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JARO MILKO & THE CUBALKANICS/Cigarros Explosivos!: Not since Shotgun Eddie & the Ravers has a bunch of Swiss musicians sounded so anti-indigenous. With his Czech heart close to it's sources while in Switzerland, Milko takes that gypsy brass and mixes it with a mash up of Latin American sounds bottomed with a liberal dose of surf guitar---covered with a heaping helping of the kind of special sauce that keeps you wondering what's coming next while you are compelled to stick around and find out. Certainly unself-conscious world beat from another planet, this set is a total gasser that's sure to have armchair travelers doing that British look when their geezers let their pince nez slide down their patrician noses as the gaze over the rim in bemusement. Freaking killer stuff, alright? We just love it when a disrupter comes along to shake things up in such delightful fashion.

MATIJA DEDIC/Sentiana: Not quite a young lion anymore, this jazz piano man plays with that special something that attracted you to young Chick Corea and young Keith Jarrett. Playing in a trio with a pair of real hitters at his side, this isn't a set of smooth jazz for cocktail hour. Playing with the commitment of a real jazzbo, this former tyro hasn't finished looking in all the corners and under all the rocks as he issues an original program of transporting jazz that takes you places you didn't even know you wanted to go. Solid stuff throughout, Dedic is your go to piano man when you don't want to hear a program of samey-samey. Well done.

DOUG RICHARDS TRIO featuring DONNA SINGER/Jazz in the Living Room: And here's a solid voiced jazz thrush that has a command of the oldies but doesn't feel a need to attack them with the tortured artist effect. Singer keeps it upbeat where others like to slow it down and let you know how they feel. Singer apparently feels happy and good for her. Her style isn't an out of touch upbeatness, it's an attitude that just seems to know right where the sweet spot is. This is one of those more fun takes we've heard on jazz oldies in quite some time. Well done.

GINA VILLALOBOS/Sola: Bouncing back after a period of creative burn out that distanced this from her last album by five years, Villalobos never left the track that had her as a contender. Percolating with elements that make you notice the Lucinda Williams/Sheryl Crow similarities, it doesn't take that much of listen to make you remember that everything sounds like something else at this point, but once you scratch below the surface, that's where the uniqueness and the surprises lie. Hot and raw, the exposed nerves are paraded on display here but it never comes across as kvetching. Deep stuff that's a must for anyone that's been celebrating the 25th anniversary reissue of Williams' "debut" (third album). This is the sound of a soul on fire that can't be extinguished. Whew!

JOHN LYONS/Sing Me Another Song: He might have moved from Michigan to Switzerland but he's still a product of the American night and he knows how to stay right in the bar band groove all the guys that came along in the wake of Springsteen trenched so well once they knew they were going to be soldiers in the rock and roll battle rather than arena rockers commanding the masses. Morphing what was once bar band into roots, what ever you want to call it, Lyons is the accessible rocker knocking it out night after night at the rock joints dotting the map. Fun stuff that knows how to find your sweet spot over and over, Lyons will make you feel like you're in a PBR commercial and back in your early 20s in short order. This is the sound of why we all got into this in the first place. Check it out.

PACIFIC MEAN TIME: After making a solid run at power pop and having plenty of cache but little cash, the crew took a breath, reconfigured, enlisted some behind the scenes hitters and served up a nu version of the shoe gaze they grew up on as teens for the nu generation of teens that know the world sux and there's no way out. With some hypnotic grooves under pinning the alt.vibe, the heavy duty mash up is now on the table for younger brothers everywhere to take to heart when they fell on their face at soccer practice.

ESTHER PHILLIPS/Baby, I'm For Real 1971-74: Oh yeah, this is the stuff, A fatty of a collection like this is where you should stop for a minute, stand up and blow kisses and salutes to Raven Records for the fine work they do. Four complete sets with bonus tracks on top of that of prime Ester Phillips on Kudu. Nuff said. Kicking it all off with her classic, percolating version of "Home is Where the Hatred Is" and rolling tape from there, this set includes "From a Whisper to a Scream", "Alone Again, Naturally", "Black Eyed Blues", "Performance" and bonus tracks capped off with the single version of "What a Diff'rence a Day Makes" (where she takes Donna Summer to school) showing how Creed Taylor was the one that knew how to get the best of the best out of Phillips. A real queen of soul that delivers uncut funk here without Taylor watering it down for smooth jazz. Essential, killer stuff for any soul music recidivist that ever made any illusion to ‘back in the day'. There's not a false note anywhere in this bunch and if you've never heard any of this before, prepared to have your ears turned out! It really is the bomb throughout.

SIBELIUS-AKATEMIAN FOLK BIG BAND/FBB: This set probably wins the prize for coloring outside the lines like a champ. A 40 piece Finnish folk orchestra that plays without sheet music or a conductor, they play with each other by telepathy yielding the most cohesive improv music ever, on any planet. I have no idea what to call this other than killer stuff. Kind of like progressive rock meets "Riverdance" meets "The Sound of Music" meets a whole bunch of other things, you'll never hear world beat the same way again after you take a byte of this. This is such an incredible wild ride that I hope all open eared world beaters can find this on a sound post pronto so they can get the full gist of my speechlessness. This is number one with a bullet on the out there chart and will probably hold that spot for a while to come. Check it out, you have to hear it to believe it.

KARTET/Grand Laps: Songlines seems to have staked out a jazz spot to the left of ECM, a point well driven home by this chamber jazz crew's 7th album in 25 years. A step above minimalist jazz, this stuff is for the committed egghead jazzbo that you can always find in the corner of a Sunday recital with one leg crossed over the other and his head nodding appreciatively to some beat only he hears. Yep, this stuff is that deep. Not to be confused with usual arts council music, this music had the blood that comes with elbowing your way in the commercial world with something different. This is a sure thing for fans of new, as opposed to nu, jazz, continually looking for the next limit to test.

Volume 38/Number 137
March 17, 2014
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2014 Midwest Record

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