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KAT GANG/Dream Your Troubles Away: No fair! The Wednesday night attraction at New York's Plaza Hotel is one of the country's best kept secrets---and she shouldn't be. This lightly swinging jazz baby knows how to put the oldies across just by being there in service of the song. Forget that her session is an excuse for us to hear Pizzarelli, Renzi, Leonhart, Allen, Vache and others turning it out in fine style once again, this is a cooker from top to bottom by a gaggle of national treasures that we better see turning up on stage at the Kennedy Center sooner than later. A classic jazz thrush album from start to finish, this is what easy sophistication is all about. A stone cold winner and hats off to all involved.

RAY FULLER & THE BLUESROCKERS/Live at Buddy Guy's Legends: I think me and Fuller probably picked up a Fender around the same time and got our head's turned around by Howlin Wolf, Mississippi Fred McDowell and John Lee Hooker around the same time, but he chose to sweat on stage on all night and I chose to sit in the audience and enjoy it all. With 40 years under his belt of lighting up the blues night, this white boy got the message on how to do it right and has been doing so. Kicking electric blues out with a crack band in tow, his originals meld with the works of the masters quite nicely. And he boogies all night. Maybe you really had to be a frat boy in the wake of Butterfield to get it , but let's have some hope for the younger generation that when they get through with their passing fads, they'll put down the X, grab a beer and boogie the night away like it's supposed to be done. Hot stuff.

MICHAEL FEINBERG'S HUMBLEBRAG/Live at 800 East: If a jazzbo can show enough of a sense of humor that he can fess up to being hooked on "Law & Order" marathons, he's got our attention. An amalgam of well traveled jazzbos that are making their marks makes up this crew and they deliver some solid, envelop pushing sounds inspired by but not aping Miles. A bunch of pals form Atlanta that have found their ways into crews honoring Elvin Jones, Monk and all the rest of the hitters that made modern jazz modern jazz, this is high tone, sitting down jazz that blows your ears and your mind wide open. Killer stuff for those ready to saddle up for a wild ride.

JIM BYRNES/St. Louis Times: Isn't this how it always goes? A local boy makes good, but instead of recording in his hometown of St. Louis to celebrate the town's 250th anniversary, he hies off to Canada, holes up with a bunch of local alt.blues boys, ropes in some long time pals on the road as they are passing through and creates a contemporary, electric blues masterpiece celebrating the city with originals and important covers. Starting off by breathing life into "I Get Evil" that it hasn't felt since Albert King passed and turning up the heat from there, this is another bar raising winner for Byrnes in a decade of bar raising winners. Hot stuff throughout, done right, done the way it should be that shows blues continues to be in good hands, going forward and going backward. Check it out.

DONALD EDWARDS/Evolution of an Influenced Mind: After being capably off to the side for 30 years, this Louisiana drummer comes with only his third set as a leader, his first for this label after six sets in the band. With some high octane pals at his side this time around, Edwards isn't afraid to take it to the church basement for some deep stuff that's sometimes pretty, sometimes makes you think, sometimes lands in between but always makes you involved. Thinking man's sitting down jazz all the way, this is a brief history of the progressive side of the art form from various quadrants. He knows his stuff and parades it well.

BARB JUNGR/Hard Rain: One of the leading, contemporary interpreters of Dylan widens the lens here with a set that covers Dylan and Leonard Cohen, two of the greatest kvetches of a generation. What happens when you turn a cabaret artist that can be known for the tortured artist effect loose on these two all star schmageggees? Amazingly, she never let's you get to the point of wanting to gargle with razor blades. The jazzy backing behind her gives these songs a buoyancy they've never shown in previous incarnations, and while she does bring a world weary edge to her vocals, Jungr seems to find hope in the shards of despair. Might just be that we're so far away from the source of these songs that they are now everybody's songs and not just Dylan's and Cohen's. If you have a soft spot for these two icons, Jungr does an amazing job of making these songs her own and not letting you down. This is a set of covers you'd be a fool to ignore if your into it at all. Check it out.

STEVEN KROON/On the #1: Sometimes we just have nothing to add. This is smoking set of percussion driven, New York Latin jazz, smokingly played by everyone on board yielding a killer set with a nice, easy groove that never steam rollers you and keeps the late evening vibe alive much longer than you should generally let it. Hot yet mellow, this is simply a joy to play and a real gasser to get into. Check it out if you're simply looking for a good time that does all the work for you. Well done.

HADOUK QUARTET/Hadoukly Yours: In which we are once again reminded that the music business and the record business are two distinct entities that only sometimes run together. The Hadouks are back with another dose of the music business in fine form. Taking world jazz to places only envisioned by Paul Winter 40 years ago, this is a super terrific adult listening set where the accent is on playing, composition and spreading good vibes for all. The kind of after hours sets that gets you thinking it's got to be 5 p.m. somewhere in the world no matter what time it is in your time zone, this is a must for people that just want to hear some sheer beauty to feel like all is right with the world---no matter what shape it's in. Killer stuff that shows it doesn't have to have the killer instinct, if you want some classy adult stuff, you won't go wrong here.

TYLER BLANTON/Gotham: We've always had a soft spot for swinging, jazz vibe players and this cat that left the laid back confines of California to tear it up with the hardest swinging cats the big apple had to offer is at the top of our new list. With the under current of this album being Blanton's impressions of New York, it leads off with a modern riff on what would have been "Take the A Train" back in the day but is now known as "Never Sleeps". Tasty, moving and grooving throughout, this is a real thirst quencher for the vibe deprived that want it served up and ready to go. Hot stuff.

Volume 38/Number 144
March 24, 2014
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2014 Midwest Record

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