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CHIARA STRING QUARTET/Brahms by Heart: A double disc Brahms party by a string quartet that doesn't carry a lot of baggage is on tap here. Lovingly and expertly played, they bring new vibes to the war horse works by the classical composer. With a drive that pushes them to play by memory and not use sheet music, there's an in the moment quality to their works that keep them fresh through repeated listening. Don't go writing their way of doing things off as a gimmick, you try to remember two hours of intricate stuff and do it all right. Killer stuff that'll entice the novice or the moldy fig, this crew has their fingers on the pulse of where classical music should be headed. Hot stuff throughout.

GABRIELLE GOODMAN/Spiritual Tapestry: Whether you know her or not, everybody knows her and as such, you've heard Goodman backing up everyone or playing everywhere. With a resume that includes everyone from Chaka Khan to Michael Buble--we really mean everybody. Making her fifth album a gospel/spiritual set, Goodman blows apart your preconceived notions of what a gospel album is. With a boatload of A list jazzbos on board to deliver the special sauce, I will bet you'll never hear "Sweet Chariot", "Wade in the Water", "Go Down Moses" and the rest of the spiritual chestnuts the same way again. A wonderful case of reinvention in the first degree, you don't have to be a repainting sinner to let this music wash over you. It's a shining example of the nu gospel that's gearing up to bring everyone into the tent.

MINDI ABAIR/ Wild Heart: Who doesn't like Mindi Abair? We can ask that question with several inflections, but the one on the table right now pertains to the guest list on her latest that's mind blowing just to look at. Of course, we can ask it another way, who doesn't like Mindi Abair? Really juiced up after the successful "Summer Horns" tour, it seems like she really gets off on playing with and off pals that have been known to raise a bar or two along the way. Abair brings her A game with the engine fine tuned and comes across like a sax dynamo version of Tina Turner amping it up to be nice and rough. There ain't no smooth jazz lurking here! A rocking jazz/funk/soul party that just doesn't quit, this is most assuredly the one that makes Abair a household name in households everywhere. Glad to know "American Idol" paid enough bills to keep enough Ramen on her table to give her the hunger to blow up like this. Killer stuff throughout!

CHRISTINE JENSEN JAZZ ORCHESTRA/Habitat: Serious music in the vein of what would have transpired if Stan Kenton squared off against Leonard Bernstein. Arts council music financed by the Canadian government that comes across as first class sitting down jazz as opposed to music by grant, Jensen continues to take no prisoners as she grows as a leader and writer. Cinemascopic in scope, Jensen has picked up the baton as well as the gauntlet, as well as her sax, and she's running mightily with all of them. Hot stuff that really goes the extra mile as it goes the distance.

LIBBY YORK/Memoir: The music business might suck. The record business might suck. That doesn't seem to be stopping real musos from digging in their heels, gritting their teeth and turning in amazing stuff that's competitive with the best of anything that's come before it. York does that here. A swinging thrush that hits a lot of the jazzbo standards and more with an A list of jazzbo hitters behind her, this can go toe to toe with any jazz vocal date past, present or future. With nothing to prove and making it all look to easy, York delivers what might be the jazz vocal date of the year, and everybody on board can take a deep waist bow along with her. Killer stuff that you'll be enjoying for years to come.

PAUL TAYLOR/Tenacity: 20 years in and the sax man is still playing with the heart of a kid. Lite urban jazz that comes right at you, right down the middle, this is the kind of stuff you want to hear after hours, when you feel like knocking off for the day at 3. This is tasty, fun stuff that isn't out to set the world on fire but make the world a little warmer and friendlier. Well done throughout.

SHERRY LYNN/Beautiful Life: Leading with grit, sass and a defiantly, unrepentant southern accent, Lynn kicks things off with the kind of power chords that have people calling country the new rock, but Lynn keeps it country, it's just that contemporary country has Walmart where the farms used to be. She's rolling with it. The underlying stuff about the human condition doesn't change and she nails that on the head throughout. A tasty set with a lot of winning ways, you just know this gal was inspired by Hillary Clinton's 1992 declaration about not being a hausfrau. Solid stuff that delivers a first class kick in the pants to wake and shake things up.

DON JONES TRIBE: You can't fault a cat that grew up on funky Miles, civil rights jazz and funk in general for wanting to give something back when he got to that stage of the game. This isn't copy cat stuff, this is the kind of stuff that doesn't make you roll your eyes when the maker says he ‘was influenced by' because in cases like this, it's all for the good. This is a good place to launch into nu space jazz territory with funk for all. There's a diversity to this release that keeps you from being in one place too long, but the flow is such that you don't get jarred by the changes. Kind of a throwback, kind of not, but totally solid throughout. Check it out.

ERNEST TROOST/ O Love: Wow. I think this folkie just reinvented Americana and it feels like it must have felt when Dylan went electric at Newport. Always a winner on his past releases, Troost turns it up so much here that the measuring stick doesn't go that high. Embroidering his new rock attack with dark edges, there's still folk and Piedmont running through his veins and sound but he isn't content to stay where he was when he can run on such high octane. Lyrically, he's going to knock you flat with one punch. Killer stuff throughout, this is the work of an undeniable talent taking it to the next level of the game. You just might not hear Americana the same way again after you take a byte of this. Easily one of the best ‘folk' albums to come out this year, and we still have 9 months to go. Check it out.

Volume 38/Number 138
March 18, 2014
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2014 Midwest Record

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