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JOHNNY MANDEL/The Man and His Music: It's about time someone gave Mandel one of those man and his music showcases. Recorded live at Lincoln Center with Sherrie Maricle and Ann Callaway breathing live into the music, this ‘evening with' is a great time spent with one of the contemporary greats whose name doesn't end in Sondheim. Simply a golden moment of mainstream American music.

JUANITA FLEMING/Redeemed!: So, when you were a kid, you lived in a good neighborhood that wasn't too far from a bad neighborhood. You'd be riding your bike on Sunday morning in places you shouldn't but you did it because there was this one church that just rocked. You didn't know if you could go inside but you rode around the block a few times digging it. Take that vibe and throw in musical backing that sounds like one of the classic Saturday Night Live Band line ups letting loose over the end credits and that's the sum total of this gospel date that blows your mind and blows it wide open. Singing for the Lord since 1997, this well traveled vocalist hits it out of the park here. A wild date that you can be a stone heathen and dig. Check it out.

ATSUKE HASHIMOTO/Until the Sun Comes Up: An award winning burner of a B3 player that was discovered by Jeff Hamilton, on board here with his drums, Hashimoto must have been the daughter of a hard ass tiger mom who thought Jimmy Smith was the living end. An old school, happening trio date where you know most of the songs, and as many times as you‘ve heard them, you‘ve never heard them like this. Ain‘t nothing here but a non-stop party that might slow down at times, but it‘s only to let you catch your breath. Old school fans are going to go nuts, people whose ears have never gone down these streets are in for a real treat. Dig it.
GABI EPSTEIN/Show Off: The cabaret scene in Toronto must be alive and well because it's a fertile enough ground to produce the heiress apparent to Bernadette Peters. Proudly showing her pierced nose pomo roots, Epstein is sultry without really having loads of the offbeat and damaged sexuality of cabaret singers of the last two generations, but her sensibilities bring her smack dab in the middle of now while bringing the energy of the past with her. Playing any role you want from pixie to belter, Epstein in the urbane listener's new goddess delivering a show stopper of a performance that you wish wouldn't end. Hot stuff in more ways than one. Check it out.

ISRAEL NASH GRIPKA/Barn Doors & Concrete Floors: A pomo folkie who found in England what he couldn't find back home in the Ozarks, he cuts to the chase with straight from his heart on his sleeve songs that are sure to find favor with the young and the restless. A raw side of Americana that fogies might be chased off the back porch by, this is hard hitting stuff with a Sonic Youther at the helm. If lo fi can be high octane, Gripka has found the formula.

BOBBY SANABRIA/Tito Puente Masterworks Live: Leading the Manhattan School of Music Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra, Sanabria and his charges take us back to whatever 50s ballroom this stuff first issued forth from for a time travel tour what am! Way deeper than you're usual Ricky Ricardo look back at a time and place, this bunch feels the music and you don't have to be a Nuyorican of a certain age to get it and dig it. The spirit of the master lives on in full force with gale force velocity. Muy caliente!

BOB WARREN: A coffee house singer/songwriter from another time and place, Warren comes back with his first set in five years and his pessimistic view of the world continues on it's subliminal, cockeyed optimistic way. Since everyone is currently staring into an abyss instead of singing "Easy From Now On", Warren might just be the right guy at the right time and place. And he's on the money throughout.

GINA SICILIA/Can't Control Myself: The mighty minx of the blues adds some jack to her coke, stirs it up with the usual mix of blues and soul and creates a new genre of music, American Night Music. This is the stuff you want blasting from the dashboard when you're driving over the limit on a blue highway where the street light ends with the top and the windows rolled down. Every inch the anti-Snooki, Sicilia essentially offers up her third debut album as she expands the palette once again, keeping true to her blues/soul roots but taking it to places you've only heard in muso dreams. Hot stuff from a hot lady well versed in turning up the heat.

Volume 34/Number 123
March 4, 2011
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2011 Midwest Record

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