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ERNESTO CEVINI QUARTET/There: Even if there's arts council money involved, this ain't no arts council record. It certainly is a fine listening record. These well traveled jazzbos come together and prove that real players really can feed on the energy of an engaged audience and that it's not just a cliché. Recorded live, the chops fly but it's not just showing off. The drummer/leader knows how to give everyone else some and a good time is had by all, including you if you're looking for some tasty, contemporary jazz that refuses to let you predict where it's headed. This set is really hard not to like, unless you are a card carrying grumpus. Check it out.

ECHOES OF SWING/Message From Mars: This record has recently won the top awards a jazz record can win in France and Germany and tell you what, it's so cool I almost can't handle it. Anyone who ever dug Raymond Scott will get this set immediately. It sounds like some old timey recording until you start to pay real attention and hear that it has a today hipness that just didn't exist 70 years ago. Then comes the gotcha. Even the originals sound like they could have leapt off Scott's scratch pad. By defying all convention, these jazzbos present the crème that rises to the top. You don't have to be hipster Eurotrash to dig this, you just have to get off on killer players pushing the envelope in unexpected ways. Anything that makes you feel like you're watching your fave old cartoon is worth it's weight in gold (before the prices recently started coming back down). An absolutely welcome tonic from start to finish.

JAKE SCHEPPS/An Evening in the Village-The Music of Bela Bartok: It's kind of fun to make six degrees of separation out of everything. Bela Fleck recorded classical music instead of hillbilly stuff. Here Schepps records Bela Bartok making it sound like hillbilly stuff instead of classical stuff. Ok, back off, we'll play "Hi Bob" in a minute. I not only love this record, I love the publicist for it saying this sounds like an Appalachian band jamming after hours in a Transylvanian town hall. How can I top that? Sounding very much like a lost session from the early days of NAC when Mike Marshall, Bela Fleck and the rest were struggling young bucks that would take any bupkis Rounder threw at them just so they could get their music out, you probably aren't familiar with Bartok and that adds to the allure of this sounding like nothing you've ever heard before. Hats off all around for a super duper alt.adult listening date that will keep you riveted throughout and give you second thoughts about the value of multi tasking when there's stuff like this that demands and commands your attention.

CHRIS CONNOR/Sings Gentle Bossa Nova: Some records aren't bad, they just aren't good. This isn't one of those. This record is good, it's just clueless---at least for when it came out 45 years ago. The Kenton glow had worn off and Connor was past her commercial prime. Did the label think this was going to appeal to kids buying Beatles records with a boozy, old. pudgy, broad on the cover that looked like their mom going off to a swing party? Did they think old Kenton fans would tear themselves away from little league weekends and mortgage payments to check out Connor going MOR? Connor still had the vocal chops and a young, eager to please and make his bones Pat Williams gave her such a groovy setting that I can't wait to see the ad copy on Dusty Groove's home page when they start pushing this. But still, this was all wrong for 1965, even if they had her covering Beatle songs and hits of the day (insert sarcasm here). It would have been ripe for 1996 when the lounge revival was in full swing, but the damn label missed the boat a second time! Finally in 2011, this can be appreciated by pomo hipsters everywhere. It might be the gasser that wasn't but Connor and Williams showed up determined not to let you down. Put some new batteries in the Kit Cat clock, fire up the lava lamp and get your groovy on.

GALACTIC COWBOY ORCHESTRA/All Out of Peaches: Hey, we can appreciate a gumboistic fusion of stuff if it's mixed together right. Not everything has to be third world genre bending mix mastering to work. Here we find a prog rock crew that ate their classic fusion records for breakfast and topped it off with some bluegrass and amped up instrumental, English folk. You can so genre blender the northern hemisphere. With elements of ‘forward into the past' vibes running through it, this is a crew that knows how to put the wrong end of the telescope in focus and make the diversity work well. Lightly left leaning progressive instrumental work that's hard to pin down and likely all the more better for it. A winner throughout.

SHANE DWIGHT/A Hundred White Lies: Hard charging blues/rock guitar slinger hits that wall that comes along when you have to choose between marriage and career. Well, Dwight has his John Lee Hooker period ‘boogie chillun' groove on and at least he gets to console himself by having Bekka Bramlett sing background vocals. Another impressive, high octane date that might have sadness hidden in the grooves, but hey, that's what happens when there's blues in your rock. You don't have to be a yuupie mourning your lost youth to appreciate this first call slab of killer bar rock that keeps the party going all night.

JACKIE DeSHANNON/When You Walk Into the Room: There's no two ways about it, DeShannon opened for the Beatles almost 50 years ago. There's also no two ways about it, she can still rock that smoky, sultry look that beguiled Elvis Presley and Jimmy Page almost 50 years ago. And that look will work on you too. Despite finally being inducted into the songwriters hall of fame, for which this new recording of her classics is a companion piece, DeShannon has always seemed undervalued, whether manifesting in a single disc label/career retrospective late in the cd gold rush, her Jackie in Memphis set coming out on Rhino Handmade or the real love being shown under the radar on specialty labels like Raven and Ace. I never heard the legendary Metric Music publishing demos, but this unplugged set must accurately feel like what was coursing through DeShannon's veins while sitting across the table from Donna Weiss or sipping a vanilla olay figuring how to reach for another Grammy. If you know what it is to wear down the grooves on a vinyl copy of "To Be Free" or hunt down the Amherst twofer with the previously unreleased album on it, this collection is right up your alley. Without asking for any of the askance we give to any of our other heart throbs that are still at it while cashing social security checks, this simple live and direct set is loaded with musical joy and wonderment for old fans and newbies that should be. Well done.

A CINDERELLA STORY-Once Upon a Song: What if, say, you took "Cinderella" and modernized so it took place with underpinnings of, say, "American Idol"? "Pretty Little Liars'" Lucy Hale and her sidekicks answer that question. A solidly produced pic for the tweenies, this vid premiere will be carried by the star power of the legs of the stars that grown ups really won't recognize. Solidly crafted entertainment that'll keep the kids busy for a while.

Volume 34/Number 297
August 26, 2011
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2011 Midwest Record

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