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ASUKA KAKITANI JAZZ ORCHESTRA/Bloom: Maria Schneider had Brooklyn/downtown to herself for a long time and now a new generation is stepping up to flex their wings. With a big band full of downtown improvisers that feel like they are doing written charts, Kakitani might have some arts council dough in her back pocket but she doesn't let that stop her from being a real jazzbo. An adventurous work that owes a delightful debt to august figures like Bill Holman and Bill Russo, if sitting down jazz can swing, this is the road map as to how. Smoking stuff that really hits it out of the park.

TIMUCIN SAHIN QUINTET/Inherence: You can be a guitar player from Turkey that moves to Holland to study music further, but if your heart is in the right place, you can make civil rights jazz directly from the church basement. Sure, you can show off by adding some funk to the proceedings as well, but when something resonates with you, it just resonates with you. Back in the day, Euro labels were mining Chicago and New York church basements and lofts like crazy and maybe that's where these atavistic genes took root. Back in the day meets today with more instrumentation so you don't need to insert the chick with the Angela Davis afro to add diversion. Tired of hunting down those Actuel reissues? Check this out.

CHRIS McNULTY/The Song that Sings You Here: Last time/first time we heard from McNulty, she graced us with a jaw dropping DIY set that made you go ‘huh?' and had you wondering where have you been hiding and why are you such a well kept secret? This time around, after too long between records, McNulty attacks the mostly classic material with the gusto of a supper club thrush that has just deservedly broken through to concert halls. A far cry from the major label structured jazz diva paradigm of recent vintage, McNulty delivers the real stuff in fine style. An absolute must for any jazz vocal fan, this is a winner throughout.

MICHEL REIS/Hidden Meaning: And if you catch the art/music, 70s ECM vibe, it might be because this piano man left the cocoon of Luxembourg studies to soak in jazz from the real world and wound up working with Dave Holland. With an immersion education that went beyond playing into deeper realms of music education, Reis can be the kind of leader/writer that can give everybody on board some, and he does that here quite generously. More concerned with the whole than the spotlight, Reis fashions the kind of statement that any muso who didn't cotton to disco but couldn't kick his vinyl habit will understand immediately. Anyone else might just be blown away and not know why. First class sitting down jazz all the way that never leaves the pocket. Well done.

FRIED GLASS ONIONS/Memphis Loves the Beatles V. 4: Memphis can mean Stax, Hi, American or all of the above and more, and that's what you get in this continuing tribute series to the Fab Four as filtered through the Memphis prism. Southern show band muscle powers this proceeding and it's fun stuff no matter how you cut it. The cross section of talent on board just adds more depth to the variety of tangents you can bring to these contemporary classics and make them fresh again. Any Beatle fan that doesn't find efforts like this a sacrilege can dive right in without a care.

BLUE CACTUS CHOIR/Once in a Bluegrass Moon: A delightful folk etc throwback record by a pair of vets that have flown under the radar too long on their own before joining forces for this duo. With many applicable hyphens to describe their sound excluding folk-rock, the bluegrass and country influxes dance delightfully around the solid, meaty songwriting and heartfelt singing and playing. Anyone can enjoy this, but music starved adult ears will be sure to enjoy this visit from a set that sounds like a great, lost set from the early 70s. It's a tasty ride through the country that it's best not to miss. Check it out.

MIKE HOWE/Heading West: The impeccable acoustic guitarist takes a break from his aerie to travel America and turn in an impressionistic view of what he saw. He feeds us a surprise right out of the gate that challenges our expectations. The opening riff of the opening track sounds like the lead in to a mournful, Townes Van Zandt experience, but the surprise is that he stays instrumental. And the music proceeds to speak volumes. Always more into simple beauty than flash, Howe really does make you feel what he observed and this is quite the delightful instrumental masterpiece to end one year and start another with. Well done throughout.

JULIET & THE LONESOME ROMEOS/No Regrets: Before the financial crash a few years ago, there was a wealth of indie cowpunk and insurgent country records that were just mind blowing and coming out on a regular basis. Then it dried up. This set heralds the return of left of center country. Taking the weight of the world off Elizabeth Cook's shoulders, Juliet Simmons fuses the various sincerities of Emmylou Harris and Lucinda Williams into her own special stew loaded with the flavor your ears have been missing. Take that sippy cup country, this is the real deal. Hot stuff.

Volume 36/Number 60
December 30, 2012
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2012 Midwest Record

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