WANT TO GO?
"Joy To The World"
WHEN: 8 p.m. Dec. 15
WHERE: Culture Center Theater
TICKETS: Advance tickets $25. Very limited quantity remains.
INFO: 800-594-TIXX or www.wvpubcast.org.CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Acclaimed jazz singer Tom Lellis said he and Bob Thompson have pretty much picked out the program for Thompson's annual "Joy To The World" Christmas show Dec. 15 at the Culture Center Theater.
"Bob was very amenable to whatever I wanted to do," Lellis said. "My only concession was I asked what he did in previous shows, so he wouldn't have to do a repeat of things he's done year after year."
It wouldn't be right to give away the entire program, but the show will feature the song "A Quiet Christmas" by West Virginia songwriter John Lilly. "It's a real nice tune. I think this might even be the debut of the song."
Lellis thinks people will like what they hear, and he's looking forward to playing to a Charleston crowd. It's been a long while since the New York-based singer, keyboardist and composer was here.
"I think it was 1972 or 1973," he said. "I moved to New York at the end of 1973, so it was before that, but I had a job playing at the top of the Holiday Inn in Charleston. I guess I was there a week, maybe two."
Playing in the hotel's lounge was where he met Thompson, who also was working there. "It was such a funny thing," he said. "I came to West Virginia to find a New York piano player."
The memory of his time in Charleston, he said, has stuck with him. Charleston was a friendly and kind place. He just couldn't stay. He was a young performer, working the road and playing clubs all over the place.
"I had just come out of the last vestiges of the night club era," he said. "I worked with a lot of great people."
Over the years, Lellis has shared the stage with an array of musical giants including Dizzy Gillespie, Ray Charles and Bill Evans, with whom he recorded two of his seven albums. He said he remembered working with Thompson, but after he moved on, they mostly lost touch.
"I knew he was playing and recording, but I don't know that he knew much about what I was doing."
It was nice to get the call from Thompson and be asked to perform for "Joy To The World," he said. While he's looking forward to doing the show, he's also looking forward to seeing Charleston again, to see how it's changed.
He's changed, too, of course. He still lives in New York but said he plays about half of his shows away from the city. The pace is different than what it used to be.
The jazz scene isn't the same as it used to be, but Lellis still performs and records. He has two projects slowly simmering, including one with Cuban flutist Orlando Valle and noted vibraphone player Joe Locke.
"We'll be putting out a record a little later," he said.Reach Bill Lynch at ly...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5195.