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FISHTANK ENSEMBLE/Woman in Sin: Hey, it's already May and this might just take the cake for the most nutsed out record of the year. A bunch of players with gypsy and classical roots relocated from Europe to LA and deliver pomo/dada music that might have been fermented in a Frank Zappa/world beat hallucination. This crew plays like champs so that's never an issue. The rest of the matter is what are they playing? Some Django flavored stuff, some old timey flavored stuff, some world beat from Mars. If you are open eared and looking for a real kick, this set takes you to places you've only heard in dreams, and they gleefully do all the work for you. To top it all off, the lead vocalist sounds like she has the potential to be way more of a crazy ex-girl friend than Miranda Lambert ever could be. Joyously over the top, if you aren't all about the top 40, this is a slice of nirvana. Well done throughout.

SARAH PARTRIDGE/Perspective: If you aren't familiar with this swinging gal who is an actress by day and fell into singing by accident, you are in for a real treat. Just swinging for the fences with a piano behind her, she fills your ears like a whole crew bringing it. A tasty romp through a bunch of classics, it's rare to find a date this simple and stripped down that goes the distance so easily. A killer, intimate set that finds Partridge singing just for you almost making it hard to figure out who is focusing on who. Simply jazz vocal at the top of the form. Hot stuff.

ELDAR/Virtue: This kid is unstoppable. He's grown since his auspicious jazz piano debut a few years ago and now comes forth with his own personal "Take the A Train" as he's no longer a Russian kid in New York for the first time. Practically making this set a new beginning, he sonically captures the energy of New York and plays like he no longer considers himself an outsider. With a more progressive edge than was even hinted at in past releases, this is a filtered version of post bop through a young immigrant's ears who is hungrily soaking it all up and making it his own. He was a force to be reckoned with before, now he's simply a force. Hot stuff throughout.

STRYKER/SLAGLE BAND/Keeper: This duo has been together 20 years and while not recording all that frequently, the chops that come with the outside experiences they've had come together nicely when they do meet up and exchange ideas. This is a dignified contemporary jazz outing that had adult listening written all over it. A lite version of some of the more complex outside work they've done, this is the kind of set that goes down easily and should charm even the crustiest purist. High octane after hours listening that has it all on the ball.

SARAH MANNING/Dandelion Clock: Is Manning a trust fund baby? She's plays with the kind of deep conviction that you don't see when there's not a stage mother in the background behind some aspiring Olympian in some nutty event pushing them forward and telling them not to worry about money. Thing here is, Manning plays like she's put in the time but also had a life outside her sax. First class sitting down jazz all the way by an artist with a real devotion to finding her singular voice and making her mark in her own way. There's some stuff that has a vibe that grabs you even if it isn't in your favorite flavor and this is a jazzbo of that ilk. Check her out because she demands to be heard. Hot stuff.

RAN BLAKE-CHRISTINE CORREA/Out of the Shadows: What a difference a MacArthur genius grant can make. Reteaming for the firs time in 20 years, this duo delivers the art song at full intensity. Sitting down jazz for those that like it with an artsy edge, these two pros know how to lead you down the Capital A art path. Highly refined tastes will find this rematch tasty.

PHIL GATES/Addicted to the Blues: This guitar man is the perfect, contemporary gateway drug to get you hooked on the blues. Pushing 50, he's led a responsible life while keeping music just bubbling under the surface. With a command of technology and social networking, he's created a following that you wouldn't know about and by using direct contact with the fans, he can give them what they want right back. Lite and contemporary, he's got the feel of a dyed in the wool bluesman that would rather survive with good times than be authentic and die drunk and broke. Um, it really is a myth that you have to die for your art. Nice stuff that really gets its point across in fine style.

TAD ROBINSON/Back in Style: The soul/blues boomer vocalist is back with a new round of lived in songs that will find him on everyone's lips come awards time, once again. His third for the label finds him in a comfortable groove where are the stars are shining in the right places making vocalist and band in synch in that extra special way where the magic really happens. Showing how he was really weaned on this stuff, Robinson knows how to give back in a way that makes the whole greater than the sum of the parts. A great gift for any white boy that loved classic Stax and Malaco sounds.

Volume 33/Number 183
May 3, 2010
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2010 Midwest Record

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