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UNIVERSITY OF NORTHERN COLORADO JAZZ LAB BAND/Romeo & Juliet Project: Once upon a time, when it came to recognizing college jazz bands, you had the UT Lab Band, and that was pretty much it outside really inner circles. Even if they got to record, it was for off beat labels. Now that the record biz has fallen apart, we're hearing a lot more college jazz, and there's a lot of good stuff out there. Dana Landry whips his kids into shape and keeps them on their toes with this ambitious project where they are to reimagine "Romeo & Juliet" and do it without referencing any previous themes on the matter. That's a lot of baggage to stow away and lots of people are going to have lots of opinions. However, we can all reach agreement on the music itself---it smokes! With a little help from some ringers off to the side, these kids are killing it from the ground up with such on point moves that you know they won't wind up playing Vegas lounges---unless the next Louie Prima comes to town. A wonderful, creative date filled with great playing that works throughout.

GINA SICILIA/Tug of War: Oh yeah. Apparently kvetching pays off since we kvetched that Sicilia's last record was only an ep and we wanted more. The blues/soul siren really ups the ante this time around which probably makes her glad she dumped out of a journalism career before print media crashed and let fly with the blues, which will always be in fashion one way or another. Really putting personality and sexiness into this set like never before, if you were impressed by her (as you should have been) in the past, this set is really going to open your eyes, ears and brain cells. When an act makes the move to go commercial and keeps it organic at the same time, the perfect storm is on the horizon. Sicilia's already owning the next level of the game here. Hot stuff throughout.

DEVIL'S DOMAIN/soundtrack: Geezers, dinosaurs and moldy figs, step aside, this double discer soundtrack ain't no "Saturday Night Fever". The cleffer to a cyber horror film that really speaks to today's kids and about the realities that weirdly lurk outside the realm, there's a generational mash up going on here where timeless cats like Iggy mix with tomorrows electro stars and there seems to be no friction as they rub elbows. A wild and wooly collection that could easily rise up from the underground as kids discover the pic behind it on SVOD and other similar modern platforms, the sound of this summer could be quite spooky. Is the nu world what you expect?

BRETT GOLD NEW YORK JAZZ ORCHESTRA/Dreaming Big: Talk about making your parents kvell and still coming out a winner on your own terms in the end. Gold ditched his musical path to become a hot shot, New York tax lawyer. 25 years in, he gave the profession a Danny Thomas "ent!" and found his way into some rarified air circles---and not just because he could right a check to make friends and influence people. His love of odd time signatures shows his love for Don Ellis as well as "West Side Story" on this audacious debut that hits it out of the park. Hanging with the crème of the crop rather than looking for new talent to develop, there's no room for mistakes here and none are made. A late blooming jazz voice, Gold really validates how you've had a whole lifetime to make that first record and this bodes well for all those things that have been bubbling under while this was distilling. Fresh sound that works well, this album really is gold.

KEVIN KASTNING-MARK WINGFIELD/Lien to Three: One of the many flavors of Kastning on display here is his 6th duet with Wingfield. What happens when you let two premiere innovators loose to do what they want? Apparently they use their forward thinking brains to turn everything on it's head and make a spooky sounding, downtown arty set to bring disaffected millenials into the tent. The soundtrack to an imaginary cyber thriller that hasn't been made yet----, well, "Tubular Bells" did pre-date "Exorcist". A wild ride through a nu sonic underground that's best experienced without drugs the first time around. Check it out.

BILL CUNLIFFE/Bachanalia: As John Daly used to say on "What's My Line?" when it was clear that it was just time to give up, "let's just throw over all the cards". The Grammy winning, fourth stream father, big band/classical maestro doesn't just blow your mind here, he blows up your mind. Forget all that making something new out of something old blather and bla bla bla, he grabs the bull gently by the balls here but firmly let's the bull know who is boss. A classical/jazz mash up like you think you've heard before but really, really haven't, this is the swinging but wily, sophisticated date you sit down and pay attention to when the grown up in you demands to be served, properly. Absolutely grand stuff by a master at the top of his game.

BARBARA MORRISON/I Wanna Be Loved: Some journeys through the past just have a magic that makes them work better than others. The Morrison/Houston Person magic is alive and well for this third pairing as they take a trip through a bunch of Dinah Washington songs. Her crew knows all the right moves and this classic feeling jazz vocal date completely hits all the right notes. Actually more timeless than classic, this is the sound of pros turned loose to do what they do best. Well done throughout.

JD ALLEN/Radio Flyer: In which we find the acclaimed sax man testing the limits of his improv reach seeing just how far he can take things to the outer limits and how far you will follow him. Not a skronk recording but not an easy recording either, this is Allen's valentine to the committed jazzbo that likes to wear his individuality on is sleeve. Real gone daddios know what we mean.

TED CHUBB/Gratified Never Satisfied: Trumpeter Chubb really plays it like he lives it if the sounds behind the title are any indication here. You can listen to this casually and hear a dandy, swinging modern session or you can dig a little deeper and hear that life force that just keeps some cats looking for the eternal, existential, mind blowing chord. Either path you take, you won't be disappointed. The organic nature of his playing is what really makes this work which separates it from pretty sessions that you are glad you hear once but never seem to come back to. This is the real deal that keeps knocking it out of the park.

TERRY GIBBS/92 Years Young-Jammin' at the Gibbs House: Records like this make you think somebody better write a check quickly to fund a session between Gibbs, Bucky Pizzarelli and whatever other geezers are still out there showing the young ‘uns how it's done before it's too late. A wonderful non-record that's made up of a bunch of first takes recorded in Gibbs living room with very little forethought behind them, this swinging set of jazzbos killing it on the classics is a delight. With junior and pals in tow, this set shows how much it pays to respect your elders and let them hammer their blues away. You want good vibes? Well this is it at it's high octane vibiest. Killer stuff throughout.

QUINSIN NACHOFF'S ETHEREAL TRIO: A bunch of forward thinkers come together for a set of modern daddio music where the angular pokes to the ribs are in full evidence but those elbows have been sharpened up for modern times. Not habitués of church basements here, the only tradition this bunch respects is clove ciggies and late nights chasing the groove. If black clothes and candle holders made out of Chianti bottles don't go out of style, this music will live forever.

Volume 40/Number 203
May 23, 2017
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2017 Midwest Record

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