will grab your attention and get your toes tapping right away. “Joy To the World” is a bit more subdued, expressing the joy of the “good news” with grace and excitement. “It Came Upon the Midnight Clear” has the feeling of an easy-going jazz waltz - smooth and relaxed with a tasty assortment of jazz chords to give it a slight edge. I LOVE “Black Boots Boogie,” the first of the originals. If this isn’t pure joy set to music, I don’t know what is! This is my favorite track of the whole album! “Deck the Halls” continues the joyous happy dance on the piano keys, swirling and twirling all over the keyboard. “O Little Town of Bethlehem” recalls Antonio Carlos Jobim’s effortless style and infectious rhythms. The second original track, “Sneaking a Peek (Under the Christmas Tree),” captures the childlike excitement of checking out the mysterious packages under the tree, hoping to not get caught. Paris’ arrangement of “I Saw Three Ships” starts out with a bass line similar to the classic “Green Onions,” giving the song an instant groove that never quits. This has never been one of my favorite carols, but Paris’ arrangement really rocks - I love it! Paris’ own “Snowflakes Silently Falling” goes in a more ambient direction - slow, spare, and very beautiful - expressing the profound quiet of snowfall with occasional flashes of brilliant sparkles - a gorgeous piece and another favorite! “Good King Wenceslas” is classic jazz piano, full of fun and a driving rhythm. “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” has a gentler groove that builds as the piece evolves. Beginning as a quiet prayer, “Let Your Light Shine Down” has such a strong melody that I’m sure there must be lyrics for it. As the song goes along, it picks up the tempo, becoming more rhythmic and joyful and then mellows out again. The more thoughtful and reflective “Auld Lang Syne” overflows with warmth and sincerity - quite possibly my favorite arrangement of this piece. The closing second version of “Go Tell It On the Mountain” ends the album much as it began - dancing all over the piano keys and spreading joy to the world.
If you’re looking for a collection of jazzy and upbeat Christmas carols, The Joy of Christmas is sure to put a big grin on your face! It is available from Amazon, iTunes, and CD Baby. Check it out!
December 2, 2015