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TONY MONACO/Celebration: In which we have the latest from a B3 player that was mentored by Jimmy Smith and shows that he learned his lessons well enough to not let the master down, ever. A smoking set of classic B3 vibe that simply and utterly smokes throughout, this limited edition set also includes a best of disc that looks back at the high spots from the last decade. Old man jazz in spirit but not execution, Monaco loves his work and knows the moves and we're all the better for it. The kind player that can step aside and make sure everyone gets some for the good of the record, Monaco needs to be on your play list. Quite the master with a towering talent.

CHOBAN ELEKTRIK: World beaters that are domestic products that came to the game late via power rock, Zappa tribute bands and other sidetracks, if this doesn't remind you of Zappa's Indian period then you were just listening to him for the lyrics. The press pack calls them what a prog rock power trio from Albania would sound like. We can't improve upon that. Clearly, it's wild, world beat for those who have wide open ears and love B3 no matter where in the world it turns up under whatever guise. Left leaning world beaters will have a gas with this set of party music that sounds like what they would play after hours at the Star Wars Cantina. Check it out.

ARUAN ORTIZ QUARTET/Orbiting: A traditionalist that shakes the dust off moldy figs, Ortiz is the latest in a line of young, Cuban pianists that hit New York running and doesn't look back. Loaded with modern jazz elements, this is challenging listening that fortunately isn't work to listen to as well. With moves that feel like those of an experimental filmmaker that knows how to incorporate storytelling, Ortiz is a nice wake up call for jaded ears more than ready to rebel against smooth jazz but aren't looking to fire off too many cannons. Well worth it for the serious jazzbo.

MADS TOLLING QUARTET/Celebrating Jean Luc Ponty Live at Yoshi's: And it took so long for somebody to do this because...? Tolling has just the right touch to lead this project. Too many others might approach it with too heavy a hand to make a point and make their mark but Tolling has the fingering and the attitude just right. You know you aren't listening to a copycat just trying to play look at me. Ponty moved freely through rock and jazz and was one of the early supporters of Tolling recommending him to Stanley Clarke, kicking starting an illustrious career that has recently seen Tolling honored for classical crossover work. I like that this is billed as a celebration rather than a tribute as it's much more accurate to call the vibe here celebratory. Any fan of Ponty's that hasn't dusted off the cds or lps in too long will enjoy this kick start down memory lane. Well done throughout.

JERRY JEFF WALKER/Walker's Collectibles-Ridin' High...Plus: One of the perks/downfalls of being successful is you get to follow our commercial set with a quirky set. The labels don't care since your account is just a running tab. If the public looks at your quirky set quizzically and passes it by, they just owe you less money. Raven gets credit for recognizing that "Walker's Collectibles" is one for the real fans but that it wouldn't stand on it's own unless twofered with something that's an easy sell. So, "Collectibles" finally comes out on cd. It won't make any new fans for Walker but the existing fans did/will find the hairy headed hippie stuff endearing the usual, offbeat Walker way. "Ridin' High" (double meaning?) finds Gary P. Nunn and Guy Clark back in form delivering the goods that under pin the sound and fury. Not country. Not rock. Just a prime example of cosmic Austin music presented at both ends of it's extremes. With bonus tracks from Walker's live double album recorded after his split with the Gonzos, this twofer shows Raven's wise commitment to Walker's MCA days as their output is now up to three albums with extra shadings as well. Outside of few well stocked anthologies, Walker's MCA stay has been brushed aside, unjustly, and this is a fine trip back to some real, good old days. Check it out and enjoy the ride.

STEEP CANYON RANGERS/Nobody Knows You: Hey, I liked these cats before Steve Martin ever tripped across them. Back then, I couldn't understand how these cats were being left to blossom in obscurity. They had great fans. SCR linked to our review of them from their site and they turned out to be our top referral source. And then they got noticed. They worked too long and too hard for that break to waste it. This collection has some commercial refinements but at the end of the day, it's pure SCR in all their high octane glory. These next wave nugrassers do such a fine job of delivering the goods that even if you are new to bluegrass, they will draw you deep into the tent before you even realize you're bumping up against the center ring. Simply a killer set that's encouraging me to just shut up, enjoy and spread the word. A winner throughout.

JEF STOTT/Arcana: So, if this vet, crafty cat dropped acid and hung with Paul Winter while listening to Zappa, he couldn't have come out with an album more like this than this. Starting with some Arabic beats and then sound swirling, mix mastering and genre blending from there, Stott has crafted a malcontent college kid blue plate special. If ever there was a record for getting high and having sorority chicks think they could be belly dancers, this is the stuff. Loaded with Stott's special sauce, there's enough dark alleys here to venture down that a suburban kid will think twice about going down to the musty corners of the city after giving this a listen through a haze. Wild stuff, this is the kind of trip that makes pre-adults suddenly renounce "American Idol" as painfully jive crap for constipated members of the bourgeoisie. Take the ride if this sounds right to you.

YARN/Almost Home: When enough people like you on Kickstarter and a vodka company wants to throw in some support as well, who needs record labels when you sort of don't fit the format even if you are making good stuff and working with good people? Heartland country rockers that use direct songwriting as their main weapon, they have something about them that feels like it couldn't be easily marketed but cuts through the morass on it's/their own. A solid after hours set that comes complete with the right vibe and easy energy to make it the kind of set you feel the need to turn your pals onto. Well done.

Volume 35/Number 175
April 13, 2011
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2012 Midwest Record

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