In 2022, after years of serving as an indispensable behind the scenes force for gospel and R&B legends galore (Stevie Wonder, Patti Labelle, Yolanda Adams, Donnie McClurkin, et al), ultimate hyphenate (pianist, singer, composer, producer, preacher, author, educator) John Paul McGee unleashed his worship-minded stylistically eclectic fury on a debut album whose title Gospeljazzical, Vol 1 spoke to his many influences and much promise to come.
He keeps the multi-faceted magic flowing this holiday season with A Gospeljazzical Christmas, a set of mostly extremely familiar seasonal baubles rendered fresh, exciting and inspiring by his artful, soulful and rhythmically unpredictable arrangements, his trademark deep, resonant vocals and ever-hopping trad jazz piano artistry. Yes, we’ve heard these gems a million times, but have we heard Norman Hutchins’ “Emmanuel” in such a fanciful and buoyant island setting? A fast swinging “Little Drummer Boy” introduced by Vince Guaraldi’s classic “Linus and Lucy” vamp? Such subtle piano solo versions of what McGee calls “The Manger Medley” (anchored by “Away in a Manger”) and “Mary Did You Know,” followed a few tracks later by a boisterous romp through “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”?
Some of the other sweet surprises include the beautiful, inviting vocals of Wendi Henderson Wyatt on “Christmastime is Here” and her dynamic upper ranges on the gospel grace of “Jesus O What A Wonderful Child” – truly an act of worship among many songs whose God-centric themes are often obscured by familiarity. McGee wraps the set with an old timey boogie woogie roll through “Go Tell It On the Mountain” which showcases his vocal and piano artistry in glorious tandem. A Gospeljazzical Christmas will get you in the spirit like no other jazz holiday album this year!