John Fluker,
J is for Joy
(independent, 2006)

Christmas is a time for traditions, from the decorations people hang -- often the same ones that their parents or grandparents hung -- to the food they eat and the music they listen to. Nostalgia is part of the charm of Christmas celebrations.

On J is for Joy, John Fluker renews the Christmas tradition with sparkling new arrangements of four well-known Christmas carols, and enriches the tradition with a new composition of his own.

The CD opens with a jazzed-up "Oh Come All Ye Faithful," then moves into Fluker's original composition "Follow the Brightest Star." Next up is "We Three Kings," which opens in a traditional-enough manner, though the chorus -- in R&B fashion -- wanders a bit from the melody. The quiet "Away in a Manger" is a very good match for Fluker's voice while the exuberant "Joy to the World," which features guest vocalist Florence LaRue, has a very gospel feel. "Silent Night" follows, and returns to the quiet, contemplative tone of "Away in a Manger," though with its share of vocal acrobatics.

The remaining four tracks on the CD are instrumental versions of "Oh Come All Ye Faithful," "We Three Kings," "Away in a Manger" and "Silent Night." They have minimal vocals, thus showing off the new arrangements to advantage. "Oh Come All Ye Faithful" features guest instrumentalists Brad Leali (sax) and Greg Bowden (guitar). The delicate piano of "Silent Night" is well matched to memories of candle-lit Christmas Eve services.

Fluker's smooth voice is well-suited to his arrangements, and this CD is sure to itself become a Christmas tradition.

by Laurie Thayer
16 December 2006

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