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NOEL JOHNSON/Salted Coffee: This guitarist claims to be a jazzbo but he's such a shredaroony that he should have called this record "Assaulted Coffee". With echoes of instrumental Zappa boomeranging around this set, the fusion of Zappa, funk, Van Halen and jazz is mind blowing. Just what the doctor ordered for when you need something aggressive and high octane to clear out the cobwebs, this is some seriously hard hitting guitar pyrotechnics that just doesn't quit.

THE LALAMA BROTHERS/Erie Ave: Lalama has earned his stars in these pages in the past and he's not resting on his laurels this new time out. Bringing the funk with more energy that we can remember ever hearing from him, the good professor takes it off the clock and quite a few years off the calendar as well as he blows up a storm here taking his sax to places where it seems ot be opening new doors. As well decorated as an educator as he is a jazzbo, Lalama reaches into his own personal back pages here to bring the heat and show love for his roots. This is a stand out session of some hard hitting swing and good time jazz that rides the waves in high style throughout. A real jazzbo dream of a set.

MICHELLE ZANGARA/Songs of Blue: Sort of a New York secret weapon, Zangara has sung with loads of jazzbos and honed her vocal chops well. When someone you pretty much never heard of gets cats like Jeremy Pelt and Bruce Barth to turn out for an after hours set loaded with breathy vocals that sound like they were recorded with the studio lights turned down, you have to pay attention. With a long enough resume to cross your eyes twice over, it's time you heard something from Jack Kerouac's ex (for real) and get a taste of what a real jazz life sounds like. Hot stuff that never stops cooking.

POLLY O'KEARY & the Rhythm Method/Compass: One of the Pacific Northwest's red hot blues mammas of long standing brings herself back to the fore after kicking it out for others for a few years showing she's more than ready to be front and center again. A hard core fave of Washington State blues fans, O'Keary is loaded with primal force even when she's taking it easy. Not anything near your stereotypical chick bass player, she's a leader all the way, not the window dressing. Hot stuff.

BRIAN CHARETTE/Square One: Been jonesing for some hard hitting jazz organ trio work that swings and doesn't miss? This is the stuff where you can hear Larry Young as well as Jimmy Smith vibing in the background. Straight ahead but loaded with funk and grease, Charette pulls it together here quite masterfully setting the tone and setting the pace for a set that delivers more than the post office ever claimed to. Simply killer stuff that finds the sweet spot and fills the sweet tooth early and often. Hot stuff.

JARED GOLD/JG 3+ 3: There's so many leaders on board here that the only reason you can be sure this is a Gold date is that his name is in the biggest type on the cover. Putting three horn players in with his regular trio, it must be an inside joke that he has seven players on this seventh set for the label. (Seven?!, where does the time go?) A perfect example of why you dug jazz organ groups in the first place, this swinging after hours set has it all on the ball and more. Everybody knows what to do and why they're there to do it, and they do. Hot stuff that really sets some new standards.

KENDRA SHANK & JOHN STOWELL/New York Conversations: Yeah, there's a lot lot of thrushes out there doing the standards in the spare company of a sympathetic guitarist, but how many of them come to the attention of the Montreux jazz label. Heavy on improv, long on chops and simpatico, this duo has been woodsheding longer than a lot of people have been alive and the wait was worth it. A throwback session in a lot of ways to when the gals were starting to resent being called gals, this is a reminder of when filling a jazz club that sat 30 was a high water mark. They play it like they seem to live it, and if it's all for show, it's a really good show. This is what they are talking about when they say less is more.

CHRISTIAN JACOB/Beautiful Jazz: You probably know him as Tierney Sutton's long time piano man but on the other side of the world, they know him as the sideman of the King of Thailand. Another one of those French classical cats that threw it all away for jazz, the douche bag listener will hear this and wonder what sets Jacob apart from the guy playing by the escalator at Nordstrom's, and that's why that listener is a douche bag. The touch, the texture, the use of white space, the ability to be front and center without a net, this is what makes the difference between a pianist and a grand pianist and Jacob shows over and over that he knows what it is to be grand. Recorded in a concert hall with no audience but great acoustics, this is a tour de force showcase of solo jazz piano that the Previns, the Loussiers and the others will have to welcome with open arms. Killer stuff throughout.

Volume 38/Number 120
February 28, 2014
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2014 Midwest Record

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