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BENINGHOVE'S HANGMEN/Pineapples & Ashtrays: Take some cats with impeccable chops that take their work, but not themselves, seriously, throw it in a tumbler, shake, stir and add some fruit on toothpicks. What to do get? A delightfully musically screwy album that would have been one of the leaders of the pack during the lounge revival in the 90s. This would have been at the head of the class because it's played without irony. Doing things like turning Les Baxter on his head probably without ever hearing Baxter, that odd starting gate is where this set just begins. The big band sound for the Vegas lounge that exists in your mind at the mega hotel on Mars, this is the ultimate gasser that's aimed directly at anyone who isn't a hipster and wants to let loose. Yeah, it's so money! Killer stuff.

ERIC TINGSTAD/Mississippi: Can't put your finger on what Tingstad did here? This feels like the roots album T-Bone Burnett always wants to make but never quite does. A guitarist that seems under appreciated even after all this time and so much recognition ditches the new age thing and hits it out of the park with an instrumental date that finds the sweet spot guys like John Fahey were always looking for. Walking that fine line between being artistically satisfying and commercially accessible, this crafty old pro has raised the bar in acoustic roots music with this new gold standard set that blows your ears wide open. Magically taking his pals and his ax to places they've never been before, this is the date with that something extra you've been looking for. Killer stuff.

POWER QUINTET/High Art: So who's the leader in this bunch of leaders? Jeremy Pelt and his pals do some solid swinging on a post bop assortment of originals that sound as lived in as the Granz era Verve cover art looks. Certainly indulging their art side, this crew doesn't make it so you have to hang it on a wall to really appreciate it. Killer stuff from a bunch of first rate cookers, this is jazz with no dust on it but played like it is supposed to be played. Simply a smoking set that straight ahead jazzbo must hear and have.

DENA DeROSE/United: Sort of like they say in those old movies based in olde England, "Major label jazz is dead, long live jazz". Time goes so quickly that it feels funny to point out someone who came up in the 90s already has 20 years in, but that's the case here. Leading a killer trio with the irreplaceable Matt Wilson and Martin Wind in tow and Ingrid Jensen and Peter Bernstein along for the ride, all you can say is wow. Swinging and swaying like one of the boys rather than playing the thrush, this singing piano ace is playing like American Pharaoh ran. With the kind of fire power that makes you feel like this is how Tina Turner would sound as a singing pianist, there's not a false note in the bunch and for jazz, this rocks. Top shelf all the way.

BENNY GOLSON/Horizon Ahead: If High Note wants to double as the old sax players home for old sax players that still have it, that's ok with me. Playing some tunes that were new when he first started to swing, Golson turns in a sly, mature date that's classy without being sedate. This is the kind of date that hits you at a visceral level of enjoyment that makes you go a half step slower so you can hang around for the end of the ride to see how it winds up. Smooth stuff that has octane to spare and never lets you down.

SPIKE WILNER/Koan: I guess the Zen mystery we're pondering here is how a kid that grew up on ragtime found a way to tickle the ivories into putting crime jazz, Tom Waits and rockabilly energy undercurrents all into the same song. Always a solidly creative cat right from day one, this piano trio date takes tradition, morphs it, but keeps it respectful throughout. A forward through the past kind of date, this is a mighty cat jazzbos can trust their ears with when they want something squarely out of the ordinary where they can trust it won't roll off the rails. This is a first class cat strutting his stuff on a first class date.

ROBIN BESSIER/Open Road: A drop out of corporate life, Bessier sings from the heart about her transformation from corporate cog to jazz singer. Sounding like she's followed Molly Scott's footsteps with more jazz and less new age, this is the sound of playing out mid life crisis in a lush, smooth jazz setting that might just be the gate way drug for more women of a certain age to start digging jazz rather than paying it lip service. An interesting set that's several steps ahead of it's time.

JOE CHAMBERS/Landscapes: The jazzbo who never met a mallet he didn't like has played a lot of different flavors and worn a lot of different stripes over a long and varied artistically rewarding career. Here, he let's his hard bop, his avant garde and his mainstream sides collide in a happy mash up that swings while it remains angular and muscular. Solid, straight ahead playing by a trio of pros that love to swing hard, this is first class listening jazz that's sure to keep you guessing while you try to figure out how Horace Silver sound so much like Vince Guaraldi. A winning set throughout.

FABRIZIO SOTTI TRIO/Forty: Would you be pissed at the guy that took tomato soup and made it better by making it tomato bisque? Apply the principle here. The former headstrong Italian teen that was so obsessed by jazz he stormed New York only to get detoured into rap success has been reclaiming his jazz over the years bringing him to this point now. Playing his new, signature model D'Angelico guitar like the pro he is, Sotti reaches down and finds his inner Wes somewhere between his third and fourth ventricle. Not an homage or anything like that, Sotti takes what he can from a cat that left us half a century ago and builds on that. Never over playing or playing without taste and style, this is a smoking jazz guitar trio date that paints several different pictures but hangs together as a solid whole. Solid stuff.

ZUILL BAILEY/Prokofiev: There's a lot of egghead stuff that is under pining the genesis of the modern classical works here and how they came about in tortured fashion, but in this short attention span world, the back story isn't going to help you enjoy this presentation any more. Finding a new piano foil to play off, Bailey, the classical cello category killer, faces off against the North Carolina Symphony Orchestra in an incredible presentation of music as art that really deserves to be on the next Grammy ballot. If listening to this red hot session doesn't make you feel like a grown up, go back to your PBR and tell us how your team is number one. A winner throughout.

Volume 39/Number 187
May 6, 2016
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2016 Midwest Record

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