David Ian

I was reading an article on “meat mummies,” where Egyptians would embalm cold cuts to sustain mummified individuals in the afterlife. Christmas records are the meat mummies of jazz, sustaining the genre through dry spells of sparse popularity and shifting fashions. After all, malls and holiday dinner parties need to get their music from somewhere. The gold standard for good Christmas jazz is Vince Guaraldi—his charming album of simple, unpretentious, but sonically creative arrangements engenders nostalgia without drowning in sentimentality. David Ian is trying to capture some similar elements, succeeding in “Angels We Have Heard on High,” where Acacia’s vocals save the track, and “The First Noel,” where the arrangement sticks pretty close to the source, but is nicely executed. On the other hand, “Winter Wonderland” isn’t enough Bing Crosby to be vintage and too much Rod Stewart to be charming, and “Jingle Bells” is largely forgettable.