10 Songs, 48 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

A singer/guitarist who travels in smooth jazz, R&B, pop, and gospel circles, Jonathan Butler has released many albums since the late ‘70s. Here, he dives into the crowded Christmas market. The album opens with Donny Hathaway’s soulful classic “This Christmas,” honoring the original with a vocal performance filled with melismatic bravado. Butler also hearkens back to his childhood in South Africa with his opening to “Little Drummer Boy”—which has singing and drumming similar to what he heard as a kid—and brings a smooth South African bounce to “Sleigh Ride.” “Merry Christmas to You” and “Happy Holiday” both come from Butler’s pen; they have a strong pop bent but stand nicely next to the first few songs. Butler switches to acoustic mode for the album's second half, with a chamber music–like “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” and a spare and unhurried “O Holy Night” standing out. With its two distinct parts, this album might seem to have an identity crisis—but Butler acquits himself well on both.

EDITORS’ NOTES

A singer/guitarist who travels in smooth jazz, R&B, pop, and gospel circles, Jonathan Butler has released many albums since the late ‘70s. Here, he dives into the crowded Christmas market. The album opens with Donny Hathaway’s soulful classic “This Christmas,” honoring the original with a vocal performance filled with melismatic bravado. Butler also hearkens back to his childhood in South Africa with his opening to “Little Drummer Boy”—which has singing and drumming similar to what he heard as a kid—and brings a smooth South African bounce to “Sleigh Ride.” “Merry Christmas to You” and “Happy Holiday” both come from Butler’s pen; they have a strong pop bent but stand nicely next to the first few songs. Butler switches to acoustic mode for the album's second half, with a chamber music–like “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” and a spare and unhurried “O Holy Night” standing out. With its two distinct parts, this album might seem to have an identity crisis—but Butler acquits himself well on both.

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