The Joy Of Christmas
Finding some comfort, peace and tranquility from the chaos of the Christmas season is something we all seek, so that we can relax and get back to the simplicity of the traditions.
Music plays a big role in keeping us grounded while offering an escape, particularly in a year like the one we've just experienced. I found that escape listening to the new Holiday EP from Canada's smooth jazz singer and songwriter, Cat Levan.
One of 2020's breakout artists, who worked extensively with guitarist/songwriter/vocalist Steve Oliver on her Double Life album, Levan teamed up once again with Oliver to create some much needed Holiday cheer on this new digital release. During my on-air interview with Levan, I asked what inspired her as a new artist to record a Christmas release and she referred back to my previous summer interview with her where apparently I suggested she record something for the Holidays! However, I won't take full credit for her ambition; she also referred to a time earlier this year while recording her Double Life album with Oliver in California, when she saw a small Christmas tree in the studio and the pair joked about making some music. The result of these two coincidences is this new EP that soon took life. The title song, 'The Joy Of Christmas', is sweet, gentle and serene, with Levan's captivating voice and Oliver's acoustic accompaniment reminding us of the many intangibles that make for new memories every year and also connect us to Christmases past.
Wave listeners who have become very accustomed to a Holiday staple from Steve Oliver, 'Watching The Snow Fall', will be truly captivated by Levan's take on this classic, retweaked to be sung from a female point of view. The backing vocals on Levan's magnificent delivery of this song combine in such beautiful harmony and the soft percussion gives the illusion of gently falling flakes outside the window.
Adding to the charm of this EP is Levan's arrangement and style on the traditional classic, 'Silent Night'. Asked about her choice to record this from the vast catalogue of carols, Levan points to her gospel roots. She says, "We used to do different versions of 'Silent Night' and the choir director did different arrangements each year. I heard Steve playing the song and thought, "I like this", and all of a sudden the gospel roots kicked in and the melody was made". This rendition with a beautiful piano backing and medium tempo bring listeners to a new level of enjoyment.
Reflecting on the accomplishment of recording her first Christmas project, Levan is very open and upfront. "I love Christmas, not just the tinsel, lights and gifts, but the whole idea there is a time of year when people give a little more, care a little more, and open their hearts to others. Maybe we can't all hug right now due to Covid, but I hope this song feels like I'm giving you all a big, warm hug".
We often hear the description 'warmth and charm' around Christmas, whether it refers to that glorious front door wreath, the garland and stockings strung across the fireplace, or the centrepiece in the middle of the dinner table where everyone is gathered. But these words indeed describe the qualities of The Joy Of Christmas that listeners will want to envelop themselves in when picking the perfect playlist to complement their Holiday celebrations. In fact, a dollop of style and elegance would be the most fitting topping for such a beautiful Christmas offering.