ANGEL D'CUBA/Heritage: A native Cuban that jumped ship in Chicago is a master genre blender/mixmaster that starts with salsa and proceeds to add every bouncy, buoyant Latin sound to the mix before reaching out across the rest of the Equator for more color. Exactly the kind of Latin jazz pop that gringos love because it puts them at ease no matter how horribly they do the white guy dance when pressed by girl friends, this almost feels like a history of Latin jazz and pop as filtered through contemporary ears. A stone cold winner throughout.
BONGOS IKWUE/Wulu Wulu: A Nigerian recording artist for 40 years, this is Ikwue's first state side release. There's a lot of interesting things going on here. Let me digress. I recently ate at an Ethiopian restaurant that took it to the next level of the game. They were keeping it real and traditional, but they also were acknowledging they were in a gentrifying area of Chicago where taste buds would have certain expectations. Those expectations were more than well met. Ikwue's music feel like that restaurant tasted. He keeps it ethnic and keeps it real, but this could almost be a Paul Simon record, and not in a bad way. Even politics and sadness is kept buoyant. This guy is like a one man jam between Paul Simon, Terry Callier, Bill Withers and Fela. Does it work? Does it ever! Certainly adult ear will appreciate this more than youngsters but there nothing here to stop the young ‘uns from hopping on board. Top shelf world beat Afropop all the way.
DANIEL LANTZ TRIO/Plays Bond: Interestingly enough, this piano jazz trio was started for the purpose of playing at corporate events. Now look what they've gone and done, a jazz tribute to James Bond's 50th anniversary. A commercial move from commercial players. Celebrating a commercial enterprise. There's a symmetry here not to be lost. They don't do it by piano bar rote, brought along a vocalist that cites Shirley Bassey as an influence and come together with a sweet, little roll off project that Bond uber fans will give the high sign to. Hard to believe it's already been 20 years since they dusted off John Barry and trotted him out for the 30th anniversary festivities. Give it a spin Bond fans.
MOSTLY OTHER PEOPLE DO THE KILLING/Slippery Rock: Everybody's fave jazz terrorists immerse themselves in late 70s smooth jazz to study up for this record and somehow, they still sound like a jazz gang fight in a church basement. The fun this with this set is the average listener can actually play ‘what's that riff?' as they listen to it and get a few right. A crew of award winners throughout, they continue to amaze with their sometime room clearing deconstrucitonism. Purely a jazz excursion for the college kid malcontent in everyone.
THE SUMMARILY DISMISSED/ To Each: So, you're into classic rock. You still like the geezers but wish they would do some new stuff with some substance or just shut the fuck up, right? Here's the proof it takes some new blood to kick start the carcass. Loaded with everything that made FM/AOR have such traction back in the day, this crew that has come together in service of Ari Shagal's voice and songs have played with everyone from Ute Lemper to Bob Dorough to Jay-Z and they all brought their chops sharpened and ready to play. Sounding almost like a great lost Steely Dan record they held back when they were pissed at ABC Records after they finished recording, oldies victory lap tours have some serious competition from the new generation here. Simply one of those great fucking records that comes out of absolutely nowhere that just makes you stop and say "fuck!". Whether a neo-AORtist or a geezer that just wants to forget about his underwater water mortgage for a while, this is the bomb. And it's going off now. Well done.
NOT FOR NOW
JONATHAN KREISBERG/One: No artist wants to be told they sound like somebody else. Of course with only so many notes and so many staffs to put them on, sometimes it can't be avoided. And it's not always meant as a put down. Kreisberg doesn't sound like Joe Pass but he brings a level of excitement to solo guitar that hasn't been around by the barrelful since Pass passed. Without relying on power riffs and fancy runs up and down the scales, Kreisberg tells a story like almost no one else with his strings. The mix of originals and chestnuts flows nicely. Even if some of the selections are a touch hoary, Kreisberg's fingers apply deft CPR. Solo guitar fans have one for the ages here. A winner throughout.
GABRIEL ALEGRIA Afro-Peruvian Sextet/Cuidad de Los Reyes: Everything has to start someplace, so how to you know when something is something new or just some round of look at me? Hopefully, you have a pal like me on the inside that listens to everything with an open ear, isn't easily impressed and seeks out truth and beauty. Got that? Since his debut in 2008, Alegria has been trying to make Afro-Peruvian jazz into a stand alone genre. It's not like he has all that much competition on these shores but that doesn't stop it from being a noble effort. If I didn't have the hype sheet that goes with this, I'd be tempted to say that some crafty player and his hip pals added some contemporary special sauce to the old Tito Puente mix. Now, I know there's more to it than that. I also have further proof that music is the universal language and the only two type of tunes are good and bad. While this might have been birthed in isolated hills, it was also birthed in the age of the Internet and instant access to everything. All this jumble makes it hard to say which tastes are being fused in this gumbo, but since the end result is delicious anyway, what's the diff? Call it what you will, find it where you will, it all boils down to a new flavor of Latin jazz that brings the muy caliente. (That means ‘hot stuff' for hard core gringos).
Volume 37/Number 72
January 12, 2013
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2013 Midwest Record
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