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ALEX GARCIA'S AFROMANTRA/This Side of Mestizaje: You have to open your eyes and ears for this one. Not your usual arts council music, this crew that just goes deeper into the pocket each time out was funded by Garcia's native Chile's arts council. Sounds like they let artists they deem worthy follow their muses knowing the good stuff will flow. Creating his own pan-American jazz sound, Garcia directs from behind the drum kit and let's everyone have their moments to shine. Fine stuff for the open eared looking for some lite world beat that's cheerful sounding and easy to enjoy. Not music you have to work for, it's not fluff either. This is a nice solid date that any world jazz fan will want to make the trek to find and enjoy as they sink into that armchair. Well done.

YOLANDA DUKE/Te Llevo La Piel: A former vocal associate of Tito Puente gets the old gang back together for a Latinized trip down memory lane that is on the money throughout. Hey gringos, remember when you would listen to the Latin broadcasts of baseball games in class and laugh when they said something you could pick out in English because it sounded out of place? These Latin versions of classic songs come at your from the other end of the telescope. There's nothing you can derogate about the vocalist, the songs, and of course, the reunited Puente Orchestra. A great way to broaden your horizons with very little sweat, this is simply one of those perfect albums that sets a course and follows the plan to a well done T. This record is just too hard not to like.

GENE LUDWIG-PAT MARTINO TRIO: Here we go with one of those non-record records that clearly underscore how you had to be there. Pulled from Pat Martino's personal recording stash, here we find Martino's organ trio tearing it up in the 60s without sounding dated today. A feat as amazing as Martino himself that only he could pull off. Jumping, smoking and swinging, the last time this trio played together was backing Sonny Stitt in 1969 and this really takes you back in the day to that period commercial jazz was suffering between the advent of Beatles and Miles taking it all to Mars. Creativity and panache flourished because the players felt no one was looking. Killer stuff that both guitar and organ fans will completely and utterly flip for. To top it all off, there's a track on here Martino never otherwise recorded. A winner throughout.

THE BEATLES-A Jazz Tribute Celebrating 50 Years/various: A thematic label's greatest hits set, these tracks are pulled from existing sets the label has released on it's various labels. Offering up interesting pairings of artist and material that might have otherwise gone by the way side, this is a smoking little way to open up the catalog to new listeners and new jazz ears. Smartly tracked throughout, listeners that already trust High Note as a solid well spring of solid jazz might already be knee deep in these tracks already, but as to others,---well, there's a reason they call it the world wide web... Check it out.

ERIC ALEXANDER/Chicago Fire: It's like this, sax man Alexander is a natural born cooker and he takes this set to make it clear that the Chicago school of sax is just as valid and important as Texas, downtown etc etc etc. Playing off Jeremy Pelt's trumpet with Harold Mabern, John Webber and Joe Farnsworth bringing up the rear, the result is a killer contemporary set, often heavy on showing how less is more, and smoking throughout. This is a fine example of the well played work of pros that don't think their job is work--or at least don't play like it. A solid set with nothing not to like, this set makes you think it's five in the afternoon somewhere in the world and the temperature is always perfect. Check it out.

NANCY GOUDINAKI/I Wanna Be Your Star: A Greek girl with dreams of conquering New York got her BA in fine arts in Greece, packed her bags and headed off to the big apple where she hooked up with Orrin Evans who got her hooked up with the rest of the up and coming jazzbos on deck and on board. The result? A nicely done vocal set with a graceful, foreign tongue lilt that makes her turn on the classics have something new and spirited. Fun stuff for vocal fans looking to avoid vocalists that specialize in the tortured artist effect.

BRUCE BARTH/Daybreak: One of the big apple's ace jazz piano men heads back into the studio with Terrell Stafford and other luminaries at his side to serve up a swinging , solid set of piano jazz that served just right that doesn't need any au jus because there's enough special sauce to go around. Mostly originals, this date steps up and hits it out of the park. Well done stuff that knows how to go the distance in a nice contemporary vein.

ERIC REED/The Adventurous Monk: A lot of people don't realize the thing about Monk's piano playing that grabs our imagination to this day is that his fat fingers had trouble hitting the piano keys squarely. This gives the cats that come in his wake that want to honor and preserve his memory as well as expand his legacy have a lot of room to explore. Piano man's Reed's third installment in his exploration of Monk finds him squarely in daddio mode tearing it up with like minded downtown cats that want to keep it real but bring the special sauce without dumping too much in the mix. Challenging stuff this bunch is up to. Real daddio stuff throughout, with a well played vision of "Round Midnight" at the center of the set that has Monk smiling upon these efforts, Reed is at the top of his form as a preservationist without being a copy cat. Well done stuff that can take it's place in the Monk canon proudly.

LOUIS PRIMA JR & THE WITNESSES/Blow: To those of us that don't have to carry the burden, it seems like it would be pretty cool to have Jr on the end of a name like Frank Sinatra or Louis Prima. Wearing the shoes is another story. If you decide to be a stockbroker, you can fade into the woodwork. If you go into the family business, in these cases, you are going to be castigated if you become a folk singer or a G.G. Allin tribute band and you are going to catch hell if you follow daddy's footsteps. Hell, ask Hank III about the public's reaction to him and the 2 Hanks that came before. This Jr turns in his daddio best on his second album with nary a King Louie or gigolo in sight, even if he does a Natalie Cole and duets with daddy on a deep album track. Not trying to be the balls to the wall meshuginah his pop was, Jr is happy being the ringmaster of killer party keeping it going until the union is off in the wings going Ďahem...". Utterly cool, fun stuff by an apple that sees the wisdom in not falling too far from the tree. Well done.

Volume 38/Number 155
April 4, 2014
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2014 Midwest Record

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