John Fluker – J is for Joy
J is for Joy
(Retribution – 2006)
Chart-topping pianist John Fluker is giving a special present this Christmas J is for Joy, an album of singing that celebrates the night Jesus was born by presenting unique arrangements of classic carols along with original music. Fluker’s soft Pop/R&B vocals show his influences — years of performing at church as well as backing top singers such as Gladys Knight, Dionne Warwick, Oleta Adams, Boys II Men, Queen Latifah and Regina Belle.
Fluker made big waves with his previous recording, THE SOUND OF PEACE, which spent two months in the #1 position on the national New Age Reporter Top 100 radio airplay chart. That contemporary instrumental debut album spotlighted his piano-playing and composing. Now he is showing a whole other side of his musical personality by showcasing his singing talents on J IS FOR JOY. Fluker’s CDs can be purchased at such top online stores as amazon.com and cdbaby.com, or from digital download outlets including iTunes.com. For more information about John, visit his web site at www.johnfluker.com.
J IS FOR JOY begins with a half-dozen vocal selections that paint a vivid picture of the birth of Jesus Christ including the call to bring people together, the star marking the site, travelers paying homage, the baby in the manger, the joyous celebration, and then the quiet, peaceful setting as the baby falls asleep during his first night on earth. The recording ends with Fluker reprising four of the previous songs, but this time in mostly-instrumental versions punctuated with only a few vocal highlights.
John chose to sing five traditional carols – “Oh Come All Ye Faithful,” “We Three Kings,” “Away in a Manger,” “Joy To The World” and “Silent Night” – but fits them with new arrangements like they have never been heard before. “There was no point recording these standards unless I could bring something fresh and different to them,” he explains. “I enjoyed the freedom of embellishing them my own way and using elements of Pop, R&B and Jazz.” The upbeat “Joy To-The World is a duet -between John and Florence LaRue of the group 5th Dimension (they have 20 Top-40 hits and six GRAMMY Awards). Fluker does a slow, peaceful version of the classic song “Away in a Manger,” influenced by the late Jazz-Gospel pianist Thomas Whitfield. “I wanted the song to be as delicate as the feeling of holding a newborn baby in your arms,” John says.
The other full-vocal piece is “Follow The Brightest Star,” written by Fluker with Melissa Vardey. John says, “The bright star in the heavens above where Jesus was born was a sign of hope and guidance, and in this song I wonder why can’t we make life better for one another and have the Christmas spirit all year long?” The mostly-instrumental Smooth-Jazz version of “Oh Come All Ye Faithful” features two Jazz musicians, saxophonist Brad Leali and guitarist Greg Bowden. The final piano-spotlighted “Silent Night” ends the recording with a New Age sound reminiscent of John’s previous album, The Sound of Peace.
Fluker has worked extensively with legendary singer Gladys Knight over the past decade-and-a-half and for several years served not only as her piano accompanist, but also as her musical director. Some of the highlights of working with Knight include John penning several songs for her musical “Madame Lilly,” performing for President and Mrs. Clinton at the White House, playing piano with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir in Utah, and performing at the televised 2006 Nobel Peace Prize Concert with a full symphony orchestra. In addition, Fluker performed on two CDs with Gladys Knight and the Saints Unified Voices – the GRAMMY Award-winning One Voice (Fluker sang a duet with Gladys on “Did You Know,” co-wrote another song, played piano and arranged various hymns) and A Christmas Celebration (which he also sang on). Fluker has accompanied Knight on many television shows from “Good Morning America” to “Lou Rawls’ Parade of Stars,” but one of the most memorable moments was on “The Rosie O’Donnell Show” when Rosie and Whoopi Goldberg became honorary “Pips” (Gladys’ original vocal group) and sang harmonies while John played piano.