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CRAIG FRAEDRICH/out of the Blues: Leading a jazz trumpet ensemble, this is a high octane, muscular set of jazz originals that falls from the pocket right into the pocket. Showing just how much brass they have between them, this bunch blows up a thundering storm that's hard to beat. A wild romp that knows it's roots, this date leads the charge in mighty form. Tasty work throughout.

NATHANIEL BELLOWS/Swan Wolf; A published multi media poet comes up with a multi media package that proves even left leaning, malcontent eggheads need love too. Certainly not a mainstream release, it comes with the underlying pedigrees that roves this is to be taken seriously.

ERIC VALENTINE/Velvet Groove: Going so far as to lasso some of the original smooth jazz hitters to lend a hand, super drummer Valentine goes back to the day when smooth jazz with an urban edge was the flavor du jour and served in a mighty tasty way. Right in the pocket throughout, this is solid commercial music made by those who can bring some soul to the proceedings and keep it form being just pretty wallpaper. Loaded with a Friday, after hours feel, this is what it sounds like to feel good. Well done.

UNDER THE LAKE/Jazz, Groove and Attitude: When you have only 4 albums to show for over the last 25 years, it goes without saying that when you do make your statements, they better be of the go big or go home variety. These Lakers hit the target. Smooth jazz with edge honed over the years, they have funk, roll and soul all delivered in the proper measures making this a disc of delights. Tasty stuff throughout, maybe we can get them to show up a little more often. Hot stuff.

PETER SOMMER SEPTET/Happy Go Lucky Locals: Jazz with a sense of humor that focuses strongly on Mingus, Ellington and Monk along with some worthy originals. They carry on in the best of the tradition adding some contemporary special sauce to the proceedings. A nice look back at a random collection of works that should not be forgotten or overlooked by time.

ARNAN RAZ/Chains of Stories: A sax led session where the focus is on sounds rather than grooves, these jazzbos tackle this vector nicely. With a nod to Teo Macero, even if this date was created without a lot of editing, it shows what can be done when you want to chart new directions and do it from the heart. A very interesting listening date that comes with it's own set of merits. Solid work throughout.

SHAREL CASSITY & Elektra/Evolve: And the title says it all. The eclectic mix of jazzbos looking to stretch that show up keep this from being a downtown, busman's holiday. Staying true to it's roots in downtown and loft jazz, this tight, angular and muscular jazz outing merges echoes of the past and future into a glorious present that all can be proud of. Keeping it's cutting edge in tact, this charts the future in fine form. A winner throughout.

CHANG YONG SHIN: This young master of cascading, fusillading notes isn't just about pyrotechnics and speed. It's just one part of his ear opening, piano mastery. Taking on a warhorse program of works by Bach, Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven, he manages to make them all his own and present them in a way you're pretty sure you've never heard before. Merging passion and technique, this disc has all you could want from a debut outing that shows us just the beginning of a bright future. Well done.

STECHER & HOROWITZ/Commissions: A classical piano duo of 65 years standing looks toward the future as they tackle a program of newly commissioned works. Nowhere near the pots and pans music we've come to expect in contemporary classical works, they bring their chops to full bore making sure this is a sizzling work not for Sunday afternoon eggheads out for a lark. The pros are in full control mode and they deliver works in a way that must be heard to be believed. Solid stuff that really gives you the view from the top of the mountain.

ROB CLEARFIELD/Wherever You're Starting From; A young piano improviser that almost plays with a magic touch shows how you can be original while having Coltrane and Brahms as musical heroes. With phalanges that seem to have minds of their own and eclectic tastes and interests informing it all, you have a tyro here that doesn't know how to become repetitive impeding his own progress. A sitting down jazz date all the way, this is what you need if you want to be taken away by a jazzbo that doesn't let labels become limitations.

Volume 41/Number 113
February 21, 2017
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2018 Midwest Record

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