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ABIGAIL RICCARDS/Every Little Star: This throwback jazz vocalist has attracted the attention of Jane Monheit as producer for her third outing. A swinging vocal date with a breezy cool, Riccards and her well honed jazzbo backers come up with the kind of thing that anybody kvelling over the 50s reissues coming out of Japan that are heavy on chanteuses will love. You don't even have to be a grandpa to get it. Tasty stuff that's a tribute to the art of paying your dues and the art that flows from it. Check it out.

ZOOT SIMS/New Beat Bossa Nova V. 1 + V. 2: It's almost criminal that Sims was a contemporary of Stan Getz, with practically a note for note similar background; was making bossa nova records around the same time Getz discovered it and is basically remembered today mostly for his first name. These two lovely 1962 releases were not chopped liver compared to what Getz was doing. With stellar backing made up of his sidekick Al Cohn, Jim Hall, Manny Albam and others, this is certainly a bossa nova primer to round out the basics of your education by one of the tenor sax greats. Rounded out with bonus tracks from a third, vocal bossa nova album recorded around the same time, this is 78 non stop minutes of some of the best boss bossa sax you are going to find. And these were originally recorded for Colpix? Killer stuff, with the knife going in so gently. Check it out.

HANK MOBLEY/Workout + Hank Mobley Quartet: Miles wanted Mobley to replace John Coltrane when Coltrane left the band. Mobley didn't want to be compared to Coltrane and didn't think he was up to the task of filling those shoes. Well, history has made sure we'll never know what parallel outcomes might have been if things had gone differently, but with these two albums in the wake of it all, Mobley should have been more sure of himself. Working out with Miles' rhythm session and Grant Green, the result was a hard charging session that should have/will not disappoint anyone. Tasty, in the pocket late 50s stuff that hipsters have appropriated today, this is one of those modern, when jazz was jazz records. Mobley's debut, paired here as the second album in this twofer, finds him in the company of Bluenote all stars giving his debut a rousing reception. Totally killer stuff no matter how you slice it.

OWEN BENJAMIN/High Five Til It Hurts: Apparently the one in the Comedy Central galaxy that comes closest to being the normal guy, Benjamin kicks it off with reacting to late night infomercials and the absurdities of everyday life, like what dogs really think based on how they act. And he more than capably proves there's nothing wrong with normal since this straight up, stand up keeps the laughs coming from start to finish. A cd-dvd combo pack, you get to also see Benjamin's growth curve by getting a look at his past specials. In three short years, his act has become so polished, even if he's covering similar ground, you almost think you're watching two different comics. Entertainment that's more concerned with making you laugh than making you think, Benjamin has the makings of being the next Seinfeld if they can find the right fitting vehicle for him. A first class laugh riot throughout.

CANADIAN BRASS/Carnaval: It's been well over a decade since the Labeques rounded up their pals for a real work out on "Carnaval" so you can't exactly call this warhorse repertoire that's been beaten to death. Augmented here with some companion Schumann pieces that have kids at heart, the Brass are up for the task of making this their own, as usual. As engaging as ever, the crew that doesn't even let you notice that all this music is being made by brass only with no strings or drums or anything else has certainly got Schumann, as well as the Labeques, smiling with their interpretations of the animals. Fun lighthearted stuff that can insidiously inspire a love of classical music as easily as old cartoons that didn't want to pay royalties for background music. A winner throughout.

PASSION/2013 New York Cast Recording: Arguably the best of Sondheim's late/later period works, this revival is the first staging of the 1994 work since it first came along, and it's been retooled to make it shine even brighter. This recording, spread over 2 discs gives you a real you are there experience as dialog, underscoring and more are worked into the score making this more than just a bunch of nice songs trotted out by Broadway pros. This expansive set meets the way the work has grown in stature over the years. With a brightened score and killer production, this production should not only sweep a slew of Broadway awards, it should easily sweep it's way into the hearts of Broadway fans. The subject matter might seem off beat but the emotions under it all are universal---and that's why they call it drama. Ambitious enough to be called an epic work, Sondheim did/does/will do it again. Virtually, the if you only buy one Broadway record this year kind of record, it's not fair to PS Classics to hang that tag on this record because they just keep coming with winner after winner showing they aren't just a brand you should trust, they are a brand you should swear by. A winner throughout.

COUNT BASIE/Basie Plays Hefti: Neal Hefti was one of those cats that was around when the really good arrangers were not only a critical part of the session, they were name brands unto themselves as well. This collection rounds up all the Basie/Hefti tracks extant, with the exception of those already copiously reissued on "The Atomic Mr. Basie", and hits are literally delivered to all fields. An easy going simpatico rules these tunes as the big band is taken to unique places with great results ensuing. The sound of nascent, suburban, cool backyard parties from another time and place, this music lives on mightier than the times it sprang from. Timeless, classic stuff coming from a place where those words aren't used lightly. A winner from end to all it's various ends.

AMBERFERN/AquaEssence: A new age record that sounds like a Morricone soundtrack? Strange but true. If you can imagine Morricone at his most peaceful, impressionistic best, you get what Amberfern's tribute to the ocean is all about. How's that for a work around? The multi-instrumentalist delivers the goods here with a set that you would want to slip your massage therapist as a gift when her music shelf needs some updating. This is a wonderfully engaging set that has a tranquility about it that probably wouldn't come across loud enough in your car if you need a tune up but would make a great peace keeper any place else. Meditative stuff that's way more than girl friend music. Well done.

Volume 37/Number 240
June 29, 2013
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2013 Midwest Record

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