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Jim Brickman warms up a cold winter night

Pianist to play at the Paramount on Saturday

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Diana Nollen  ::   UPDATED: 21 January 2014 | 3:47 pm   ::  

Christmas will be in the air when Jim Brickman brings his show to the Paramount Theatre on Saturday night (12/22/12). But so will a nod to Valentine's Day, nestled among the romantic piano man's multi-platinum hits for all seasons, embellishing his "On A Winter's Night" tour.

"My Christmas shows have never been all-Christmas," he says by phone from New York City, where he was taping his weekly radio show. "I feel like at a certain time of year, where you're seeing so much of the same things over and over, it's important to bring a fresh approach to what we do, so it's a really nice combination of a lot of the hits.

"I still play all of the hit songs, like 'Valentine' and 'The Gift' and 'Love of My Life' and 'Never Alone,' and of course I now have Christmas songs of my own that have become popular, so we do those. But it is not 'Deck the Halls' from front to back," Brickman says.

He's bringing along his longtime friend and vocal collaborator Anne Cochran; Luke McMaster, who sings the bouncy "Good Morning Beautiful" off Brickman's new "Believe" album, released in November; and electric violinist Tracy Silverman.

"Because thereís no band, the concert lends itself to being more about the personalities and the talent and less about the lights or the gimmicks. It's not meant to be a spectacular," he says. "It's more of an escape and an emotional kind of experience."

He's expecting an especially emotional experience when he returns to the renovated Paramount in downtown Cedar Rapids, where he last played in February 2004. He's well aware of the Floods of 2008 that devastated the building.

"We've been wanting to come back for so long, so I really have been waiting patiently for this to happen," he says. "I'm just excited to come back there, because it's been so long. I feel like this is the best date on the tour, because it's a Saturday night and it's the Saturday night right before Christmas. When I saw this and the reopening, I felt like there was a really great celebration tone to the whole thing. It's a special date to me, and I just really want everybody to come."

He hopes to communicate the always-positive message of his music to his audiences.

"With all the chaos in the world, and especially at the holiday time, I hope that it's an escape, a time to reflect, a chance to relax and take a breath. That's what my music has always provided," he says. "It's hopeful, it's positive, it's romantic and a lot of things that are missing in the world of music today."

The details


Known for his lush, sweeping arrangements of iconic carols and holiday songs, he gets to live Christmas all year-round.

"I never really stop writing or recording for the holidays," he says, since he often has a Christmas CD or television special in the works. And even though he didn't record that type of album this past summer, "Good Morning Beautiful" does have a "Merry Christmas Beautiful" version.

Brickman, 51, who has been playing with rhythms and piano since age 5, has his own approach to arranging carols.

"I never read anything from a book," he says, "so that it does have an authentic quality as to how I would play it. My style is really sort of a pop playing style. One of the things that is more of a technical thing ... if you straighten some of these things out that are in three-quarter time and make them in 4/4 time, they become different.† I love three-quarter time, but if† I play it exactly as written, there's no reason to listen to me do it versus someone else.

"I don't actually sit and craft the arrangements. I play it just the way that I feel like I want to play it, and that usually ends up being the way (it stays). I donít write anything down, I don't say 'this is the form.'† As soon as I do that, I lose the emotional connection."

He likes the authenticity of the first take, especially in recording for television or radio.

"When you keep working, you keep doing something, then it becomes about technique more than emotion. You can't infuse the emotion into something you've played a hundred times on a recording. When it's live, it's different because the audience gives you the energy to perform it in a different way. I never play the same way twice, hardly ever. Every day it's different, but not so different that you don't recognize it," he says with a laugh.

A family-oriented guy -- he moved from Los Angeles back to his native Cleveland about a year and a half ago to be near loved ones -- he doesn't mind touring so close to Christmas.

"Iím very used to being on the road at the holidays," he says. "I've made the tour a very family-type environment, so donít feel like Iím away. Somebody like Anne -- she and I have toured for so long -- we've been friends since high school. It feels to me like the family is together in a way.

"The other thing about touring at the holiday time is that I actually see more of my friends and relatives then, than I would if I just lived somewhere all the time,Ē he says.

ďBecause we go so many places, it invites a very familial type of environment. My mom can come out more often, my dad comes out and a lot of my friends, so every day feels like a celebration of some kind."

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