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AKIKO TSURUGA/So Cute So Bad: After 16 years in New York, this Japanese dynamo has got it all so firmly down under her belt she can qualify as a native New Yorker. A pure B3 trio date with no place to hide, you just can't make it any more jazzbo than having Jeff Hamilton and Graham Dechter at your side. With chops that were gladly never wasted on chopsocky, Tsuruga keeps the art and art form alive in fine form making it a little more uptown and a little less greasy for a new texture of a classic taste treat. The crowd knows she's got it going on and this set drives that point home in a big way. Finely tuned, quality stuff throughout.

CORBIN ANDRICK/Bonzo Squad: Don't let the title and the cover art fool you. Chicago has been known for it's share of cutting edge and bleeding edge jazz, but the only thing bleeding edge here is how a crew that hones it's craft in a restaurant came make such an on point progressive racket and not put the restaurant out of business. Anyone showing up for mannered background music will be disappointed but this bunch doesn't let the food get cold or find anyone running out the door complimenting the meal like the perfect wine. Powered by sincere playing that really connects, this crew is so adept they'll have your head spinning in a good way. Hot stuff throughout.

LINSEY ALEXANDER/Two Cats: A master of soul fusion, this cat's third for the local Chicago label is a distinctly Chicago sounding/feeling release but damn if we don't hear echoes of Bobby Rush, Stax, Memphis and deep southern soul show band moves laced throughout. A hard working dues payer, Alexander is playing at the top of his game here making all those years of really banging it out seem like they never happened and it's all so easy. Theresa's, Checkerboard and Aristocrat lounges are all back in full force here. Killer stuff that keeps post war, urban blues up to date and alive. Well done.

TYPHANIE MONIQUE/Call It Magic: A hard charging, single minded gal that loaded herself with a double barreled load of determination comes to this record as a fully formed jazz singer that takes no guff and can master any kind of material, painting her sound pictures with a full palette of emotions that goes way deeper than just hitting the right notes. With a set card that's as modern as it is classic, this set let's you bear witness to the art of jazz vocal being transformed for modern times. Killer stuff that works throughout.

LAURA CAMPISI/Double Mirror: Originally hailing from Sicily, is she a fount of Euro sensibility or an art chick? She's a rising, important part of the Italian jazz scene in New York so let's go with Euro? Putting Gershwin on the same disc as Lou Reed and a bunch of originals, as well as letting you know in the liner notes she's a tad moody, she knows well how to deliver the pomo chanteuse thing well. Hipster cocktail music, moldy figs will probably pass it by while kids that dress like train engineers will probably find her a dream date.

PACIFIC MAMBO ORCHESTRA/Live From Stern Grove Festival: Head's up, gringos. Here's a crew with a sound, as well as a story, we love. Their debut, a crowd funded, indie release, beat all established comers for a tropical Grammy in 2014. Laying back for their new one? Not likely. Percolating with the hipper edges of stuff gringos understand, like Tito Puente and Ricky Ricardo, this is sensational Latin jazz for white people. More the sound of killer backyard parties than the sound of the streets (from where it originally came from), this disc is headed for the party on a platter hall of fame. Inciting a live crowd with this live set, high octane is on fire here. Killer stuff throughout.

GUY BELANGER/Traces and Scars: With a well decorated, highly accomplished 40 year career north of the border, Belanger might not need any introduction to Canadians, but as a way of introducing this harmonica ace to you (and he probably won't be insulted by the comparison), he's Toots Thielemanns/Hendrik Meurkins good. Stopping long enough to make a personal record instrumentally documenting stops along the way, this set will grab you out of nowhere when you least expect it. Subtle but always hard hitting, this is a jazzbo grabbing the spotlight but still not ready to grab a victory lap. A winner throughout.

THELONIOUS MONK/Les Liaisons Dangereuses 1960: In time for the Monk centennial, here's a valentine for Monk fans that don't like to monkey around. The previously unreleased studio sketches for the soundtrack for the French new wave film with the A team in tow. Versions of songs you probably wondered where they came from and how they fit into the Monk canon (unless you were a total Monkophile), some say this edgy music gave the pic it's legs. Worried about being left out? Well, you needn't. A great opportunity to peek behind the curtain and hear how the magic happens.

PETE MALINVERNI TRIO/Heaven: The way some other commentators bitch how there's nothing good out there makes me think we're in two different businesses on two different planets. Records like this make me think there's so much good stuff out there I can't keep up with it all. A simple, jazz piano trio date inspired by spirituality inspired by a health scare, it's the work of a singular talent right there to find the spirituality of Curtis Mayfield, Duke Ellington and Jay Ungar all in the same disc. Knowing nothing about the back story, you'll dig the playing by this crew as they hit it out of the park with each trip to the plate. Another stellar New York cat worthy of more recognition this side of the Hudson, this set can make you feel like one of the those 800 cats that bought "Everybody Digs Bill Evans" when it first came out. Well done throughout.

AV CLUB: A Chicago jam band inspired by classic funk, this party crew plays it straight and winds up delivering a fast ball right down the middle. Using crazy tools like composition and a linear approach to playing, the music might careen mightily but it never wanders and the wheels never fall off. Putting chops to good use instead of extravagant displays, this is one of those records you put on and leave on because you love the way it just keeps coming. Hot stuff.

Volume 40/Number 214
June 3, 2017
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2017 Midwest Record

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