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5 AFTER 4/Rome in a Day: Progressive leaning Canuck jazzbos come back to the studio after a long time away and record a set almost in one take that's a cooker throughout. Heady stuff that has a great flow and a sound to match, this is an energetic, engaging set that sounds like it came from 52nd St as opposed to Canada. It's got that groove that gets you bopping along in your chair before you even realize you're doing it.. If you can be groovy and edgy at the same time, this crew has found a stellar way to do it. Well done.

CHRIS DONNELLY/Metamorphosis: Very much of an edge pushing set, this isn't going to be for every one but it will probably find it's audience. The piano man under takes 50 one minute piano solos based on the Escher painting of the same name. Left field enough for you? The miniatures are quite quaint throughout, but you really have to have precious tastes to appreciate the approach on the way to the pay off. For creative thinkers willing to go the distance with this concept.

PLANET Z featuring SUSAN AQUILA: You've got an interesting bunch of talent on board here that just blows the roof off the sucker. Aquila is a jazz/rock electric violinist with a classical background that sounds more like she's Jean Luc Ponty's daughter than Clara does. Kicking it out on the music of Rob Tomaro, also a jazz rocker with a classical background, the two are an incendiary combustion that can't be denied. The credentials of these two speak for themselves. Simply put, when you want that jazz/rock thing with something extra that just doesn't quit, this is the set to put at the top of your list. This is hot stuff that just can't be denied.

BENJI KAPLAN/Meditacoes no Violao: A New York kid with Brazil in his blood and what appears to be a lightening mind takes his guitar to Brazil and comes back with the same something you first heard in someone like Ottmar Liebert's music (yeah, he didn't do Brazil, we know). Playing like a native, this is one of those quiet kind of albums Jobim would inspire as this tyro and his strings play up all the storm you need to rock the house, quiet style. A stunning late night album, this guy is a natch and you're going to be hearing a lot from him. Be the first on your block. Killer stuff.

DAN LEVY/Congrats on Your Success!: Another recent alum of Chelsea Handler's laugh factory, Levy has been bringing it for stand up fans for a while and has been the recent recipient of some high comedy industry honors. Finally at the tipping point in his career where you stop calling him ‘that guy' and start calling him by name, the laughs keep coming. This package pairs a cd and dvd giving you quite the panoply of his oeuvre from recent stand up to past specials to offbeat extras. And the laughs just don't stop coming. Even as an everyman, he still manages to slide in stuff that's too hip for the room (you can tell by lines that should have gotten laughs but didn't quite provoke a reaction). The future of stand up continues to be in good hands.

DEEP BLUE ORGAN TRIO/Wonderful!: This smoking trio turns their ears to classic Stevie Wonder, who is obviously venerable enough at this point to have the lens turned on him in such fashion, and adds the jazz and groove to the inherent funk for a set that sneaks up on you deceptively like it's hip dinner music, but once it has you in it's clutches, forgetaboudit! It's not too hard to make Wonder's canon take on a groovy edge, and dang if they don't grab you right out of the box with the special sauce layered on "Tell Me Something Good". Killer stuff you can't help but love.

KYLE EASTWOOD/Songs From the Chateau: Young Eastwood might have had an enviable leg up a few years ago, but he's been out there making it on his own since. Certainly way more Weather Report goes acoustic than Ennio Morricone, this is some first rate acoustic fusion that shows a young lion bass player/leader coming into his own. Easily, the best of his four records to date, even when the crew takes it easy, there's nothing smooth about this jazz. A solid work that delivers throughout.

WESTCHESTER JAZZ ORCHESTRA/Maiden Voyage Suite: A jazz big band/orchestra, made up of New York players we've praised pretty heavily in these bytes in the past, comes in with their second album, a reimaging of the classic Herbie Hancock album. There's probably a thin line separating homage/tribute/reimaging/recreating etc that most people don't care about, but what it means here is these cats add their special sauce to something that's wonderful but 45 years old nonetheless. A deep, ambitious recording that is certainly sitting down jazz all the way, this is the kind of stuff that treats the listener right and makes the classic Hancock fan feel that spending time with this record is time well spent. They make the conversion to a big band sound look way too easy and that's a big part of the pay off. Arts council music indeed, it's hot stuff throughout.

Volume 34/Number 277
August 6, 2011
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2011 Midwest Record

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