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KURT ELLING/1619 Broadway--The Brill Building Project: In which we find Elling moving outside of what we perceive as his comfort zone and bringing a fresh vibe to what Neil Diamond and so many others have done before. Taking the focus off Chicago and bringing his gaze on a parcel of the big apple when some of the greatest pop songs of a generation were birthed, Elling has an ear to match his affection and the results are easily another Grammy nomination or more. Killer stuff for jazz vocal fans that want it done right.

THE BLUESMASTERS/Volume 2: There's more stellar cats than just those on the front cover, jamming away here as the crew convenes for a second outing. More sharply focused that the debut which seemed like a one off busman's holiday, the diverse talents meld here for a workout that takes you from Detroit to Chicago to Memphis to the delta, and none of it sounds like it's from a museum. Everyone is spot on and no matter how dusty these tunes actually are, they're fresh here and it's more like a rockabilly party than a blues wake celebrating departed masters. This is top shelf contemporary blues (with a foot in the past) throughout.

CASSIE TAYLOR/Blue: With a mix of her own blues background and the moves of second generation white blues mamas like Maria Muldaur, Taylor serves up a bluesy vocal treat that comes on initially like a confection but slyly reveals itself to be the real deal. Fun stuff that will add a lot to an hour you thought might other wise pass slowly. Check it out.

RICK HOLMSTROM/Cruel Sunrise: In the five years that have passed since his last album, Holmstrom hasn't been tapping his toes in rehab. As Mavis Staples' band leader, he's had the chance to rub elbows with the hipster elite that has clamed Staples as one of their own pulling her from the chitlin circuit and putting her on the quinoa circuit. The cross pollination has given Holmstrom's blues shredding a pop/rock/hipster edge that brings the 70s into the 10s and it all comes together on the 1. With something wonderful and different at the core of the proceedings, this is real forward thinking white boy blues that charts the future but can be enjoyed in the here and now. Well done.

JONATHAN FRITZEN/Magical: Oh yeah. Here's a right in the pocket, smooth jazz date that funks easy and has all the right moves. Already a proven hotshot in Sweden and on the continent, Fritzen has rightly set his sights on the big land across his pond. Loaded with everything you liked about smooth jazz in the first place and leavened with contemporary touches to keep it fresh for today's ears, this date is a stone cold winner throughout that should be at the ready in your car at the end of every work day. Hot stuff that just doesn't quit.

JEFF KASHIWA/Let it Ride: This smooth jazz sax man leaves nothing to chance by making sure his band stand is stocked with a load of the genre's luminaries to drive the point all the way home. A smart set that builds a nice vibe and a solid groove, this cat's eighth album is not just another In a series. Snappy stuff that just has ‘after hours' tattooed all over it. Well done.

THE GADDABOUTS/Look Out Now!: This double album sounds like what you might have expected from the Holy Modal Rounders if they knew how to play in their early 60s prime. A band of pros that seem to be out to have a busman's holiday, there's nothing here that fit's the format, or should be expected from public release by this gathering of talents and their pals, but this is what you get when players just want to jam for fun. This is just the stuff musical malcontents are looking for to fill their mp3 players with. Fun stuff that's a great breather for the boomer looking for something to sink their musical teeth into.

SKYLINE DRIVE/Topanga Ranch Motel: Mind blowing retro country rock/folk that takes you back to the day when you could have an FM hit that didn't have to be a single and good vibes would be flowing in it's wake. A great writer, front man/leader Derek Thomas finds the sweet spot Whiskeytown, Ryan Adams and the rest have been looking for. Thomas also finds the magic spot where you can do a bunch of down tempo songs without them being depressing. This cat is the singer/songwriter leading the nu charge. Killer stuff.

Volume 35/Number 297
August 13, 2012
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2012 Midwest Record

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