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ADISON EVANS/Hero: It's one of those things you really wouldn't think about but Beyonce's backing band has been a source of some pretty mighty lady sax players and Evans is another to come out from those shadows to strut her stuff. No wonder Beyonce's sound is so tight. She puts on the show up front and has courageous foot soldiers bringing up the rear in flawless precision. Kind of a smooth jazzer with a Sonny Rollins jazzbo edge, Evans certainly knowles z way the bring the jazz in fine form. A tasty set that easily kicks other to the curb. Well done.

HARPER & THE Midwest Kind/Show Your Love: A genre busting roots rocker from Australia makes you wonder how he got so much Chicago in his harp hanging out in Perth. Mixing blues with jam and adding his own special sauces blending with everything he's dug from the 50s forward and seasoned with indigenous Aussie moves, betcha this is what Rounder would be putting out these days if the original hippies were still in charge and hadn't become senior citizens. Youth is taking their rightful place as next in line and this bunch does it with respect instead of elbows. Roots beach party? You bet. Check it out.

PAUL GREEN/Music Coming Together: Yeah, yeah, yeah, others have melded jazz and klezmer in the past, but how many of them were hot shot classical musicians who's grand father was a cantor---and never knew it? As much inward journey as experimentation, if anything, Green's mash up has led him to his inner Kurt Weill and you can hear these melodies fitting easily into "Lost in the Stars" or "Three Penny Opera" without any problem, even as he does tongue in cheek riffs on Miles and Wayne Shorter. While Green may not be sure if this recording is michik or fleishik, it's a pretty dazzling set of adult, instrumental music with a world beat edge. A nifty treat that takes you beyond the pale, this is sure bet when you want to get into some pure listening music that won't let you down. Well done.

ELLIS WILLIAMS/Call to Battle: You can't stay in the church basement forever. This is the sound of civil rights jazz for millennials that have to be pissed off at everything they look at as they look around. Relying more on African influences, funk and hip hop than dissonance, you can hear echoes of the past within this look toward the future. Quite the powerful set that makes an impact much the way Miles did when he was shaking it up and shaking it loose for the hippies that didn't realize what his underlying message really was. Wild stuff that's not too wild, the emotions here give the playing that extra special sauce that really touches home. Check it out.

DARREN ENGLISH/Imagine Nation: A transplanted South African trumpeter, English can sound a clarion call paying tribute to Nelson Mandela just as easily as he can peal off real feel bebop and much more as he tips the cap to legacy composers as well. An auspicious debut that sitting down jazz fans will stand up and cheer for, English is on the money throughout making it clear he's a rising star that's here to stay. Well done.

NATTY NATION/Divine Spark: You can just picture this ‘yah, mon' crew from that hot bed of reggae, Madison, Wisconsin, digging Marley, of course, but going to record meets and going nuts over finding obscure non-Island single by groups like Mighty Diamonds. They skank along quite mightily as their soon come recorded output lopes along, and the bytes house the changes and maturity that gets picked up along the way. This set easily passes the ‘college kid rolling a chronic and getting flat' test even when it does some laid back fist shaking. I and I declare it all eire.

JOSH HARTY/Holding On: Turning himself into a musical vagabond by choice, Harty is just what fans of Zen cowboys like Chuck Pyle need to add to their play lists. With a warm inviting voice and a good sense of when to use musical white space and what to fill in the blanks with, it all comes together with lyrics that are solid enough to be the mortar that holds it all together. Bursting with the quite fire the propels a restless soul,. This is a killer set of back 40 Americana that doesn't beg to be repeatedly played, it just makes itself at home. Clearly killer stuff throughout that takes the current folk revival to the next level of the game.

STEVE HILL/Solo Recordings V. 3: This guy must really be something live because his records are wild affairs. A one man band led by his shredder side, the Canadian award winning electric white boy with the blues must have traded his soul for something at the other end of Highway 61 to play so possessed. No matter what he's doing here, he makes it all his own and makes it unique. And he sounds like he's got hell hounds on his tail throughout. Industrial blues rock from Mars? Maybe---and we don't mean the candy company. This is the sound of a wild man in his natural setting and must hear stuff if this genre is right up your alley.

CHRIS ZIEMBA/Manhattan Lullaby: Probably not getting much sleep between his day job as an educator and his nights spent gigging, sleep depravation isn't evident on this snappy piano jazz quartet set. With a solid crew that are first call cats in their own right, this date is a classic fast ball down the middle that piano jazz fans in general never get tired of---especially when it's played this well. We'll leave the pedant stuff to pedagogs, we just know it sounds groovy and we like it. That's good enough for us to heap a ‘well done' on it. Check it out.

PHYLLIS BLANFORD/Edgewalker: Kind of an old school, soulful sister with a lot of first call jazzy friends, this righteously performed outing might just be a little too real for people who are not darker than blue to fully appreciate. Through it all, this former ex-patriot knows how to find the soul in such ‘oppressed' writers like Cole Porter, Will Holt, Kurt Weill, Harold Arlen, Johnny Mercer and others of that calibre. This is kind of a standard bearer of a date for an age that's supposed to be finding us tearing down walls---no matter what some people profess. Hot stuff throughout.

ELIADES OCHOA & Alma Latina/Guajira + Mas Guajira: The Cuban music tent pole teams up with his sister for a set of Cuban "country" music. Like us gringos would know the difference. As long as it's interesting and sounds good, we dig it. The sum total of a lifetime of playing and recording, Ochoa feels he's playing a the top of his game here and we've heard enough of his stuff over the years to know he's right. Sounding like much more than ethnic restaurant music, this is Cuban soul music that comes directly from his soul to your ears. Dripping with emotion and passion, this is a must for the armchair traveler that just wants to sink into his easy chair with no distractions and let this set take him away. Killer stuff throughout.

Volume 39/Number 142
March 22, 2016
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2016 Midwest Record

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