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UNTEMPERED ENSEMBLE/Tribute to Jayne Cortez-Politics: I can't say I know anything first hand about Cortez or her associates but dang if this isn't a throwback to Angela Davis afros and poetry set to music revolutionary times. With the lead instrument being a didgeridoo and the multi culti assemblage handling some non-traditional instruments, you can bet this is a trip back in time to the corner where black militancy and feminism burst together into one really pissed off shebang. If this had electro beats pulsing through it, the "Occupy" bunch would lift it on their shoulders. This will give you more of a taste of the tenor of the times than Hollywood ever could, including the indie divisions.

SIERRA LEONE'S REFUGEE ALL STARS/Libation: And here's another side of the power of music. This band has been together for 10 years. They got their start singing around the campfire in African refugee camps. Now they are a world class act that headlines where ever they want. Success hasn't dimmed their energy, outlook or power. In fact, their humble beginnings seems to be feeding their success now, quite the opposite of the usual pop success trajectory. More than just killer world beat, this set starts out sounding more like Latin music for gringos than an off shoot of Afropop. Then there's the Jamaican over tones. Then there's the French influence. It's wild, wonderful stuff that just doesn't know when to quit. If you haven't' heard them before, you have to hear them now. Simply a stone cold killer of a set that you don't have to be a world beat fan to like. Check it out.

CHRIS CAMPBELL/Things You Already Know: Take some classical cats, mix them up with some alt.kids, give them real instruments as well as found instruments (like basement junk such as oil drums) and let the good times roll. With loops and other electronics running through the proceedings, this is perfect for anyone that regretted "Metal Machine Music" not being more melodic. Sheldon, Raj and the rest could easily find this music to read comics (note, not comix) by. Perhaps nu space rock for the new generation, this is a really out there set that is more a fantasy land for your head than music for your mind.

JACK GATES/Voyage of the Troubadour: It's so nice to know the well of acoustic guitarists doesn't seem to be running dry. A fine player with a recognizable voice and style, Gates is the kind of player that can inspire others to pick up an axe--even when they shouldn't. A delightful set of graceful picking, Gates is another fine addition to anyone's constellation of first class guitarists and this set is sure to impress throughout. Well done.

DANNY RIVERA-NELSON GONZALEZ/Obsesion: This sweet little set could mean more to gringos than it does to Latin music fans as it's the Latin equivalent to a jazz oldies album with songs dating back 80 years. Gringos have probably never heard this stuff. The two name artists are both long time mainstays of the Latin music scene and have worked with each other as well as all the heavyweights of the genre over the many years they've been at this. Rivera brings it straight from the heart and Gonzalez provides just the right amount of background to make this something you might think is coming from the bandstand corner of the ethnic restaurant you like----but it's really so much more. With a pure sound that cuts right to the chase, this duo takes a journey through the past just to bring it into the future in a tasty, unique way. Well done throughout.

DANIEL BARENBOIM-VIENNA PHILHARMONIC/New Year's Day Concert 2014: Vienna Philharmonic's New Year's Day Concerts are one of the most prestigious on going events in the classical world. This year's recently staged event is now hot off the press---and it is hot. Every year, the music is focused on the works of the various Strauss's and their pals. The bouncy, fun music is certainly a nice way to get the year off to a good start. Barenboim makes a return appearance here and whatever he's waving out of his baton is pure magic. The orchestra responds to the peerless conductor and you can tell a good time is had by all. A totally solid two disc concert that can be equally enjoyed by moldy figs, classical tourists, newbies and everyone in between. As a special note to rap fans, this recording is sponsored by Rolex. Hmmmm.....?

RUDOLF BUCHBINDER-Weiner Philharmoniker/Beethoven The Piano Concertos: Done. On the cover, Buchbinder is looking as defiant as any rapper worth his bling. Why shouldn't he? This three cd set contains only five pieces but they aren't easy and they aren't presented with any abbreviation. Already awarded best instrumentalist, here we find him playing piano front and center while also leading the orchestra through this live recording where edits don't seem evident or needed. Playing these well worn pieces with renewed magic, Buchbinder continues to have his last word way with Beethoven piano pieces. The set feels so special that you don't want to buy it, you want to give it to yourself as a gift. If you couldn't be there in the front row, this gleaming recording is the next best thing. Might as well rate it Ďall the stars in the galaxy'. Just giving it four or five seems to puny and chintzy. If you aren't a classical fan, this will make you one.

HONEY TREES/Bright Fire: Here's a newish art/folk duo that took their sweet time about dropping their debut album following up their initial ep. At first blush they seem like a sincere version of She & Him without the cushy day jobs to fall back on. However, to keep their sonic integrity, they strayed away from producer Charlie Peacock to make sure they put their own stamp on their own stuff. Right in the pocket for college kids that want to ride the shoe gaze tip but don't like the de rigueur screaming break down, this set has something for both the boys and the girls.

PAUL HIGGS/Pavane: Here we find ourselves with a world class trumpet player that we're not familiar with and would like to be. One of those cats that can mix jazz and classical into a well simmered brew, this isn't like the 50s take on jazz/classical. Modern without going new age along the way, this is simply fine music deftly and expertly presented. Tasty throughout setting a new highwater mark for sitting down music in general, Higgs seems like he can play anything and be on the money at all times. Not a hell raiser and not easy listening, this is a fine example of first class stuff by a first class guy.

Volume 38/Number 93
February 2, 2014
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2014 Midwest Record

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