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WHITNEY MARCHELLE/Dig Dis: She's played with everyone from Quincy Jones to Wayne Newton and you still never heard of this bebopping gal? She's played for 5 presidents (which she should keep under her hat since 4 of the last 5 each had 8 year terms---just saying). A dyed in the wool jazz vocalist that sounds like she can handle it all without a qualm, this wonderful tour de force performance shows that she was more than overdue to step out into her own spotlight and show she knows what to do with it. A first call date from top to bottom.

DALE HEAD/Swing, Straight Up: Take my word for it. Not every teen was getting off to Led Zep at the same time. There were a few of us (ahem) that were discovering Basie, Hefti and others and digging them in amazement. Badass firefighter turned swinging singer Head was one of the latter bunch. Realizing at an early age that swing was the thing he, absorbed it into his DNA if it wasn't there already. Bringing rebirth to a dying breed, Head reinvigorates swinging, male jazz vocal, dispensing with the need to put his own stamp on something that's bigger than all of us. Well done.

PETER PROTSCHKA QUINTET/Twilight Jamboree: You can't call a player born in 1977 a youngster anymore, but this post bop era cat who was born well after Miles made his turn in the 60s shows his love and appreciation of post bop so much so that Rick Margitza is part of his touring band, almost an insurance policy to make sure Miles smiles down on his trumpet playing. Not at all sounding like a fan that missed the boat, Protschka brings the daddio in fine style. On a live date that perfectly captures the smoky, late night club feel, it's no wonder that steam punk hipsters dig this as much as their cool grandparents. Killer stuff done just right, and then some.

ALEX MAKSYMIW/Without a Word: Wonder what happens when a crew of leaders band together for some improv jazz where mental telepathy is the fifth man on the court? Well, this bunch (with a Chicago connection) has mighty good answers to your query. The guitar playing leader doesn't exert an over reaching hand and this crew assembled from all corners of the world shows once again how jazz is the international language. A real sparkler of a date that doesn't need or rely on pyrotechnics, they are on point and in the moment playing like a crew that's been wood shedding these tunes for years. Well done.

MICHEL GODARD & Le Miroir du Temps/A Serpent's Dream: There was once a time when Paul Horns, Jeremy Steigs, Tony Scotts and others were experts in this kind of spooky sounding, foreign music. The stuff they were doing was state of the art but recording techniques were more primitive and our ears weren't as world wise and that's the difference between the old masters and this. Playing uber authentic instruments, Godard and pals take you to the back alleys of the world where jazz, classical and more meet up but don't strand you there like the Fodor's guides says miscreants will do. Not too out of the ordinary but just so much so that the armchair traveler will want his ticket punched for repeat visits. Well done.

HANS LUCHS/Time Never Pauses: Once again, Chicago has something to be proud of. Here comes a young guitar jazzbo that brings a rock sensibility to his left leaning playing and cooks up a dandy contemporary set that really works well. Sleek and modern with just the right touch to bring young and old into the tent, Luchs is a real comer with an impressive debut well worth your attention. A fine set throughout.

BEN WINKELMAN TRIO/The Knife: His first set as a leader since moving from Oz to the Big Apple, Winkelman shows his penchant for coloring outside the lines with grace and the kind of finesse that shows this is much more than an exercise in creativity for the sake of creativity. With odd meters and unexpected switchbacks carefully made to look like casual toss offs, this piano jazzbo finds a way to mix the familiar with the unknown into a stew that keeps your ears on point throughout. A swell treat for modern jazz fans that want to hear piano trio work heading in new directions.

BEN PATERSON/For Once in My Life: There's always room for another swinging B3 player that knows exactly what he's doing and former Chicagoan Paterson is the latest to join the line. After having long stints with Von Freeman and others, Paterson might be a new name but he's no newcomer and this long overdue display of chops validates the hard work that made it happen. A tasty organ trio date with lots of chestnuts given new life, Paterson could easily teach master classes in how to swing with soul. Well done.

EXPANSIONS-THE DAVE LIEBMAN GROUP/The Puzzle: It's just a personal preference, but as killer an improviser that Liebman is, I like his ‘friendlier' recordings. This set strikes an interesting balance in that his improv side leads the way but his friendlier side keeps a hand on the wheel. As opposed to this being a something for everyone record with nothing for anyone, it feels like Liebman brings both sides of his brain together in order to bring both sides of his audience together---and it works. Way out music that doesn't leave half the audience looking at their watch? That's the real news here as a new jazz genre is born. Tasty stuff from an acknowledged master, Liebman has crafted an unknockable recording. Check it out.

GERRY GIBBS THRASHER DREAM TRIO/Live in the Studio: Some time ago, I was trying to help a bass player get a deal with Blue Note. I wasn't told yes or no. I was told Ron Carter's last record sold 9,600 copies. Really? I get it. It's the commercial world, but that action was a far cry from when Norman Granz wanted to burn down RCA because they wouldn't support a Tommy Flanagan record they only expected to sell 1,500 copies. It's Ron Carter f'christsake. Commercial world or not, sometimes you just have to find a budget everyone can live with and do what you have to do---not what the hedge fund tells you to do. Well Ron Carter F'christsake (his new last name) is on board with this crew and they are at it again in fine style. The fun thing about this record is that they take it to the supper club, jazz piano trio style, and play the cheesiest pop hits with so much swing and style that if you were at this club, you'd be sure to linger over dessert and cocktails. Proof that if you are willing to find quality wherever you look, guests like Roy Hargrove and Cassandra Wilson are only the icing on the cake as opposed to the cake itself. This first take, live in the studio set with a live audience is one of the best modern mainstream sets you are going to meet up with. Killer stuff throughout.

Volume 38/Number 317
September 12, 2015
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2015 Midwest Record

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