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MEG OKURA & THE PAN ASIAN CHAMBER JAZZ ENSEMBLE/Music of Ryuichi Sakamoto: An enigmatic figure that knows how to make music that turns heads (and ears) in a good way, Sakamoto first dazzled with Yellow Magic Orchestra by screwing around with electronics in such a way that rockers who hated disco and Kraftwerk could get behind it. He shed that skin and moved on to high profile soundtracks for David Bowie and "Last Emperor" before shedding that skin and moving on to what ever struck his fancy. Because of that, his audience became like a river, each enjoying a different facet of Sakamoto. Here we find his works being reinterpreted organically by a group of jazzbos, including Anne Drummond showing yet another side of her versatility, playing on real instruments. While the program is as diverse as Sakamoto himself, the unified love and understanding of his music ties this project together into a killer suite that keeps your ears on the move. One of those wonderfully stunning sets that wakes up jaded ears, left leaning jazzbos have a solid gold winner here. Check it out.

GRIFFITH HILTZ TRIO/This is What You Get: It's sounds like the Canadian contingent of the Hot Cup gang have checked in. Left leaning, free jazz for white people that have never been to the church basement, this crew plays on the corner of where jazz meets jam band. While the sparks and the fur is flying, this is what hipster sounds like when you take it out of Brooklyn. With a load of influences and elements on board to make anyone feel at home, moldy figs might not understand it, but this is music of now. Well done.

SACHAL STUDIOS ORCHESTRA/Jazz and All That: If you take a left at Bollywood and continue down the road, you'll run into this Pakistani studio orchestra that'll blow your mind. This is a bunch of master musicians that can play anything, just like cats like Benny Carter and his pals could back in the day. Tackling an ununified collection of pop standards and classics, you'd easily think this is a gift shop/dinner music/lite jazz collection and you would be dead wrong. Not pushing a world/jazz agenda, it would be a mistake to write this off as easy listening because it's first rate instrumental music. While it might have their native touches running through it, the result is more exotica than ethnicity. Bottom line, if you've been jonesing for some killer playing on a bunch of stuff that's familiar, everything from Stevie Wonder to Jacques Brel gets turned on it's head here. This is one great ear opener.

JERI BROWN/Echoes-Live at Catalina Jazz Club: Here's a jazz vocalist that feels comfortable emoting (without sounding like a car alarm from "American Idol"), improvising and mixing up a set list that includes Hoagy Carmichael and Leon Thomas. Brown is an innovator that brings several elements of the jazz vocal canon together under one roof shaping it into something for people that like performance. Letting you know right out of the box that she's not here to provide dinner music, Brown isn't afraid to let her presence be known.

HALIE LOREN/Simply Love: When you're 28 years old, "Happy Together" and "Moon River" are as much oldies as "L-O-V-E" or "My Funny Valentine". Loren is the latest jazz vocalist to keep the thrush/songbird/chanteuse vibe alive and well as this set shows so well. She wears the mantle of next big thing easily as the chops and ambition are front and center, totally on the money throughout. Not straying from being an entertainer first, she keeps that in perspective and delivers a set worthy of taking it's place next to any jazz vocal classic that has come before. Killer stuff that can't be beat.

ELLIOTT MURPHY/Lost Generation & Night Lights-The RCA Years: 40 years ago, Murphy was a singer/songwriter that wrote good songs but somehow got saddled with the responsibility to being everything from the new Dylan (a tag everyone from John Prine to Bruce Springsteen had to wear at one time or another) to the new Lou Reed. Who could live up to all that hype, especially when the machine stoking it couldn't deliver for Murphy? 40 years later, we can now sit back and enjoy it for what it was as well as for what it could have been. It was working outside the margins at the time so it has taken on a timeless quality that lets it exist easily now without being dated. Still a cautionary tale for outsiders trying to fit into the machines dictates, Murphy deserved all the praise he got and deserved to be more than a cult hero. Fine stuff more than deserving of this long overdue second chance, especially if you like street level, edgy stuff that almost moves pop lyrics into literary realms. Like they say in the high school yearbooks, it's 2 good 2 b 4 gotten. Check it out.

TREMOR/Proa: Freek world? Yep. A folkloric trio from Argentina fuses the traditional stuff with electronics and more into a wild ride that's next generation world beat. Loaded with stripped down action that is raw and minimal but oddly compelling, it helps to be a college kid to get this but it just proves that mash ups are everywhere. Certainly not your father's trip through the Andes---except when he was tripping.

Volume 37/Number 303
August 31 , 2013
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2013 Midwest Record

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