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THE MAXX/Funk Box: The life of a working musician isn't always as glamourous as outsiders think. This funk crew has played their share of jive ass dates to keep food on the table, but they are not a jive ass band. Funky bad boys, they aren't being retro, they aren't being futuristic for the sake of it, they are just being funky. With a opening riff that has you hooked for the duration, you immediately start rooting for these cats to get off cruise ships and leave Bill Gates' private parties in the rear view mirror as they free the funk for all. There ain't no message here except that there's a party going on and you better show up on time. Well done.

WADADA LEO SMITH/America's National Parks: Work with me. Would you expect a tribute to the national parks 100th anniversary by a former fellow traveler of AACM to sound anything like what Aaron Copland would do? Take a skilled player turning 75 in short order that came of age in the civil rights jazz era and turn him loose on something that has a lot of majesty to it--he will give you something that sounds like creation. Sounding very much like how things might have sounded with all was verdant, new and wild, this is a progressive take on a well worn subject that will turn your ears inside out. Almost sounding like contemporary classic work, people that have sonically traveled with this adventurer in the past will know they can expect the unexpected but the trip will be worth while. Check it out.

LAWRENCE BLATT/Longitudes & Latitudes: There's a lot of capable and proficient guitarists out there making pretty records, and we can enjoy and appreciate them on that level. Then there are players that don't know when to let up on the special sauce and have access to tools and resources that give them that something special that we can really appreciate. World traveling, guitar collector Blatt has pals and tools at his disposal that make this so much more than a pretty guitar record. With Will Ackerman at the helm and Windham Hill era pals helping out, this date falls about as far from the Windham Hill tree as a solo guitar date can be expected to---and tip of the cap to all involved for staying ahead of the curve. A delightfully smoking acoustic guitar record that will enjoyably open the ears of guitar heads.

FABULOUS THUNDERBIRDS/Strong Like That: After about a thousand years together, the Fab T-Birds aren't resting in their laurels as they tackle the next decade of the new century full on. Heading in to the genre blender, with Kim Wilson at the controls, they mix Stax, Motown and swampy riffs into a finely textured blend of contemporary blues/soul that youngsters will have to run to keep up with. Far more hard hitting that any geezer should be expected to be, Wilson and company (a crew with about a million years of white boy blues between them) hit the bulls eye square on. A real treat that shows there's no dust on them and that they can still turn new heads at this stage of the game. Hot stuff.

AL CONTI/Mystic: Loreena McKennitt may have stopped making Loreena McKennitt records, but apparently Conti hasn't. Originally inspired by the life of Hildegarde von Bingen, this set that journeys back to what it must have been like in the life and times of a 12th century mystic shows there's still new ground to be broken in new age/chant music. A grand and sweeping date that bands together a bunch of current rising new age superstars to let them show off their best, even the most stringent anti-granola eater will stop and give pause to the depth and scope this soundscape offers. This is a must for the medieval mystic lurking within you.

COLIN JAMES/Blue Highways: The white boy that's Canada's national blues treasure recorded this busman's holiday record at the end of a long tour when the band was really cooking and he didn't want it to end. Recorded in a marathon 36 hour session, this is simply James and pals kicking it out on all his fave blues tunes that he never got a chance to record. Chicago, Memphis and points south are all well represented and brought into the present, with respect, in fine form. Put it on and feel like your in the back of the bus decompressing with the gang as they kick out the jams with everybody getting some. A winner throughout.

VALERIE GHENT/Velours: A vet rocker turns her skills toward the jazz vocal/cabaret side with this deep set of mostly originals that is setting the under the radar world on fire. Quite the savvy, canny songbird, this is the kind of record mellennials should grab when they want to feel like grown ups but don't want to try and keep up with something they don't understand. Understated and after hours throughout, if this doesn't give you that 2 A.M. vibe you're looking for, you aren't celebrating the wee hours on this planet. Quite the sizzler.

Volume 39/Number 345
October 13, 2016
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2016 Midwest Record

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