Tis the Season of enjoying the merriment of wonderful Christmas music! Yet somehow as we wander thru the maze of perceived sales, picking thru the circulars of what should be on the shelves, we can get a little dizzy listening to the same playlist of muzak themed endorsements circa 1958.
It’s always refreshing to find new approaches to traditional holiday melodies that resonate the true spirit of the season. Today, I introduce three CDs from two artists with future household names. This music is both profound and engaging. They have become my favorite choices in the car and around the tree as Lori, our daughters and I sip hot chocolate and decorate everything in sight!
Phillip K Jones II has released two very different and distinct Christmas discs which are an extension of his musical personality. As a graduate of the Oberlin Conservatory, PKJ is extremely prolific in the depths of jazz. Also being a Praise and Worship leader who grew up as an organist / director in his dad’s church, Phil’s choir enraptures a hearty Christmas, with sensational jazz sensibilities.
His first holiday release, appropriately titled “The Meaning of Christmas
,” begins with the sterling’What Child is This
‘ featuring exceptional saxophonist, Diego Rivera and proceeds to reconstruct the passion of the most sacred traditional favorites like ‘We Three Kings,’ ‘O Holy Night,’ ‘Angels, We Have Heard on High’ and ‘O Come, Emmanuel’
as well as the popular ‘I’ll Be Home for Christmas’ and ‘Carol of the Bells’
which features former SounDoctrine
sideman, Keith McKelley
, who released his own holiday project last year. ‘Hark, The Herald Angels Sing
,’ the lone choral selection is a sparkling rendition of the classic, oddly reminiscent of the Andrew Sisters for the new school!
This 2008 release features the multitalented Jones on Piano, Organ, Bass and Drums with help from Christopher Mees (Acoustic Bass) and Tony Pulitzi (Guitar). If you’re a fan of Oscar Peterson, John Coltrane or Kenny Kirkland, this is perfect music for keeping the zing in your Christmas Party!
Phil released “Come Let Us Adore Him”
in 2011, utilizing the gifted voices of Cleveland choir, Fellow Worshippers.
No doubt about it, this CD takes you straight to the altar!
To prove his dexterity, the fiery pianist completely revamps the aforementioned ‘Angels’ for the wailing choir then places them in a scenic cathedral for the brimming ‘Emmanuel.’ If you’re hip to the term “Get Your Praise On!” you can’t help but do so on ‘Go Tell It On The Mountain.’ Musical disciples of Kirk Franklin & Fred Hammond will appreciate the snappy “Joy To The World’ and the original composition, ‘Angels, from the Realm of Glory.’ The CD provides many contemplative moments to bow and worship The King with ‘Lord, I Thank You,’ ‘It Came Upon A Midnight Clear’ and ‘Thou Didst Leave Thy Throne.’
This thrill packed set displays the prowess of anointed, faith filled, expert musicianship, superb production and a choir perfectly comfortable balancing the acrobatic tightrope of jazzy syncopation and the power of pentecost!
Serene, reflective and meditative are a few of the words that come to mind when I put on Jim Couchenour’s (pronounced Coke-In_Hour) “Quiet Canvas Christmas.” You will need: a) a fireplace; b) warm pajamas and c) lots of cocoa!
This third component to Jim’s ethereal Quiet Canvas series is all about slowing life down a few notches and how much more so during the often hectic Christmas season when, instead of satisfying the merchants’ marketing whims, we should all be calm, patient and graceful. The very first notes of ‘Carol of the Bells’ begins the descent and transitions us from the bustling workday to a soothing ‘Do You Hear What I Hear?’
Couchenour’s solo piano on ‘White Christmas,’ string laden ‘Silent Night in 5ths’ and ‘In the Bleak Mid Winter’ caresses your spirit and helps keep the joy of the season in perspective. Creating a little fun with ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Jingle’ and ‘Yuletide Medley,’ Jim skips through holiday favorites with the radiance of carolers outside your door. ‘God Rest You Merry Gentlemen’ is performed with such honor and finesse, it may become the new standard. The original ‘Still With Us’ showcases his singing, which is equally as laid back as his piano.
is the quintessential evidence that faith, family, friends and fellowship are the four cornerstones of Christmas. Repeated listening of this masterful work creates a wondrous atmosphere of enlightenment that will shine in every heart that listens. Fans of George Winston & Jim Brickman will feel right at home with this disc in your collection.
I am honored to be able to call both of these gentlemen true friends, that they are also fellow Niayana Recording Artists and that their music is touching lives around the world.
You can still purchase multiple copies of these CDs in time to give as stocking stuffers or download into your media players to chill you out as you prepare for the wonder of this holy advent season.