Pianist and arranger David Ian has already proven his mastery of Christmas with two recordings for the holidays, so it perhaps stands to reason that he’d focus his lens elsewhere. Valentine’s Day is just the ticket, another day marked by love.
Of course, the love found on this day of cards and roses is of a different sort and Ian’s approach acknowledges the romance and cool that still packs restaurants on February 14. As with Vintage Christmas Wonderland, Ian’s choice of textures places Valentine’s Day in vintage territory without sacrificing any nods at modernity. And as with that EP, this disc features an impressive array of guest vocalists like Kevin Max, Acacia and Talitha Walters-Wulfing. Ian’s band includes John Estes (bass), Josh Hunt (drums), Elizabeth Estes (violin), and Matt Nelson (cello).
Ian’s unabashed love for the cool sounds of the classics shines through in every way on this record. He pulls songs like “My Funny Valentine” and “Someday My Prince Will Come” right into the now and does so without sacrificing original integrity. He makes romance romantic again, doing away with modern cynicism in favour of encapsulating that gaze and that caress between people in love.
It makes sense that the cover of Valentine’s Day features a couple exploring records together. Much in the same way Ian’s Christmas albums seem made for sharing over the holiday season, this disc seems made for sharing over champagne and low lighting.
There is the beautiful “Stella by Starlight” to that end, a lush and contemporary presentation of the standard. Or there’s “Summertime,” the Gershwin tune that benefits from a bouncing snap-beat and Estes’ hot bass-playing. Once Walters-Wulfing gets into the mix, though, the temperature vaults and the track scorches. Ian’s ivories mesh with Estes’ decision to switch to the bow and the number slows to a sweaty crawl.
From the lusty to the lovely, Valentine’s Day explores the contours of romance and romantic moods. It also leaves room for the solitary among us, with Acacia’s turn on “Solitude” evoking the sadness and lonesomeness also associated with such a day, and eases smoothly through its 36 or so minutes like a well-selected wine.