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SHANNON BRYANT/Light: Before you let the cover lull you into thinking Bryant is just another single mother, new age whack job, remember she was chosen to perform at a tribute to Mickey Hart. What Bryant delivers is one of the best confessional singer/songwriter sets since the genre went away at the start of the 80s. Not whining and entitled, the lyrics are heartfelt and real and the music and playing provides a sterling setting for it all. A well done set that doesn't self consciously take you back to the day, this is that e-mail you've been waiting for from a long lost friend. Check it out.

CRISTIAN PEREZ/Amina Mundi: How can you be an Argentinean guitarist that fuses jazz, world and local sounds in to your sound but still not be called a world/jazzer? Taking it somewhere else as his vibe is to celebrate the soul of the world, this cat's ears and fingers are not to be messed with or doubted. Like a Lindstad or a Liebert that knows how to put their restlessness to good use, the places Perez takes your ears are places they've only heard in dreams. Amazing stuff that treats Mancini, Piazzolla and Simon & Garfunkel all the same. A must hear for the armchair traveler/guitar fan. Well done.

KEN PEPLOWSKI/Enrapture: Aligning himself with Wilson, Wind and Asherie, Peplowski digs his clarinet and sax into forgotten oldies by august peerages and shows just how much wind he can still muster as he blows the dust off of all of them. A standard bearer of mainstream jazz, this set is a gasser with a retro undercurrent that makes you feel like you're listening to an old radio show. The kind of cat that turns in set after set of impeccable moves throughout time and again but bringing a fresh jug of special sauce to each session, Peplowski keeps his rep in tact yet again with a set sure to grab your ears and not let go. Killer stuff throughout.

NANCY HARMS/Ellington at Night: Cool and swinging a the same time, Harms takes Ellington to the cabaret leaving the tortured artist effect at the door. Peppering the set with only a few real Ellington tent pole songs, Harms works the canon like it's some custom made stuff from the next Sondheim. Inhabiting the songs with her own unique way, this is a real find for the Ellington fan that thinks he's heard it all or the jazz vocal fan looking a special, new treat. Well done.

GUILHERME DIAS GOMES/Leste: A Brazilian composer that more or less went into the family business has had enough of being the head soundtrack ace for TV Globo and wants to kick out the jams in his later years. Offering up a delightfully different take on Brazilian jazz, showing it's smooth jazz with an edge side, Gomes has fashioned a real crowd pleaser that is loaded with appeal but doesn't hold and mush in it's bag of tricks. Jazz as party music coming from one of the world's big party capitals, this is just what the doctor ordered when you want some moving easy sounds that don't fade into the woodwork. Hot stuff.

ARK OVRUTSKI QUINTET/Intersection: The Russian bass man connects with a crew of cats from various South American points and it all comes together like it was meant to be. Kicking off with his bass introducing "Waltz for Debby" and perking up your ears, the rest of the song meanders into the kind of interplay you dig when jazz really gets going. And the set keeps going from there. He let's everybody have some one way or another and the result is classic club jazz with the kind of vibe that's always welcome. One tasty trip!

JONATHAN GREENSTEIN/Vol. 1: With the beat of New York flooding his middle eastern ears, saxman Greenstein takes jazz to today's streets charting a course for listeners of tomorrow. Heady stuff that genre blends skillfully into a fine blend, the young and skronky will get the most out of this set. Here's a vision we can appreciate.

BRANDEE YOUNGER/Wax & Wane: How are you going to fault a young jazz harpist that is so aware of her heritage that she actually covers Dorothy Ashby on this session. Having the gumption to pick up the phone and call in some of the best of today's rising jazzbos, this set that goes forward into the past while going forward at the same time is a must hear for anyone looking for some real music that isn't afraid to hit uncharted waters. With a non-stop groove that doesn't need to knock your socks off propelling things nicely, this is the real deal throughout that has it all on the ball. Excellent!

SUSIE ARIOLI/Spring: With a handout from the Canadian arts council and a hand from producer John Snyder, the swinging gal that can rock the sexy nerd core look like almost no other turns the jazz diva/great American songbook vibe on it's head by covering Bo Diddley and kicking in a bunch of originals that sound to the manner born. Turning up the heat as well as putting the pedal to the medal, Arioli kicks it out like you've never heard her do it before delivering a session that grabs you by the ear and makes you go "Really? That is so cool". Listeners, the bar has been raised.

KATHERINE FARNHAM/Vintage: Here's an entry from a modernly swinging gal that'll perplex you as she takes you on the wild ride. One minute she seems like an undisciplined art chick, the next minute you notice that it seems like she won't hire you for the session unless you've already won a Grammy. And she's picked up a few awards for her work along the way as well. Almost like she's plugging into Miles' 1970 vibe, the world wise, self described Kool Kat is making records for tomorrow and she has her finger on a pulse that's just starting to beat. This is certainly the new street sound for nu cool cats. Seeing as how her pop played with Stravinsky, she comes by all this naturally.

Volume 39/Number 97
February 6, 2016
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2016 Midwest Record

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