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ZDOB SI ZDUB/Basta Mafia: Zappa meets Madness? You’d be excused for coming away with that vibe as this Moldavian folk/punk/ska band does it’s thing. Loaded with that felled wall attitude that has created one of the greatest melting pots since Emma Lazarus had her say, this wild and wooly college music ride is a malcontent thrill ride that careens with the craziest energy you’ve heard in quite some time.

FRANCOIS & the Atlas Mountains/ e Volo Love: A down tempo/chill record for adults, there’s such a genre blender of various world beat styles mixed into the mix that it’s as intoxicating as the alcohol and intoxicants that will blend with these sounds effortless and with full welcome. Deceptively good natured, this audio opium trip won’t leave you grinding your teeth but might leave you somewhere other than where you started. With a left field sexy edge, this set makes itself at home as easily as the Serge Gainsbourg vibe that washes over and through it. Fun stuff that seems to want to take itself seriously but really doesn’t.

HENRY COLE & THE Afro-Beat Collective/Roots Before Branches: The Puerto Rican drummer goes atavistic on this new set in which he goes old school, tapping into the whole Afro-Caribbean jazz mixture, putting the drum front and center while keeping it in the background and letting the collision of music styles tell the tale in sound (except when some kind of vocalizing is in order to help you find your locus). The vibe is old school, but when you factor in how some of Miles Davis funk explorations would have turned out if he brought the elephant funk to the islands (and he’s been dead 20 years so add that to your old school equation), you really don’t know which end of the telescope you’re looking into once this mind expander gets done with your head. No matter which way the vibe is flowing, this is for forward leaning jazz ears that are more interested in progressive sounds than standing on ceremony. Check it out of the subway ride into the future.

TOMAS RAMIREZ/Tres: This Texas sax man has spent just as much time playing with hairy hippies as he has spent honking in the tradition, but with 35 years of professional chops under his belt, he isn’t lacking in any department. A funky, jazzy romp that comes right down the middle, there may not be a riot going on but if you can’t tell there’s a party under way, you are missing the boat. A solid, contemporary, jazzbo romp that simply delivers the goods in fine style. Check it out.

JOANNA WEINBERG/Piano Diaries: Not exactly the best kept secret in Oz, Weinberg has been cleaning up on all the awards and recognition to come her way for quite a long time along the axis of London, South Africa and Australia, places she’s called home over the years. This set is the soundtrack to her latest one women show, which will find it’s way into the theaters here this year, and marks her return to piano after 30 years of focusing on everything but the keys. Very much not the kind of thing you are used to, Weinberg tells a story in song without it being stagy or cabaret, crafting something else entirely. A set that grabs you by the ear right out of the box, Weinberg is quite a find and is must hearing for anyone looking for something meaty and different without being arty for the sake of being arty. Firmly in that sweet spot that bubbles right under blatantly commercial, the blood is flowing and the performances is certainly winning. Hot stuff well worth checking out.

NICK MORAN TRIO/No Time Like Now: A rocker that loves the jazz organ trio sound but knows he can’t compete with the legendary sides he’d be compared to, he just let’s his rock side hold the rudder and comes out none the worse for wear. With an irresistibly tasty sound in force no matter how you cut this cake, it’s no shame to come out of the same chute as, say, Brian Auger, who certainly doesn’t seem to be as remembered as Jimmy Smith. This seems to come right from the sweet spot of people that want some tasty, old man jazz with contemporary sensibilities. Hey, it just works and this guitar man knows what he’s doing and where he wants to go. You should catch a ride on this one. Well done.

JOHNATHAN BLAKE/The Eleventh Hour: Violinist John Blake’s kid is in demand as a session and sideman, but like any ambitious player with chops, he’s wanted a career as a leader as well and has managed to carve out time to pursue that as well. Fronting a left leaning crew here, Blake takes it back to the arty side of civil rights and church basement jazz, loading the deck with music that makes you think as well as feel. Accessible even as it evades the middle ground, Blake opens the ears of those who wish them opened and makes his mark as a leader with this well conceived debut. Smart throughout.

PAOLO RECCHIA/Ari’s Desire: As soon as I put this on, I thought the Miles 70s vibe was front and center. Imagine my surprise when a took a closer look at the package and saw liner notes by Rick Margitza. Although he’s a sax man, he’s certainly listened to “On the Corner” more than once and taken it to heart. A nicely mixed collection of originals and covers, particularly with a few tipping the cap to Sonny Rollins, the set goes the distance in showing fine playing without falling in the trap of being a paint by numbers homage. Left leaning jazzbos will enjoy this sitting down session, particularly now that old man winter has finally shown up and there are going to be a few more nights staying in before things get nice again. Check it out.

Volume 35/Number 81
January 20, 2011
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2012 Midwest Record

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