I'm not sure this review's going to get posted in time to hit the Valentine's Day celebration 'cause things have been hectic in Manhattan Beach (CA) where ye critic is presently sunning himself in 80-degree weather in late January. On the opposite side of the continent and a good deal further north, in Nelson (NH), Big Dave Pyles, FAME editor, is freezing his keister off in, what is it?, 30 billion degrees below zero? Something like that. But I wouldn't worry about any of that because David Ian's Valentine's Day is NOT just for that ridiculously over-sentimentalized Hallmark Cards event but in fact for any romantic sortie or even just plain ol' wistful days, loaded as the disc is with jazz classics.
Ian's stately measured style is unique for its warm restraint and tonal purities, definitely harking back to the best of the old West Coast Cool days and almost shockingly mannered for a guy who used to play guitar in a Grammy-nominated heavy metal band (s'true!), not a trace of which you'll find in a note of his three releases. Instead, what you get is ultra-clean sonorities and great arrangements of songs you know well and sure don't mind hearing in new renditions. Five cuts are vocals, the rest (six) are instrumentals, and the male singers (Russ Taff, Kevin Max, and Andre Miguel Mayo) do a great job, but, sorry, gents, the ladies (Acacia and Tabitha Walters-Wulfing) take the honors.
Acacia's been a perennial on Ian's releases and if he wants to put even more of her in the upcoming CDs, that'll be more than fine with me. She has a sweetly seductive style, as does Walters-Wulfing, enchanting, soothing, enticing. The band buttresses everything, based in trio format but with spare string accompaniment. The sticks 'n brushes work of Josh Hunt is often surprisingly up front in this exquisitely mixed gatherum, but you don't really realize that until listening for it, the bass capturing the background, an extension of the piano below its lowest register. If you want somewhere to start, though, try Stella by Starlight and its mixture of wistfulness, understated vivacity, compacted eloquence, and open spaces. Those virtues inform the bulk of the disc, even the sprightlier tunes like Some Day my Prince will Come.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2014, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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