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JOHN McCUTCHEON/Untold: Certainly well in the running to be the heir to Pete Seeger as America’s folk laureate, McCutcheon comes in with a double album that showcases both his stories and songs once again raising the bar for cugine manqué members of the folk mafia that can only follow in his footsteps with clichés. Calling out a musical A team for the music portion of the program, McCutcheon has spared no expense in service of his own ends on his own label. A tasty folk treat from a vet that isn’t capable of a false step at this stage of his career. Certainly a must for folkies from across the whole spectrum.

CARLA BLEY-STEVE SWALLOW/Carla’s Christmas Carols: Nothing says Christmas music like Vince Guaraldi kicking it out with Charlie Brown. This means there’s a great segment of the public that associates Christmas music with their first brush with jazz. Since the jazz/xmas connection is primed, the opens the door for Bley’s first stab at Christmas music, long a sweet tooth for her that the years have not filled. With an after hours kind of personal passion, Bley and her co-horts do their own spin on the holidays. The tracks are mostly all war horses but the interpretations are all her own, and you can feel the affection for her pop running through it since he turned her on to the joy of Christmas in the first place. A delightful set that would have been a place holder in almost anyone else’s hands but is another dose of sheer magic when Bley swings her baton. A welcome addition to any holiday music collection.

KEITH JARRETT/Paris-London-Testament: What’s the point of closing out a decade without a generously sized set of Jarrett solo piano on ECM? As ECM celebrates it’s 40th anni, Jarrett comes in with a collection that might not be as massive as “The Sun Bear” concerts, but it brings it’s own formidable size and scope to bear any way. One of the few at the pantheon of solo piano players that can keep you rapt and wrapped up all by himself, the former child prodigy still has the youthful outlook and wonder in his fingers and that’s what keeps you in your seat for these three discs where he’s all there is to focus on. Meaty performances that show the musicality of white space as well as deep playing, Jarrett continues to keep his place at the head of the line. Heady stuff that makes you wish you were there.

KATIA LABEQUE/Shape of My Heart: Just because she’ll go 13 years between solo albums doesn’t mean Labeque isn’t busy keeping her fingers flying. Showing off her jazz side, once again Labeque teams up with the crème of jazz and rock for a set that will set your ears on fire. One of the more passionate players out there, these tunes show her being treated with respect by Sting, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea and others who don’t have to take a back seat to anyone. With just the right mix of jazz and classical, this is top notch adult listening, particularly when nothing less than first class playing by consummate pros will do. First class throughout.

KATIA ET MARIELLE LABEQUE/Satie-Music for Piano Four Hands: And this is a pure, uncut serving of what the Labeque Sisters are all about, perhaps the greatest four hand piano performers out there or maybe ever. Driving deep into the works of Satie, they go well beyond his well known ‘greatest hit’. With a passion and fire not normally associated with Satie, they give his works not only a proper showing but a proper airing as well. A rapturous performances that’s as visual as an audio recording can be, any piano fan, whether classical or not, will know this is the kind of set you just have to show off to your friends and make them believers as well. Killer stuff from the titans of the keyboard.

MAKAJODAMA: Unless you’re an uber geek about Swede prog rock, the names of this crew probably won’t mean very much to you, but if you’ve dug Kraut rock ala Can, Faust etc, this is a new taste for your palette. Well within the realm of college rite of passage music, it’s a nice load of noize lite for kids for happy homes that want to act out anyway in need of their own special soundtrack.

CAROLINE HERRING/Golden Apples of the Sun: In which we find Herring realizing that less is more as she strips down the sound even more and relies on outside material from a wide spectrum to deliver a folk album that really has to be contended with. Herring expresses herself right from the heart and makes herself at one with your ears. In the classic folk mode of that pre-folk rock/post folk music scare period when the sound became urbanized and it was ok to write your own material, this set will take grandpa backto the day and give young whippersnappers lo fi vindication. A solid winner throughout from a great sounding singer/songwriter who has learned there’s no shame in being a right on interpreter as well. Hot stuff that‘s she‘s more than got the chops for.

DON TIKI/South of Boudoir: The other side of the world from Ibeza is Hawaii where pomo hipsters aren’t overly self important and bring affection to the gig. They had Martin Denny jam with them on their last release and with puns, double entandres and mai tais in hand, they throw the doors open for another round of chill party music that comes to the party feeling like Martin Denny jamming with Thievery Corporation, but he jammed with the Tiki crew so how much more authentic and reliable to you want your contemporary exotica to be? A great party on a platter that brings fantasy Hawaii to whatever snowbound hole you’re stuck in. Upbeat, fun stuff that’s simply irresistible.

Volume 33/Number 7
November 7, 2009
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
©2009 Midwest Record

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