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FAITH PRINCE/Total Faith-Live at the Royal Room at the Colony: Those of us west of the Hudson that aren't hard core Broadway fans don't know much about Prince other than nobody else could have played Ella Peterson 2.0 so seamlessly that it didn't even seem like she was working in the shadow of Judy Holliday. Her cabaret turn here is so smooth, you wouldn't know she came late to cabaret thinking she wouldn't like it unless you read it in the program. Bringing cheer to West Palm Beach at the height of the Madoff scandal, when this was recorded, this set is the perfect storm for any vocal/cabaret fan. One of those rare sets that's more than a record, you can be sitting in a winter traffic jam and feel like you're with her in West Palm if this is playing in the car. Playful and warm without ever sounding forced, Prince never strikes a false note in this hour long tour de force that is must listening for anytime you want to feel like a grown up without feeling like a fraud. A winner throughout just like the thoroughbred on display here setting the pace.

CHRISTIANE NOLL/Gifts: The Broadway diva makes the musical autobiography look so easy. With her soaring soprano that doesn't shy away from the back row when it needs to, Noll's ostensible one woman show, which was a one night only presentation, is a must for anyone that loves the classic cabaret sound and fury. Recorded Live at 54 Below, the room and the crowd were just the right size to make this "theatrical" presentation shine. Coming from a musical family, Noll appreciates all aspects of performance and knows how to roll it all up into one glorious show. Killer stuff throughout.

ANDRÉA McARDLE/70s and Sunny-Live at 54 Below: This is the original "Annie" for goodness sake, we know she has talent. Unless you have a real jones for 70s nostalgia, this album can be quite a strange duck. 70s nostalgia is her province, so that's not the problem. The problem is that the 70s and 80s were so cheesy. Look at pictures and TV shows from that era. Ugh! We like her voice, we like her middle aged, horny divorcee smirk and we like her charm, the main selling point to this presentation. Like the Callaway Sisters take on their view of the 60s, something crucial is missing that makes this not quite connect but that's why anything subjective is always subject to the rules of Roshomon.

PATTI LuPONE/Far Away Places-Live at 54 Below: What can you say about LuPone tearing it up at her musical milieu home away from home? If it's anything bad, you deserve whatever her cousin Vinny, Uncle Sonny and Bruno from down the street have in store for you. Bringing her outsized personality to an intimate room and hitting everything from Kurt Weill to Willie Nelson, this is almost cabaret from Mars. Channeling Ethel Merman as much as Pearl Williams-lite, LuPone is on fire and a good time is going to be had by all for a long time to come. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

NORBERT LEO BUTZ/Memory Mayhem-Live at 54 Below: Shedding the skin of the Butz you think you've known since 1997, this is Butz showing his side more in line with his Van Morrison and Tom Waits covers than his Tony winning turns. Almost an impromptu performance, Butz put this show together at the request of the promoter. It tends toward being a personality piece but he acquits himself well on this program of songs dealing with past memories that is as far from maudlin as you can get.

FRANK WESS/Magic 101: With cats like Wess not getting any younger (he was 89 when this was recorded),it's time IPO called him back into the studio to follow up those utterly cool Frank & Hank duets. Straight up, straight ahead killer jazz that swings and blows the roof off the sucker even when it isn't trying. In lesser hands, this would be highly enjoyable cocktail jazz, but here, Wess and his tenor take off for that places just beyond the sky. This is the kind of stuff that raises the bar so high for others that clichés just fall right off it. A killer session that mainstream jazzbo will love.

GAUDI/In Between Times: This one is going to be out of your reach if you're over 30 and have a real job, but if the night still holds suspense and adventure for you, this trippy sonic trip that shows all cutting edge forms have to eventually move forward or die is the perfect new soundtrack for the journey through the night. Wild and wooly, pushing the envelope with every step, this electro slash everything set is an ear opener and a mind blower that could easily power a weekend into lasting forever.

RORY BLOCK/Avalon-A Tribute to Mississippi John Hurt: It's hard to single out a single set in Block's mentor series of blues originals as the one that's the mother lode---until you get down to personal preferences. We just happen to think Mississippi John Hurt was the bomb and can't find anything at all wrong in this fourth entry in her series. Not only that, but Block hears what we heard in Hurt's music---he was pretty damned punk rock for this wizened old cat that everybody seemed to think as a slightly inebriated, old, black granpappy what did such pretty finger picking. The sass and soul Block brings to this session wasn't developed in a vacuum last night. The sum total of a life of hard work, it's hard to believe that it feels like she's just hitting her stride now, after all the decorations that have flowed up to now. Killer stuff for traditional blues fans and those who should be.

AMOS GARRETT JAZZ TRIO/Jazzblues: Garrett has played everything with everybody and is one of the greatest ambassadors of guitar this side of Les Paul. Hard to believe he's spent 40 years listening to people tell him he can't make a jazz record. Why listen to that when you can write your own check and do what you want if you really want to? So he took his trio on the road and recorded the gigs live, no embellishment, so he could get the last laugh. Laugh hard, Amos. You never heard Miles like this. You never heard Monk like this. You never heard Freddie Hubbard like this. You never heard Bob Erlendson like this (although we think you readers probably never heard Bob Erlendson at all, poseur). Killer stuff you'll have to make room on your shelf next to your Wes Montgomery sets, this is as good as it get. Now, about the line up for the next round of McLaughlin trio dates....

Volume 37/Number 192
May 12, 2013
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2013 Midwest Record

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