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JOHN VANORE & Abstract Truth/Curiosity: A very interesting old school cat that came up under Woody Herman, he's adjusted to the new reality of our times and set out to make a small group sound like a big band. He's succeeded on that score. With chops to spare, he turns in a solidly swinging set of originals that has you paying attention even though you probably come to this set as a clean slate. High octane, mainstream jazz that adds zip anytime you put it on, this is one of those uber cool diamond in the rough dates that jumps out at you (well, me) from the mail bag and demands attention. Groovy stuff throughout.

RALPH LALAMA QUARTET/The Audience: Art Carney never seemed to have a problem with being a side kick and you have to admire a side kick that that has found his sweet spot and mines it and owns it. They don't have the pressure of being all things to all people, know there's a power in being the power behind the throne and often surprise you when they get the chance to step out. Because they know how to be true to themselves, when they do reach out, that kind of personal work resonates with people that want something personal they can feel and pass along with pride. Lalama hits it out of the park on that score. A slightly left leaning sax mainstream jazz date, there's plenty of low pressure stretching out and just a wealth of good vibes, almost too much for one set to serve up. If you can get away with playing this after hours date in your cubicle at work, Dilbert will never figure out what you're so happy about. Well done.

ARTIFACTS-Great Performances from 40 Years of Jazz at NEC/various: We're so busy living our lives that unless we have some personal involvement, we only notice things on the roadside peripherally. Who really knew that the first jazz studies program just turned a mere 40 and that there was more going on at the New England Conservatory than Gunther Schiller playing rags in the wake of the popularity of "The Sting". Well raise my rent, it seems like anyone who was anyone in contemporary jazz either taught or was a student there and they lay claim to 5 MacArthur genius grant winners. This ain't no mail order operation kids! This disc is pulled from recitals staged between 1973 and now and is packed with so many heartfelt performances by so many real hitters that any real uber geek fan of contemporary jazz will lose their mind, even if this was never conceived to be a record and has some rough edges. A standard bearer of the return to the age of when some records were made because they needed to be made. By all means, check it out.

NIGHTHAWKS/Last Train to Bluesville: When these guys were starting out, there was something so established about them that I thought they were geezers then. Now I find out they've -only- been together for 30 years? Might have to read these bios that come with the music once in a while. This record is the outgrowth of the ‘Hawks showing their acoustic side for an XM taping. Hell, when you can back up either Muddy Waters or Carl Perkins, you can probably do anything and shine. Shine they do! This is one dead solid perfect organic music date that you don't even realize is a performance. Recorded in a very intimate style, this isn't a band, these are your pals and everyone is having a good time. Drop your preconceived notion of them being a blues band and let the good times roll because they will. A real winning date.

CHRIS GREENE QUARTET/Merge: Greene has been honking that sax for the better part of 30 years but he's still fairly young and it's nice to hear a young man with a sax that doesn't feel like he has to be Coltrane. Not that his chops aren't headed in the right direction. A product of the Chicago area, he doesn't play with Coltrane big apple style and plays with the sonic determination of a commuter train forging through a snow storm or a pizza delivery guy going out into the night chasing a tip knowing full well he will probably be robbed but doesn't let that stand in his way. Clever originals and muscular playing keep this right on track and it delivers as a straight ahead jazzbo winner throughout. Top shelf stuff that welcomes you to enjoy it just for the joy of enjoying it.

STEVE RAEGELE/Last Century: An impressionistic soundscaper that tunes up his guitar and ‘power' trio for a trip around the outer edges of your mind that even Steve Reich wouldn't take with John Cage. Head music for an opium den full of gringos that aren't all that interested in the Far East but do want something strange that maintains a buzz, the rest of us will figure this for the soundtrack of an unmade sci-fi pic.

TERJE LIE/Urban Vacation: Last time out, Lie made a nice set of beach flavored jazz. This time out he teams up with both Jeff Lorber and Jimmy Haslip for a classic feeling fuzak date that always seem to be playing at the bar you stop at when the afternoon traffic is too much of a bitch to deal with and you really feel like just moving easy. There's a sweet magic that kicks in between the three of them that's sure to be welcomed by all the disenfranchised listeners left in the wake of Clear Channel forgetting they ever supported the smooth jazz audience. If you'd rather take a long walk than hit the gym after work, this is what you need in your headphones. Check it out.

THE TIME TRAVELER'S WIFE: What separates this chick pic from the rest of the chick pics that involve romance by people that aren't in the same space and time? This one doesn't have a happy ending. Oh sure, they do get together eventually in the same time and space, but like the stock market in the current economy, this one does find the double bottom, without the dead cat bounce. Well made weeper that tense, Type A distaffers who didn't have time to read the best seller will love, plot holes and all. Also available in Blu Ray, it includes a digital copy but doesn't really go heavy on the extras since that's the real province of "Star Trek" geeks that aren't Type A's and have plenty of time for that kind of stuff in their mother's basements. Anyone who thinks it wasn't a real movie unless they go through a box of Kleenex and a pint of Ben & Jerry will love this real movie.
(New Line)

Volume 33/Number 101
February 10, 2010
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2010 Midwest Record

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