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JASON MARSALIS/Heirs of the Crescent City: Some things just write themselves. Here we have one of the Marsalis bunch doing a soundtrack to a documentary about the passing of the torch from one generation of Nawlins musos to another. And what else is there to say than if you don't catch this drift you better hit Google pronto and get some schooling? A set of original work by Marsalis that draws on tradition and the future at the same time, this is a great link in the chain of Nawlins music that shows it will never die from neglect. Hot stuff.

BLUE MUSE/Live: A bunch of swinging jazzbos that swing in church? What? You can only listen to Wayne Shorter out of church? A bunch that met to play jazz while students at Jacksonville University, they could pass for ringers from the Lab Band a few states over. On point and having a good time, this bunch makes great jazz for the non-hard core that's sure to bring a few more listeners into the tent that think they are intimidated by jazz (even at this late date). Well done stuff that works.

MARK HUFF/Down River: Huff rolls out the Southern gothic on his latest that finds him surrounding himself with players that have been surrounding the crème of the crop in recent seasons. Almost like shoe gaze for folkies, this Americana date isn't for party people looking to careen through the night. Heavy stuff for heavy times.

HURRICANE RUTH LaMASTER/Winds of Change: A wailing, bad ass white girl with the blues in the extreme, LaMaster teases us here with an ep of busman's holiday covers from all different ports in the storm where the only constant is this show woman tearing it up throughout. Assuredly, album fans will be left wanting more. Smoking, hot stuff with more than enough wail to satisfy Captain Ahab.

IRA HILL/Tomorrow: What's a 19 year old from Phoenix to do if he wants to become a jazz vocalist? How about surround himself with cats like Cheryl Bentyne, John Proulx, Doug Webb, Alex Acuna and others to add to his arsenal to keep naysayers from yawning over comparisons to Mark Murphy et al? With lots of swing and rising, but proper, sense of attitude under his belt, this kid is showing some fine stuff. You shouldn't be able to make debuts this accomplished when you're under 21. Check it out.

KAREN LOVELY/Ten Miles of Bad Road: The only thing missing from this indie blues date is Mike Finnegan wailing on the keys. With a bunch of the usual hit making suspects backing Lovely up, the multiple award winner/nominee brings all the rest of the special sauce needed to make this sizzle. Sounding like what Bonnie Raitt would have sounded like back in her Boston days if she was surrounded by more whiskey and fewer hippies, Lovely is a double barreled shot of white girl blues that is so heartfelt and impassioned you can't help but be amazing. Certified killer stuff throughout.

MANISH VYAS/Atma Bhakti: A world beater riding hard on the meditation/healing music tip has a hot new one for stressed out mommies that probably wouldn't be so stressed out if they weren't so busy stressing out their kids. Not your mother's meditation music, Vyas uses a lot of insidious simplicity to make this feel familiar even if his contemporary chops take it to different places and realms. Trust me, this will do more for your mind than a new pair of yoga pants.

COWBOY'S & FRENCHMEN/Rodeo: Veering nicely between progressive lite and pop/jazz, this is the kind of stuff millennials need to hear that think jazz is just something for hipsters that deny being hipsters. Often angular but never obtuse, this crew shows the knack for making late night jazz for people that have to get up in the morning. Wild stuff that you don't have to be an outsider to appreciate, the open eared are sure to understand. Nice.

LIQUID MIND XI/Deep Sleep: To celebrate the tenth anniversary of "Sleep", Mindster Chuck Wild comes back with "Deep Sleep", a set to send you off to dream land and get you ready for the REM cycles before you hit them. A soundscape that creates a wonderful, enveloping blanket of sound to insulate you from the vaguerities of the real world, the six tracks on board here will probably take several listenings to get through as it's sure to send you off to dreamland---in a good way! Not measured by anything but Wild's instincts, that visceralness is probably what makes this series so successful at it's many levels. It hits that chord again here. Reach for this as an alternative to your usual downers the next time the urge strikes.

BILL O'CONNELL & the Latin Jazz All Stars/Heartbeat: When this white boy sits down at the keys and leads his pals on a Latin romp, the worst thing you can say about it is that it's a tasty, palette clearing good time. High octane but totally accessible to gringos, this is a blue print for how to build a musical one world. With certified Latin chops on his resume but leaving himself open to freely interpret what Latin means, O'Connell dazzles and delights with another set that's anything but more of the same. Caliente mucho!

LEW TABACKIN TRIO/Soundscapes: As much as the vet sax man has a thing for Japan, he's honking here with classic New York skronk lite even as he wanders through Japanese musings. Recorded live in the studio in an off the cuff manner, the electric energy passing through him and his trio keeps you on point to hear what's coming next. Loaded with the chops only a long standing pro can bring to the fore, this is a classic jazzbo date for classic jazzbo ears. Check it out.

ARTURO O'FARRILL SEXTET/Boss Level: Is there any configuration this O'Farrill kid can't command? Bringing his kids into the family business after they roundaboutly brought him to the video game universe, this set is inspired by video game music and how the game world affected him. Whatever, it's upbeat fun stuff with chops aplenty being strewn everywhere. Well gamers, O'Farrill moves it to another level and continues to make his bones along the way. Killer stuff with a big ear cocked to the future of mainstream jazz.

TRIO DA PAZ/30: C'mon, this trio is Romero Lubambo, Nilson Matta and Duduka Da Fonseca celebrating 30 years of living and playing together in New York. They might sound like they just left Brazil last week, but these are forward thinking hard core jazzbos that are continually having their ears open and set to scan. This is just one of those dates where you have to get yourself a seat near a panorama window and let them do the driving while you enjoy what whizzes by. Killer stuff as only real pros can deliver.

KENNY CARR/Exit Moon: The white boy that was Ray Charles' guitarist for a decade regroups with his own trio for a set of all original fusion that puts the ax front and center and shows how impassioned Carr is when he's getting down with his guitar. Obviously having the skills to pay the bill, Carr knows how to tear it up and isn't shy here and showing how it's done. A solid bet for jazz guitar fans.

Volume 39/Number 54
December 24, 2015
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2015 Midwest Record

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