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J.J. JOHNSON-KAI WINDING/The Great Kai & J.J.: Admit it, you first came across this album in your grandpa's basement and the opening track with their take on "This Could be the Start of Something Big" made you act like a Vegas swinger in the full-length sewing mirror your grandma had in the corner. You weren't far off, this is one of the landmark albums of modern jazz. A venerable partnership throughout the 50s, the bebopper and the Dane with their duel trombone attack were the last word in fine blowing. This early Impulse set really captures it with Bill Evans, Paul Chambers and Art Taylor bringing up the rear in top shelf fashion. This record was part of a set that kicked off the 50th anniversary of Impulse last year, and if the hefty price tag for the omnibus weighed you down, this popularly priced import should get the dollars flying out of your wallet. This particular reissue label sort of lets you know that you are getting twofers from them and the companion set here is a Kai Winding solo set, "The Incredible Kai Winding Trombones", a set that would be of interest to collectors for many reasons, not least of which is that it was Impulse #3, pretty hard to beat if you are an Impulse low number collector. This is one sizzling modern jazz collection which was one of the game changers that really raised the bar. Young jazzbos, time to own this classic

DUKE ROBILLARD JAZZ TRIO/Wobble Walkin': The do it all guitar man slips on his jazz guitar trio skin and wears it well. Dressed up to make it seem like this is a retro set, it has a few oldies on it but in the main, this collection is right in the moment. There is some playing and some styles that you just can't improve upon, and Robbilard lets those moments shine the way they are supposed to, but other than that, the Duke and his pals really kick it out in fine form. With their take on old man jazz, the vibe and the mode fit the expectation-but other than that, Wes Montgomery is smiling down upon Duke's endeavors. One drop dead gorgeous after hours guitar jazz outing that's not to be missed.

CYPRESS STRING QUARTET/Beethoven-The Late String Quartets: Like John Daly used to say when he hosted "What's My Line?", ‘panel, I'm jut going to throw all the cards over'. What is there to say when a bunch of committed pros deliver the goods on some serious works that need to be treated right and respected yet played with passion that's keeps the listener riveted? This three cd box of some complicated works written by a deaf guy is not for the feint of heart to even go near. This crew has hearts of steel. A grand work and a grand collection on a grand work, it's going to be a long time before this set is displaced as the last word on these pieces. You don't even have to be a classical fan to be caught in this web, but be warned it's not a light crossover effort. All you have to do is meet it half way and you will be amply rewarded. This recording is nothing less than amazing.

KENNY WERNER/Me Myself & I: All the insiders know this piano man but you have to be a real hipster to know him as a consumer. Here we find him completely solo on a set that would sound like pure noodling in lesser hands; here we find the pro delivering a personal, up close set that feels like he's playing just for you on music that could easily fit well into the ECM canon. It's pure piano from a real master and must hearing for anyone that can appreciate lightening in a bottle.

ELLYNE PLOTNICK/I Will: Way more stripped down than her last release, this finds Plotnick really cutting close to the bone as a writer and interpreter putting a lot of herself into the bytes. With just a bass and guitar behind her (oh, yeah, they are Harvie S and John Tropea-but still...) this powerful, intimate work shows her as more of a jazz singer than the past fully rounded out sides. This is one of those simple but elegant dates where the singer really puts it out front with everything she's got. Well done.

DEVIN GRAY/Dirigo Rataplan: An up and coming, young progressive drummer whose sidekicks here have been playing longer than he's been alive takes it back to the church basement for civil rights free jazz that you have to be riding the progressive tip to really appreciate. Stretching his wings and seeing how far he can fly, he makes music for the few but those few are ones that still have their original Actuel vinyl and only listen to tapes they've made from the records.

EXTREMELY LOUD INCREDIBLY CLOSE: A grown up pic with a kid in the lead, we now find 9/11 spawning a language all it's own that has nothing to do with knee jerk jingoism. A kid finds a key belonging to his pop who was killed in 9/11. He never really knew his pop and goes on a quest to find out what in the world (literally) this key might open. He has some low key but deep adventures along the way. Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock are good as the grown ups and aren't at all the doofuses adults can be in these pics. A nice, meaty pic for those that want some cinema with meaning amid a sea of special effects. Check it out---you did miss it in theaters.

Volume 35/Number 148
March 17, 2011
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2012 Midwest Record

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