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SARAH KING & THE SMOKE RINGS: This record make you think there's an upside to schoolyard bullying. Sassy, snappy King was spotted by this crew walking through Prospect Park playing a ukulele. Do you think she was one of the cool kids in high school? The rest of the band doesn't look like they went out for football much. Put them together and they are the pre-eminent retro swing crew in New York. The set card holds nothing new but delivers such a good time these chestnuts are ones you'll want to crack open again and again. Leading with King's kewpie doll looks and voice, this journey through the past you were too young to take the first time around comes across as a gasser throughout. A wonderfully winning date that knows how to bring the fun. Check it out.

DENNIS JONES/Both Sides of the Track: Bringing that certain kind of soul that can only come from musos on the black side of the electric blues ledger, Jones jumps right in and tears it up from jump. A ready made shredder hero, Jones knows what Muddy knew and knows how to serve it up hot and heady. A certified bad boy throughout, even the deaf will get off on this def outing. This is a total, high octane thrill ride throughout loaded with heat.

REBECCA KILGORE/Moonshadow Dance: To those of us that have been watching her career for years, it might seem like Kilgore made a real leap of faith here. Moving way out of the comfort zone we've been accustomed to hearing her tear it up in, Kilgore hooks up with some new fellow travelers that seem to have tossed her into Dave Frishberg territory. Obviously Kilgore knew it would work, the rest of us can just sit back in dropped jaw amazement at how she turned this original set into a winner throughout. None of the principles here are wet behind the ears and their collective, palpable disgust with how little there is for the mature ears these days have driven this set into neo-classic territory. This is the beginning of a great second act. Check it out.

DAZED & CONFUSED-A Stoned Out Salute to Led Zeppelin/various: Unless you're really down with the stoner underground, you might not be familiar with this international selection of bands that owe a debt of gratitude to Led Zep and show just how much this stuff is on their DNA (making you winder about their parents). As indelible to rockers as Charlie Parker is to jazzbos, modern stoners don't have to feel like rebels without clues once the light hits these bytes. A wonderful refresher primer in what hard and heavy is all about.

ENRIQUE HANEINE/Instants of Time: Back in the turn of the 70s when Miles was going nuts, a lot of other jazzbos wanted to follow suit but they wisely wanted to put their own stamp on things so they wouldn't be accused of ripping off Miles. Haneine's Latin/world/jazz outing has the feel of what the Paul Horns and Tony Scotts were up to when they were taking jazz to different places. Reminiscent in vibe to the free wheeling dates of the time that made you sit up and listen, this mind blower never feels like a journey through the past but it's always a great detour off the beaten path. A must for the open eared jazzbo that doesn't feel wedded to a particular vibe that lets him shut out the rest. Well done.

GREAT AMERICAN MUSIC ENSEMBLE/It's All in the Game: The mainstream record business keeps making it hard to make a living unless you are the featured performer at the top of the front cover. Some people and some companies don't care and that's fine with us. Producer Doug Richards is a throwback to when people cared about the art of the arranger and could tell the differing signatures between the Holmans, Heftis, Mays and actually cared as well. Attacking the great American songbag from this different direction, Richards and his big band deliver a treat that's not to be missed. Whether instrumental or vocal, this is the real deal that old timers will love but membership in that club isn't required. Killer stuff.

DAVE MUSKETT ACOUSTIC BLUES BAND/Recorded Live at the Slippery Noodle Inn: A white boy with the blues from Indy, Muskett might be a Piedmont fanatic but he is no 1970s college coffee house recidivist. Blending hokum and acoustic sass in a fine mix, Muskett continues to refine his vibe and continues to hit you in that place that wants you to grab something real. Tasty stuff made for good timing, this is a cat that's going to continue to burn up his corner of the blues world. Well done.

CURTIS STEWART/Of Colors: This violinist is the kind of cat that makes you jealous to didn't stick to it with those violin lessons when you were a kid. With a resume that shows he's played everything with everybody and really believes that music is just a bunch of notes, he takes this tour de force to Mars and back with cohesive, on point playing that feels like it puts music first and money second. And playing the way this guy does, the cliché hits squarely on him that if you do what you love the money will follow. A genre defying date of progressive music that doesn't fit into any pigeon hole, he's just going to blow your mind as he takes you from jazz to classics to rap and back again. If you're ready, willing and able to took beyond the top 40, this date is totally breath taking. Hot stuff.

RIFF RIDERS/Hit the Road: Genre blending blues rockers that are proudly blue collar with a solid gal, Amy Shallenberger, leading the way, this bunch steps up and punches it out without any frills. You don't need the frills and you don't miss them. Solid and from the gut throughout, this bunch are solid road warriors that have paid dues and knows what works, delivering it without you feeling like you've been had. A totally winning date for real rockers that just want to rock the night away, kind of like their dads did when Heart was working any place that would give them a stage back in the day. Killer stuff throughout.

BRUCE TORFF/Down the Line: Playing hooky from his day job as a Harvard Ph.D. in education, the creative piano man makes this date notable if for nothing else than it's believed to be Lew Soloff's last session recorded 2 weeks before he died. Just in passing, it's notable for the playing and writing as well. A smart, left leaning date peopled with players that are all game raisers, this is solid late Friday afternoon music when you need something that understands how much you need to let go with your jazz at that moment. Some of the titles might seem pretty down beat but this is instrumental music and the groove reigns supreme. Check it out.

Volume 39/Number 90
January 30, 2016
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2016 Midwest Record

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