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COW BOP/Too Hick for the Room: When you grow up a mile from Jethro Burns house, an appreciation for cow jazz gets seeped into your blood stream. Texas jazzbo guitar man, Bruce Forman mixes his love of jazz and western swing into the kind of band date that Burns would have certainly gotten a kick out of as he raced from a session with Dave Holland to one with Steve Goodman. If you've ever gotten a kick out of Bob Wills passing out "ah-ha"s in the middle of a record, which he handed out instead of money, then this work out on songs that should never appear side by side on the same record will grab you. A solid adult listening treat, the hot chops are on simmer, the moves precise and the good times are on high. Simply a killer set.

TERELL STAFFORD/This Side of Strayhorn: John Clayton produces, Stafford blows a mighty horn and Billy Strayhorn gets a swinging appreciation away from the long, Ellington shadow. Working with the keepers of the Strayhorn flame to dig deeper than the surface, this could have easily been a labor of love but every one on board is bursting at the seams with too much vitality. The material will be a revelation to many contemporary ears and the playing is top notch, driving the point home in grand style. A mainstream groovers paradise throughout.
408 (Horn Series)

BORODIN QUARTET/Haydn Russian String Quartets: A turning point in the Haydn canon, he tossed out the old rules and wrote these with humor and lightness. A chamber group at the top of their game, this is the kind of classical music you used to hear in your grandpa's house when you were a kid. Lovingly played, this is a special treat for the novice classical tourist or the moldiest fig. A double disc dose of grand work by a crew that has it all on the ball, this could easily be a game changer kind of set. Top notch all the way.

RALPH PETERSON'S UNITY PROJECT/Outer Reaches: This drummer is such an old school cat that he draws admiration from senior drummers like Roy Haynes and seems to run a jazz finishing school that's a launching pad like Jazz Messengers was. As such, his first recording in way too long is a tribute to Larry Young's "Unity" record, a recording that he says changed his life. Kicking it off decidedly old school in sound, this is a driving record that keeps up the heat and the pace throughout. Recorded in an afternoon, also old school style, the one thing you can be sure about this set is that any jazzbo with ears will not be disappointed. There's a little something for everybody and it all works. Check it out.

RONNIE MILSAP/20-20 Vision-Night Things: Ah, consider the case of Ronnie Milsap. Straddling somewhere between country and rock, nobody knew quite what to do with him. All of a sudden, he focused on country and became a quite reliable hit maker in the mid 70s that has now been all but forgotten. I don't think RCA even milked his stuff for it's Country Legends repack series. Hard to believe these two albums reach back nearly 40 years but mainstream commercial stuff has a certain kind of legs that keep it going no matter how the tide turns. Solid Nashville production stuff that doesn't sound like it came from a production line, you get a decent handful of #1 hits as well as decidedly solid album tracks that made the albums worth the money once you went beyond the hit singles. Clearly, this is an artist that deserves to be dusted off and reconsidered. Hot recordings like this are a good place to start.

STEVE MARTIN & THE Steep Canyon Rangers/Rare Bird Alert: On his banjo debut album, Martin seemed to take great pains to make sure that once you cracked open the plastic, you were sure this was no vanity project. Because bluegrass is a non-mainstream category, the Grammy he won for it seemed to be an end all validation. And the follow up? He took to the road with the estimable Steep Canyon Rangers and they seemed like a band, albeit with Martin kind of taking the role of a fucked up Del McCoury. Now comes the follow up record with a bunch of the songs that they showcased on the road. Mixing frivolity and chops, not only are the "two" entities playing like one, producer Tony Trischka seems to have captured the vibe that was in the air at the end of the Glen Campbell Good Time Hour when Martin, Campbell, John Hartford, Mason Williams and others would sit on a log and do a share pickers segment to close the show. There's really a lot going on here. Martin's long time hobby can easily become a grand vocation. Great stuff for anyone looking beyond the mainstream.

FOOT PATROL/Pussyfooting: 80s nostalgia is in the air as this set sounds like the great lost synth/punk/funk match up between Prince and George Clinton. Nutty, funk groove driven stuff that's sure to dust off the youth of a lot of breakfast clubbers wondering where it all went. These young groovers go a long way toward putting the fun in funk.

PEDRO GIRAUDO JAZZ ORCHESTRA/Cordoba: Totally excellent Latin jazz on parade here. All the players are inspired and the originals are worth getting invested. This bass player is a consummate pro that knows how to make a set that just hits you between the eyes. Played right, played tight, this is must hearing for any Latin jazz fan that fully appreciates the real deal.

Volume 34/Number 162
April 12, 2011
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2011 Midwest Record

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