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CHARLIE BALLENTINE/Where is My Mind?: The jazzbo guitarist that doesn't want to be defined by ticking off a check box next to ‘jazz' continues to think outside the box letting his inspiration and motivation from all the great contemporary jazzbo guitarists that think out side the box lead the way. Not a manqué even if you hear echoes of the leading lights, this is a solid set of nu jazz for nu ears busily dismissing Monk as musty if they aren't busy being hipsters. Solid stuff that has it's own agenda to take you some place else. Check it out.

HYMN RIVER SUITE/Hundred Proof: Coming from the land of Bonnie Bramlett, this sib duo looks like The Roys or Civil Wars on the cover, but they are solidly from the class of bands that opened for the Allmans, recorded for Capricorn and made you wonder why they never got bigger. A double barreled dose of the real deal, presented in real time with contemporary concerns, this is one of those bands that just makes you drop your jaw and say ‘god damn!'. Writing and singing from the heart about things they know in their soul, this is the well stocked cure for jaded, rocking ears looking for the truth. Hot stuff throughout.

EMILY MURE/Worth: The folk singer equivalent of a Nancy Myers movie, this classically trained oboist turned folk singing admirer of David Bowie, takes you on her own journey of healing and hopes you can apply it to you. Better that than taking some celebrity driven lifestyle websites seriously. Never having been an anxiety ridden white woman, I can't tell you if this is what the doctor ordered or not but it's pretty in that twee atavistic Lauren Canyon kind of way.

JOSHUA JACOBSON/Good Little Thing: In which we find Jacobson doing so well in a mode where others miss the mark completely. He's saying this is a twist on Piedmont blues, I think it's more like twisted Piedmont blues. Taking over the blues/hokum mantle from R. Crumb in a bunch of ways, this set of nu Jews blues will rock you to your core. A solid set of organic blues with modern lyrics and a touch of Dickey Betts showing up in the mix, this set is the penultimate kick in the balls American so richly deserves. If you've ever been held in thrall by a Holy Modal Rounders lp and wondered where the next dose would come from, this is it. Highly listenable outsider stuff, this might just remind you what it feels like to have fun again. Killer stuff.

CYRUS CHESTNUT/There's a Sweet, Sweet Spirit: Once again hitting the keys with both hands while never being ham fisted about it, contemporary piano great Chestnut pushes the piano trio forward into a laid back grove that reflects his gospel upbringing without really bringing the church into things. Deftly played throughout, with pros Lenny White and Buster Williams making this a true ensemble date, this is how piano jazz is supposed to sound. Well done.

RUSSELL MALONE//Time for the Dancers: Not that Tony Wilson is chopped liver, but dates like this prove and show how Malone's guitar counter pointing Diana Krall's piano is what gave her the rocket fuel to be a pop star. With the sense of humor and the absurd he can be known for after hours, Malone pairs "Chico and the Man" with an elegy for Emmett Till, among other stops along the way, and really makes it all work. A jazzbo for all seasons, Malone is striking gold here. Killer stuff throughout.

JOHN PAGANO BAND/One More Round: Pagano and the guys come together behind him as the front man for their latest go round in which they deliver that white boy blues/rock/electro roots thing with aplomb and fierceness together. Hard hitting stuff for nu ears that just don't find the right solace in the past, the future of the sound is in good hands here. Hot stuff.

RALPH BOWEN: Wow, sets like this make you think this is how it must have been back in the glory days when labels like Prestige were flying by the seat of their pants and hitting it out of the park on the fly. The sax man is so on point here delighting us with smoking, straight ahead jazz that he'll have your head spinning with the good vibes for all. Tasty stuff that disregards everything but high octane, quality playing, this is a must for the jazzbo in you that you probably didn't even know existed. The rest of us are already in groovesville. Well done.

REGGIE YOUNG/Forever Young: If I was that kind of star giver outer kind of guy, I'd say that Reggie Young was the guitarist on all the soul/country/Memphis/Muscle Shoals/blue eyed soul records I'd have given five stars to just because of his presence over the last 50 years----but I probably don't even know all the record he was on, just the monster killers for sure. Getting to make his solo debut at 79 years old, this stellar master piece, which finds the country boy on a jazz label, is as delightful and indefinable as Chet Atkins late period CGP records. So, if you find yourself with this son of a preacher man being always on your mind when you're drifting away with sweet Caroline despite having a suspicious mind, click that Amazon link as soon as possible so you can enjoy an auto play download while you wait for your hard copy to show up in the mail. 79? I wish I could write and play like this when I was 29. It doesn't get any better than this.

RANDY KAPLAN/Trippin' Round the Mitten: Is he a white rapper for kids or is he trying to turn kids on to mushrooms? Kaplan is a kiddie wise ass for all seasons that has it going on for kids of all ages. Refusing to be hemmed in by anything, he really has his finger on the pulse of today's short attention span kids that are closer to the "South Park" kids than they are to the idealized version of mommy and daddy's little angels that just don't exist. Shake off your pretensions, forget that this is a kids record and have a great time reveling in that "Rocky & Bullwinkle" sly hipness that was too hip for kids then as still is now. It's a riot, trust me.

Volume 40/Number 262
July 21, 2017
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2017 Midwest Record

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