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XIXA/Bloodline: An offshoot of Giant Sand and Calexico, these desert rockers have answered the question of where the next Leonard Cohen is coming from. Sure, they wear their pomo-ness proudly but they bring the pomo to "I'm Your Man" in high style. Sounding much like Cohen up until he started working with Pat Leonard, I guess if you trade snow for sand...? Wild stuff that looks at another side of life and does a great job of giving you a musical tour of the wrong side of the tracks. Wild stuff throughout.

ERIC OLSEN Revision Quartet/ Sea Changes: When you say that Olsen has played everything with everybody, it's not an exaggeration. One of those ambidextrous guys that plays jazz and classical with mainstreamers and hell raisers alike, Olsen mixes Grieg with George Harrison and brings in Don Braden and other luminaries to help fill out the sound. Opening up with a positively urban inspired jazz romp on a p.d. track, the creativity flows in mighty fashion from there. A delightfully ear opening set that isn't exactly made for a jazz club on Mars but will certainly take you places you don't/didn't expect, this piano man will tickle more than the ivories if your senses are all working. Killer stuff from a Grammy nominated cat that needs to get out more---so we can see him live. Well done.

CLARK GIBSON + ORCHESTRA/Bird With Strings-The Lost Arrangements: Not every accident has to end with mangled cars and people suing each other. A track here was inspired by Art Tatum missing a date and being replaced by Hank Jones, Ray Brown and Shelley Manne. Back when Norman Granz was an upstart, before the advent of the lp, he let his jazzbos have some free reign and the arrangements here were commissioned by Charlie Parker but never used for one reason or another. Based on the evidence we have here, it wasn't because they were lacking. I guess you could conclude that arrangers were the remixes of their day because this stuff smokes and doesn't sound at all dated. Perhaps this is why old timers think everything today sucks---it's hard to compete with this stuff. If you want a real thrill of discovery, this album that never was will blow your mind, Parker fan or not. Hot stuff throughout.

DOUG MACDONALD/Solo Plus: Yes, Virginia, you can play solo jazz guitar without having to sound like Wes or anybody else that set the standard. Macdonald is his own man on his own path, and while you may think there's only so much new you can do with six strings and a set card heavy on oldies, this isn't the stuff of a guy playing in the corner of a restaurant for tips. Like he's playing just for you, Macdonald delivers the goods with the elegance the situation demands. Check it out.

WALKIN' CANE MARK/Tryin' to Make You Understand: A white boy from the desert is so into the blues that he winds up rubbing elbows with Snooky Pryor and Amos Blakemore (Google him, see what you find) and sounds like he went to Cooley High instead of someplace in Phoenix. He's so steeped in the Chess tradition that you can almost imagine him standing in the Chess studios with his mouth hanging open the day Leonard allegedly berated Muddy Waters into painting the ceiling right in front of Rolling Stones who just happened to drop by at that moment. Looks like Chess has become one of those things that's a time and place instead of a reality. No two ways about, Wolf is smiling down on this record making him doubly glad he treated his musicians right because it inspired sets like this down the line. A killer set of mostly originals for the hard core, post war blues fan. Check it out and get down.

INFINITE SPIRIT/Revisiting Music of the Mwandishi Band: How does this work? You write a biography and get so inspired by your subject that you pick up an ax and do a tribute record with some of the actual players from the actual time? Bob Gluck has done just that. After writing a Herbie Hancock bio, he decides he wants to leave his finger prints on Hancock's Warner recording period. Tribute can only go so far in this pomo world since this set has new, original work as well. Since it's always a treat to hear Eddie Henderson and Billy Hart playing together again, we'll cool it with the snark so you don't get misled. What ever gave this set it's genesis pales in comparison to the result. The kind of look back that really works out well since it isn't really trying to look over it's shoulder to ape every original move, this is a great chance for modern ears to hear classic works. Well done and sure to stand tall against the originals.

PRESENCE/various: A well conceived label sampler of peaceful sounds for the stressed out parent that will go absolutely postal if they ever hear "The Wheels on the Bus" or "I Spy with My Little Eye" in the car again. Veering well away from the clichéd, hippy dippy side of new age, these easy going compositions and performances will assure you that all is well with the world, even if you turn on the news. It might even make you turn against the news. Sound like you? Check it out.

DARRELL GRANT/The Territory: Blame it on my hippie roots but I have a soft spot for records that wouldn't have been able to be made without arts council money but don't sound like they are beholden to the schmendricks who make the capricious, subjective decisions on whose work gets to live or die. Like an audio movie, Grant unfurls what goes through his mind as an African American living in a state that once forbade their presence. Sitting down jazz that never comes across as good for you, with a phalanx of first call players lending their hands, this time journey from Indian times to now will easily open your ears and mind. It plays so clearly like an audio movie that maybe some visionary will help it find it's way to art houses and streaming sites (yeah, things have changed). Well done.

KEN FOWSER/Standing Tall: If you're any kind of a jazzbo, you know Fowser's name but you'll probably be surprised this is his first date as a leader. Swinging that sax like he was born holding it, Fowser isn't letting grass grow under his feet as he delivers a pure, classic New York sound that can easily take you back to days you weren't around for in the first place on a set of originals that aren't filler. Engaging because he's playing without affectation, he's the real deal that knows from whence modern sax came from with Four Brothers as his starting point merging lessons learned with vision clear. Muscular, solid playing that makes this a winner throughout.

JON DAVIS/Changes Over Time: A swinging, jazz piano trio date with a such a classic feel that you might think this was Ramsey Lewis or Gene Harris if you heard it bleeding through a neighbor's wall or someone's headphones. Right on the money throughout, Davis knows how to mix swing with class and sass making this a thoroughbred of sitting down, listening music. Helmed by an unassailable pro, this is the real deal for all piano trio fans obsessed with great playing over everything else.

Volume 39/Number 45
December 15, 2015
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2015 Midwest Record

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