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GONZALO RUBALCABA/XXI Century: Enough water has flown under the bridge since first hearing Rubalcaba that he's now a middle aged man with already a full career behind him. Another former major label artist that's been cut loose, he uses this freedom wisely, not having a mothership hem him into being the tyro he once was, playing more notes per second than anyone and otherwise being told what to do. He knows what to do and stretching out over this two disc set with some high faluting pals and guests, he leaves no doubt that he's still the jazz force of nature he always was. Moving easy from being one of the most important new jazz figures to come out of the 90s to being an important figure of the 10s, this lite caliente Afro Cuban jazz romp delivers the goods throughout. Needless to say, it's hot stuff.

DON CHERRY & WILLIE NELSON/It's Magic: What are you going to do with that incorrigible Nelson boy? Teaming up with fellow golfing Texan singer Cherry, a singer behind a lot of hits from the 50s, this is certainly one of Nelson's one for me albums. With Fred Foster in the booth and McCoy, Randolph et al in the studio, you know this album isn't a throwaway. This might be a strange and off beat album, but fans that have been waiting for a follow up to "Stardust" will be tickled. It's a strange little but well done album that could be more than a valentine to the hard core fans.

JEFF DENSON/Secret World: With a lot of throw back to 70s/80s cool jazz, this exists somewhere hotter than ECM cool and jazzier than Windham Hill soundscapes. Made for the energetic, sitting down jazzbo, there's a lot going on here that makes it just the right thing to have in the car as the traffic opens up as the city melds into the suburbs and you know where to go not to get stuck in mall traffic. The leader is a bass ace but he knows how to give everyone some. Give it a wash of some Euro not so free jazz and you've got a dandy little set that's familiar but brings enough new stuff to take you new places. Check it out.

JON CLEARY/Occapella: Just a reminder that you shouldn't judge a book by it's cover. I approached this with some trepidation originally because the title made me think this was some cheap ass thing for the merch table in the new economy. Wrong! The subtitle cleared it up announcing this is a celebration of Allen Toussaint. Whole different ball game. And he's not singing solo with no instruments. Bonnie Raitt is here. Dr. John is hanging out. Several full bands fill out the various tracks. It's cooking. One home boy showing the love to another home boy and it's all done in fine style. This is the audio trip to the real Nawlins you've been wanting to take. Well done.

GAYE ADEGBALOLA/Blues in All Flavors: She might be an uppity woman but she's read her history and came to realization that doing blues for kids didn't hurt Ella Jenkins and Odetta any. Bering a left leaning type, she mixes tastes good with good for you so the kids get a positive message. If Putumayo doesn't pick this up to stick it in every Whole Foods, someone up there is asleep at the wheel. Adegbalola doesn't talk down to the kids, varies the styles and puts a genuine good attitude up front which makes this stand out from a lot of the pack of kids records in general. By the way, this set is fun for the whole family. Well done.

NAZARENES/Meditation: Back when Rabbit Bundrick was the secret ingredient that made Bob Marley acceptable to white people, Virgin and Island were busy handing out contracts to everyone in Jamaica that could make noise--and a lot of it was pretty good showing there was plenty of room for bench strength to catapult new acts into the limelight after letting their fan base grow organically. Even though Nazarenes has a bit more of a multi culti island vibe running through them, they are still from the heart of the ghettos of Kingston and they are loaded with the indigenous spirit fueled by get-me-out-of-here energy that the old school had. With access to 40 years worth of audio and marketing tricks to draw from, this skanking crew know the riddim, know how to get flat and keep it irie and know how to start working on that New York getaway. Do you need a more solid invitation to fire up a spliff? Dis is da real deal, 2012 style. Hot stuff.

MANUEL VALERA/New Cuban Express: The chop laden Cuban piano man has been based in New York long enough that he can craft a proper New York/Cuban jazz fusion that let's his originals shine brightly and plays with your ears in just so fashion. An easy going, high octane outing that hits all the right notes, Valera has managed to tie together all his hot spots of the past into a super stew that simmers at just the right temperature melding all the right flavors. Killer Latin/American stuff that opens your ears nicely.

FLORIAN HOEFNER GROUP/Songs Without Words: New York based German piano man loves to improvise and he knows how to pick a crew that knows how to follow. He never takes off into the cosmos and has a solid feel for what he does that has been building him a well deserved international reputation making him a real go to guy for insiders. With this being a friendly, accessible work, the word is likely to spread to the street now as well. Well conceived modern stuff that sets a high water mark for sitting down jazz that can be enjoyed by all.

Volume 35/Number 191
April 30, 2011
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2012 Midwest Record

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