NEW STORIES/Speakin' Out: With enough bona fides that you could easily call this trio (+ 1) ‘the little band that could', they are celebrating the 20th anniversary of the release that started it all for them. A personable set that has aged well, this is a fine example of jazz for the masses where art and commerce meet with a big hug. Tasty stuff with the flair to take it another 20 years, this is solid proof that good taste is timeless.
BRENT JENSEN/Sound of a Dry Martini: Sax man Jensen does more than make a tribute to Paul Desmond, he gets inside the music that was inside Desmond's head and connects it all for the listener once again without this being an homage that doesn't break any new ground. Walking the fine line between tribute and exploration, he let's the music speak for itself with the quiet fire that was loaded into it all along. Hitting all the high spots in the canon without overly relying on tent pole matters, Jensen may have recorded this 2 decades back but his heart was always into music of the ages. Well done.
CHRISTOPHER ICASIANO/Provinces: A drummer that can play it all, he sets such a pattern at the opening that you are sure your laser is stuck and just repeating the same thing repeatedly. He's an artist to the core and takes you much farther than that, even if you think he isn't. The kind of set free thinkers enjoy, it's pretty much egghead stuff all the way as he takes his art seriously and can't understand it if you don't as well.
MACI MILLER/Round Midnight: A grown up lady with a little girl voice that shouldn't be out after midnight sets sail with just a guitarist in tow for an intimate jazz vocal date that's easily at home after midnight---even if she isn't. Hitting standards and classics, she brings the special sauce that makes you want to hear them one more time in a new setting. Solid listening jazz steered by a solid hand on the wheel.
APOLLO CHAMBER PLAYERS/Within Earth: The string quartet commissions new works in the contemporary classical vein, with a theme relating to earth, and shows they have an ear and eye for new stuff that's the real deal. A well wrought work that covers a lot of emotional territory, they have the chops to go the distance, whether here or in space. Solid listening material that takes a little getting used to but isn't just for eggheads---it's a good bet for musical explorers that want to check out some new realms as well as Sunday afternoon recital types that know this ground well. Smart stuff for smart people.
COFFIN DAGGERS/Eleki Album: Well hipsters, here we go. While we were going nuts for the British Invasion in the 60s, the Japanese kids were losing it to the Ventures. They had a surf music craze that over took the land but never made it off the island. Here we have a contemporary surf band paying tribute to the wild, surfing sounds of 60s Japan. Hell, if you think twang is the thang, this retro neuvo set hit's the mark throughout. Not only wild stuff but you get to wear your ‘too hip for the room' badge while listening to it.
EILEEN IVERS/Scatter the Light: One of the leading lights of the Celtic music revolution whose grace was powered by intuitive spirits continues making highly personal music that hasn't lost it's Celtic roots but fearlessly heads in other directions as well--even if the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. Showing she isn't afraid to keep pushing boundaries long after others have nestled into victory laps, if you've been a long time fan, you'll continue to follow her on her journey. If you're a newbie, this is an interesting entry point and a place to make you wonder what you've been missing. First call stuff from a top shelf pro.
(Musical Bridge 20-001)
FRANK & ALLIE LEE/Treat a Stranger Right: If you've ever wondered what would have happened if Holy Modal Rounders played it straight, this duo is here with the answer. An old timey folk duo that keeps the primitive spirit in tact even if adding some polish, they play authentic old time instruments, unearth long forgotten old folk country tunes and sound like they might have kept taking classes since the 70s just to keep hanging around the campus coffee shop. A delightful romp of authentic folk music that will make you smile whether you want to or not.
(Bake Tone 4)
CHANDA RULE + SWEET EMMA BAND/Hold On: A modern Chicago gal living in Austria reaches back into some emotional roots to serve up a set of civil rights jazz vocals that remains defiant and powerful as well as being solidly appropriate for the times. As updated yet as traditional as Bernie Sanders new messages, this music shows the resilience of the human spirit and desire to break free. Hot stuff for ears on the edge that want some real (and tasty) meat on their musical bones.
JOYCE GRANT/Surrounded by Blue: Normally we aren't impressed by inspired by or related to credits, but Grant is a great great niece of Scott Joplin so she got our attention. A big voiced blues and jazz singer that stands on her own two feet without having to syncopate them, she's a wondrous throw back to the golden age of gals that knew how to belt without histrionics. Finding soul even in her whitest covers, Grant is a solid talent to be reckoned with that knows how to keep it going in fine style.
PROFESSOR CUNNUINGHAM and His Old School/Swings Disney: Leave it to the good professor to tackle an entire program of Disney tunes and not make it a set for kids of all ages but a solid set for grown ups looking to enjoy new takes on familiar tunes. Swinging throughout whether with hot Dixieland or anything else that strikes his fancy, you're in good hands here, as always when his hand is on the wheel. Another winner from a cat that never delivers anything less.
BENJAMIN BOONE/Joy: When you think of a Fulbright Scholar heading off to deepest darkest Africa, do you picture a white boy that understands funk? Pairing here with his pals, Ghana Jazz Collective, the two cultures collide in a jolly mash up that proves once again that music is the universal language and how easy it is to resolve any conflict if you really want to. Upbeat, badass stuff that's a gasser throughout, it's too bad more white boys can't have this much fun---even without having to go to Ghana. This is creative music that will stand the test of time.
Volume 44/Number 107
February 15, 2020
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2020 Midwest Record
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