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JOHN COLTRANE/The Impulse Albums v. 4: In which we find Coltrane becoming Jimi Hendrix before Hendrix even had his breakthrough. The first five posthumous albums of 10 that Impulse has up it's sleeve, we find how the label kept tape rolling to have enough material to keep the legend alive with new recordings. Since an album could only hold 30 minute or so comfortably, a lot of these over call sides where things that didn't fit the format or were explorations. Somewhere between sheets of sound and space jazz, these five discs find Coltrane live and in the studio exploring what lies beyond. Included are "Expression", Live at the Village Vanguard Again", "Om", "Cosmic Music" (of course), and "Selflessness" where you get another extended take on "My Favorite Things". Stretching beyond 60s civil rights jazz, this sounds like blue prints for Miles Davis recordings that came after he met Betty. Completely wild and mellow at the same time and just right with tea (wink).

BLUE MONK/Enlightened Love: Maybe it's me. This doesn't sound like massage music, this sounds like something Martin Scorsese would use in the background of a drug deal scene with sinister, Asian gangsters where the gentle fluidity counterpoints against the nastiness taking place. After that, it sounds like it would be pretty good for use in healing arts or mellowing out. More complex than nature recordings or soundscapes, this is flowing compositional music masquerading as something easier. With a lot of elements that make it sound like light classical music, this is certainly something winning to have in your headphones when the wind is at your back. Well done.

MIKE HOWE/Island of Anywhere: Literally coming out of nowhere a few years ago, the guitarist/multi instrumentalist isn't just playing guitar for natures critters during his day job as a park ranger anymore. With a limitless sky and horizon as his inspiration, Howe is a master of pastoral composition that opens the heart as well as the ear. Tasty, gentle work that let's you enjoy simplicity and color in ways you might not have thought about when living life at 200 mph. More NAC than new age, this is a guitar man that adult listeners will know is the real deal. Very hot in a low fire way.

AMBERFERN/Quiescence-A World at Peace: Delightful impressionistic, musical travelogue that takes you around the bend and back as you can practically see the ports of call that this music takes you to at various times of day, away from the ‘bustle' of that location, no matter how remote it is from your ken. To the right of granola eating but fairly closely aligned with the traditional take on new age, this bunch is clairvoyant in knowing what you are looking for when it comes to grabbing an audio staycation and getting away from it all in your own backyard. Solid stuff throughout.

LOUISIANA RED & Little Victor's Juke Joint/Memphis Mojo: Unassuming blues choogle that will insidiously get under your skin like Mississippi John Hurt used to. And that's why the last outing by this bunch grabbed almost every award the blues world could bestow upon it. About a million years old and one of the last remaining links to the past, Red is a must hear treat. This is blues for everyone that likes it old school but with no dust on it. Simply great.

DANI WILDE/Shine: Someone wrote nice check to make sure this Brit blues vixen could make a record with a title like "Shine" and live up to it. Produced old school by Mike Vernon, who wasn't afraid to put out the call to a gaggle of his old mates to update the old Blue Horizon sound for today's tastes, the chops pouring out of this set are amazing. Seasoned enough that you can bet she'll be turning up the heat on this year's blues cruise, Wilde would never make it on "American Idol" as she doesn't have to scream to make her point, seduce you or melt your brain. Killer stuff from a pro that keeps it real.

ELLA FITZGERALD/Twelve Night in Hollywood V. 1 & 2 (14022)/ V. 3 & 4 (14394): You're damned right the limited edition box set of this deserved a Grammy. Can you imagine the embarrassment of riches Norman Granz was faced with when he held back the bulk of these recordings and the live in Japan recordings because he didn't want to have too much Ella competing with herself in the marketplace when he had the live French double album up his sleeve? Not as bombastic in it's completeness as something like Miles Davis' complete live at the Plugged Nickel recordings, this is the best of the songs over Fitzgerald's two week stay at the Crescendo in the early 60s. Personal, intimate and sassy as ever, Lady Ella delivers on songs you know and know from her all too well but are welcome yet again. This is a primer for anyone that wants to follow in the jazz vocal tradition and do it right. Perhaps not essential recordings at this stage of the game, they are killer tracks nonetheless and you should save your pennies to buy both sets if you're going to dive in. Wonderful, wonderful stuff from a certified master.

WES MONTGOMERY/Movin'-The Complete Verve Recordings: It's been over 20 years since the last great Montgomery box set, so this one is long over due. Having cut only 8 total albums for Verve, this can't compete with the Riverside box for depth but it does compete on pizzazz. With five cds housed in a hard cover book with a die cut sound hole and great album jacket reproduction, you get a real look at why jazzbos hated what Creed Taylor did with Montgomery and people loved it. On Riverside, Montgomery was a pure player. Taylor cranked it up and made Montgomery a populist enabling his guitar goodness to be brought to the masses. Whether getting greasy with Jimmy Smith or going uptown with Claus Ogerman, you might say these recordings were the real template for smooth jazz. Killer stuff from one of the contemporary greats, once the tape was rolling, Montgomery always made it sparkle. The newbie looking to dig deeper might want to use these recordings and work backwards in discovering the wonderful sound that was. Too bad we're living in times when stuff like this has to be brought out as a limited edition.

Volume 34/Number 340
October 7, 2011
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2011 Midwest Record

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