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SOJA/Strength to Survive: When you have a bunch of cats whose idea of folk music is Bob Marley, then you know the nu paradigm has arrived. Whether or not this is what the Tubes envisioned when they were talking about white punks on dope, this must be what privileged white kids trying to sound like Woody Guthrie must have sounded like. More Bob Marley than Sting, this is white reggae and it works. Building a following slowly, this feels like the kind of set you make right before you explode. Old timers, bring your sense of humor and have some fun.

REGGIE WATTS/A Live at Central Park: With his dead pan delivery and adept use of switchbacks, the multi talented entertainer delivers a wide ranging comedy tour de force that the lazy would have him described as a monologist---but he ain't your daddy's Spaulding Gray. A laugh riot that builds as he plays with your sensibilities, Watts is the new fringe of alt.comic that wrings the laughs out of corners he doesn't flash the light on until the last minute. Included in the package is an uncensored DVD version of the video presentation of this outing. A crazy package that will leave your sides aching.

CRAIG ELKINS/I Love You: Is this a folk album for AA people that can't work the program or what? Ostensibly, these are down in the mouth comedy songs but I can't get a handle on where they're coming from. Find a sound post and see if it's your cup of tea.

DEAN MARTIN/Icon: When it takes Bear Family several generously stocked box sets to anthologize your career, you know you've covered a lot of ground in your career---and it's been pretty well covered. Then Disky takes over with some boiled down, deep coverage. Then you've been dead 20 years and find you're boiled down to 11 indispensable tracks, weighted against the old timers somewhat, but the dated stuff has been pretty well pared out. And there you have it, the legacy of cool continuing. Dino is welcome at any party.

MANNER EFFECT/Abundance: A bunch of kids from mostly Michigan bring back the feel of the old Seventh Galaxy recordings so it should probably come as no surprise they have a classic period Chick Corea song in the set list and have also been described as Headhunters with vocals. I hear more of the Stanley Clarke pre-Corea thing though. It was nice stuff then and it's nice stuff now, and this bunch has the added benefit of not having to make it up as they go along. Solid stuff from a bunch of players that love working in this groove. And just to make sure you get them to the full effect, this package also includes a performance DVD.

JULIANN KUCHOCKI/Broken Compass: You have to get past the opening track where Kuchocki is ostensibly working out some of her own demons. Then you get down to the meat, a sassy jazz vocal performance by a cat that knows how to focus on your ears when the spotlight is on her. A sterling example of the under the radar jazz scene in Canada, this set moves from there in fine fashion letting the depth of her chops shine. Well worth checking out for that familiar but different kick that is needed every so often.

REYNOLD D. PHILIPSEK/Last Summer: 30 albums in and the Minnesota jazz guitarist turns his attention to the Claus Ogerman samba titles of his youth. Trying to mine a groove operating under a long shadow can be a daunting task, but with the aid of time and tide, there's a lot of ears out there that might just find this a pomo version of the old Wes Montgomery Verve albums. Fun stuff from a cat that puts you in good hands in time to tune up for summer.

THE HARRIS GROUP/Choices: Coming back to jazz after taking time off to raise his kids, Ric Harris transplants himself back in his transplanted Chicago where he's been catching a fire at the local jazz clubs. Influenced by the jazz tradition that has taken root since 1960, echoes of Joe Beck, Weather Report's acoustic side and more things that any middle aged jazzbo would consider too new to be called ‘classic', this guitar man wears his travels well knowing how to please an audience that is looking meat and blood rather than fleeting hits. Well done.

Volume 35/Number 198
May 7, 2011
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2012 Midwest Record

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