Toronto’s David Ian is known to many for his work in Superchick. The band was nominated for a Grammy in 2009 for Best Rock or Rap Gospel Album for their fifth album, Rock What You Got.
So how does Ian go from shredding guitar for Superchick to an album of traditional Christmas tunes? Blame a lifelong love of jazz, for one thing. Ian studied jazz piano with Pat Pace and helped initiate jazz curriculum at high schools in Ohio. Having drawn inspiration for this record from the likes of Bill Evans and Vince Guaraldi, the relaxed mood is right on par for fireside listening.
Vintage Christmas features Ian on piano, guitars and bells. Also along for the sleigh ride are Jon Estes (bass, cello) and Brian Fitch (drums). Andre Miguel Mayo and Acacia supply vocals.
If a laid-back Christmas record is your cup of spiced rum, this one is for you. This is music that doesn’t fight for attention, though, so you have to be prepared to sit down and tune in to really grasp the nuances of what Ian and Co. are up to. There’s not an overwhelming track in the batch.
That’s not to say that the small jazz trio doesn’t swing its stockings off, mind you. Tracks like “Christmas Time with You” pack delicate bounce, remaining simple arrangements of the classics. Ian doesn’t reinvent the wheel, opting to play for warmth rather than innovation.
Sophistication reigns on a song like “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.” Ian dresses the classic down to its most basic elements, providing simple piano to go with Fitch’s barely-there brushes.
From a rock guitarist prone to leap off amps in concert to one of the most understated, soft Christmas albums in recent memory, David Ian has been on a hell of a trip. This record packs the festive spirit, sure, but it’s the slow, warm glow that really sinks in.
Article originally published as part of Music Reviews: Christmas with Doug Munro, David Ian and Elisabeth Lohninger at Blogcritics.org