The first festive notes of the holiday classic Deck The Halls has a calypso sway as it opens the wreath decorated door into the latest release by multi-instrumentalist Justin Solonynka. A Cup of Kindness re-imagines holiday favorites that warm the heart. Solonynka was born to be a musician, it seems since he has been immersed in melody and harmony most of his life. In collaboration with many talented performers, he has been a staple in the Philadelphia area for years. A Renaissance Man, he is also a math teacher and the father of a toddler.
Baby It’s Cold Outside is a modern re-make of the Frank Loesser invitation to remain cozy in the midst of a wild storm, sung by Justin and his wife Courtney Gable. What is particularly charming about it, is that it substitutes “maybe just a cup of tea more,” for “maybe just a drink or two more.” and “maybe just a song or two more,” for “maybe just a cigarette more.” and has a segment when she tells him that his attempt at seduction is “creepy.”
Pennywhistle led Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring lofts the listener to spiritual heights.
Christmas Time Is Here would do Charlie Brown and his buddies proud, as I could envision them skating on a frozen pond.
By far, my favorite piece is the cover of Gordon Lightfoot’s ode to love as deep as snowdrifts, Song For A Winter’s Night sung by Courtney, as Justin provides the instrumentation.
Piano driven Good King Wenceslas begins simply and then ripples with evidence of Justin’s virtuosity. Not surprising, since he has been playing, according to his website when he could “barely reach the keys”.
Honoring the holiday of Hanukkah, the melodica is the primary instrument on Maoz Tzur (Rock of Ages), with tiny piano sounds highlighting it. Wondered if it belongs to his adorable little daughter Lily who will likely not escape the delicious fate of being a musician like her mommy and daddy.
The aforementioned little angel’s gurgles are the lead in to What Child Is This? which then incorporates various musical styles; a hallmark of Justin’s creations.
In The Bleak Midwinter had me imagining the blessing of being around a fireplace, bundled in a blanket, sipping chai.
Courtney’s lovely, lively uptempo voice invites Rocking Around The Christmas Tree.
The First Nowell is a simple piano piece that has a subtle jazzy feel to it, with xylophone highlights that bring to mind twinkling rainbow hued lights.
Bluegrass and New Orleans jazz tinged Jingle Bells showcases the next generation of family talent as Lily chirps the opening line and calls out enthusiastically to close it out.
Oh Come All Ye Faithful has a keyboard in church sound that had me want to get up and dance, and then completes with drum flourish.
The sweet sounds of Auld Lang Syne from which the title of the CD emerges (“We’ll drink a cup of kindness..”) has a Will Ackerman (the founder of Windham Hill Records) feel to it as it wisps away the old year and welcomes the new.
A Cup of Kindness is a beautiful beckoning to a holiday toast. The CD is the perfect accompaniment to wrapping gifts, celebrating with friends and family, or listening to in the car as you go ‘over the river and through the woods’ to whomever you visit.