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LIVE FROM FESTIVAL AU DESERT TIMBUKTU/various: Malian music is no longer that far off the beaten path, but if world music is something more than Celtic or island in your ears, this is the stuff you live for. While this year's Festival in the Desert has been postponed due to instability in Mali, it didn't stop the good vibes from flowing last year as recorded here. A killer case in point for it not mattering if you know what they are singing about, the passion of the players puts the point across. A wild ride through an environment too hostile for the average world beater even if there weren't tensions in the area (it's the Sahara for goodness sake, you wanna stand in the desert sun all day?), this set legitimizes your armchair traveler tendencies. Indigenous and primal throughout, this will blow world beat ears wild open. Well done.

DAVE HASKELL GROUP/Pivot Point: Returning from a 20 year musical hiatus when he was working as a pilot, the jazz guitarist picks up where he left off as a hot shot Bay Area jazzbo playing with those who would go on to light up the sky their own way. Hanging with Jimmy Haslip, Russ Ferrante and high school pal Robbin Ford, as well as his own crack crew, Haskell might be resuming playing late in life but he sounds like anything but. Tasty guitar driven fusion jazz/rock, this is a set for anyone that misses the heyday of the genre and is hungry for something new that hit's the spot. Well done.

JOANNA BORROMEO/Kaleidoscope: A contemporary soul/R&B/pop mash up that sounds like a throw back to stuff En Vogue was doing? Well, she has become a legend in Canada so there must be something to the multiple mash up. Unabashedly aiming for the top of the pops, Borromeo has some old school smarts under her belt and knows how to deliver soul if you aren't looking for gut bucket 60s southern soul. This neo soul for a multi culti world that doesn't recognize artificial demarcations.

RAQUEL BITTON/Rhythm of the Heart: Long the armchair traveler's best friend, Bitton, still singing in French, puts her Piaf thing aside to tackle the works of Tino Rossi, a Latin music superstar from the first part of the 20th century who's name probably draws blank stares today. Singing in French but doing it in a spiritual Havana, Bitton plays with Rossi's hits remaking them as tangos, sambas, bossas, cha-chas and whatever suits her fancy. Art chicks should take note, this is a classic example of the difference between artistic and art chick--pay attention if you want to be taken seriously. Certainly the kind of set where Rizzoli would have met Starbucks a decade back, class and hip meet here in a Gallic hug that'll have people think you really know your apples if they catch you listening to this. A very special world beat treat from a committed world beater that enjoys breaking new ground for us.

AL GROMER KHAN/Far Go: Anybody that's recently, reluctantly been forced to add stretching and breathing exercises to their daily chore list will immediately be glad to hear the latest pioneering work by new age pioneer Khan as he takes ambient to new levels of the game (something you probably didn't think possible) and moves healing music to different realms. As any newbie to stretching and breathing exercise that gets flummoxed by how much harder it is than it looks to get it right (yeah, I know, doing something is better than not doing anything at all), this low key, low impact musical crutch is just what you need to make it go better. Sure, it's no replacement for anyone that likes EDM, but you can bet if a big enough check comes around, you'll hear this sped up, chopped and channeled into the next Deadmau5 wannabe mix. For now, go with the flow, especially if this is something you need, its on the new age/ambient money throughout..

AL GROMER KHAN/Kula Jazz: While some hide behind ars gratia artis, others have the touch and depth to continue to confound and surprise no matter where the muse takes them and aren't bounded by time. The companion piece to an art installation, this is like the 50s world jazz east meets west stuff as filtered through contemporary ears and electronics by and old pro that doesn't let the dust settle on him. Less mainstream than his creations for American, mainstream new age labels, this is straight up incense, colored lights and tea music that has mellow and head music tattooed all over it. Get out the silk robes and pillows and let the buzz begin.

SIMONE DINNERSTEIN + TIFT MERRITT/Night: Originally meeting when a classical magazine asked Merritt to interview Dinnerstein and playing together since 2010, the classical pianist that clawed her way to the top and the folk singer that clawed her way to the middle woodshed their way to an art chick extravaganza where Judy Collins finally meets Lotte Lenya with Mark Abramson producing and Josh Rifkin doing the charts. With some august peerages contributing original material and the duo finding the crossroads folk and classical meet up at, even if it's only in their own minds, you've got to applaud the guts of the a&r guy that cut the check to fund this session in 2013. While it might be too precious for everyone, those that it is for won't let you argue with them.

DRAZY HOOPS/This is the Sound of: This utterly nuts record will have you perpetually guessing just what kind of fish or fowl it is. The boatload of talent backing up Hoops at all level keep this record about rolling off the rails from rolling off the rails and keeps you guessing throughout. Perhaps the overdue arrival of the spiritual grand child of Lee Hazelwood, Hoops is the grand master of one of the coolest train wrecks in all of pomodom. A must for fans of wild rides through sonic fun houses in hell.

THE STORY OF BLUE BEAT-The Best in Ska 1962 Pt. 1/various: These 28 a & b sides from the pre-reggae era almost don't sound like the skanking riddims or even pre-skanking riddims you know and love today. Like domestic period R&B with an island lilt and even more poverty behind it than domestic doo wop, this collection doesn't take pains to edit, it gives you as much of everything that can be packed into a twofer letting and and history be the guide over what's going to survive. Like a primal Motown collection, it doesn't have to be hitting on all eight for everything to feel like a winner. Loaded with a fair share of names that even the casual fan would know today, the Blue Beat label and it's off shoots were number one in a field of one but they didn't wear the mantle lightly. Time and tide have worn greatly on these sides in spots but other than that, it doesn't seem like a dusty retro fest. This is fun stuff that helped do it's part to start a musical revolution. Check it out.

Volume 37/Number 135
March 16, 2013
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2013 Midwest Record

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