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AXEL'S AXIOM/Uncommon Sense: Axel Schwintzer does one thing we seem to be able to count on foreigners to do very well, keep the classic piano jazz trio sound alive and well as well as amplify upon the tradition and the vibe when called upon. With a bunch of well seasoned jazzbos at his side, this young import, who needs no Hamburger Helper added to his special sauce, collides the 50s, 60s and 70s into a seamless mash up that keeps you engaged from start to finish. An auspicious debut that hopefully shows there's more on the way. Well done.

BOB DYLAN'S GREENWICH VILLAGE/Various: Nice way to bait a hook. This set has nothing to do with Dylan but uses the bait to showcase a well programmed set of music and talk that was pouring out of the club doors when Dylan first hit the Village in 1961 and it really was a hotbed of creativity. I don't know if lo-fi nu bohos will appreciate this double cd set chock full of music produced before electronics with stuff like finger picking and dulcimers ruling the roost. Anyone who would find this of primary interest would already be on social security. Even if they have the time to seek this stuff out on Amazon, they wouldn't take the time or effort and this set will blow their minds. It's not a hit laden thing---more of a memory of a time and place. Even though most to these players never sold more than 10,000 records, they were folk music super stars and this collection reflects the stuff that made a lot of proto yuppies into night owls as they were slugging it out in grad school in the early 60s. We especially like that compiler Derek Barker gets a shout out in the liner notes. We feel his effort to track and remaster this stuff goes above and beyond what you get in a typical oldies themed compilation and sets the bar at a new height, particularly at the budgie price. Songs, singers and times that have been lost to time, they're all here even if most of the singers aren't anymore. A killer collection for getting you back in touch with your folk roots.

JOHN COLTRANE/Evolution-The Road to Giant Steps: I'm not going to beat my head against the wall for your entertainment trying to figure out how this 4 cd set does and doesn't track the excellent "Sideman" compilation on Fantasy 5 years back. Covering the same ground and concept, this collection expands on Coltrane's Fantasy sideman days bringing in sides where he helped out for Miles on Columbia, and turns on Blue Note and Savoy, along with some interviews that give you glimpses of the man behind the blowing. Decisively tracked numbers leading up to his "Giant Steps" solo breakout, whether you've tilled this earth before or not, this is Coltrane showing he could blow just fine through a heroin haze whether Miles liked it or not. The kid from the Campbell's soup factory made good and here's a load of the proof. A righteous collection

RYAN DAVIDSON TRIO: Talk about not fitting the format! Here's a power trio led by a Canadian that made his bones in the UT Lab Band and plays jazz and country on a high profile basis. All this and this set has surf/Goth over-undertows running throughout it giving it an eerie, rock club on Mars vibe that sucks you in by it's offbeat audaciousness. Nutty, wild stuff that gleeful opens your ears in naughty, Puckish fashion that is completely nuts. A sure bet for fun seekers not looking for a fast ball down the middle.

NEIL LEONARD/Marcel‘s Window: It‘s taken Leonard ten years to put his electronics aside (well, he does teach the stuff) and get back to real playing with real instruments and real people, and this time out, the Boston based cat revisits sites in his native Philly, playing compositions he‘s written for specific places in Philly. An audio travelogue that we have to take his word for, if nothing else, he does capture the swinging lite jazz side of his Philly sax compadre, Grover Washington: It does reflect the urban vibe he's reaching for here. Fun, swinging stuff that's done for the joy of playing, and it shows. Check it out.

MARK WEINSTEIN/El Cumbanchero: I've never heard the title track here done on flute and Weinstein hits it out of the park. With a bunch of pals on board that love Latin jazz as much as he does, the sand and rum drinks feel right at hand as this plays. All the tracks here are pretty vintage island stuff and they are all delightfully repurposed for today's ears and sensibilities. Solidly an ace of a world jazz outing that commands your attention in fine style. Check it out.

KYLE PEDERSON/12.25: A solo piano nu Christmas outing that reflects on his early love of Windham Hill and how they could refashion typical Christmas music. A hard charging impressionistic player, Pederson loves Windham Hill and equally loves Christmas making this solo Christmas piano recording a nice ornament for your music shelf that will get quite a workout. Well done.

YELENA ECKEMOFF/Flying Steps: The former child prodigy that went half way around the world to find home on the range in North Carolina serves up the third installment of her personal, piano trilogy. An introspective set that's touchstoned by things in her life, including isolation, Eckemoff's music is loaded with what we know as the kind of Russian angst that keeps them from believing that happiness is something more than fleeting. That dourness and sadness doesn't come out in this music as it's more like cerebral, sitting down jazz. In any case, it's certainly another of her first class listening experiences.

Volume 35/Number 4
November 4, 2011
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2011 Midwest Record

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