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TIM LOUIS/Snowflakes in Bloom: Sounding like a young Dave Frishberg in more ways than one, Louis is a player that is quite pleasant but has more bite than cats like Danny Wright. A jazzbo at the core, he's been around longer than you thing with more august credits than you might imagine and it's all gone to shape this Christmas set into the kind of thing you can break out all year round. Well played fun stuff from a cat that needs to spend more time in the spotlight because he's more than earned it. Fun stuff that is simple and elegant with some soul that sounds great at the end of the day. The cool thing here is that he finds that sweet spot that many try for and miss and hits it equally well whether doing originals or chestnuts.

COREA-GOMEZ-MOTIAN/Further Explorations: The playing here is with a special abandon. Released to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Bill Evans "Explorations" album, this album, recorded with two Evans alumni, doesn't restrict it self to any one album, period or style. What you have is three serious as a heart attack jazzbo with chops to kill for kicking it out on music they love that has touched them in one way or another. Recorded live over a few weeks, there's was plenty to pick from and we're probably in store of one hell of a box set somewhere down the road once this glorious twofer has been digested. Recorded live, and in the present in more ways than one, this is real jazz for and by real jazzbos. And it cooks with gas to spare. Hot stuff contemporary jazzbos will not want to miss.

JACK deJOHNETTE/Sound Travels: The long time hard hitting jazzbo turns 70, gets recognition as an NEA jazz master and turns in a multi faceted set with a lot of guests that's more in touch with his left of center side than anything else. The softer side of a lion in winter, don't think he's going gentle into that good night, he's just making listening music for adults getting in touch with getting older an accepting it. Playing piano as well as drums, deJohnette knows how to bring it and this is a well seasoned set that sets it's own perimeters whether going new age or slanted Nawlins. A veritable tour de force, this feels like deJohnette's most mainstream album and certainly his friendliest. Well done.

ALANA AMRAM & THE ROUGH GEMS/Snow Shadows-Songs of Vince Martin: So how can I explain this to you if you aren't a Sonic Youth hipster? David Amram's daughter and John Sebastian's brother team up for a tribute to one of the uber cult heroes of the 60s/70s in an album that's not really a tribute or an homage so much as it is a journey through the past and connecting it to the present on some songs that shouldn't be left to fade away to the time tunnel. Pulled largely from Martin's two solo albums, which had vastly different flavors. A killer folk rock extravaganza, which goes so far as to bring in cats that were on the original records, including Martin himself kicking it on "Honest Joe" from his last major label solo record, this set will be a discovery for most and they should be glad that Amram is one of the ones that has great taste and strong vision. A first class singer songwriter outing all the way, even if Amram is only the singer this time around. This cd is why you can't make yearly ten best lists until the year is really over. Check it out. Well done throughout.

LENI STERN/Sabani: Really? Leni Stern and organic in the same breath? Yeah---and she'll take your breath away. The well traveled world traveler plants her feet in African soil and connects to a rootsy African mix of blues and indigenous music that you don't know what to call other than good. Showing vocal chops as the focal point of a trio playing something so stripped down that you would never expect it from her, it feels like a singer songwriter thing, but it isn't. Like the organic side of the high tech folk John Stewart was doing 20 years ago, this record ain't for kids but adults are sure to be mesmerized by it's world beat cocktail that flies under the radar and blows your mind. Another record that's a late shoo in for those year end ten best lists that are best left to the last minute. Killer stuff.

RAYA BRASS BAND/Dancing on Roses, Dancing on Cinders: Blowing hard under the Brooklyn Bridge just like Sonny Rollins once did, this bunch of New Yorkers that sound like they came from the Balkans do their Balkan fusion that careens like you wouldn't believe. A wildly upbeat party set that just let's the left of center good time flow, the young and the restless looking for kicks beyond the horizon can party to this all night. A wild ride of genre blending that doesn't call it a night just because the sun is coming up.

CANADIAN BRASS/Takes Flight: This fits together like Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. Steinway starts a label to feature their artists and spur sales of pianos. Canadian Brass is a victim of the major label system that has found running your own label isn't that much fun when it isn't your primary business. Steinway is earning it's spurs as a front rank classical label. The Brass wants to partner with someone in the record biz. Their chocolate is in their peanut butter! Steinway's first non-piano classical release is a humdinger. Playing with the freedom they haven't had in years, the Brass is well polished and absolutely brilliant. Sonically alone, this cd is worth the price of admission. When you add the playing, fuggedaboudit (in a good way)!!! Simply a smoking classical crossover date that is first call/top shelf throughout. A must for all light classical ears that are tuned to serious music.

BRITTNI PAIVA/Living Ukulele: There's a lot of reasons why this is the greatest documentary ever made, but the biggest reason why is because they quote me right on the front cover, first of all the quotes. When you consider that Hawaiian ukulele music isn't our long suit here, we spotted it all the way over here in the frozen Midwest that she was the bomb long before she was recognized as Hawaii's entertainer of the year for 2011. A dandy look at the girl behind the music, she's one of those child prodigies that was interested in something other than math out there along the Pacific Rim, and she shows that at 21 she still approaches things as a fan while still being every inch the pro. A great introduction to Paivi, this is a treat well worth checking out when you want/need something out of the ordinary to really free your ears and mind. Well done.

Volume 35/Number 49
December 19, 2011
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2011 Midwest Record

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