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ALEX LEVIN TRIO/Refraction: If you don't read the track list too closely, it's easy to call this Levin's Sinatra album, but when did Sinatra sing Monk? This piano jazz trio strides proudly into it's second decade with a set that takes it's mostly Sinatracentric set card down to the saloon for some swinging cocktail jazz that Don Draper would know how to use properly even if his sixth season finds him having to roll with the changing times. Note perfect throughout, Levin and the guys are keepers of the flame here, delivering a shining set with sparkle and low key fire that keeps your attention long after the record is done. Well done.

HANS THEESSINK/Wishing Well: This cat just turned 65 and we never got a taste of him until a few years ago. It's not fair. A German cat in love with the American south, this time around he goes multi-instrumental solo with just some occasional outside shadings added here and there. At once atavistic and modern, he might have been too young to tour with Fred Neil in his glory days but if the stars had lined up better, these two would have made a hell of a package. A killer picker with a magical voice, this folk/blues set swings from being the ultimate back porch record to something you can play to lull your kids to sleep. Another utterly great set from a cat it's always great to hear more from.

JACOB VARMUS/Terminal Stillness: One of those cats that straddles the jazz and classical worlds with his trumpet, this set was inspired by walking down an empty hallway at a college on a weekend. Somewhere down that hallway, as a reaction to the hustle and bustle of New York, he found his inner Miles and delivers a sound that sounds like it was affected by post bop, modal Miles, pushing the boundaries one step further. With chops and smarts you can't argue with, if you ever wanted the next "Kind of Blue" as opposed to someone just doing another "Kind of Blue", you might just be in for a big surprise here. The classic jazzbo has to be delighted with this.

IDAN RAICHEL PROJECT/Quartet to Six: Here's some world beat that'll twist your head around. With a resume that totally defies any kind of categorization, Raichel gets back to making his own music, and even if you don't know what he's talking about, he gets through to you. For example, the opening track sounds like it could be a cousin of "After the Gold Rush" and the translation of the titles means "Evening Falls". If you hear it, you'll see how it fits. Despite being funky enough to play with India Arie and for Barack Obama, this sounds like it could be a late 80s relative to a Leonard Cohen set. You already listen to a lot of world beat where you don't know what anybody is talking about so this trip to the middle east with stuff that doesn't sound like belly dance could easily be the ear opener you've been on the prowl for. Solid stuff that makes a statement in any language.

CHEICK HAMALA DIABATE/Prudence: So, how many of you have been disappointed when traditional world beat gets electro chopped and channeled and the result is neither here or there? Raise your hands. Now put them down if you haven't heard this electroed Afropop by a traditional Mali player that enjoys electricity, running water and all the rest of the modern conveniences the hillbillies in the way of TVA thought were the work of the devil. If this ep is a taste of things to come, set my place at the table.

ELSTEN TORRES/Waiting for Clouds: You'd think a cat that had a song that was #1 for five weeks wouldn't have to put out his own records on his own, but even when the record business was handing out deals on street corners, the cat that co-wrote "La Vida Loca" didn't exactly have the biz beating own his door when he was looking for an artist deal. Torres uses this album to purge his troubled soul sounding like Harry Nilsson much of the time when Nilsson was dealing with his early 70s crazies. ‘You're Breaking My Heart (So Fuck You)' might have fit in pretty well with this little touch of schmilsson in the night. Things never change that much, do they?

LOUIS MATTEO/Patchwork Pattern: A former punk starts getting a few years under his belt and fuses singer/songwriter into the mix, a mix that already has flourishes of New Order and other flowering off shoots of original punk on board. Considered deep for short attention spans, Matteo has been developing his chops, sacrificing for his art and racking up awards on his resume showing him to be serious about going for the gold. He cuts nicely through the indie pop dross.

BART WALKER/Waiting on Daylight: Don't let looks deceive you. If this chubby, white boy from Nashville says he plays the blues and is a guitar slinger, believe him. Having paid dues since playing with the original Double Trouble, he might not look like a blues rock guitar slinging guitar god, but he is every inch just that. The recent blues challenge winner opens this set hot and heavy with sound and fury that could blow any pretender off the stage and into the next town. A must for any real fan of electric blues/rock, this Nashville into Memphis set with Jim Gaines at the wheel is one of the best of the year even if we need to tick off over seven more months to fully make that claim. Hot stuff throughout.

Volume 37/Number 164
April 14, 2013
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2013 Midwest Record

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