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DAVE ASKREN & JEFF BENEDICT/It's All About the Groove: Here's why you pay attention to these guys. They open up with "Nature Boy". I hate that song. They make it sound like something written and played by Earle Hagen in his crime jazz phase. We have a winner. This guitar/sax duo makes bets that pay off and they take chances that work, like kicking it out on "Speak Low" giving it a spin you never heard or expected. This jazz duo has it going on and you should check them out.

SMOKIN' JOE KUBEK & BNOIS KING/Road Dog's Life: Last time I heard this duo they were doing a really sweet, back porch acoustic date. They aren't granola eaters, this pair. As night falls, they head to the roadhouse and tear it up. Since the roadhouse is owned by a cheapskate, they have to make as much racket with as little help possible and they are up for the task. Smoking so hard that the Mannish Boys rhythm section and various T-Birds and Nightcats have to drop by to lend a hand, this set proves that heart and soul triumph over everything, whether you're plugged in or not. Hot stuff throughout.

MICHAEL PEDICIN/Why Stop Now Ubuntu: Whether you know it or not you've been digging Pedicin's sax for 45 years whether as a member of the Philly International house band or as a side man for everyone from Stevie Wonder to David Bowie. At 65, he's still searching for the ultimate chord, and if we're lucky, he'll never find it. With a jazz suite inspired by the happenings in Newtown, this soulful set shows an artist continuing to hit new high spots while at the top of his game. Contemporary sax by a cat that knows how to get on the radio but isn't jonesing for it, this is a wonderful ear opener that hits hard and fast (even when he slows it down). Well done.

JUDY WEXLER/What I See: You sat through Wexler's first three albums knowing she was the real deal just waiting for the time she would pop wide open. Here it is, the fulfillment of all the promises that were all pretty well kept anyway along the way. With the kind of driving vibe Tom Waits had on "Nighthawks at the Diner" when he wasn't being laconic, Wexler can't help but become a hipster darling with this outing. With great, clear phrasing, a special kind of affinity for the chestnuts she's rolled out here and an overall hard driving kind of seduction, Wexler is going to make you putty in her hands. Smoking stuff that just doesn't run out of gas even after it's gone the distance. Check it out.

DAVID RICARD BIG BAND/Hey, I Know This Song Vol. 1: Elmore Leonard said his books were successful because he left out the parts people didn't like to read. Ricard expands on that here on this set of classical music turned into big band swing. He doesn't adapt the whole thing, he just uses the hooks from the classical pieces and creates a mash up of his own design that's irresistible. With a day job as a cartoon music composer, he knows he has just second to grab the kids attention. The ace up his sleeve is he knows adults aren't any different. And that leads us to his rave up of Tchaikovsky channeled through Louis Prima. Then it gets nuttier from there. This set ought to find the Emmy winner on his way to a Grammy, if only we could figure out which category this should be nominated in. Killer stuff that's sure to smack a smile on to your face you didn't even know you had in you. Top shelf all the way.

JON ZEEMAN/Down on My Luck: A four on the floor blues guitar shredder that's done well enough for himself on the back 40 that he can split his time between New York and Florida, he's the proof that giving people what they want can lead to a happy life, even of you serve blues for a living. Timeless frat hose white boy blues, Zeeman has been at it long enough to not only know how to hit the target but when and where. Fun stuff.

THE FIRE TAPES/Phantoms: When this album opens up, it reminds me of Velvet Underground's "Venus in Furs" but other people call it Emmylou Harris fronting Sonic Youth. Well, if heroin is your life and your wife and you're waiting for all those Jim Jims in this town, the shoe is going to fit so you might as well wear it. It's the least you can do to support the underground.

WAYDOWN WAILERS/State of the Union: Producer Professor Louie knows The Band isn't going to get back together and rather than go gently into that good night recycling his past, he's found the next generation of Sturgis rock lurking in the Hudson Valley. 180 degrees away from what Pete Seeger would be doing, Louie has found that place where .38 Special meets Tedeschi/Trucks with a membrane of classic outlaw hiding out in the layers. Geriatric jam band fans might not get it but there ain't no dust on Louie as he looks to the future, a future Sturgis promoters will welcome him into. Hot stuff.

TRAVIS SULLIVAN'S BJORKESTRA/I Go Humble: Even ring leader Sullivan can't explain why he was attracted Bjork's music but he's kept this project going for a decade and he knows how to find the left leaning jazz lurking in Bjork's tunes. Certainly one of the most important ambassador's for bringing Bjork's music to people that think they don't like it, this live date has got a heavy duty 70s progressive jazz edge to it and both the musicians and audience respond well. Like pomo bebop, this set veers in all directions and somehow finds it's way back to where it should be. And it's big band style as well. It's a nice place to take a chance for listeners that like to take a chance.

Volume 37/Number 295
August 23 , 2013
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2013 Midwest Record

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