The Heart of Christmas Review (2014)
by Kathy Parsons, MainlyPiano.com
The Heart of Christmas is a collection of twelve traditional and two original songs of the season arranged for solo jazz piano by John Paris. Calling his playing style jazz and new age fusion, this album is quite a bit jazzier than Paris’ previous three recordings. Paris says that these arrangements came “spontaneously in a flash of inspiration.” He explains his creative process as: “I simply open my heart to the Divine Sound Current and let my fingers express what comes through.” It seems an impossible task to come up with fresh versions of the Christmas classics, but Paris has done just that. The melodies are very recognizable, expressing love, joy, reverence and playfulness in a song-list that includes sacred and secular carols that will bring listening enjoyment for many holidays to come.
John Paris is a life-long musician whose career has spanned more than forty years. He has played the piano alongside some of the biggest names in show business and entertained millions of people all over the country as the leader, composer and arranger of his show band, Atlantis, which was based in Las Vegas. Paris’ diverse professional experience combined with his training in jazz and classical music gives him a unique musical voice in the very crowded field of contemporary pianists.
The Heart of Christmas begins with “The First Noel” in an arrangement that is both tender and a bit edgy – an intriguing start. “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen” gets an infectious swing treatment that will have your toes tapping in no time. Love it! “What Child Is This?” begins as a slow, dark and moody piece but gradually evolves into a much more rhythmic and lighthearted celebration – a very unusual arrangement that really works! The fast and bluesy “Jingle Bells” all but dances right out of the computer (or MP3 player)! “Away In a Manger” is a sweet lullaby in a more new age style while “We Three Kings” swirls and twirls in an expression of pure joy – another favorite! The only medley on the album combines “All Through the Night” with “Silent Night” in a musical nod to a perfect peace – quiet and very beautiful. “Up On the Housetop” overflows with fun and laughter. “It’s Time For Christmas” is the first of the two original compositions and has the feeling of a romantic slow dance. “Together (At Christmas Time)” is the second original – a sweetly romantic love song that could support lyrics but doesn’t need them with a melody that says so much. The other four titles are “O Come All Ye Faithful,” “Toyland,” “Angels We Have Heard on High” and “O Christmas Tree,” all of which are exceptional!
The Heart of Christmas is available from JohnParisMusic.com, iTunes, and CD Baby. Highly recommended!