David Ian believes in Christmas. The pianist and arranger proves it all over again with Vintage Christmas Wonderland, the follow-up to his 2011 debut Vintage Christmas. This five-song EP encapsulates all the wonder and light of the holiday season, flowing between peaceful and sparkly moments.
With this seasonal outing, Ian explores vocal textures by featuring a selection of singers and accompanying musicians. His piano and guitar are joined by Jon Estes’ upright bass and Josh Hunt’s percussion. Elizabeth Estes adds texture on violin and cello.
Acacia helps with “Angels We Have Heard on High,” the opening number. Ian sets the stage with warm piano, while the rest of the players gather in the warmth. Acacia’s vocals are delicate, especially as she bends around the familiar refrain like garland around a Christmas tree. She resists the all-too-common tendency to over-sing “Gloria,” a tendency even yours truly is prone too after too much eggnog.
From there, Ian and Co. meld together for an impeccable rendition of “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” The tune is textured like an old-time LP, but the splashes of ivory the pianist delivers are straight “now” in their flavor and contour. Of particular note is Estes’ bass-playing, providing an oaky finish to already intoxicating blend.
By this point, Ian’s already earned his Christmas colors. But the sleigh bells that lead into “Winter Wonderland,” which features the stylish singing of Andre Miguel Mayo, should have him leading a holiday parade. The addition of Talitha Walters-Wulfing’s vocal textures is just the right touch.
There’s also “Jingle Bells,” which features more vocal blending – this time by Mayo and the sister duo of Tal and Acacia. Listeners will be forgiven for wondering where the Andrews Sisters came from, but this hip brew is the spiced stuff of 2013. It would naturally be tacky to suggesting that these cats slay this sleighing song, but there it is.
So gifted is David Ian at putting together a holiday record that one has to imagine that it’s only beginning to feel – and sound – a lot like Christmas when the next vintage entry comes dashing through the proverbial snow. This Vintage Christmas Wonderland is a treat.
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