Music is a journey, says Thurl Bailey. "No matter where you want to go, there's a song out there that'll take you. Whatever emotion you want, you can find it." Music can express love, faith, grief, fun, even anger.

It is also a vehicle that has taken this former Utah Jazz star on an exciting journey of his own. "A lot of people are surprised, even shocked that a person who has been an athlete will dive into music," Bailey said. "But, for me, the music came first. I started listening at an early age to all kinds of music. I enjoy expressing myself through music."

In some ways, he said, performing is a lot like playing basketball. You're out there in front of lots of people, and you try to give it your all. "I try to leave a part of myself with them. Especially with the music; I hope there is something they can cherish and enjoy."

That desire has, so far, led to the production of three CDs, including a compilation of Christmas songs released last year. And it will lead to the latest stop on his striking ride — an appearance with the Utah Symphony.

As part of the Christmas pops concert, Bailey will sing a selection of Christmas songs, including such old favorites as "The Little Drummer Boy," "Winter Wonderland," and "Jolly Old St. Nicholas," on which he'll be joined by his youngest daughter. "That's her favorite song," he said.

The concert will be presented Dec. 19 in Ogden and Dec. 20-21 in Abravanel Hall. "It's a great honor to be involved with such a prestigious orchestra," Bailey said. The concert will be under the direction of Utah Symphony assistant conductor Scott O'Neil and will also feature a variety of holiday favorites and Christmas carols.

Bailey released his first CD three years ago, a collection of songs about faith and hope. "There are many different faiths out there," he said. "But the message is still the same." And music speaks with a powerful voice to all.

The Christmas CD was "one of the coolest things. It included some of my favorite songs, the ones I listened to growing up." Christmas music, too, touches a special place in our hearts, he said.

His newest release, "I'm Not the Same," is on a bit of a different track. "This one goes back to my roots. I grew up on R&B, artists like Al Green, Nat King Cole, the Commodores."

Bailey said he really doesn't like to be categorized, but it would probably fall into what is being called "new soul." It's mostly upbeat love songs. "I run them by my wife and know that if she approves, they must be pretty good."

But whatever he is singing, whether it's old favorites, whether he's covering other artists or writing songs of his own, "I try to give them my own flavor. I make sure the lyrics are a positive, personal expression of who I am."

And the message he most hopes to convey through his music, especially at this time of year, is that "regardless of personal circumstances, we are all blessed in some way. It's not about the most money or the most gifts. It's how you make others feel. It's what you are doing to make the world a better place. We talk about wanting peace on Earth, then Christmas is over and we wait until next year."

Bailey hopes to create a lasting impression that people can carry with them into the next year — as part of their own musical journey.

Concert schedule

What: Utah Symphony, with Thurl Bailey

Where: Abravanel Hall

When: 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 20, and Saturday, Dec. 21

How much: $22-$45

Phone: 533-6683


Additional concert: Thursday, Dec. 19, Ogden

E-mail: [email protected]