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ANDREW LITTON/Tribute to Oscar Peterson: Looks like someone is getting his Andre Previn on. Who knew the classical pro was turned on by Peterson when he was 16 and made inhaling everything Peterson he could be his long lasting hobby/side trip? Litton takes things a little farther here than most do in their tributes. He rolls things out on solo piano, but in the course of his homage, he plays Peterson's improvs. Sounding like one of the greatest piano bar records of all time, here's the proof everyone has a sense of humor and a soft spot for something. That Peterson was one of the greats was never in doubt but Litton's tribute certainly shines new and welcome light on the legacy. Killer stuff throughout from one pro to another.
2034 (SACD)

HARMONIA MUNDI MUSIQUES ACTUELLES 2014/various: Once upon a time there were labels like Windham Hill, Nonesuch, Antilles/Mango and a few others that were doing wonderful things with contemporary instrumental music, world beat, jazz, new age and other adult styles that just didn't fit the format. All gone, at least as we knew them. In their stead, Harmonia Mundi, the classical giant, has three labels right under their own umbrella, World Village, Jazz Village, and Chant du Monte as well as an active licensing program, that picks up the slack and then some. This sampler is a small peak at what they have coming for Spring. Adults, give your ears a tune up because jazz, world, vocal and more are all on board here and all of it cooks. The least you can do is give yourself some room to enjoy some small pleasures and tank up at this pump. Top shelf throughout.

TOMMY MALONE/Poor Boy: The third solo album by the continentally drifting Subdude seems like a gestalt as he exorcises ghosts of the past from all quadrants of his back pages and satisfyingly puts them to rest. A coming of age record for those in middle age, Malone is off on a new tangent where he doesn't own been there/done that so much as throwing up his hands and shrugging it all off getting ready for what comes next. Boomer therapy that rocks; what will they think of next? Betcha anyone that's been a fan of Malone's for 30 years or more will follow what's going on here step by step.

DAVID WHITE JAZZ ORCHESTRA/The Chase: Taking their time to make a second album as smoking as the first, this crew not only likes it big, they like it bold as well. With the trombonist leading the other 16 cats into battle, the listener always comes out the winner as the sonic palette is always fully loaded and no one on board is afraid to use it. It's not accurate to say big band never sounded this good, but this set sounds like top shelf stuff in the hear and now. A winner throughout.

ZAN STEWART/The Street is Making Music: It might have taken him until he was 70, but YAY!, one of us has done it. Long time, award winning, jazz journalist Stewart is making his debut as a sax man with a more than credible, tasty straight ahead jazz outing that doesn't have to make any apologies or excuses for anything. Filled with the wonderfully swinging sounds that probably got him to chase all forms of this muse in the first place, this record is such a gasser that he probably should have thought about putting the first batch out under a nom de Rowling just to see how it would have been received. Our antenna gets great reception. Stewart really knew what he was writing about all along. Killer stuff throughout.

DEWA BUDJANA/Surya Namaskar: After showing us last year how he's the man who would be John McLaughlin, Budjana takes it down a notch, this time out just working within a trio with a few guests here and there for coloration. Turning in the kind of effort that any fan of Zappa axis shredding would get instantaneously, this is more of a guitarists album for insiders than a mass market effort to bring everyone into the tent. Hitting it all right on the head, this is shredding right where it lives. Well done.

XAVI REIJA/Resolution: The powerful young jazz/rock drummer strips it down to the classic power trio format this time around without losing a step. Almost intuitively locking into a groove together, this crew picks up the map to uncharted sonic isles that jazz/rock generations past left behind when they reached the end of their journeys. As deeply in the pocket as any genre fan could want, in the right hands, it doesn't take a lot of hands to deliver a sound full of fury. Check it out.

LEIF OVE ANDSNES/The Beethoven Journey: We wanted to get this out a few days ago to co-inside with the anniversary of Beethoven's death, but we blew it. Award winner Andsnes doesn't blow. With cred coming out his ears, he doesn't need us to put the high sign on his efforts, but we will anyway. Taking a long term focus on the master's works, Andsnes is establishing himself as the contemporary last word on Beethoven and he really knows how to affix his stamp with authority. Even the naifiest of classical tourists will admire this set for it's breath and majesty, even if the naf doubts his surety due to his inexperience. Proof of the power of knowing what you like. This set focuses on piano concertos 2 and 4 with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra lending a hand, not that Andsnes needs one. This is a fine session of classical music classically presented in the finest of forms. Warhorse repertoire never sounded so fresh.

PETE McGUINESS JAZZ ORCHESTRA/Strength in Numbers: McGuiness has proven himself at everything he's taken on so here we find the jazzbo going for post swing era big band gold. Any boomer that grew up in a hipper suburban household heard stuff like this coming from the family room on a regular basis and had trouble hating it even if pulled by the tug of Elvis and Beatles. Finally coming to grips with the fact that these sounds were more than corny crap your parents tried to hide behind to be hip, you now appreciate this as real music and the professionalism that underlies it. Hip without being hipster jazz, McGuiness needs to win that Grammy he keeps getting nominated for. Any modern jazz fan is going to flip for this. Killer stuff.

Volume 38/Number 148
March 28, 2014
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2014 Midwest Record

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