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JAZZ PUNKS/Smashups: You gotta have chops to do what these cats are doing and not get laughed out of the business. Fusing bebop and punk with a free jazz wash, you would think this is arts council music. It looks like it on paper. However, this crew is funding their music by rolling up their sleeves and working to pay it's bills. You might not think it, but they are field tested and know what people like and what they can get away with. Their jazz vision comes hurling at your from all directions, and while clearly not for moldy figs, it has an accessibility that let's anyone that want to be there on this bus. Wild stuff that's not quite as wild as you might think.

LENNY MARCUS TRIO/Sun Ray-A Tribute to Ray Bryant: How cool is this? Not only was Bryant an early Marcus piano teacher, Bryant was also Marcus's father's best friend. Any kid thinking about music would be a head case to throw away an opportunity like that. From having his songs on the Weather Channel to getting a chance to pay a heart felt tribute to the recently departed Bryant, Marcus doesn't disappoint, and here he pulls out all the stops to make sure he gets his point across. A delightfully infectious date that does a fine job of keeping the memory alive, any Bryant fan owes it to himself to listen to this next to the originals. Everyone else owes it to themselves to check it out. Hot stuff.

LENNY MARCUS/Distant Dream: In which we find Marcus marking his territory as the jazzbo with the sense of humor, whether making word play with the titles or jazz play with the music. You get the feeling he played a lot of the original Ramsey Lewis Trio when he was a kid and wasn't listening to Ray Bryant. Not a retro record, but with a lot of echoes of the 60s era on board, you'll hear Lewis, Bryant, Hancock and all the rest that were making clear marks in the days before Miles went nuts and turned contemporary jazz on it's head. Anyone in their 40s or 50s will know and relate to how groovy these sounds are. Now that the new season of "Mad Men" has turned everyone on to Now Sound, it's time to you to turn to guides like this to show you what you've been missing in your quest for uber cool. Check it out.

PETER APPLEYARD and the Jazz Giants/The Lost 1974 Sessions: Really, what can you say? One of the top Canadian jazzbos hooks up with a bunch of the greatest mainstream jazzbo of all time, grabbing them while on tour with Benny Goodman and lines up a swinging session for four hours in the middle of the night which then proceeds to sit in a box for nearly 40 years and would never have seen light of day if not for some arts council money. Sheesh! By the time this was recorded, the majors were shying away from this kind of mainstream jazz but it was the bread and butter of Pablo, and Carl Jefferson was just taking up the gauntlet of keeping this sound by these caliber of players alive. With the same vibe that powered the great on the fly jam session records the 50s, a little moonlight and some wine makes for some killer listening by Appleyard and his pals, oh say, Hank Jones, Zoot Sims, Slam Stewart, Urbie Green, Bobby Hackett and late comer Mel Lewis. A dead solid, perfect record that wasn't, mainstream jazzbos have one of the great hidden treasures on their hands here. Dig it.

BOB BALDWIN/Songs of Thom Bell: The only good thing about the bad economy of the early 90s was that when the recording and touring income of the era's jazzbo dried up, they huddled around the fire and made some records that came form the heart just to keep their chops up. Now that times are tough again, Baldwin cracked open his rolodex and rounded up some like minded first call pals to give the classic Thom Bell songs a contemporary jazz work out, obviously played from the heart. A lively, engaging set that brings some well worn contemporary soul classics back to the front for a solid workout that reminds you to go digging in the crates again. A solid contemporary jazz set that has it all on the ball throughout.

CARRIE HASSLER/The Distance: As chart performance has made clear, a lot of people have come under Hassler's spell since she popped on the scene a few albums ago. This new one veers off the course she's been charting and don't be surprised if this turns into a monster that gets everyone calling Rural Rhythm ‘the little label that could'. Moving off the dime slightly from her bluegrass roots, this set finds Hassler turning in a heartfelt vocal performance that puts her vocal and interpretative skills front and center with her claiming that real estate like a super pro that never has to look back. The kind of Nashville album that fans have been clamoring for and complaining just isn't made any more, this is proof that mainstream doesn't have to be a dirty word. Simply a super country album throughout.

MARTY RAYBON/Southern Roots & Branches: Don't you hate it when former chart toppers keep tilling the same soil long after the plow has left town and everyone has moved on? Raybon proves that if you saved your money and your health, you can have a satisfying career after the equipment trucks have been hired by someone else. Moving on from the glory days of Shenandoah, Raybon performs with freedom and abandon here doing some of the old group's greatest hits, high octane originals and stuff that works and fits. A homey sounding album that just jumps in line and fits right in. Finding that sweet spot where you can be down home without being hokey or corny, Raybon delivers the goods coming from that place where bluegrass, country and pop all bump into each other. It's the kind of record that feels like a welcome visit from an old friend. Check it out.

ellen cherry/Please Don't Sell the Piano: A new ep from the artist that can be out there while winning Emmys and having networks put her wares on display. This set finds her drilling into deep introspection that might be too much for anyone off their meds to deal with. Twee to the max all the way.

Volume 35/Number 168
April 6, 2011
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2012 Midwest Record

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