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PACIFIC HARP PROJECT/Play: What a bunch of little scammers. The cover looks more like a millennial take on classical music lurking inside. Ha ha, Harp never go this close to smooth jazz even when it had a few turns on GRP. Ms. Ward and her pals illustrate a playful spirit here, even when turning the tables and turning the tables on some classics. A wonderful listening date throughout, there's a load of maholo all over this date sent to the mainland from Hawaii. Well done.

GABRIELLE STRAVELLI/Sings Willie Nelson-Pick Up My Pieces: If Willie can finally realize his fantasy of doing an album of Sinatra, then why can't an admiring thrush air her jazz takes on Willie's greatest hits, at least the ones that lend themselves to jazz and invention. Too brassy to be a cabaret take on Nelson, Stravelli certainly shakes him up and shakes him loose making something far more interesting than Willie's own reggae inventions. Fun stuff that certainly lets you hear him in a whole new way. And you know this is no vanity project as there's plenty of jazzbos you know from Arbors and Posi-Tone on board.

ERIC LEGNINI/Essentiels: Here's a Frenchy piano man that has a vision for jazz piano trio that takes it from familiar places into other realms before you really know what happens. Not a space traveler or anything like that, Legnini takes his cues from subtle places and shapes it all into something simply unexpected. First rate listening music, this is a player with a rare touch that's easily looking 20 moves ahead when he sits down to play. Well done. (If I've mislead you on any facts, the liner notes are in French).
(Igloo 80)

DANIEL SZABO/Visionary: Gotta say it messes with my head that Danny Perez has been around so long that cats are now citing him as a mentor. Ouch. But that's the only ouch here. Szabo calls his jazz mash ups and inventions by other names, but it's mash up all the same---and he does do it wisely. Using the past as prologue, Szabo, calling in help from some experienced, watchful eyes, serves up what he sets out to, new music for jazz trio and chamber ensemble. Following in the footsteps of commercially oriented progressives of the past, this is a veritable jazz buffet where everything is totally tasty. Well done throughout.
(Fuzzy 26)

GRUPO FANTASMA/American Music Vol. VII: After 5 years out of the studio, Grupo comes roaring back with a wild and wooly set that finds them on the cutting edge yet again. Also once again , they bring in some ringers to power this into much more than something you'd buy at the gig as a souvenir and to make sure they had some pocket change to buy gas to get home on. Gringos still won't know what they are singing about but once the caliente hit's the feet, it just won't matter. Remember when they brought down the wall in Berlin? History often repeats and music will fuel it here like it did there.
(Blue Corn 1901)

TIM GARTLAND/Satisfied: A vet white boy with the blues that earned his pedigree the hard way does it old school here recording this batch of originals in two days in Nashville where he gets to mash up his blues with all the stops he's stopped at, influences he's soaked up and back of the stage hot shots he's rubbed elbows with. It's all here, in beat the clock, high octane and rousing fashion. The singing harp player raises the roof and makes the good times roll. A solid party on a platter that's must hearing for all other white boys with the blues, this is a new gen real thing.
(Taste Good 41219)

DIRTY RED & THE SOUL SHAKDERS/Cloudless Day: A bunch of geezers that don't play like geezers who have resigned themselves to being road warrior white boys with the blues show how to keep the beer flowing at the juke joint all night long. A crew that doesn't need to take stress tests because they'd probably just break the machine leave it all on the stage and the tape making you glad you're in ear shot. Hard stuff the way anyone with any sense likes it.
(Dirty Red 1002)

SCOTT ROBINSON/Tenormore: A tour de force record from a label that encourages the artists to be themselves, Robinson turns 60 and releases his first all tenor sax set. With a set list that expertly waves a ‘one of mine/one of theirs' ethos seamlessly, where blowing the roof off on his own or with the help of his cohorts, this player who feel spiritually connected to his horns gives back the passion it all makes him feel. Hard hitting stuff from a cat that will probably die with his sax in his hands, this is a smoking, rare date throughout. Real art that doesn't get in the way of itself.
(Arbors 19462)

GLEN CLARK/You Tell Me: With his first solo record since 1994, Clark doesn't need to jump into the deep end since he's had a great career in the background since then flying high with a wild assortment of high fliers. A smoking pre-1978 bar band session when ‘great bar band' was a real compliment, you can feel the smoke and sweat as this rollicks along, not as a journey through the past but as a journey you wish was still commonplace. Loaded with heart and soul from a vet that never lost his place in line, this is why we all got to work late the next day in the old days. Killer stuff that harkens back to when blue eyed soul wasn‘t just a punch line.
(Glenco 1001)

JANE KRAMER/Valley of the Bones: There was once a time when you wouldn't hold it against an artist that it took them 20 years to get to the place where they could make a masterpiece like this, and that's why a record like this has to exist outside the system no matter how polished and precise all the elements of it are. A lovely down home voice, a sharp pen and great taste in musical pals make this organic/back porch set a high water mark for Americana that'll just drive friends of owners of this album crazy since said owners won't stop playing it. The kind of set that shows why alt.country has to arrive in the first place, this rich full blooded set that hit's the target without bowing to commerciality is sure to become a comfy, old pal in no time flat. Killer stuff throughout.

Volume 43/Number 106
February 15, 2019
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2019 Midwest Record

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