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WILFORD BRIMLEY with the JEFF HAMILTON TRIO: I get it. How can you not take a look at this and wonder what the hell is going on? The luckiest 78 year old ranch hand backed by a swinging, established jazz trio on a premiere jazz label, right. But, by the time you get to "Waltz for Debby", he's sold you the same way he did playing Jack Lemmon's sidekick in "China Syndrome". As much a Hamilton Trio album as it is a showcase for Brimley, he might not be serious about making a career change at this stage of the game but he certainly brings a special sauce to the chestnuts that divas born in the 70s covering the same ground never experienced. Genuine fun stuff for any listeners ready to hear outside the box.

FRANK POTENZA/For Joe: Joe Pass was best known in his later years for his solo guitar work. When Jim Hughart, John Pisano and Colin Bailey want to come along for the ride, you just can't say no. Potenza was a protégé of Pass' and the lessons were well learned. A wonderfully swinging set that covers Pass tunes, either self written or made his own, you think you are listening to Pass again. Not really a tribute or an homage, this is more of a salute to an artist that really raised the bar by players that want to maintain the standard. A great gateway drug for the uninitiated to get started with as well.

MIKE JONES TRIO/Plays Well With Others: Want to hear tunes like "Besame Mucho" like you never heard them before? Penn & Teller's musical director joins up with Jeff Hamilton and Mike Gurrola for a jazz piano extravaganza by a player you have to hear to believe. A modern, pomo kind of guy that can take it to church as well as to the whorehouse, Jones soon has to be seen as a national treasure. A hard driving, two handed player that sounds like he would play like this even if he wasn't getting paid, Jones sets his stage for him to shine brightly here. Killer stuff throughout.

FLORIAN HOEFNER GROUP/Falling Up: A right on set of modern piano jazz is on tap here by this German born cat and his New York pals. Playing with the kind effortlessness that makes everyone think that can do it just as easily and just as well, it's the sign of a real master when he leaves them in his dust and doesn't make a big deal out it. You can bet Hoefner would leave a big cloud and a lot of silence in his wake. Tasty, dazzling stuff that hits all the right notes, this is sitting down jazz that swings too much to leave you in your seat not doing anything but nodding your head. Well done.

TIM HORNER/Head of the Circle: Sure it might be sitting down jazz and art jazz, but it ain't like that. With a clear vision and some wonderful players along for the ride to bring that vision to the fore, this is a drummer led session where the drummer knows about more than the use of white space. One of those great creative dates that isn't creative for the mere sake of it, Horner has the chops and the flying time to pilot the plane anyway he wants and you can be assured of a safe landing. It's contemporary, ensemble jazz that knows which end is up. Delightful.

TED BRANCATO/Next Step: A piano man making his debut after 30 years of backing up major jazz talents, Brancato kicks it off with some slinking, cocktail funk which then opens the door on all the places and things he's seen, all played with an equal dexterity that somehow brings all this diversity under the same penumbra. Obviously learning the skills an entertainer needs to promote wide appeal, any jazzbo looking for something out of the ordinary will enjoy what's on display here. A solid set that delivers the goods quite handily.

DAVE SLONAKER BIG BAND/Intrada: A throwback to the glory days of arrangers, Slonaker is a cat working in the shadows of Hollywood composing and arranging for loads of shows and movies that you wouldn't know he had a hand in unless you hang around for the credits, in small type. A dynamic set with a big band populated by the crème of contemporary jazz, this is one of those sets that looks forward while looking back. He reveres the past enough that he won't make you forget Bill Holman---mainly because he wants you to know where he's coming from. All you could want from a contemporary big band date and more, this is the real deal by a player that knows his stuff. A winner throughout.

RANDY BRECKER/Brecker Brothers Band Reunion: In which we find Randy bringing himself full circle to where he started out from before the jumping off point changed. Originally starting his career with a solo record that morphed into a Brothers record, Randy was assembling a band for some dates when he realized that everyone he was contacting passed through his portals at one point or another when the light bulb went off. It was time for some electrojazzfunk to be played in a way to show the kids how it's done. While the combined age of the band might be a million, they play with no dust on them and in high octane style. With an energy level that winds it back some 40 years (especially when some of those tunes are revisited on the DVD portion of this set), Brecker and his pals are delivering the goods like it's back in the day. This is about as funky as white boys can get. A winner.

Volume 37/Number 315
September 12 , 2013
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2013 Midwest Record

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