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ALAM KHAN/Immersion: Certainly while these ethnic records are for armchair travelers in the main, they do have their charms when in the right hands. Coming from a long line of musos that have plied their craft successfully, 25 string guitarist Khan knows how to give the gang what they came for and this is righteous opium den music. Loaded with a 60s Nonesuch Explorer vibe when albums like this could be presented and appreciated without embellishment, hipster and purist will both have a lot to dig on this trip.

JOHN PROLX/Say It: One of the sad things about Maxjazz calling it a day is we wondered if we'd ever hear from Proulx ever again. Guess we forgot about the power of crowd funding. Spending the raised money wisely, this seems like Proulx's most personal date yet and the presence of a Mose Allison classic seems to imbued him with the essence of Allison as well. A wonderfully eclectic set that really covers the waterfront showing just how much jazz there is out there to pull from, as well as to infuse, this killer set of adult listening will remind you what it feels like to feel like a grown up. Unless you're listening to this on your phone, put that sucker down, put this on and get back to real life. Hot stuff.

LAUREN HENDERSON/Armame: When you can cite Chaka Khan and Shirley Horn as influences, and be sincere about it in the playing, the result is going to be a sexy, jazzy session that was custom made for smoky air and serious drinks. Finding the middle ground between sex kitten and #metoo without alienating either adherent, Henderson has those super chops that don't always come around when you are looking for them but admire greatly. Fans of swinging piano jazz vocalists have a solid triple threat here that knows how to hit them to all fields. Hot stuff.

JOANNE TATHAM/Rings of Saturn: If it says Café Pacific on the spine and we know Mark Winkler is lurking somewhere in the background, we're already sold. With a bunch of heavy duty SoCal jazzbos plying their chops for the proceedings, this lightly retro vocalist pulls up a set card of jazz/pop classics and wraps he wonderful voice around them---well, wonderfully. A jazz vocal date that's right in the pocket without being dated, it's a treat without empty calories your ears will be demanding. Well done.

ROOTS OF CREATION/Grateful Dub: How about a mash up of two things that never go out of style, dub and Dead. All that's missing from their skanking version of "Ripple" is a sample of Rick Danko's take on it that would have fit right in with the dub attitude. From the naked hippie chick on the cover that fits in with both cultures to the last note on the last track, this crew just plain nails it with a set that'll make both camps flash a satisfied, illegal (in some states) smile. Good choices, good playing, good times. Well done throughout.

AL DiMEOLA/Opus: Unless you've had your share of ups and downs, if you've been at it for over 40 years, you really haven't had a career. With his personal life on an upswing as he rounds the bases of life, we find DiMeola sonically back where he was when the Trio first took flight, which was more impressive than his past fusion pyrotechnics with Chick Corea. Exploring and feeling the music, he crafts a wonderful flight that soars mightily without needing to invoke pyrotechnics. Tasty stuff from a world class old pro.

PETER ERSKINE & the Dr. Um Band/On Call: What started out as a clever joke has now blossomed into a thing where you get double albums and live tours. Going back to his roots, along with a crew that knows the steps, Erskine reminds you why fusion knocked you off your pins in the first place with two well recorded sets that show he's one of the old timers the record biz shouldn't feel they are done with because he plays like he's forgotten more than they'll ever know. With sass, funk and electronics for all, this is a killer set from a killer pro with more than enough on the ball. Hot stuff throughout.

HI LO HA/Ain't Gone Tonight: Atmospheric guitar rock from a crew that took their name from Dylan's house down the road from Big Pink. With their eye on the past, they really don't cock their ear towards it. Like a rock version of chill, these cats have a vision and know how to bring it home.

MOIRA SMILEY/unzip the horizon: This isn't the work of an art chick with a sugar daddy or a trust fund. The former vocalist for Solas shows just how much she followed her muse over the years, never letting herself be stuck in a pigeon hole. Loaded with restless 60s/70s energy that pushed boundaries, it comes together as a well crafted whole, something records like this in that period couldn't too because of all the out of touch, clueless a&r people. Nearly cinematic in scope, this is for listeners worn out by today's pap looking for something meaty and out of the ordinary but accessible. Well done.

SIDELINE/Front and Center: Mountain Home once again shows you don't have to release a lot of records as long as you release the right records. Bulls eye! Grabbing you right from the git with it's traditional bluegrass licks, once you're board, you just better hang on. Playing with smarts and passion throughout, this modern, old timey-ish crew has more tricks up their sleeves than David Copperfield, and all of them are treats. One of those not-for-bluegrass-fans-only kind of sets, anyone who loves organic, back 40 sounds will know this is a winner and spread the word. Hot stuff.

Volume 41/Number 136
March 16, 2017
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2018 Midwest Record

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