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GEOFF VIDAL/She Like That: A now, New York sax player steps into a time machine with some pals and sets the dial for late night in the 50s on 52nd St. He's playing the way he would now but soaking up the vibe from then. A dark, muscular New York flavored blowing date that has all the players playing as a whole delivering the joyful noise kind of racket that somehow comes together just when you think everyone is going to catch a cab in different directions. Solid blowing all the way on a date that bridges old and new with style.

BIO RITMO/La Verdad: 20 years ago, two Puerto Ricans going to art school in Virginia meet a punk rock drummer and , although they didn't know it at the time, alt.Salsa was born. Party music in any language, it probably helps to be a gringo and not know what they are talking about just letting the beat and the groove do the talking. Deeper than the vacation music it sounds like at first brush, this is certainly an essential soundtrack for any backyard gathering whether gringo or not. Grab an invitation to this party on a platter.

RAHSAAN BARBER/Everyday Magic: If you need proof of just how much of a universal language jazz is, here's a black man in Nashville toting a sax like a champ. A gloriously heady date that has modern and progressive edges weaving in and out lacing their way through smooth and fusion table settings. A tasty, wild, high energy date that clears the cobwebs out of your ears quite handily. These cats are here to play and can successfully set up a band stand anywhere and deliver the goods. Well done.

ANDREA WOLPER/Parallel Lives: You really don't think of Todd Barkan as a go to guy to produce an arty, jazz vocal date but he and Wolper seemed to hit the right groove and light the right sparks right out of the box. Wolper doesn't go in for that heavy handed art stuff, and this is certainly to the right of typical cabaret but it's more about performance than anything else. Not in the same bag, but the kind of change of pace you would expect from someone like Blossom Dearie where she's engaging you over the piano in a seemingly one on one something. Very much an up market kind of set, you can easily picture Wolper holding court at a boite where everyone is sipping sophisticated drinks. Grown up stuff for grown up tastes.

MEDDY GERVILLE/Fo Kronm La Vi: Do you know where Reunion Island is? Neither do I but this guy comes from there and he got some of his funding from the Tampon Council, so shall we away? Wow. Really, wow. Gerville is the kind of world beat act the Gabriels and the Byrnes try to pass off on us, but the thing is, Gerville is the real deal. Engaging. Interesting. Opt work to listen to! This set can't easily be written off as world jazz as it is that, but it's something extra as well. There's something so primal about the way this music reaches you, whether in English or not that it's comforting. One of those virtual phone calls from a long lost friend you never met, Gerville has a special handle on world beat as we know it and even does a better Sting than Sting. Just a drop dead amazing set that the open eared will love. Hot stuff throughout!

KENNY SHANKER/Steppin' Up: I don't know how the label does it but they keep coming up with fine young sax players that are making their debuts or nascent bones. Another sterling debut from the label showcases this young writer/player with a finely tuned taste for straight ahead playing that doesn't exactly play it right down the middle. Veering from swing to smooth, Shanker is a tyro that thinks he has something to prove, but he really doesn't. A solid opening effort that only shows the way to a bright tomorrow. Dig in, jazzbos.

FROM CALIFORNIA WITH LOVE/various: Jesus Christ in heaven---does it really take a national disaster in Japan for someone to think to get Sue Raney back in the recording studio to do a new cut? This jazzbo disaster relief record is obviously from the heart by everyone involved. A low key but really emotional set with heartfelt performances, the settings are simple, the instrumentalists are often solo and the result is something that will get you reaching for your wallet before you even realize it. The proceeds that go to victim relief more than give you your moneys worth so this is a great chance to do right and come out ahead in the deal. Well done all around.

RENOLDS JAZZ ORCHESTRA/The Penny Opera: Here's an easy one. The organizers of a jazz festival in Austria invite the crème of the jazz world over to deliver the goods on "Three Penny Opera' in honor of Kurt Weill's birth centennial. Your fave jazzbos enjoy the freedom the Euros encourage, everyone is familiar with the songs and probably knows each other's work---and the double disc that ensues is first rate listening jazz that offers a new take on an 80 year old work. It's just flat out killer stuff that gives you a you-are-there feeling and you wish you were. Dude, this is a one of kind, real deal. Check it out!

Volume 34/Number 291
August 20, 2011
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2011 Midwest Record

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