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HAILEY NISWANGER/The Keeper: If Saskia Laroo is Lady Miles then let's crown Niswanger Lady ‘Trane. Now an adult, college graduate living in New York, she might not be able to lay claim any longer to being a sax tyro, but she's wearing her nascent adulthood well moving from MacArthur grant winner, Miguel Zenon's chair in Either/Orchestra to subbing in Spaulding Esperanza's band, and of course kicking out a second album that will blow the minds of every post bop, mainstream jazzbo with a working cortex. So on the money that it almost hurts, this is a trip to jazz sax heaven. You'd have to string too many adjectives together to describe just how good this is. A winner throughout.

AGFA/Jacks of All Trades: Drawing on a rich tradition of funk, house and go go, these DC area remixers that are no strangers to the Fort Knox sound fans, take it front and center with a nu funk date that stirs up a youthful electro dance sound that can keep the kids raving all night. Exactly the kind of stuff that makes mom and dad scratch their heads, it's the perfect example of today music that the little girls understand. Sound designed for pelvic thrust dancing, the little boys will understand as well--but they'll lose out to the older boys with cars. So it goes. Wild stuff for the young of thinking.

LAWRENCE PRESTON/Eclectic Soul: When you've got the chops but not the budget, you have to resort to making basement funk. A lightweight set with a lot of good intentions, this is more a valentine for the fans than anything else.

TESSA SOUTER/Beyond the Blue: Here's a set with a nice, bold step. Back in the 50s, when jazz's promoters wanted to move jazz from the local whore house districts into the suburban rec rooms of post war America, they encouraged jazzbos to dove tail with the classics so jazz could have the upmarket façade to invade the cul de sacs. Souter takes classical melodies, jazzes then up and adds her own newly written lyrics. Pretty bold. A little meatier and bloodier than a purely urbane, parlor record, the odds were well considered and the bet paid off. With an impressive bunch of jazzbos bringing up the rear, Souter pushes the creative envelope in an unlikely way that finds a sweet spot between jazz vocal and nu cabaret. Not creative just for the sake of creativity, this is a dandy, thinking persons record.

WIL FORBIS and the Gentlemen Scoundrels/A Quarter Past Four: Here's a fun record that doesn't fit the format. After turning in a killer alt.country release a few years back, Forbis laid low for a while and now has a new set of originals that sound like classic jazz and Broadway tunes but retain the off center locus you need in the margins of today's alt world if you want to be able to give up the day job. Old timey on it's face, if you pay attention, there's a wonderful joke here for you to be in on. Spiff up those spats, wax your mustache and give the guy at the door the secret password. This set is a riot. BTW--the cover art is a gasser.

RAN BLAKE-CHRISTINE CORREA/Down Here Below-Tribute to Abbey Lincoln, V. 1: A MacArthur genius grant winner who was there in the early days of Lincoln's career rounds up his recent duo partner for a tribute to Lincoln they are ready to turn into an on going series. This is about creative stretching out, not homage, and unless you are prepared to dive into some audio performance as art, you might be disappointed. The pressure is off and the love flows from these two pros who don't need any prompting. If you aren't the type that swirls brandy around a glass pensively, this just might be lost on you, but if you're ready for some real music as art, this is certainly the right place.

PHANTOM BLUES BAND/Inside Out: It sells PBB a little short to say they can stand toe to toe with MGs, Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, World's Most Dangerous Band and other classic back up bands. With all the members having impressive individual resumes going as far back as those dorky pictures of your parents thinking they were looking cool in the 70s, the depth of chops has to be recognized as such. Playing together for 20 years and having a commensurate amount of decorations for their tenure, this crew has turned out the best adult car listening album of the year. Not reaching for a non-existent radio hit, each player brings some of his own flavor to the mix as they swing from chitlin circuit show band to Curtis Mayfield era sound alikes to Margaritaville/redneck Riviera calypso to funketeers and more and kick ass in high and mighty fashion throughout. If you have to drive home to the suburbs from the city center, this is something at will be so at home in your car players that you might never pop it out. Capping a busy week for Mike Finnegan fans (he also appears on the recently released Bonnie Raitt voyage into indie land), this occasional star turn by the crew is a mighty one. By all means, check it out, it's a winner.

TIM WHITE-JOE PAULINO/Inhale Slowly: World beat meets meditation music as this flute/piano duo take their interests in world beat, fuse it with work they've done for meditation specialists and create a musical work that tricks you into using it for meditational music that encourages you to take the kind of slow breaths that better oxygenate your brain. Certainly not just for granola eaters, it can be an ostensible chamber music piece that encourages you to slow down by it's very nature. The duo has been honing chops for more years than you've been alive with all the skill and patience coming together nicely. Certainly an audio getaway that merits high marks.

Volume 35/Number 181
April 20, 2011
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2012 Midwest Record

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