Ellis Marsalis

Released in 2011

DownBeat Four-Stars Review

YouTube: https://music.youtube.com/playlist?list=OLAK5uy_n4x-j2GrSUMVtn2UnmFuyRVsVY599fJvI

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Christmas Time… The most festive season of them all… A time to celebrate, a time for family gatherings, and a time to reflect on the greater joys of life. The new album from 2011 NEA Jazz Master, Ellis Marsalis: A New Orleans Christmas Carol, does just that! In this rousing rendition of timeless holiday classics, Ellis Marsalis pays homage to the season and that special spirit of joy so ever present at this time of year.
“Ellis Marsalis is one of the most important jazz musicians of the past (three) decades.” says Jerald Miller, President of Nu Jazz Entertainment. “We’re extremely proud to be able to share this music, this holiday season, with jazz fans and aficionados around the world.” “This holiday season has always been a special time of year for my family,” says Ellis Marsalis. “It’s been a life-long dream to put out a complete album which can celebrate that sense of life, love, and giving that the season represents.”

In this sumptuous holiday feast of aural delight, Ellis performs in (four) separate context: Solo Piano; Piano Trio; Piano Quartet with Vibes; and a Piano Quartet with a Vocalist. Ellis Marsalis is supported in Trio formats with Bill Huntington or Peter Harris on Bass, and Jason Marsalis on Drums; in Piano Quartet with Vibes (with Roman Skakun or Jason Marsalis on Vibes), and in Piano Quartet with a Vocalist (with Cynthia Liggins Thomas or Johnaye Kendrick on Vocals).
Ellis Marsalis rings in the holiday season, by opening the album with a thoughtfully stated solo piano piece, “O Tannenbaum.” The album quickly segues into a funky version of “The Little Drummer Boy” (featuring 2011 NEA Jazz Master, Jason Marsalis), and then into a “McCoy Tynerish” rendition of “We Three Kings of Orient Are.” The smooth and crisp vocals of Cynthia Liggins Thomas on “A Child Is Born” recalls the wonder every parent must feel at a child’s birth, while the silky and sultry voice of Johnaye Kendrick sets forth grand tidings for all on the Ellis Marsalis original, “Christmas Joy.” Other classics include: “God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen;” “It Came Upon A Midnight Clear;” “O Holy Night; Winter Wonderland;” “Silent Night;” “O Little Town of Bethlehem;” “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas;” “Sleigh Ride;” and “Greensleeves” among others.

Track Listing:

1. O Tannenbaum 1:29

2. The Little Drummer Boy 4:17

3. We Three Kings of Orient Are featuring Roman Skakun, Bill Huntington & Jason Marsalis 3:45

4. A Child Is Born feat. Cynthia Liggins Thomas, Bill Huntington & Jason Marsalis 3:04

5. God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen feat. Bill Huntington & Jason Marsalis 3:06

6. It Came Upon A Midnight feat. Roman Skakun, Bill Huntington & Jason Marsalis 2:08

7. O Holy Night feat. Jason Marsalis 3:22

8. Winter Wonderland feat. Bill Huntington & Jason Marsalis 3:23

9. Christmas Time Is Here feat. Jason Marsalis & Bill Huntington 3:06

10. Silent Night feat. Bill Huntington & Jason Marsalis 3:51

11. O Little Town Of Bethlehem feat. Roman Skakun, Bill Huntington & Jason Marsalis 2:10

12. Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas 4:39

13. Christmas Joy feat. Johnaye Kendrick, Peter Harris & Jason Marsalis 5:06

14. Sleigh Ride feat. Peter Harris & Jason Marsalis 4:08

15. Greensleeves feat. Roman Skakun, Bill Huntington & Jason Marsalis 2:57

16. The Christmas Song feat. Bill Huntington & Jason Marsalis 5:39

17. We Wish You a Merry feat. Jason Marsalis 0:31

18. Winter Wonderland (Nu Jazz Remix) feat. Jason Marsalis 6:51

19. Hark The Herald Angels Sing feat. Jason Marsalis 1:59

20. The Little Drummer Boy (Nu Jazz Remix) feat. Jason Marsalis 5:36

21. This Is Christmas feat Bill Huntington & Jason Marsalis 5:01

22. Oh Holy Night feat. Jason Marsalis 2:55


Ellis Marsalis: piano

Bill Huntington: bass

Peter Harris: bass (13, 14, 18)

Jason Marsalis: drums, percussion, vibraphone (7, 9, 17, 19)

Roman Skakun: vibraphone (3, 6, 11, 15)

Cynthia Liggins Thomas (4): vocals

Johnaye Kendrick: vocals (13)

Producer: Jason Marsalis
Executive Producer: Jerald Miller, Ellis Marsalis
Mastering: Mark Wilder
Mastering Engineer: Jeremy Pildis
Design: Diana Thornton
Artwork: Susan Young


A New Orleans Christmas Carol is a set of predictable hymns and secular selections. Marsalis imparts beauty on his piano while displaying his humility, order, wisdom and love of melody. He plays solo, and in a trio and quartet (his son Jason plays drums and vibes; Cynthia Liggins Thomas and Johnaye Kendrick make cameos).

Frank-John Hadley (DownBeat)