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DAVID GERALD/Hell and Back: A product of the Mississippi/Detroit migration, but also a product of the 80s, Gerald has just enough old skool and nu skool blues coursing through him that he can tour with Bobby Rush as well as play to college audiences looking for a nu Animal House experience. Steeped in the show band tradition, Gerald sounds more Jackson than Detroit and the goods are delivered each and every time out. A sassy, smoking set that invites you to party but doesn't tell you when it's time to go.

DIANA ROSS/Touch Me in the Morning Expanded Edition: Barry Gordy never wanted it to be said that he was ABC but this deconstruction of the 1973 hit album showing it in it's component parts proves that in the end, Gordy used every part of the pig except the oink. With Motown's second A team having flown the coop and Ross trumpeting giving birth, the diva had to shift gears into the growing divorcee pop realm to maintain her footing. While the jump from "Love Child" to "My Baby" was simply a move uptown, here we see how the pressure to make hit records kept a lot of good music off to the side, much to the current delight of Ross fans. With the inclusion of the unreleased "To the Baby' lp (basically Ross's folk music album), fans get the hits and the original assemblage of tracks that eventually didn't go to waste as other projects were released. No wonder she was ripe for re-invention in 1978, divorcee rock is not diva territory.

LEVEE TOWN: The guys down the hall that kept listening to Butterfield records and dating art chicks may not be making record/records but they are skilled in the art of putting a party on a platter. A bunch of white boys that know all the blues/rock moves while ignoring the clichés, this crew is loaded with youthful energy and properly channeled aggression that bowls you over with intensity that you don't have to run from. Just plain fun that was made to be enjoyed with a brewski or three as the evening wears on. Solid.

MICHELE DE WILTON/Myths & Legends: A new generation of DIY new age/crossover/NAC pianists has come up in the shadow of Jim Brickman, David Lanz etc and the thing that sets them apart from the last generation of DIY players is that this generation doesn't have the hopes of being picked up by Windham Hill/Narada/Higher Octave dangling out there so they have to and are working harder. DeWilton comes at you from the opening notes as pleasant surprise of a pro that here's to play and not tinkle the ivories--bored, suburban, housewife style. Very much a smart, well played set that delivers what the NAC fan is looking for, she does it all by herself, solo front and center.

JERRY LEAKE/Cubist-Shapes of Sound and Time: If you like Steve Reich, you won't think this is an insiders album, but unless Timbaland gets his hands on this for a remix, it's isn't going to go mainstream. Opening the world lens imbedded in a work like "Music for 18 Musicians", Leake goes Reich one better by bringing the vibe into the present and imbuing it with sounds for contemporary ears fed by satellite and internet radio. A collageographic soundscape that was made to go with the shape shifting your Window Media Player does when you put it on ‘now playing', this is a wild set for wild but ordered minds. Bet you'll dig it if you get the jokes on "Big Bang Theory". A sure top 40 bet for the out there set running to the left of off the beaten path.

LITTLE JOE McLERRAN/Believe I'll Make a Change: Not yet 30 and already a nu heritage act that knows how to charm the crowds as well as the awards voters. A white boy from Boulder, what sets this blues brat apart from the rest is he does the white boy blues thing better than the wannabes in the 60s that invented the whole thing. Cutting his teeth on John Hurt, maybe that's the thing that made the difference. A traditionalist to the core that takes contemporary moves into account, this proves that not all Piedmont Blues has to come from scratchy, old, poorly preserved acetates. A wild set that could only be from the heart.

MICHAEL MANIACI/Mozart Solos for Male Soprano: Well, my fellow classical tourists, bet you didn't know there was still another way to slice the Mozart canon either. Maniaci, with the help of the Boston Baroque playing period instruments and sounding every bit as good as the St. Martins of the Fields gang, debuts this material for the first time on record anywhere. Written for castrati, trust me, this is a whole different Mozart than you are used to. With everyone on board being a solid, proven pro, if this set doesn't wake up jaded classical ears, it's time for them to go discover Lady Gaga. Clearly an ear opener.

NILSON MATTA'S BRAZILIAN VOYAGE/Copacabana: It's not a game changer and it doesn't have to be, this is simply the ace kind of Brazilian jazz that you point your browser to Connect Brazil to get down with. Breezy as the fantasy version of the land from whence it came, this is a smoking date that spreads the good vibes like Johnny Appleseed at his reckless best. A skilled composer, leader and player, Matta keeps the crew on point for a set of mostly originals that kick ass, but do it nicely and politely. Fun stuff for the adult jazzbo/world beater on the look out for a good time.

Volume 33/Number 71
January 11, 2010
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2010 Midwest Record

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