Jonathan Butler
Merry Christmas To You

If you are a lover of contemporary jazz and holiday music, your days are about to be even more "merry and bright." Jazz guitar sensation Jonathan Butler has released his first holiday recording, Merry Christmas to You.

GOSPELflava.com had an opportunity to chat with Butler about his new Christmas CD and his thoughts about the recent passing of Nelson Mandela. CDWith several jazz and gospel projects to his credit, when asked, "Why a Christmas project now?" Butler simply responds, "It was time. Something had been pushing me for to do it but now seemed right."

So one Saturday morning, armed only with his guitar, Butler claims he just went into the studio and just started singing. "I didn't want anything too orchestrated. Most of it is just raw me" he admitted.

When it isn't his solo, he is joined by a few of his good friends: Dave Koz, Rick Braun and a special appearance by his daughter Jodie. The finished product is 8 tracks of holiday bliss.

The two-time Grammy-nominated instrumentalist/singer project masterful blend of standard holiday classics such as: "I'll Be Home For Christmas," "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas," "The First Noel," and "O Holy Night". Yet even in the newer classics such as Donny Hathaway's "This Christmas" and "Sweet Little Jesus Boy", Butler sparkles.

Jonathan's South African roots come front and center on "Little Drummer Boy" and an instrumental rendition of "Sleigh Ride." "It's called home flavor. I bring in my roots in all I do," Butler explains. The unexpectedness of the "flavor" make the two offerings something to savor.

Butler also wanted to create some new music and wrote a pair of new songs, the title track "Merry Christmas to You" and the soulful "Happy Holidays".

Jonathan Butler with Nelson Mandela This particular holiday season will be a personal one for Butler, with the recent death of his fellow South African countryman and world icon Nelson Mandela.

"He was light to the nation and all mankind" Butler explains. "For many of us, a prison cell would have made us bitter. But for Mandela, the prison cell didn't break him but it shaped him" he added.

One of his fondest memories of the former South African president was also one of his most privileged moments. "On the same day I had buried my mother, I was asked to sing for Mandela's 93rd birthday celebration. I sang "Amazing Grace" and at the conclusion I didn't know what to say to such a great man. So I just said, "I love you and I truly thank you." And in return he (Mandela) said the very same thing back to me. I was deeply touched. He will be missed."

If you like jazz, holiday classics, or instrumentals with a cultural flare or just want to hear some new, Merry Christmas to You is for you. It will have you in the holiday cheer this Christmas.

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Production: Jonathan Butler
album release date: November, 2013
Mack Avenue Records

— review by John Burton Jr.

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