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PHIL GATES/Live at the Hermosa Saloon: Well traveled and well credentialed, Gates is a perfect example of the life of the working musician. While you might not know him, you've heard his fingerprints almost everywhere. Here we find the Chicago born guitar slinger serving up a very pleasing program of yuppie blues. Not west side Chicago stuff, not roadhouse at the edge of town stuff but strip mall where the grocery store went out of business that'll have you having the baby sitter home by 10 blues. He hit's the right notes, engages the right iconography and slyly brings a long overdue pop element to the blues that will keep it alive and lively for future generations. Fun stuff that's really hard to resist. Check it out.

WACLAW ZIMPEL QUARTET/Stone Fog: Time to expand your horizons with this young Polish clarinet improv ace that makes the kind of art jazz you can enjoy even without the refined tastes that typically flow in the wake of art jazz. With a classical disposition to the music, Zimpel and his cronies are on to something here as they take the trouble to show they have something new to say while staying in the tradition. If, say, Michael Zerang isn't your idea of far out, this is going right to the top of your hit parade.

MANUEL VALERA & THE NEW CUBAN EXPRESS/Exectativas: Can you prepare jazz for the future without frippery? Valera thinks so and shows the way. Tuning up Afro-Cuban jazz for the 21st Century without dipping into the well of ready contemporary clichés, this is a crew that's here to play. You know that Tito, Mongo, Juan Tizol and all the rest are smiling on this endeavor as they would be pleased with seeing the tradition kept alive and kept fresh. Hot stuff from start to finish, the energy flourishing here is more than enough to blow this out of the Latin jazz pigeon hole sending it to parts unknown. Killer stuff throughout.

WILL BERNARD/Just Like Downtown: This tasty guitarist takes plenty of the spotlight for himself but he leaves enough room for Brian Charette to pump that greasy organ sound so much so that you can be excused for thinking this is B3 date if you hear it without knowing what it is. Swinging throughout, this four piece combo delivers the real deal and never let's things ever sink below smoking. Hot stuff for real jazzbo although they might just let hipsters in for a taste. A winner.

NICK HEMPTON/Odd Man Out: Hempton's playing here reminds me of a time Gerry Mulligan was teaching a master class at a university. There was a look of grudging admiration on his face when one of the student players just knew how to turn it up and turn it loose. I see that look again listening to this date. Hempton is a real cooker that can play the notes, play around the notes, play around with the notes and spread such good vibes in the process. A real swinger throughout, this is simply a killer date that expands the lexicon of modern jazz and makes it sound so cool in the process. Don't miss it.

JIM ALLCHIN/QED: Last time we encountered Allchin, he had just shed his computer nerd lab jacket, pocketed his stock options and took off for parts unknown to be a blues guitar slinger. It was a credible effort. Now he's inventing his own genre. The blues guitar slinging is still heavily in evidence but the whole sounds like a soundtrack for a sock hop on Mars. And we're not talking outsider music here----more like mainstream music for people that color outside the lines. You don't play this at 2 in the morning to get your party guests to leave and you don't stay involved with it because it's a train wreck but there is a sweet spot somewhere between those two points this occupies. Perhaps it's simply a peek at the future of white boy blues. It's wild whatever you want to call it. Check it out.

SAMUEL BLASER CONSORT IN MOTION/A Mirror to Machaut: What happens when the third stream goes downtown to drink some hooch out of a jelly jar in a church basement? You get a modern take on things Carla Bley was thinking about 40 years ago but couldn't get the arts council to pony up. Unabashed art jazz that wears it's heart on it's sleeve, Blaser and his pals do deliver the goods for the arts set who will not be disappointed.

FRANCOIS HOULE & HAVARD WILK/Aves: Intellectual bitch slapping is so much fun. In praising Wilk, some other writer said he's "how Mehldau might sound were he to be a considerably freer thinker". What the hell is that? Leave the rest of us to our dive bars and epithets. This piano/clarinet duo has a classical, chamber music feel to it and it's too demanding to be played as background music. Actually, it's pretty tough stuff from the artsy crowd and maybe it'll wake a few of them up as to some of the other possibilities out there. Not at all twee, this is a pretty nice, ear opening, head session. Check it out.

Volume 37/Number 281
August 9 , 2013
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2013 Midwest Record

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