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WATERMELON SLIM/Traveling Man: Talk about a white boy with the blues! It might have seemed like Slim was a Blind Lemon Pledge kind of joke when he first came around, but turning 70 and deep into a career as a bluesman, he's now known as serous as a heart attack and as much of a purist as you can get. Bringing Chicago and the Delta together here in a double live set that finds him raising the roof in a few small clubs in his stomping ground of Oklahoma, blues fans are just going to say ‘wow'. Dripping soul at every turn, Slim shows he's earned his accolades the hard way and deserves them all. Killer stuff.
(Northern Blues 66)

RJ & the Assignment/Hybrid Harmony: It's hard to imagine Vegas musos not being jive asses, but here's a crew that's trying to take sounds in new directions by making things extra creative without being precious. Genre banding freely, they take things to extremes to wake up jaded ears (or maybe to amuse themselves to get away from the grind). A reminder not to let pre-conceived notions get in your way, if this bunch is a lounge act, they are a lounge act from Mars.

COACHELLA VALLEY TRIO/Mid Century Modern: Slipping away from his all day extravaganzas, Doug MacDonald revs up his desert trio for a snappy, finger popping guitar trio date with loads of subtle swing that hit's the target throughout. There's nothing you have to bring to this other than a sense of appreciation for a job more than well done. Tasty throughout.
(Dmac 17)

MARY JO CURRY BAND/Front Porch: Fronted by a powerful white gal with the blues, she might have come to the blues in a roundabout way but she's staked out a turf that shows it was her natchurl home all along. Fattening up her sound with guests and pals that wondered why they weren't included the first time around, this non-stop stomper revs it up high and hard, never knowing when it should quit. Hot stuff throughout that really works.

KNOXVILLE JAZZ ORCHESTRA/Road Less Traveled: If this bunch doesn't grab you right out of the box with their invention on "Rhythm-a-ning", you should just move along and find something else you like. Mainstream jazzbos that love being a big band and know how to make their featured guests feel welcome, you've heard these tunes before but you haven't heard them like this. A smoking set that opens up jaded jazzbo ears, it should be required listening for anyone looking for a good time. Hot.
(Blue Canoe 1434)

LAUREN WOOD/Warner Bros Years: Here's a pair of yacht rock albums that had the misfortune to be released right into the heart of the disco collapse/1979 recession that would eventually be acquitted a decade later. With Wood having perfected her chops with everyone from Zappa to Mike McDonald and writing with Allee Willis, one look at the credits that go with these two albums show these were sets the label was taking seriously. Sounding pleasantly undated, these cd debuts are long overdue. Their extended length makes for great non-stop listening even if the two records had wildly diverse players and producers working on them. Proof that good taste is timeless.
(Blixa 822)

BARTOSZ HADALA GROUP/Three Short Stories: The jazz pianist is showboating his rang here as he moves from introspective to modern bop letting his crew have as much freedom as he wants for himself. With a lot of invention and innovation, this is free-ish music for restless ears that like to go beyond the pale without having the wheels fall off in the process. There's a lot going on and a lot to take in but it all comes together nicely.

MARK GODFREY QUINTET/Square Peg: And even if you've never heard of the Canadian bass player, how much of a risk can you be taking when he's got Allison Au and Nick Fraser on board? An up and comer that's already getting known for his vision and clarity, this modern set is a solid sitting down/listening set that will probably make your IQ go up 10 points with every listening. He's got a lot on the ball and he isn't afraid to share. Check it out.
(Pram 4)

SISTER LUCILLE/Alive: Fronted by the proverbial little girl with the big voice, this soulful blues rocking bunch knows how to deliver a big, bold sound that was made for keeping the party going all night. With spiritual roots in in show band territory, their sound and fury is right on the money throughout. A total badass set that's good to the last drop.
(Endless Blues 132019)

BERNHARD WIESINGER/Notice That Moment: Like Guy Clark said, ‘ he did not know he could not fly, so of course he did'. Wanting to blow his sax in New York with his first choice jazzbos, Wiesinger just asked (and wrote a check) and lo and behold, you hold his dream here. Blowing like a native New Yorker that loves the late nights, this smoking after hours set just needs some cigarette smoke and waitresses in black leotards to complete the vibe. Tasty stuff throughout, he ought to make the trip more often. Well done.
(Double Moon 71372)

HANS ANSELM BIG BAND/Liquid Circle: You know there's a sense of humor lurking when a big band puts the name of their imaginary friend front and center. With deep chops that can move freely around the jazz canon, this crew loves to play and it shows. With everything from Kenton forward lurking in the grooves, this is a dandy tour de force that almost has the feel of Carla Bley early 70s works where anything could have happened and often did. Top shelf listening material, just sit back and take it all in while the band does the rest. Fine listening throughout.
(Double Moon 71368 Jazz Thing Next Generation Vol. 81)

STEFAN KARL SCHMID/Pyjama: The sax man takes us somewhere to the right of ECM's cool school with a warm, but languid date that has a distinctly Euro vibe while reflecting the Jamaican ethos of ‘soon come'. Not hurrying along and feeling like how it feels to linger over that second cup of coffee, he's clearly making music for your mind here. Even when he picks up the pace, it's lopes along in the right lane rather than bristles down the Autobahn. This is the kind of stuff that makes every morning a Sunday morning. Check it out.
(Tangible 7)

NICK FINZER/Cast of Characters: The bone man rounds up his working band for a musical tale of self reliance where this collection of stars of tomorrow are doing it for themselves. A jazzbo tour de force, the creative freedom the improviser promotes to his charges is well received and well worked here as the players converge upon the middle keeping it whole throughout. Well skilled in the art of sitting down jazz, this set hit's the sweet spot over and over making it really one for the books. Well done where the playing speaks for itself.
(Outside In 2000)

Volume 44/Number 95
February 3, 2020
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2020 Midwest Record

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