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BRUCE COX/Status Cymbals: You gonna argue with a cat that's played with The JBs, JJ Johnson, Sonny Rollins and others for lengthy engagements? Even if you never heard of him, you have heard him and know what he's capable of delivering. Another crafty drummer that know how to give everyone else some, this is a well rounded contemporary jazzbo outing with daddio leanings. Leading the crew from way in the back, this set of mostly originals is on the money and in the pocket throughout, sure to be perking up jaded jazzbo ears in search of some heady, new kicks. Well delivered by a dyed in the wool pro.

SAM KULIK/Escape From Society: If it's on Hot Cup, you know it's going to be weird. Kulik ran ads on Craigslist looking for lunatics that wanted their song poems set to music. If you dug the digging in the detritus Bar None and Numero have done in the past at unearthing the work of megla and monomaniacs, Kulik takes it one step farther by not charging them like the scams in the back of 70s music mags did, and this stuff is current. Just right for your dark sense of humor or if you haven't yet exorcized the ghost of Lee Groban.

MICHAEL PEDICIN/Live @ the Loft: The super sax man makes a special kind of record in that he's at work but he sounds like he's off the clock playing for the fun of it to see where the notes take him. With a smart crew in tow, this is kind of a modern take on old man jazz that hit's the sweet spot of the after hours spot in your soul. Being involved with a wide range of your fave people and projects over the last 40 years, he knows how and what to deliver with style and grace. The Loft only has 60 seats and you'll wish you were there. Well done.

LEON FOSTER THOMAS/Brand New Mischief: Steel drums are one of those things that you always find your self wanting to like but find yourself having a headache all too often as they fall into the wrong hands of players that think it's easy. Thomas is one of those cats that makes it look easy and doesn't give you a headache. In fact, he can stand toe to toe with Andy Narell and probably excite us as those two engage in a steel drum cutting competition. From Miami by way of his native Trinidad, Thomas's music sounds like a heady summer night when anything can happen. He takes in, he gives out. A dandy addition to that underserved portion of your contemporary jazz collection.

ABIAH/Life as a Ballad: Working the black singer/songwriter tangent with a strong early Bill Withers vibe, Abiah surrounds himself with a bunch of first call downtown cats for a date that really stands out from the pack. Having been around the block a few times under various names, Abiah ditches the dross of the past and cuts to the chase. Leading with a five octave voice that he knows how to control and using it to voice songs that really do reach out and touch, this is loaded with the kind of well done, out of the ordinary moves that really grab hold and don't let go. Easily the kind of set that could benefit from a major label push, at the least it should be used as a text book to teach "American Idol" etc contestants the difference between doing car alarm imitations and SINGING!. Just a thought. If one percent of the callers that vote on these talent contests were to hear this set, those shows would be over in a heartbeat. Check it out.

JOHN STOWELL-ULF BANDGREN/Throop: It's real simple. If you're an acoustic guitar fan, you need to have this set. Just buy it without hearing it, the first few chords will reassure you that you did the right thing. With wonderful flights of fancy on a par with anything by Wes Montgomery, Tal Farlow or Jim Hall as well as the jazzier side of Takoma's experimenters, this guitar duo has been trodding the boards together for so long (actually, they've packed a lot of playing into two years) they play with telepathy as well as chops, style and grace. Quite possibly the closest thing you are going to come across to the original (actually second) McLaughlin guitar trio, these guys tear it up so well, you won't miss them not having a third guy. This set of mostly originals will make it self at home in your home in no time at all. Killer stuff.

JESSICA WILLIAMS/Songs of Earth: A collection of mostly original solo piano works that took shape over the course of some live improvs, Williams continues to amaze and dazzle whether she's letting the fur fly or staying close to the ground. The kind of genre busting date you expect from stalwarts on ECM and other art driven labels, it's really time to mention Williams in the same breath as Jarrett etc. This set will win you over even if you approach it with a chip on your shoulder. Certainly one of those instances when ten fingers and 88 keys add up to way more than the sum of the parts. Hot stuff that anyone whose ever properly dug a Maybeck, Maxjazz or Arbors piano recital record will really get.

JOSH ROSEN-STAN STRICKLAND/Instinct: Ah, the stuff of movie plots. The Jewish guy and black guy meet up one night, find they have a musical simpatico combining piano and various wind instruments, sparks fly and they make tasty, duo jazz without constraint or pressure. The result is an easy going set of chops that fly without drama queen theatrics, fun vibes, sly world beat and more stuff that you'd expect to hear at an off the beaten track jazz hideout. With the soul of an improv jam session, these two are one of the tastiest, new treats to come along in a while. Fine stuff that adults will love hearing when they are in an off-the-clock mode. Check it out.

Volume 35/Number 267
July 14, 2012
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2012 Midwest Record

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