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David Ian: Vintage Christmas Trio [melody]

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David Ian: Vintage Christmas Trio [melody]
Toronto-born pianist David Ian

It takes a very special artist to understand both the solemnity and the joy of Christmas. It takes dwelling in such a quietude to come up with what Toronto-born pianist David Ian has made of age-old classic songs – hymns, actually – on the album Vintage Christmas Trio melody. This comes at a time when humanity has, for some reason, not wholly unknown, become a little more “Grinchy” and consequently fewer artists are attempting to create art that pays less homage to the almighty dollar. Fortuitous indeed that this is not so with Mr Ian’s pianism.

The other thing that comes to mind – listening to radio broadcasts at this time of the year – is that you don’t – and won’t – hear anything out of the ordinary, musically speaking. Also: although one is wont to gravitate towards Weihnachtsoratorium by J.S. Bach [John Eliot Gardiner has made a sublime version (Archiv, 1987)]. But along comes this disc and although it will not replace the Bach [it isn’t meant to] the music is so perfectly interpreted that it is a thrill from the first notes of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.

David Ian: Vintage Christmas Trio melody

At first blush you might feel this way about this recording, but don’t be fooled into thinking that the title of this album means to speak to the artistic quality of this music at all. Listening to this music over and over again one is reminded of something Charles Mingus once said about music: “Making the simple complicated is commonplace. Making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that’s creativity.”

He is, of course, spot on about musical art. And listeners will make the connection immediately with this music almost immediately. This is because Mr Ian – together with contrabassist Jon Estes and drummer Josh Hunt – has untied many a complicated knot that often comes [rather erroneously with the cultural topography of ‘jazzical’ improvisation. Mr Estes is to be congratulated for the sonic warmth of his recording too.

Ornamentation is mercifully stripped of filigree and so we hear the purity of melody even when harmonic intervention – from Mr Ian’s left hand and Mr Estes’ shadowy contrabass – crosses paths with the melodic lines. And Mt Hunt’s drumming is so subtle – sublime brushwork everywhere – that you hear whispers of the birth of the Child Jesus as if everything here is propelled as much by spirituality as it is by the spectral hallelujahs amidst the jingling of proverbial Christmas bells, thanks in large part to the prodigiously gifted drummer.

Through it all one is often jolted awake by the almost shadowy simplicity, yet awesome insolence of his pianism. The control he exercises reining in the fingers of his right hand – and his left – to dip into a palette of subtle desert hues under a starry night, with which to paint sound of music “Hallmark” Christmas cards will catch you by surprise. Each one of these aural pictures is different and appropriate to the melody. Cue the swirling brushstrokes of the melody on Away in a Manger, and the sculpted inventions of What Child is This and Silent Night.

This is a BIG album of quiet creativity by a musician of seemingly self-effacing genius for a world that has long waited for something like it – the lovely music and timeless music by Vince Guaraldi notwithstanding. ‘Nuff said…

Deo gratis…

Music – 1: God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen; 2: Away in a Manger; 3: We Three Kings; 4: Angels We Have Heard on High; 5: O Little Town of Bethlehem; 6: O Come O Come Emmanuel; 7: Hark! The Herald Angels Sing: 8: What Child is This; 9: The First Noel; 10: Silent Night.

Musicians – David Ian: piano; Jon Estes: contrabass; Josh Hunt: drums. With – Jon Estes: sound engineer.

Released – 2023
Label – Prescott Records [PR 0007]
Runtime – 41:04

Based in Canada, Raul is a poet, musician and accomplished critic whose profound analysis is reinforced by his deep understanding of music, technically as well as historically.

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