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DAN WILLIS & Velvet Gentlemen/The Satie Project II: Something here seemed strangely familiar until I noticed this was a volume 2 project. Don't make the same mistake if you've been waiting for the latest from this New York windy jazzbo and pass this by because of similar looks. Willis enjoys turning Satie on his head, putting funk in the background, adding drum'n'bass--you know pushing the contemporary envelope in ways the wiggliest of the long hairs never envisioned back in real time when these classics were being written. Crazy stuff where jazz and classical meet in ways the cats doing it in the 50s never would have thought their ideas would be so upended.

JOAN WATSON-JONES with Frank Wilkins/Quiet Conversations-A Duet: Ok jazzbos, check this out, Jones' father was one of the founders of UMMG, and as such, when she says she was exposed to loads of killer jazz right at the source, she's not talking trash. In a vocal/piano set, Jones stakes out the cabaret side of jazz vocals on a set of well chosen chestnuts. As adept with getting in touch with her inner Blossom Dearie as she is reaching for her inner Van Morrison, this is more of a treat than a record-record. In a setting as intimate as your living room, this duo fuses their experience and chops to sell a song like few others have the knack to do. Reveling in being off the beaten path, this is one of those connoisseur dates you don't have to have your nose in the air to enjoy.

GARY U.S. BONDS/Christmas is On!: You have to gives Bonds credit. Springsteen may have moved on to Pete Seeger but the rocker comes in with a new Christmas record that is mostly band driven originals with only two classic covers. And he's rocking like he did a million years ago or so. And he's got punk rock energy. On a Christmas record! This is the kind of stuff that can only happen when you are working so far outside the margins that you can do whatever you want, even if you aren't sure at first. Whether or not the reason why this works so well is because it's so expected doesn't matter. This is a Christmas party I want to be invited to---and I'll hang out until at least a quarter to three.

JASON PAUL CURTIS/Lovers Holiday: In which we find the deconstruction of the record business continues to return music to being as regional thing. We don't know anything about swinging vocalist Curtis or his two swinging aggregations, Swinglab and Swing Machine, but the whole kitnkaboodle seem to be a big deal in the DC area, and it sounds like rightly so. This set, with some original Christmas songs came about because he needed new material for his holiday gigs in National Harbor. Curtis is no jive ass Sinatra wannabe. He sounds content to follow in the footsteps of pre-Love Boat Jack Jones, back when he could still bag Jill St. John. It swings baby and their ain't a drop on manqué on this cat so give it a spin to add some hep to your holiday. Well done.

LENI STERN/Smoke, No Fire: Even when Stern was trying to be mainstream, she was so far past the margins that you had to park her in the art chick/girl friend music camp. This time she's pushed it so far that she's shattered all pre-conceptions and created a new form of world beat. Basically recorded in Mali on the fly as the country was in the middle of a lockdown while a coup was taking place, some friends and family back in New York lend some polishing hands to the end result which probably would have done just fine without the marquee names on board. Lyrically switching back and forth between English and Mali, sometimes a soulful, anguished cry punctuating things tells you all you need to know. Mixing folk and funk, Stern claims the high ground burnishing her sterling reputation into something you don't need left leaning tastes to enjoy while not losing an iota of it's uniqueness. Even the most casual armchair traveler will lose their mind with this set. Stern's musicianship and production have never been more right on serving up the most killer world music to come along in a while. An e ticket ride throughout, this is must hearing for adult ears that need some hard hitting, real stuff that'll get more than just a few plays before it gets put away and forgotten. Hot stuff.

NINE TIMES BLUE/Falling Slowly: Looks like it's time to tell the boomers to buzz off with their hippie crap nostalgia because this set makes it sound like the 80s are in the air. With the opening riff bringing you back to the time just before MTV when power pop met AOR and the last crop of real rocker was getting their stuff together before hitting the arenas, the 80s are back and the kids that loved them are in control. With an actual dinosaur producing, you have to realize the kids are alright. Oops, wrong decade. Well, you get the idea.

RICH MAHAN/Blame Bobby Bare: When Bare left RCA for CBS, he made some of the coolest, under rated outlaw country records that still sound new today, partly because they were barely heard at all back then. They were heard by Mahan's pop who would decompress after work having a great time hearing those records. And it influenced Mahan. And he's not ashamed to admit it. Screw all that mush mouthed ‘in the tradition of', ‘influenced by' and all that bio page garbage the talent impaired over rely on. Mahan owns it. This stuff was injected in his DNA and it's time some props were given by someone other than Bobby Bare Jr. Meanwhile, these are mostly originals that were just as influenced by Shel Silverstein as Bare, but because Mahan gives it his own voice it works and it never feels derivative. I hope Mahan's pop likes it and that Bare hears it and returns the favor. You should hear it too. Insidious, contemporary outlaw to the max. Check it out.

HABIB KOITE-ERIC BIBB/Brothers in Bamako: A blues/Malian friendship/partnership cross cultural cross pollination that got launched over working on a Putumayo compilation, these two guitar players struck a chord finally resulting in the back porch fusion where they let their cultures collide into an lovely acoustic guitar driven date that offers a gentle view of the cultures parading by. Not shunting aside contemporary concerns, you aren't hit over the head with any messages. Both cats have deep roots in their own cultures but the mutual respect makes something special come across. It just shows that no matter where you go in the world, there is a need to stop on the back porch and let the world go by. A winner throughout.

Volume 36/Number 3
November 3, 2012
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2012 Midwest Record

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