Marcus Johnson has taken the plunge into the holiday music arena. He’s compiled nine classic holiday songs and added his own special twist to them.
He opens the CD with “We Three Kings.” His keys replace the vocals in this tune and, along with the saxophone player, provides a jazzy rendition of a favorite carol. Marcus shines on his rendition of “The Little Drummer Boy.” It’s an understated, quiet keyboard version of a song where most artists would emphasize the drum. Even when he goes into the song’s bridge, it’s never overpowering or too much. He adds enough of his own to “Away in the Manger” and “Let It Snow,” that at times you don’t recognize these tunes for what they are. This is not a bad thing. He’s basically taken them from being just Christmas carols to full blown smooth jazz songs, suitable for playing in a club or concert at any time of the year. Vocalist Keith Ailer does a wonderful job singing the Nat King Cole classic, “The Christmas Song,” as well as a spirited jazzy rendition of “Silent Night.” “Merry Little Christmas” is a saxophone driven tune supplemented by Marcus on keys.
It’s hard to take songs like Christmas carols, that are so hard-wired into our culture, and add something fresh and new to them. People know and love these songs. Marcus has managed to rework them enough to keep them interesting not only to his fans, but to smooth jazz lovers in general.
If you’re throwing a holiday party this year, or attending any, this CD will make a great addition to the holiday music line-up.