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JOYCE TUMEA & SHARON WEST/Holiday Treasures: They could have been bored, desperate housewives, but these two musical spirits from Chicago's western suburbs combined their efforts for a set of original holiday music that sounds like it should be offered as a bonus with a PBS membership. Mainstream and sentimental, they managed to add the right amount of schmaltz, and no more, to keep this from being found in Salvation Army racks years from now by hipsters looking for a laugh. Baked with homegrown charm instead of homeliness, there's still a lot of small towns in America where this could/will resonate nicely. This is mainstream and DIY meeting in a happy holiday embrace.

JACQUES SCHWARZ-BART/Abyss: Please don't turn out to be the Tiger Woods of jazz. This multi culti sax blower comes in with a zesty jazz/Guadeloupe music fusion that if I didn't tell you, you would just think is a modernization of civil rights jazz. A multi culti cat that stirs up his jazz just like his gene pool, this album is meant to be a memorial to his father and luckily for us, he chooses to remember his father with a zest for life rather than a dirge. Not a newbie to the art, Schwarz-Bart knows how to serve a great stew for the open eared world beat jazzbo with a chip on his shoulder daring the player to show him something new. Think of how much faster you'll enjoy this without a chip on your shoulder. Wild stuff from a pro that knows how to get it done right.

ROBIN VERHEYEN/Starbound: I'm not sure I would have said this 43 records ago but Pirouet is really shaping up as the label that is either the next wave building on the legacy of ECM or the next wave of building on the legacy of Prestige. Like ECM and Prestige had distinctive sounds that were trail blazing, Pirouet is coming into it's own with releases like this as a hot bed for new talent with something to say and a unique way of saying it. This well traveled sax man who was already working with Maria Schneider when he was 18 really does bring some new moves to the sax lexicon. A tasty set of mostly inviting originals, the pacing and playing just reach out and make you one with this set. A touch left of straight ahead jazz; this is solid stuff for the jazzbo that can appreciate sitting down jazz by choice. Well done.

MARC COPLAND/Alone: Hell, he's from Pennsylvania, was born in the 40s; let's just get it over with and call Copland Pirouet's Keith Jarrett. This solo date seems to come prepared to bowl you over with impressionism, but his playing is much deeper than simply tossing off such tricks. Playing like a painter, Copland solo is certainly a work of art to behold. With a wild set card on paper, it hits the ear in a grand fashion. More an instrumental work than a pure jazz date, Copland solo is perfect for when you are solo. Something special for sure.

MARY BUFFETT & DAVID CLARK (read by Mary Buffett)/Warren Buffett's Management Secrets: While Buffett has more in touch with Buffett's management secrets than the doofus that wrote about Attila the Hun's management secrets; please remember that she is the ex-daughter in law of Buffett having divorced herself from Buffett's hippie, musician son. She written extensively on the subject of Buffett in the past and he obviously feels good enough about the proceedings not to use his considerable influence to shut her down. Still, remember that these are observations and not pearls of wisdom right from the horse's mouth. I have a relative who likes the say you can learn something from even the dumbest asshole. I like to tell him that rather than learn how to be the dumbest asshole, I'd rather spend my time trying to learn something from Warren Buffett. This is probably the closest I'll ever get. In these tough times, there's plenty of food for thought here and it's a nice ear opener for the business minded that need to retool, right now. This book claims to give you secrets to succeed in business and life and that's really the kind of self help book we need these days.

EMMA McLAUGHLIN & NICOLA KRAUS (read by Susan Bennett)/Nanny Returns (unabridged): Four million copies and 12 years of living aboard later, Nanny is back in the big apple, now coming back to see her now teenaged charge and his family crumbling. She's gone way up the social scale in those intervening years, but the hate and bite and bile are still coursing through this guilty pleasure that should have been timed as a beach book as opposed to a Christmas gift. Hyper clever with a hyper sense of reality throughout, the big apple upscalies are filleted once again with laughs and pathos for all. A palette cleansing sorbet fit for the type A still reads things other than spread sheets.

TAXI-The Final Season: In which we find another one of the TV classics winding it up and coming home for good as the stellar, last season of "Taxi" pulls out of the cab stand for good. Showered with Emmys in the midst of it's second, and final, cancelation, the 70s show that set the standard for ensemble casts not set in a war zone did everything it could to go out on a high note. A grand look at the human comedy, early 80s style, this is must for any serious TV on DVD collector.

HARRY POTTER & THE HALF BLOOD PRINCE: Movies like this are why it's getting harder to write traditional movie reviews. The effects are tight. Emma Watson is growing up nicely. The franchise is well cared for. All the heroes and villains are in the right places and wind up in the right places. If you're a fan, you will dig it throughout. If not, back to "Die Hard" for you. Available in DVD and Bluray, the Bluray package has the DVD and a digital copy in the combo pack as well as superior sound and visuals along with two hours of extras. So, Dumbledore this and make sure J. K. Rowling never has to go back to eating government cheese. Oh yeah, did we mention this is a great Christmas gift for the little Hogwart on your list?

Volume 33/Number 40
December 10, 2009
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
© 2009 Midwest Record

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