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JOHN PRINE/Bottom Line 1978 New York Broadcast: One thing was certain about Prine's 70s concerts, the postman not only delivered, he gave you your money's worth. Checking in at over 2 hours, this set gives you the best of everything he had up to that point, and here he does it with a rocking band that propels this stuff well beyond folk club roots. Originally broadcast on King Biscuit Flower Hour, the only knock on this twofer is that you wish they could have found a better source material to make the sound better. Other than that, if you are a hard core Prine fan, it's one of those wish you were there nights.

RED GARLAND/The Albums Collection Part 1 1956-59: A critical part of the Parker/Davis/Coltrane axis, it's hard to understand today how such an influential piano man could be so underappreciated at the same time. Some were cut out to be front men and some were cut out to be Crash Davis. This collection corrals the first seven solo albums Garland did under his own name. What he's playing, whether solo or with a crew, sounds like cocktail jazz today----but remember, back when this was recorded, jazzmen weren't playing arenas and sheds. They were playing clip joints loaded with b girls and the agenda was to sell watered down drinks, not entertain the crowd first and foremost. The eight sets contained here, one with Coltrane out front, are just fully loaded piano delights by a cat that knew how to show up and deliver without showboating about it. Often in the company of Art Taylor and Paul Chambers, jazz piano trio is hard pressed to get much better than that. Certainly not just a collection for hipsters, this is real jazz for real ears from a time when it was all just beginning to enter a second flowering. Hot stuff throughout.

RED GARLAND/The Albums Collection Part 2 1959-61: After making it clear that he had the right stuff and wouldn't need to go back to boxing or the military to support himself, Garland brought out the best in Coleman Hawkins in "Swingville" and made his own permanent mark with "Soul Junction" a full on modern jazz classic from the post bop era. Showing he could do more than show up and wear a cool hat, this collection finds him going cool, handling the blues, going Latin and setting the mood. Having establishing himself in this time period as pretty much the go to guy for those in the know or those that needed the kind of special sauce only Garland could deliver, the eight albums featured here breeze along fueled by the sure handed playing of a real pro. Solid stuff that deserves to live on well into the future.

RED GARLAND/The Albums Collection Part 3 1961-62: Rounding out an incredible run of 24 albums recorded over a period of six years, you have to scratch your head and wonder where these records were when we were going up. C'mon, the way we went through all our parents stuff we should have found this stuff if they were hip enough to have it when rec rooms full of suburban cool were all the rage in the 50s. Jeez, if Hef was promoting Miles couldn't he have thrown a little love for a Miles sidekick into the mix? Eight more albums that find Garland playing with various august peerages is on tap here. Since this is a somewhat deconstructed, by the pound collection, the individual albums don't matter that much when it comes to singling them out. All this stuff is great. This stuff is simply the bomb and somebody should get it together to start a Red Garland appreciation society. Killer jazz that simply shouldn't be lost to time and tide. Check it out.

WYNTON KELLY/Nine Classic Albums 1951-61: Packing a lot of living into 39 short years before an epileptic seizure claimed him, Kelly was something of a teen prodigy that could sight read making him an in demand accompanist. His skills took him everywhere eventually playing piano behind everybody. A distinct player that made the soloist the star, whether they were a vocalist or instrumentalist, Kelly eventually took some Miles key men with him when he left
Davis and set out with his own trio of alumni. The nine sets here find him being front and center with the crème of the cop in tow. The kind of piano cat that could play anything, there's something for everyone here and it's all served up hot and without running together into slop. Wonderful piano jazz throughout, this fatty of a collection shows just why he was so well loved. Hot stuff.

RY COODER/Ditty Wah Ditty: A curious piece in which we find Cooder doing a radio concert on the heels of the release of "Boomer's Story". Cooder hadn't quite found his footing yet and was almost a novelty act on the order of Leon Redbone performing oldie arcane tunes and celebrating Joseph Spence and Sleepy John Estes. You really had to be hanging around the college campus coffeehouse to get it. The guitar playing, it was never in doubt. The real fans can come in on a wing and a prayer one more time.

JONI MITCHELL with Herbie Hancock/Bread & Roses Festival 1978: Here you thought Hancock's Grammy winning tribute to Mitchell was some spontaneous combustion and now we find them playing together almost 40 years ago doing a bunch of stuff from her "Mingus" album. This is the spontaneous combustion stuff. There's a load of special moments here, enough to make you remember when Mitchell was known paramountly for her artistry rather than anything else. Every moon eyed kid that ever loved Mitchell will remember those days and times fondly with just a few spins of this top. It'll certainly make you hear her "Mingus" album with a whole new set of ears. Check it out.

TONY YAZBECK/The Floor Above Me: Fresh from "On the Town" and "Finding Neverland", Yazbeck fashions a one man cabaret show from tunes that have meant something to him, weaving them together with narrative that ties it all together. An intimate quasi-theater experience, the acting vocalist faces his past and shows how it affected his future. A delightful romp through a history of modern pop and how it makes life come together. Smartly done throughout, this is something off the beaten track that's well wroth checking out.

A NEW BRAIN/2015 New York Cast Recording: The Encores! Off-Center series takes theater to places it hasn't gone before. There was a musical made of "The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat" but this is musical about a young man with a brain disorder and his efforts not to go sideways. This set is a twofer that captures the entire show and is a mind opener as well as a mind blower. Did you ever think brain disorders could be so entertaining? Take a ride on this roller coaster and find out.

GRAHAM CHAPMAN/Spot the Loony: Recorded during the Python's last tour in 1988, Chapman was a funny man in his own right. With yet another Python checking in solo, you really can't tell if the parts were greater than the sum of the whole, or what ever that saying is. Wonderful stuff from a comic that was believed to be farther out there than Keith Moon, even if it seems more like a colloquially than a stand up routine, Chapman was a laugh riot and this hasn't aged in over a quarter of a century. How nice of the estate to let these tapes escape from the vaults.

SOL GABETTA/Vasks Presence: It's like this. If you're the kind of hot, young classical cellist that Frasier was always making reference to flipping out for, you can commission original works by your friends, have your mom show up for some duets and do whatever you want because the powers that be trust you enough to do it right. The playing is so smooth, you wouldn't know there's material here making it's world premiere, you would just think it's something you forgot. A classical player with so much depth and passion at her command, Gabetta is writing the new lexicon of classical music as well as adding to it's vocabulary in most incredible way. This set is clearly a new high watermark of artistic excellence. Well done.

SOL GABETTA/Beethoven Triple Concerto: The young cello master rounds up some of her equally as skilled pals to tackle three of Beethoven's greatest overtures and show there's still life to be found in warhorse repertoire without resorting to razzle dazzle for the sake of it. Real playing by real pros, they bring their own special sauce to the fore finding music in the nooks and crannies that others have missed over the hundreds of years these pieces have been played. A delightful, dramatic recording that really gets the blood flowing, Gabetta has so much on the ball you can't even take it all in at once. Killer stuff.

Volume 39/Number 108
February 17, 2016
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2016 Midwest Record

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