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MARIA MARQUEZ/Tonada: Fess up. How many of you remember this Venezuelan singer's last outing from 10 years ago? Uh huh. Now turning 60, the set that took her the last 4 years to complete is now ready---and it's fully baked. The mature side of the tropical sound (gringos are sure to assume it's all Brazilian), Marquez is in no hurry here and turns in what we can call the mature version of an Ibeza chill record, substituting cocktails and sunset for foam and ecstasy. A genre buster set that defies easy labeling, it's a solid work of real music for real listeners, certainly with a world beat bent. Check it out.

JOVINO SANTOS NETO/Piano Masters Series V. 4: Talk about being in the moment. Neto goes to a high end piano showroom. Picks out pianos that speak to him. Has them tuned to his specs. Comes in for three nights and plays what ever comes to him boiling the results down to this recording. The styles and content are all over the map but the constant is Neto's fingers being in fine form. With equal measures of harmonics, dexterity and chops, Neto crafts a winner that has to be one of the grand entries in grand solo piano contemporary works. A great listening experience for people that enjoy getting lost in the music.

MICHAEL BLANCO/No Time Like the Present: With a comfy day job that finds him in the band for high profile Broadway shows and the ability to surround himself with pals that have been turning out impressive solo albums of their own lately, Blanco shows he knows music and audiences turning in a lite jazz outing that's really not too heavy on the lite. Sparkling contemporary jazz with Blanco at the writing helm as well turning in a set of originals, this bass man knows his stuff and it's just a matter of time before he's mentioned in the same breath as previous bass greats and no longer financing his own recordings as well---unless he wants to. A killer second set from a voice that demands to be heard.

LILLY B. GARDNER-DANIEL KOBIAKA/Livin' and Lovin' With Cole Porter: Imagine Frasier trying to bang a comely middle age woman by setting the stage for seduction at a swanky hotel tea room. This piano/violin duo would be playing Cole Porter in the background. This is kicking back at three in the afternoon Porter, not let the romance begin Porter but it's some damn pleasant easy listening/MOR Porter that refreshes the material in what passes for a tony way in 2013. Both expert players have the chops to bring it all home in a delightful way and might even have you having second thoughts about all those Jackie Gleason and Mystic Moods albums you found while cleaning out your grand parents basement. Nicely done throughout with nothing but can't miss elements on board.

ASHIK/Gypsy Heart: Ashik is one of those crafty indie cats that's passionate about gypsy inspired music and knows how to add just the right special sauce to the mix to create dancing music for non-dancers that's fun to hear and be spirited away by. Bouncy, energetic as well as hypnotic, this set certainly has an ethnic core but it's as easily relatable as any of the cool gypsy inspired music of the last 30 years that crept into the mainstream mind even if by sneaking in through the back door. A fun, tasty outing that will have you tapping you toe before even know you're doing it. Quite the instrumental delight, this is on the money throughout.

DOUG MacLEOD/There's a Time: Back when the earth was cooling, this cat made a white boy blues album that should have been a cliché fest but he brought such sincerity to plaintiff primality like "I'm Down" that I was hooked right from the start. All these years and all his collected praises later, he makes a new record, recorded live in the studio at Skywalker Studios and he still has the same cover pic smirk he had back then, just a little more road wizened. A live trio date with an anything can happen feel, his main concession to time and tide seems to be that this set feels like it was constructed for satellite radio rather than roadhouses. Small quibble since there aren't that many real roadhouses left. Showing his bluesman core with a heart line running back to the old masters, this is the work of the greatest white blues boy since John Koerner. Hot stuff that kind of cuts across genre lines, it might seem bare bones but any real music fan will find plenty of meat here to dig into. Check it out.

KALEIDOSCOPE JUKEBOX/Infinite Reflection: 40 years ago it was Metal Machine Music. Now it's kitchen sink mash up music where skankin riddims meets space launch broadcasts. Advanced music for those raised in the great gaping maw of cable TV where lumpy mash ups are a way of life, George Russell would probably be proud to see where space music has wound up. Wild stuff for wild childs.

DAVID STARFIRE/Ascend: Fellow traveler of both NIN and Natacha Atlas, among many others, this world beat genre bender certainly shows he knows how to play well and get along with others. Crazy stuff tailor made for hookah rooms that cater to younger tastes, American's urban centers aren't made of chewy nougat anymore----and Kansas is just a state of mind. This music congers up a vision of young third world ethnics eying a conga line of middle aged divorcees in belly dance outfits as they set about trying to bag a MILF even while hating their own mothers. Damn, get me the Writer's Guild, I think I just came up with a log line I need to register.

Volume 37/Number 120
March 1, 2013
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2013 Midwest Record

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