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BACK ALLEY PLAYERS/Beyond the Blues: These cats are fun. What they lack in polish they make up for in attitude and fun. Kicking it off with an appreciation of blaxploitation blues and funk, this gang is above doing porno soundtrack funk and if they can't drive smirking frat boys crazy with this sound, said frat boy better turn in his smirk. Mix in some show band moves, some southern fried funk and some hooch and the good times are assured.

BILL O'CONNELL/Rhapsody in Blue: The jazz piano man and his Latin and smooth jazz pals know how to cook up a winner of a swinging 60s styled date that simply is a cooker and isn't dated or an homage to the old days. Unbridled and two fisted, this is simply right in the moment and right on the money where everything is working and the good times really flow. A powerful session that's all about the music first and foremost that never lets you down. Hot stuff that just keeps coming and bowling you over.

CHASING ARROWS/Life on Hold: These kids love 70s rock and they want to be the leading edge of the revival. They learned their lessons well from post jazzbo Journey. Indie rockers with arena dreams, this is the sound of the suburbs where piercing isn't that flowing. They rock, they roll, they want to spread the good times.

HEAVY TIN/Refused: Young bunch of post bop modern jazzbos that know how to make all the right piano trio moves. With a set of all originals, they grab the ear nicely and let you know they love the after hours club sound. Smart stuff.

CHRISTIAN WEIDNER/Inward Song: The kind of left leaning date ECM pioneered 30 years ago, this sax man is to the right of minimalism but knows the moves of the cool school that builds upon same. Something of a roller coaster ride inspired by stuff you might have heard in the early days of Watt, head jazz is alive and well with an eye toward the future. Not to be mistaken for mellow stuff, this is the sound that makes you open your mind kind of sound.

MARCUS SHELBY ORCHESTRA/Soul of the Movement-Meditations on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr: To be released in January, contemporaneously with King's birthday, I have to wonder if the publicist behind this project made sure it found it's way here since we're always making mention of civil rights jazz. A musical chronicler of African American achievement, this bass player fashions a date that sounds like the cantatas Duke Ellington was making in the late 50s. Not shy about not doing original material when something by Curtis Mayfield or Charles Mingus would tell the story better, Shelby and his Orchestra certainly make music that makes you think but can easily be enjoyed as audio theater. A cat that needs to be reckoned with as a historian as much as a muso, Shelby is the kind of cat arts councils ought to be getting behind to get the most bang for their buck and to preserve work that falls outside commercial strictures. Well done throughout.

RUTH AGUILAR/In Invitation: Can you be a jazz vocalist these days without being a jazz diva as well? Perhaps you can if you are Aguilar. Simply a solid vocalist that shows up to serve the song and it's nuances rather than using it as a vehicle to show she can do a great car alarm imitation. She sings sweet and high and has a great sound that's easy to like and get into. The crew behind her is right in step and even if this is low key, don't mistake it for easy listening. This girl has it all on the ball.

SIMONE DINNERSTEIN/Bach A Strange Beauty: When you were one of the early taste makers to call Dinnerstein a winner it obviously puts you in position to get her new records two months before they come out. Since the power of the Internet can kill a new movie within 5 minutes of it's opening, what does this say about Dinnerstein's confidence? So let me be the first to day that Dinnerstein's return to her Bach roots in her first orchestral recording is a stone cold winner. Moving into that rarified circle of interpreters from Wendy Carlos to Lara St. John that can still find something new in Bach, this certain return to the charts for old Sebastian finds newness in the chestnuts that keeps you riveted throughout. Let there be no doubt she has earned her place along side all the greats. Dinnerstein rocks!

Volume 34/Number 26
November 26, 2010
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2010 Midwest Record

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