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ABIGAIL RICCARDS-TONY ROMANO/Soft Rains Fall: Riccards and Romano seem to be set on rediscovering the lost art of being a vocal act. Not cabaret, not lounge, not background. A vocalist and a guitarist with a nice, comfy song list that comes from across generations and styles. With a lovely clear voice and a guitar that knows when to co-star and when to hang back, this is very much a date that exists in it's own time zone. Youngbloods might not know how to pigeon hole this but if they give it a chance, they will enjoy a whole new realm of sophistication in a place where the music comes first. Off the beaten path and quite well done.

JANE SCHECKTER/Easy to Remember: So if a gal of a certain age can corral Jay Leonhart, Bucky Pizzarelli, Warren Vache, Harry Allen and Aaron Weinstein in o hanging out with her on a set well laden with standards and classics, would you even care if she knew her way around a lyric and knew how to infuse it with something new? The songs are certainly chestnuts and war horses, but this is a trip to your fave local jazz joint with a singer in residence that knows how to cut loose and keep bringing you back. Straight up jazz vocal date that has everything on the ball you want. Hot stuff.

JOHN ROY ZAT/Solo: Some are Woody's Children, some are Woody's compadres. This cat doesn't sound like he's ever thrown a bindle into a rolling freight train and tried to catch up but he has a mastery of that down home/heartland/sincere lyric that cuts to the chase no matter what the subject. Presenting himself front and center, they way he plays live, this folkie may have some dirt under his fingernails but he didn't just get off the turnip truck. Tasty, straight up folkie stuff that's right in the tradition yet right in the moment. Not topical stuff unless you consider life its own self a topic. Check it out, Zat knows where it zat.

JOHN ROY ZAT/Collaborations: A fun collection of live and home recordings with other cats for coloration and camaraderie yields a Cajun reconstruction of "Johnny B. Goode", the fiddling folkie getting to kick it out on telecaster and a bunch of other stuff that makes you think and makes you smile. When you put the Ipads and all that other crap aside, this is what the sound of making your own fun sounds like. It might be a non-record, but it's certainly a killer record. There's plenty here any folkie is bound to like.

FRANK WALTON SEXTET/The Back Step: Once a Chicago mainstay, Walton decamped a while back and took this previously unreleased date with him. Why was this in hiding so long? The trumpet man and his first call pals fashioned a left leaning swing date that still seems fresh today. This is the kind of date that might not be sitting down jazz, but you will want To sit back and enjoy the vibe as this crew sounds like it's having a fine time and wants to spread the smiles around. Simply a wonderful, contemporary outing that is so well conceived it's shouldn't stay indie or a secret for long. Hot stuff.

HERITAGE BLUES ORCHESTRA/And Still I Rise: Hey, blame the Carolina Chocolate Drops, they started it. This crew builds on the urban migration sound of the 40s and takes it to Mars or something. This isn't next wave blues but it is taking the tradition, staying in the tradition and blowing up the walls. Ultra high octane stuff that starts in Clarksdale and goes way around the bend before it's all over. Is it Nawlins? Is it west side Chicago? Detroit? It's all that and more with a solid dose of theatricality in the mix as well. This is a killer on so many levels that it's best to enjoy the players efforts than to pick apart the magic. Even non blues fans will flip for this. Great stuff throughout.

JUNANI AALTONEN & HEIKKI SARMANTO/Conversations: Feeling worldly? Here are two contemporary legends of Finnish jazz squaring off in the studio for two hours of improvisation with just the piano and sax to work with. These guys know their stuff and recreate a 50s vibe but with an airy sound that's just the opposite of the claustrophobic sound of some of the intimate blowing date/face offs from back in the day. Sure to be high on your list if you like left leaning/old man jazz, this is first class sitting down date loaded with deceptive simplicity that hides the chops. Just remember, it's from Finland but it's cool, not cold.

KAMI THOMPSON/Love Lies: Oh, the way those young people rebel. Thompson didn't want to go into the family business, her parents being Richard and Linda, but the provocation Will Oldham provided pushed her over the edge. Her debut sounds very much in vibe like momma Linda's solo debut showing that not all entrees into the family business are based on nothing more than nepotism. A wonderful, first class folk/rocker of a date that's going to be welcome in any set of headphones for extended residencies. If only more scions could turn out gems like this!

Volume 35/Number 71
January 10, 2011
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2012 Midwest Record

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