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SUMI TONOOKA/Now-Live at the Howland: You have to admit, Kickstarter is a cool way to get on demand recordings made and funded. The veteran jazz pianist that might have been at it for a while but flies well under the radar, gets an assist from fans that wanted to hear both sets of her live, solo recital, which has been captured here on two cds. As accomplished as anything you'd hear on Concord or Arbors solo piano dates, Tonooka plays with the mastery and style of her heroes whether they are Hank Jones, Marylou Williams or other luminaries. Kickstarter contributors may be one up on the rest of us but snazzy sets like this that deliver the goods will have the rest of us caught up in no time. A wonderful find for those to soon be in the know. Check it out.

CYNTHIA FELTON/Freedom Jazz Dance: Not a tribute to Max Roach but a tribute to her fave songs, many of which are from that period. They cover a range of styles and modes but Felton brings a cohesion to this that makes it more than just another well intentioned trip through someone's back pages. Actually, the guest list alone is enough to make you wan to check this out as it's loaded with killer jazzbos that we don't get enough of anymore. It's a jazz vocal date at it's core but boundaries and pigeon holes are not what this date is about. This date is about energy and joie de vive. Viva!

CHRIS WATSON BAND/Pleasure & Pain: The Denton, TX native looks almost like a well behaved yuppie but he's a young, shredding blues rocker that wants to have a Saturday night good time every night of the week without sending a message other than to let the good times roll. No matter how fad and fashion turn, this is primal, essential stuff that can light up college campuses any old time. Right in the pocket, this white boy knows how to make blues that chase the blues away. Well done.

MALYNDA HALE/The Train Ride Home: A black singer/songwriter inspired by Colbie Caillat and Gavin DeGraw as well as Alicia Keys comes forward with a sound reflecting urban styles for a new urban sensibility. A high energy charmer for kids comfortable with multi culti streets, this set rests easily in the gulf between pop and soul that's going to have to make the tastemakers come up with a new name for this kind of sound that addresses unity rather than separation. Hale rocks.

PAUL THORN/What the Hell is Goin' On?: I was thinking it was about time to open a new can of whoop ass and was wondering where the new Thorn album was. It shows up but it is an album of all covers by some of the masters of the songwriting form. He's such an original, I didn't think I was going to like it. Shouldn't have had such thoughts. Whether breathing new life in "Small Town Talk" or the title track, or a Ray Hubbard, or one by the Millers, he's out there working hard and doing the right thing. Don't be lulled into thinking this record is a breather, he's out there opening new and better cans of whoop ass. Well done and a must for those who find alt.country too limiting and want those envelops pushed.

DUKE ELLINGTON LEGACY/Single Petal of a Rose: So what can you say about Duke's grandson carrying on the tradition like Mercer did before him? Time and budgets have done their best to cripple the visions that might have been on the drawing board but the third generation shows this is no shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves family tree. Digging into the music as only you can when a particular music in on your DNA, whether mining solo piano or coming with any range of fuller sound, it's a whole lot more honest than Natalie Cole singing with Nat. It's on the money and it's all there. An easy must for any Ellington fan.

VIRGINIA MAYHEW QUARTET/Mary Lou Williams The Next 100 Years: Williams would have been 102 right about now and it takes a sax player to be inspired enough to give the piano great the proper birthday celebration. A wonderfully swinging treatment of a bunch of Williams works is what's on board here and what just keeps coming. With nary a piano anywhere around this set, Mayhew's arranger's chops are what makes this something special and different. A lot of people mention Williams but not enough really remember her. A set like this could reverse the flow of that river. Well done.

CHRIS GREEN QUARTET/A Group Effort: There's a bunch of jazzbos in Chicago that keep percolating and pushing the boundaries. Greene is a post bopper that fuses the sounds he heard growing up on the corner as a kid and what was exploding the radio as a young adult in the 90s. This live set by this sax man and his crew bristles with the same kind of vibe as fairly early Candy Dulfer where the funk meets the jazz with youthful energy. Tasty stuff that shows they have the right stuff under their belts, this is a delightfully killer contemporary jazz date that really perks up the jaded ears. Feeling like you are there, they really know how to put you in the music.

Volume 35/Number 227
June 5, 2012
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2012 Midwest Record

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