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MICKEY FREEMAN/Livin' the Dream: Duke Robillard has an eye and ear that knows how to spot women of a certain age that know how to ladle the special sauce on oldies that are known but not over done. Sounding very much like a classic supper club thrush without the boozy, blowzy melancholy edge, Freeman delivers a crisp jazz vocal performance on a welcome set of oldies that have a few warhorses trotting around the ring but isn't dependant on them to pull you into the tent. Her backing trio knows the moves and the helping hands from Robillard and Scott Hamilton just add tasty frosting to this cake. Jazz vocal fans need to do themselves a favor and check this cream puff out pronto. Not for grandpas only.

GRAHAM DECHTER/Takin' It There: I can't believe it's already been three years since his last record, a stunning debut. And I can't believe he's done it again. One of the mainstays of Clayton-Hamilton, Dechter and his swinging guitar hit that sweet spot where retro/neuvo come together in an explosive vibe. An utterly tasty, swinging set with his Clayton-Hamilton buddies on board, this bullet train to your cortex is a mighty wake up call for jaded ears. Certainly one of those jazz dates that'll be showing legs for a good long time to come, it has the feel of an instant classic. A first class mainstream groovers paradise where commerce and art come together as allies as opposed to being opponents. Hot stuff.

ELINA DUNI QUARTET/Matane Malit: The 20 year old asks you to look beyond the mountain with her and hear her take on the traditional music of her native Albania. A new vector of world beat for most of us, the Balkan influence is there but so is the special sauce Duni and her ace crew bring to the proceedings. Manfred Eicher himself took the controls here showing both he and the label are here to stay but are going places at the same time. This could easily be ECM's gateway to a new multi culti world and multi culti listener. Not at all ethnic in a good for you way, it's good for you because of that.

WALDEMAR BASTOS/Classics of My Soul: With the London Symphony as well as some well traveled jazzbos behind him, this cat from Angola sounds like he's trying to be the heir to the tradition of Jacques Brel, Gilbert Becaud and those guys. Most of us wouldn't hear this kind of stuff without frequenting foreign restaurants, but once exposed, we'd be paying attention. A sure voiced singer, he knows his stuff even if we don't know what he's talking about. Up market, urbane stuff that real sophisticates will be sure to stick in the cd changer along with their boleros, tangos and saudades.

JAMES BROWN/Soul Syndrome: One of the sad realities of having to make a living is that great innovators soon find themselves pushed aside and chasing fads just to catch up and stay in the game. Diluting the original doesn't often work out that well. After Polydor wrung all it could from Brown, they dumped him as disco was taking flight and he no longer was. Finding his way to Atlanta on his own nickel and then on to Henry Stone, who was kicking it with disco at the time, Brown attempted a soul/funk/disco hybrid that was too funky for disco but, in retrospect, exists very much in it's own time zone. Loaded with insanity probably motivated by fear, this is an Eddie Murphy bit 6 years before Murphy hit us over the head with his interpretation. Channeling Minnie Ripperton? Really? Aping emphysema warning you not to smoke and drink? Yep. At this point, you either love Brown or you don't. If you do and you've never heard this session, check it out. The funk is loaded with rocket fuel and highly combustible.

CHET ATKINS/Pickin' My Way-Superpickers: Raven's exploration of Atkins' RCA years continues with a twofer stocked with goodies from the early 70s. Nobody can assail Atkins as a master guitar man, but when an august personage like Leo Kottke doffs the cap, you have to pay attention that there might even be more here than you thought. Like an unappreciated mainstream jazzbo, Atkins had the knack for delivering clean, clear straight ahead playing with uncluttered backings that didn't fit the format but were probably never intended to. His busman's holiday records like "Superpickers" were way underappreciated because they were just thought to be a chance for studio cats to act out. With no ensuing tour, no promo,...you know how it goes. Meanwhile, this stuff is the bomb for guitar fans. These two, wonderful juicy apples have been hanging on the tree too long and it's time to savor the taste. Killer stuff you could learn a lot from or just simply enjoy to the max. Hot stuff throughout.

DEBORAH SHULMAN-LARRY ZALKIND/Lost in the Stars: If you know what you're doing, and you offer us a program of Bernstein, Weill and Sondheim, we won't bitch about you not being Bernadette Peters, Patti LuPone or the Labeque Sisters. We might crab about ‘why didn't you do..."?, but that's what volume twos are for, aren't they? With almost everybody on here being related and having chops that run generations deep, the crew finds the simpatico to deliver a first class cabaret/listening date take on a load of contemporary, musical theater tent poles. Dripping with a mature, sophisticated edge, this is cabaret/martini music that you would go somewhere to heat, not to just talk over as the glasses clink. A top shelf effort throughout, these indelible composers have a new set of champions to spread their word. Well done.

GUSTAVO CASENAVE/Tango Casenave: One of those guys that qualifies as one of the heaviest cats you never heard of, transplanted from Uruguay to New York, he brought his wealth of chops with him and will be the next name you think of in tango after Piazzolla. One of those non-stop cats that doesn't know how to turn it off and has to find a myriad of outlets for his wealth of talent, what he channels into tango here will knock you off your pins. A first class adult listening set all the way, he's clearly one of those cats that will still be vital more than 50 years from now. A winner. Completely masterful throughout.

Volume 35/Number 337
September 22, 2012
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2012 Midwest Record

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