Of the many genres in which Christmas music finds a special place, jazz seems like a particularly nostalgic corner. This is probably, in large part, thanks to the Vince Guaraldi Trio and A Charlie Brown Christmas. David Ian follows in that swinging tradition with his third holiday offering on Vintage Christmas Trio, joined by bassist Jon Estes and drummer Josh Hunt. This album captures the playful and upbeat nature of the season with 10 renditions of holiday favorites.
Ian's arrangements for "Deck the Halls" and "Joy to the World" make for a strong opening, reveling in the mirth both songs offer. "White Christmas" slows things down slightly but nimbly dances between the feelings of longing and optimism. "Good King Wenceslas" is one of the album's highlights, starting off like a straight-forward rendition before getting creative with the melody. "Up on the Housetop" stands out from the rest, given that it is not quite as popular as the others. Still, its presence on the album is a welcome one and carries on the playful spirit of this collection. "O Come All Ye Faithful" is a fitting closer and feels like Ian's subtle instruction to the listener on how to appreciate Christmas.
As far as the musicianship goes, this trio is top-notch. Ian shows off his creativity with every note and his band complements him well. They also get their moments to shine; Estes with a groovy bass solo on "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day" and Hunt showing his adeptness at keeping time by switching rhythm on the "Silver Bells" chorus. Together, this trio keeps a consistent tone all the way through the album, which works for most of the songs. But with a song like "I Heard the Bells," should it be given a peppy treatment given its subject matter of wrestling with whether or not there is peace on earth? There are also rare moments when the arrangements don't work. The music feels too disjointed at times on "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear," and "We Three Kings" doesn't accomplish anything memorable. These minor bumps aside, the rest of the renditions are well done.
What would have pushed this album up a couple notches were more songs that are lesser known or not as covered, like "Up on the Housetop." It also would have been interesting to see one or two original works by Ian. As good as Vintage Christmas Trio is, it could easily be lost among the myriad of other jazz covers of Christmas songs. In spite of this, if you are looking for a solid instrumental holiday album to play in the background at work or home, David Ian has what you need.- Review date: 12/11/17, written by John Underdown of Jesusfreakhideout.com
It's not a mind-blowing release, but Vintage Christmas Trip brings a lot of nostalgia to mind and provides an enjoyable listening experience from front to back. If you're looking for a good instrumental Christmas album this season, or enjoy a jazzy listen from time to time, David Ian has exactly what you're looking for. His work as David Ian is quite a bit different than what he was doing as David Ghazarian, but I, for one, have really been enjoying his more jazz-centric ventures. This will be an album that I revisit most every year and I recommend to any fan of Christmas tunes to pick up. The songs are all traditional songs you know, but the jazz compositions give them a slightly different take and the instrumentals give you a little reprieve from the normal versions that are played in constant rotation during the holiday season. This one is definitely worth picking up for Christmas music fans. - Review date: 12/8/17, written by Michael Weaver
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