Nalley was an absolute joy. Review: Joy to the World
Review: 'Joy to the World' a swinging good time
By Bill Lynch
The Charleston Gazette

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Bandleader Bob Thompson said he was surprised that his annual "Joy to the World" holiday concert has endured as long as it has. He humbly credited the audience with turning out year after year and making it a tradition.

Really, it shouldn't come as a surprise. Thompson and producer Linda McSparin have built something worth coming to see year after year.

Thursday night at the Culture Center was no exception. In fact, this 18th edition of "Joy to the World," featuring guest vocalist Kim Nalley, was one of the best in recent years. It was a true Christmastime treat for fans of jazz, blues, soul and holiday music.

San Francisco's Nalley turned in an absolutely gorgeous performance, but it wasn't just her top-shelf vocals. According to her press clippings, Nalley has a 3 1/2-octave range and the kind of vocal thrust that could strip the varnish off furniture.

Other vocalists who've appeared on Joy to the World could probably claim similar talents. Thompson wouldn't look to bring in a second-string singer, but Nalley never tried to dazzle anyone with any audio acrobatics. This is not to say that she didn't, but it was never over the top.

Instead, she was smooth, inviting and full of yuletide mischief. Nalley entertained with warmth and character with songs like "Santa Baby," and "Children, Go Where I Send Thee." She drew people in with the Judy Garland classic "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas."

Nalley was an absolute joy.

As usual, Thompson and the Bob Thompson Unit acquitted themselves admirably with Thompson giving each individual member of his handpicked crew a moment or two to shine. Doug Payne and Ryan Kennedy dazzled on saxophone and guitar, while drummer Timothy Courts and bassist John Inghram kept the beat lively and jumping.

Of course, this would be nothing new. They pretty much do the same thing most Tuesday nights at the Boulevard Tavern in Charleston, their current standing gig, but it was nice to see the band cutting loose for the holidays.

With the economy still in a slump and crowds only slowly getting back to the business of spending money during the Christmas season, similar show might suffer. Nervous people tend to stay at home, but Thursday night at the Culture Center, the room was full and it was a swinging good time.