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JEREMY SISKIND/Finger-Songwriter: Nice play on words there for a piano man. Taking his cue from jazz/art types and showing he's learned his lessons well and isn't afraid to show his colors, this is some stellar sitting down jazz. An arty chamber piece all the way, it is remarkable by it's confident, sure handed playing which lifts this well above being a look-at-me exercise. Powered by a nourish sensibility, this is what the art/jazz fan that's allergic to church basements has been looking for.

ISAAC DARCHE/Boom-Baptism: A jazz guitar trio that's loaded with B3, it has the angularity of modern jazz and should be a good bet for downtown, hipster ears already primed to sit there listening, nodding their heads in approval. Smart stuff with modern fire, moldy figs won't go the distance with this, but that's not who this was made for. This cat knows his way around a fret board and is happy to show what he knows. Well done modern jazz.

MATT GARRISON/Blood Songs: Sax man Garrison seems like the kind of cat that joyfully makes lemon ices out of lemons and is probably fun to hang with. That's what you get from his playing and his tenures that have led him from Buddy Rich to Maria Schneider. With a bunch of the big apple's best on board and playing like they want to be there, this falls to the right of smooth jazz no matter how up front the sax is and how easy going the compositions are. A tasty round of sitting down jazz that just as at home swinging and heating up as it is laying back, this set is a real treat for the ears. Fun stuff throughout that doesn't wear out it's welcome.

ALBERT BASHUR/Cotton Field of Dreams: You know how some records just grab you right out of the box? This is one of them. A long time rock drummer that has always had a jones for the blues titles his blues debut with some clever word play, adorns it with Pat Travers, Bill Payne and others and delivers the kind of set too many white boys with the blues have only dreams of. And this guitar man spent how long as a drummer? Modern blues fans that don't need to be hung up on convention will get this immediately, Bashur loves his work and doesn't make it seem like a job. A winner throughout.

GUITAR MIKEY/Out of the Box: Such a beefy guy with such delicate work on banjo & mandolin? This cat has a mighty fine touch. A second generation white boy with the blues, he cut his teeth on Muddy Waters ( and has some of Muddy's cats on board here) but he also liked southern show bands, soul and rock. He capably mixes it all into a tasty modern fusion that has something for everyone without making it feel like he's throwing things against the wall trying to please everyone. Sounding like your fave bar band from your college years that you always wondered why they never made it past local legend status, this is real playing for real players. And he makes it. Solid.

GRADY CHAMPION/Shanachie Days: No, the perennial, multi award wining blues man isn't trying to convince you he's an Irish storyteller, he's just taking you on a tour of his back pages when he was on Shanachie for some albums around the turn of the century. With some pretty stellar backing even then, these competitive recordings show the direction he was about to launch into and not come back. Even after a decade in the can, these recordings still sound contemporary and vital. Anyone into the future of the blues won't mind this heady journey through the past a bit. Tasty, high octane stuff that shows just how long ago and how well the battle plan was set.

RAY ANDERSON POCKET BRASS BAND/Sweet Chicago Suite: It says Chicago but it sounds like a Nawlins funeral march. Anderson says it's a tribute to the times he grew up in on the south side of Chicago when everything was out of control in every direction throughout society in the late 60s. Can you argue with him when he lines up Lew Soloff, Bobby Previte and Matt Perrine to execute the vision? Of course, it sounds like Chicago filtered through Louis Armstrong's vision, and since it's not a tribute to Armstrong or Nawlins, you can take it all in stride and just enjoy it for being something out of the ordinary by a gang of cats that are unassailable. Sitting down/thinking jazz all the way, it's the kind of stuff that gives art/jazz high marks as well as awards and recognition. Certainly put it on your list if you ever had a fixation for early 70s Carla Bley.

JASON HEATH & the Greedy Souls/Packed For Exile: There's been a few periods of hew and cry lamenting the death of protest music and how it's never there when you need it since the late 60s. Sometimes, it just takes on other guises to help it sail through the shoals of the times. Heath and his pals are doling cautionary tales for the new normal that don't hit you over the head but do get their point across. With folk rock finery draped across the lyrics, these cats with real rock pedigrees have been lending a helping hand at homeless shelters over the last five years so this isn't just posturing and pousing. Socially conscious music that has some spirited fun along the way as well.

Volume 35/Number 202
May 11, 2011
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2012 Midwest Record

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