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AMSTERDAM SINFONIETTA/Brahms Schonberg: Simply beautiful playing. Focusing on one work by each of the represented composers, this bunch breathes the emotional music both composers brought to bear. Much deeper than chamber music, this full tier of players plays it old school classical making a deep set that sounds like something you heard your grandpa play back in the day. A set that needs you to be sitting down and giving it your full attention, the music will reward you for letting it be front and center. Killer stuff and welcome in that these are not warhorse pieces in need of a breath or a freshening.

JAMES CARTER/Caribbean Rhapsody: The first few bars of this made me think it was "West Side Story' out takes. And so we were off and running. The most ambitious date of sax man Carter's career to date, he's facing off here with orchestras taking the whole 50s jazz into classical thing to a whole new level. Totally a sitting down listening date, anyone looking for some living, breathing audible art cannot pass this set by. A mind blowing bunch of opuses on one disc, Carter has indisputably earned his bona fides here. Killer stuff.

JOEL FREDERIKSEN/Rose of Sharon: Covering the 100 years of American music from the Revolutionary War to the Civil War, this almost sounds like the soundtrack to a civil rights documentary with some of it's choices. It's art with a capital A, make no mistake, but if you're that PBS kind of person, you'll be wondering why this isn't top of the charts. A well wrought presentation that is unmistakably adult listening and will reintroduce you to the joys of the pleasures of vocalizing that is more than chants.

DANTE QUARTET/Smetana Sibelius: You didn't have to be Kurt Cobain to be moody. Sibelius's string quartet conveys sadness and somber sobriety with obviously fewer words and with emotions that run deeper than ‘whatever'. Not a downer, but it is serious music for serous listeners that appreciate classical presentations with the music front and center at the tail end of a Sunday afternoon. Very classy throughout, the four players here only know how to impress.

PENDRAGON/Passion: After 30 successful years ruling the underground, Pendragon, the melodic metal crew, returns with their second album on an outside label. When you're outside the lines, stuff like age doesn't matter so much as can you sell the vibe. Almost like skewed sunshine metal, this crew will be speaking to the disenfranchised youth for some more decades to come as well. This is what high school kids that aren't paying attention to "Glee" and "American Idol" are listening to when they really want you to know they've got their cool on. Don't forget about the behind the scenes DVD, it's packaged in such a way that you might miss it the first few times you open the package.

DAVINA & THE VAGABONDS/Black Cloud: Miss Lavay Smith? Wonder why Cathy Chamberlain's stuff is buried so deep that it isn't even available as mp3s from Amazon? Davina and her bunch to the rescue. More pomo than Smith and not as consciously retro as Chamberlain, Davina and the Vags are more like a self contained show that not only goes Nawlins retro on you but adds in Berlin cabaret, fado vibes and much more making this a most welcoming mixmaster of a date that takes you around the horn and back. Existing purely in her own time zone, this is the kind of record that can't float a hit single but is a hit throughout. Seemingly influenced by Island period Tom Waits, Ms. Sowers plays against the rules. Hell she moved from Florida to Minnesota to get her toe hold. If you want your alt. to be really alt. yet not go off the deep end just for the sake of it, Sowers is the poster girl for your next musical escapade. Killer stuff.

HARRY MANX & KEVIN BREIT/Strictly Whatever: The cats that made Norah Jones' sound what it was once upon a time are still kicking out the jams together. This time around, they are upping the ante and look to be off center pop stars. The guitar chops are still in full flower, but they take you somewhere radically but subtly different from past releases. This is the kind of set that invites you to sit back and leave yourself in the hands of capable pros that won't mistreat your ears along the way. A real tonic for left leaning pop fans that like other musical ingredients in the mix.

WOBBLER/Rites at Dawn: Everything old is new again. 40 years after prog first reared it's head from the tar pits, this Norway bunch is back with their 3rd set of tales from topographic oceans that's make you bang your head and say yes. Whether 15 or 50, if you want to hear something new from the old bag, this is the one to dip your hand into. Relive the glory days of Yes, Refugee and almost everything on Charisma that wasn't Monty Python in regal style. Fun stuff if you ever had the bug, then or now. They bring a passion and sincerity that makes this stand as much more than a novelty.

MARKY QUAYLE/So Lucky...to be Loved by You: She kicks this set off with "Cry Me a River" and you don't groan. Sound promising already? A veteran jazz singer that knows how to deliver the goods old school without living in the past, Quayle would knock the judges on their collective asses if they made an "American Idol" for adults. Somebody please tell those tv kids that screaming lyrics doesn't convey emotion or sex appeal. The sultry stuff here does. Simply a killer jazz vocal date that makes oldies new and really opens your ears like they should be. Well done.

Volume 34/Number 199
May 19, 2011
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2011 Midwest Record

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