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PROFESSOR CUNNINGHAM & His Old School/Swing It Out!: In the mid 70s, the Chiaroscuro label took a bunch of used up jazzbos and let them play turning out a series of really sweet albums in the process. The vibe here the good professor takes on is right in that pocket but he's anything but a used up cat as his vitality keeps growing with each new set under each new guise. The label owner told me to keep my eyes and ears open for this set and she more than knew from whence she spoke. Old school without being moldy and musty, most of the songs might be older than your grand pa but they are as modern and smoking as anything you could imagine. Another high watermark set from this young old pro, this set is hard to ignore and hard not to like. Killer stuff.

ALTHEA GRACE/Dreamers: If this ep sounds way too polished for a DIY set, it might be that she was performing with Los Lobos since she was 8, is produced by Doyle Bramhall II and has some Wilco action going on here. A contemporary singer/songwriter with an observational bend and a big sound, it's only a matter of time before you stop asking ‘who?'.

ANDREW NEU/Catwalk: At this point we all know there's no money in jazz an no money in making records so when all stars the caliber of those on board here turn out for the sax man's debut big band date, they send electricity into the air you can feel. More than a busman's holiday of a set, everyone shows up to play and this is right in the classic pocket as inspired by the class practitioners. Big band that never gets corny, this is a winner throughout.

AMIGO/And Friends: With early alt.er Mitch Easter having his hand on one of the wheels here, he'd be the one to know that these cats are the heirs to Gram Parson and his legacy of cosmic American music that was a gumbo long before anyone knew the word mash up. A fast ball down the middle for pop malcontents, this is a wonderful wild ride that hits all the right notes as it makes it's journey to the finish line.

NICOLE ZURAITIS/Hive Mind: A very personal album from the jazzy lady as she dedicates this vocal album of mostly originals to a relative with schizophrenia. She finds that keyhole you can move through where you can be an art chick without being an art chick. A set that illuminates as well as it entertains, this is one of those sets that might exist close to the margins but occupies a space all of it's own. A well textured work that works.

JOHNNY TUCKER/Seven Day Blues: A 2017 recording recorded with old school values that sounds like those 60s blues records you were supposed to like but didn't have the facilities to fully appreciate at the time. Stomping, wild stuff in the early Alligator and Chess traditions, this will serve as a reminder to all those white boys with the blues running around today that the real music from the true vine will always exist and always kick ass. Old school with no dust on it by a real devotee.

JOE KYE/Migrants: A classical violinist that discovered electronics interfaces that with his love of music and finds his way toward making sensitive songs that are not shoe gaze no matter how inward they look. A well textured release that exists in it's own time zone, but a time zone large enough to invite masses into the tent, this is nu pop that goes where you least expect it to as you voluntarily follow along. A real treat just because of the grasp it has on taking something familiar and turning it into something new, there's something real wild going on here. Check it out.

CAROLYN GAINES/Beware of My Dog: This young ‘un is one old school gal that doesn't want you shaking her tree if you don't like her peaches. If there's a movement afoot to bring old school blues back to the front, with albums like this leading the way, we're glad to see this overdue moment happening. With a strong old school Chicago feel running through it, this tasty set will really make a man out of you. Hot stuff throughout.

REVEREND SHAWN AMOS/Breaks it Down: A folk blues set from a long time LA cat that never really knew what it was to deal with civil rights issues until a recent tour of the South. Nothing happened to him except getting his consciousness raised that there really are two Americas and unity is better than disunity. As Tom Paine said, ‘the cost of freedom is eternal vigilance' and Amos speaks to how that's still true today. Powerful stuff that doesn't hit you over the head but makes it's point in ways you can easily understand.

IRA B. LISS BIG BAND JAZZ MACHINE/Tasty Tunes: You know you've got a winning big band date on your hands when your hand starts doing that pumping, count down thing automatically before you realize it. A long time big band fixture on the SoCal music scene, Liss has been at it so long I'm not sure if he can be called an heir to anybody anymore but he swings like he's his own man throughout. A most certain of a killer listening date, this is sitting down jazz that'll have you leaping out of your chair as he and his all star pals raise the roof beams high taking songs you know and making them sound like nothing you‘ve ever heard before.

Volume 41/Number 88
January 27, 2017
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2018 Midwest Record

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