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JARRETT CHERNER TRIO/Expanding Heart: We're always happy to do a hats off to a young, piano jazz trio that is ok with pushing the envelop but not to the point of losing and scoffing at listeners that don't follow along. Very much a classic jazz piano trio, Cherner can be just as much Corea as he can Jamal, sometimes in the same song, and keep the listener engaged throughout. Some people just have that something extra you can't name and Cherner is one of them. Loaded with delightful playing and interplaying, there's nothing here that won't fill the bill. Well done throughout.

FAREWELL MILWAUKEE/FM: As much as the cover sucks, the music doesn't. Sounding much like a contemporary, Minnesota version of Firefall, this crew boldly mines the commercial FM sound of the 70s in an era without any guidelines or infrastructure. The sound is there, all that's missing is the marketing fury. Tasty stuff that wears it's own identity but mines a pocket that's sadly neglected these days. It's a nice throw back to when music was music. Check it out.

MARY JO CURRY: Competing favorably with young Bonnie Raitt 45 years later isn't such a bad thing---it's just a high bar to compete with. Belting from the heart and brimming over with independence, Curry lends her theatrical chops to white girl blues melding to musical backing that has a feel for show blues. Anyone with a taste for soulful, white hot mammas will find this set to land right on the money delivering a smoking hot good time for all. This singer has got it going on.

HARD SWIMMIN' FISH/True Believer: Four piece white boys with the blues that have been kicking around Virginia for the last 20 years pair up with lo-fi meister Mitch Easter for a primitive sounding date that keeps it raw and wild. Rocked up outer edge blues, this sounds like something that was recorded a long time ago when college coffeehouses stalked the earth and filled it with organic sounds---but it's recorded in the now. It'll probably be too raw for many, but the level of chops powering the proceeding will generate cult passion as it throws off sparks with the real true believers. Check it out.

JOHNNY NICHOLAS/Fresh Air: A high school pal of Duke Robillard, a lead singer in the heart of Asleep at the Wheel's Grammy winning years, a long time denizen of Austin and pals with the city's crème---the list goes on. Nicholas sounds like he could have been a running mate of Ry Cooder when Cooder had his Texas on. Organic, rootsy and so from the heart throughout that a first listening will have you thinking you didn't hear wheat you just heard. A white boy with loads of blues soaked in R&B and soul, he has the skills, chops and flying time to blow your mind wide open on this set where he had no one to answer to but himself. A real organic treat that ought to be on top of everyone's year end best of lists. Hot stuff throughout.

MASON SUMMIT/Gunpowder Tracks: Another one of those tyros you don't know whether to admire or strangle, Summit's third album shows way too much lyrical and musical maturity for a kid that isn't even 20 yet. Influenced by 60s sunshine pop with some dark under tones, it might be gentle but it's anything but twee. The thing here I like to snicker at is he thinks of Wilco as an oldies act. This is the place to stop for some killer, mainstream pop that plays it straight without being condescending to any. Well done.

SCOTT MORGAN/Songs of Life: A swinging jazz vocalist coming back to music later in life makes a smart debut that shows how all kinds of things are melding into the mass known as the great American songbook. With James Taylor seamlessly fitting next to Lerner & Loewe, Morgan casts his gaze back 40 years and more to play off Fred Hersch quite nicely as the simpatico makes the grooves really bubble to the top. A nice find for jazz vocal fans looking for some new kicks.

HIRIE/Wandering Soul: Duke Ellington spoke the ultimate truth when he said music is either good or bad. That's what's cool about mash ups. When they are done right, you get a smorgasbord of the best of everything spinning your head around with all deliberate speed. This record has grooves that skank from outer space and makes a load of stops along the way. More than just the exotic looking lady on the cover, Hirie is a multi culti band with loads of chops that just want to display them all at once---in an organized way so it never sounds sloppy. A decidedly sure bet for those that want something left leaning with a tad of mainstream sensibilities, this is a headphone masterpiece that really gets the job done. Hot stuff throughout.

VANEESE THOMAS/Long Journey Home: When you have a dad named Rufus and his label Stax coursing through your veins, it's a sure bet you can deliver a deep soul Southern gem. Of course, not to respect Thomas' own chops is a crime. More down home than her debut, Thomas takes off the gloves and isn't afraid to get down and dirty in the potato hole to dig out all the sound that can be. This lass is going to keep the family name shining in the business as she charts her way to the future---even if it's via a welcome return to the past. This music is timeless, it isn't about fashion.

MATT ULERY'S LOOM/LARGE/Festival: All us Chicago cats owe Ulery a debt of gratitude for making the kind of wide ranging art/jazz music that used to keep the reels at Universal Studios spinning all night with an over flowing crowd of musos spending the money they made on jingles to produce artistically satisfying music that might only be heard by a few but was heard deeply by those with open ears. Never so arty that it's' inaccessible, this bass ace knows how to lead no matter what size crew he's working with, several version are on display here. With imagination, power and chops merging into one undeniable mass, Ulery is a Chicago jazz treasure that keeps his claim valid here. Hot stuff throughout.

Volume 39/Number 295
August 23, 2016
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2016 Midwest Record

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