Over the years, the names Jim Brickman and Christmas have gone hand in hand. This fall’s tour marks the 18th year Brickman has spent the holiday season playing music for fans across the country.
The fall has also seen the release of Brickman’s latest Christmas album, “On a Winter’s Night: The Songs and Spirit of Christmas.” It’s the eighth holiday release from Brickman over his 20-year career – and the second year in a row he has done a Christmas album. Last fall, he released “The Magic of Christmas.”
Brickman, who plays the Orpheum on Wednesday, didn’t expect to do another Christmas album so soon, but he got an offer he couldn’t refuse.
“What happened was that I was approached by Amazon to do this,” Brickman said in an early November phone interview. “For so many years, we’ve been doing the Target exclusives. I mean, Target has been amazing to me and they still continue to be, but I felt like if you weren’t shopping at Target or if you weren’t there or didn’t have one near you, you might not be able to get the album.
“Amazon approached me and said we think you’re missing a whole group of people who don’t even know you have a Christmas album because they don’t shop at Target, and they can’t get it. So I thought, wow, that’s a really good point, and it might open up that whole aspect. The other thing is that it’s a digital and physical (release), whereas with Target there is only one option (a physical CD). So I thought it was a nice opportunity.”
Brickman knows he’s tempting overkill by continuing to build his catalog of Christmas albums, but that’s a risk he’s happy to take. “The core base will discover it and may say ‘Gosh, another Christmas album,’” Brickman acknowledged. “But all the people that don’t have the last five don’t know that it’s the fifth or whatever it is. And it’s fun. I love any chance to record, and especially Christmas, because the thing about instrumental (music) is you can do songs that really don’t belong as vocals. A song like ‘We Three Kings,’ for example, it’s a beautiful instrumental to play.”
“On A Winter’s Night” stays well within the template of Brickman’s other holiday albums. Once again, most of the album is made up of solo or near-solo piano instrumentals. But he shows creativity with his choices. He uses bits of “Joy to the World” as a jumping off point for a new original instrumental, “Joy to the Night,” and reinvents Elvis Presley’s “Blue Christmas” in his own instrumental image. The beauty of “All I Want For Christmas Is You” really comes out in Brickman’s instrumental take on the Mariah Carey hit.
To sweeten the package, Brickman also brings in a few notable guests. Kenny Rogers brings his pleasantly weather-worn vocal to a Brickman co-write, “That Silent Night.” John Oates (whose vocals take a back seat to those of Daryl Hall in Hall & Oates) proves to be well suited to another Brickman co-write, a musical version of the classic poem “Night Before Christmas.”
“I thought it was so odd that there was never a musical version of that,” Brickman said of “Night Before Christmas.” “For something that sings so poetically, ‘The night before Christmas and all though the house,’ it’s almost like it’s sung anyway as a poem. I thought it was strange that there weren’t, you know, 20 versions of that. I was like, ‘I’m going to write a melody to that public domain lyric.’”
With “On A Winter’s Night” now available, Brickman said this year’s holiday show will include several songs from that album, along with other hits and fan favorites. He’s hoping to create an atmosphere that mirrors the relaxed musical feel of his latest Christmas album.
“Conceptually it’s really about the peace and simplicity of the holidays,” Brickman said. “I feel like one of the reasons people come to my show is that it’s an antidote to the chaos and stress of the season. So to describe a scene and to describe an environment, I think it’s really important because it’s warm, and it’s inviting, and it’s familial. It’s a gathering and community and all of the things that are very special at holiday time.”