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MARLENE VERPLANCK/The Mood I'm In: It's one thing to have your a&r guy sit down with the publishing guy at the publishing company that's under the same roof as your label and root around for stuff to make you look like a hot shot on great American songs, it's another thing to have lived them. Unafraid to be the doyenne of cabaret and jazz vocals, VerPlanck's timeless delivery and sound made this bunch of oldies sound better than ever. You might know most of the writers represented here but I'll bet you don't know most of the songs. That doesn't stop VerPlanck and her five pals from serving up the most righteous jazz vocal you could hope for. A wildly winning set throughout, this is a master class on jazz vocal that you better show up on time for. Killer stuff, once again.

PAZ del CASTILLO/Now: delCastillo uses her background in classical music to put her piano skills to good use in crafting some utterly lovely contemporary instrumental music that needs no augmentation or added pizzazz to make it's point delightfully. A solo artist that shines brightly on her own, this is wonderful music for a winter night, a snifter of brandy and the solitude that black ice on the roads enforces. This is a shining example of the kind of music you can enjoy by yourself and not feel alone. Well done throughout, just like you‘d expect from someone whose first album was produced by Suzanne Ciani.

TIM MAY & STEVE SMITH: You've got one guy that was the driving wheel behind "Moody Bluegrass" and the other has worked with Tim O'Brien, Alan Munde and others of that ilk. They both sound like the were given lessons directly from Jethro Burns. And when the light hits the byte, they take off in high gear making more racket than you'd expect from two string players pulling it off by their lonesome. Freaking killer nugrass that leaves no room for anything else to say. Be sure to check it out, but only if you're ready to have your breathe taken away. Whew!

KAZALPIN/Sniezki-Schnee: Here's a wonderful way to open your ears to new and exotic world beat that's based in indigenous Belarus folk music but performed by a world beat crew that doesn't draw all of it's members from there. A sweet and smart world/folk/jazz outing that mixes traditional tunes with originals quite seamlessly, it's a vocal driven date where the harmonies fuse so winsomely you don't care that you don't know what they are singing about. A clear cut must for the armchair traveler that wants to delight in previously uncharted waters. Well done.

YARA LINSS/Samambaia: Sweet mysteries of life. Since we don't understand a thing this international citizen is singing about, it's easy to say she has all the sun dappled insouciance of any of those Gilberto gals, but reality is different. She's not singing about any of the clichés of Brazilian music that we do dearly hang on to, she's singing from the other end of the telescope even if it's clear we all want the sunshine on our faces no matter what. We really don't know if this award winner is a bummed out art chick or not, we just need to know that she sings pretty and has great taste in samba flavored back up players making this something wonderful we can enjoy while "they" laugh at us Americans for not getting it. But we do. Check it out.
71162 (Jazz Thing Next Generation 60)

CHRISTY DORAN'S NEW BAG/Elsewhere: Not exactly church basement jazz but highly appropriate for a bunch of Euros to release as AACM celebrates it's 50th anniversary. Wildly careening free jazz that never rolls off the rails but often feels like it's coming close, you really need lots of black clothes and clove ciggys to give this one a proper go.

GENE & GAYLA MILLS/Walk on Solid Ground: How do you top an impressive debut album? How about with coming in with some of the best singer/songwriter material since Kristofferson's first two albums. Working Americana rather than Kris' progressive country, there might be 45 years of time and tide between these two poles but the wow factor is undiminished and right on the money throughout. A deceptively gentle album where the duo carries the weight with some coloration here and there, this is a classic example of real music for real music fans who find themselves still playing this years from now. Hot stuff.

ENRICO PIERANUNZI/Tales from the Unexpected: The third in the label's series of giving stage time to unheralded Euro jazz legends is a real humdinger. A pianist that finds a way to fuse swing with Euro chamber jazz keeps you on the edge of your seat throughout this trio date. With head proudly held up in upholding the tradition of Euro jazz/classical melding, there is no need to draw lines demarcating what kind of music this is other than great. Classy stuff for classy people, you don't have to be an egghead to enjoy this, just someone that finds pleasure in well made things that were made to last. Well done.

LAURENCE JONES/What's It Gonna Be: The label really believes in this kid. They are releasing the first single in the label's history all for him. A guitar slinger for the nu generation, he's electric and not strictly blues, not strictly rock. Sounding like he never met a fret board he didn't like this high octane kid has what it takes to break through the clutter and dross and give your ears the sound thrashing they needed to wake them up from miasma and mediocrity. Hot and heavy stuff from a cat that doesn't have to worry about ever using his teaching degree to fall back on. Hot stuff.

BLUES HARP WOMEN/various: You got to love it when people love their work. The producer of this set was inspired to compile it when he found out that Big Mama Thornton was the killer harmonica player on her records. Filling this two disc set with mostly white women who might play the blues but don't get the blues, he searched far and wide to find the best of the best without hitting usual suspects or sources. So deep was his commitment, this album even plays like a cohesive whole. The fastest and easiest way to take your ears on a blues cruise post haste, you might as well sit back and let these high octane ladies strut their stuff because they sound like they wouldn't have it any other way. One sure fire killer collection.

Volume 39/Number 34
December 4, 2015
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2015 Midwest Record

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