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TOM PAPA/Calm, Cool, & Collected: C'mon, when a comic can hang with Jerry Seinfeld and Rob Zombie, you should at least hear what he has to say. You've been hearing him for a while, and this 2005 reissue takes you back through his back pages so you can hear the laughs have been freely flowing for a while now. Still in character of the everyday guy that has a skewed look at the world around him, Papa has a knack for hitting the mainstream while coming at it from the long way around. His character was already in character in 2005 so there's no reason this isn't going to get your sides aching. Check it out.

RAMSEY LEWIS/Complete Recordings 1957-60: This is where jazz appreciation started for a lot of Chicago boomers when Daddio Daylie first made the Chess Brothers put the Ramsey Lewis Trio In the studio and let the swing begin. Taking three talented cats that were young, hungry and already experienced road warriors before they were 20, RLT showed they could play anything up the charts no matter how creative or no matter how hoary. These guys could make "Billy Boy" swing. Adding three dates they were part and parcel of even if it wasn't their headlining session, there's a reason why their music has stayed so vibrant and upfront all these years later and here are 8 albums worth of proof. Paired with 5 seminal albums are efforts with Lorez Alexandria, Max Roach and Jimmy Woods showing quite a host of versatility. Essential groove and swing throughout from a jazz piano trio that raised the bar.

RAMSEY LEWIS/Complete Recordings 1960-62: A decade before Nina Simone's proclamation about being young, gifted and black, if you were young, gifted and black, it still meant you had to listen to the record company, even if that meant you had to record "Little Liza Jane". Of course, that didn't mean you couldn't play it like a mofo. With 8 albums here leading up to the Trio's commercial break through/break out, this is still top of the line pop/jazz that you just knew was going to hit the heights. With their landmark Christmas record leading the way, the rest of the sides follow the usual jazz formats of the day but this bunch had loads of special sauce to douse things in to let you know who was there. Hot stuff from just three cats that could go the distance whatever route they were on. If you've never dug in these crates, the time is more than at hand. Killer piano jazz trio stuff throughout!

KAELA SINCLAIR/Sun & Mirror: The trance folkie from Texas somehow recalls The GTO's at their most commercial moments fused with Beth Orton and other of the current usual suspects singing brightly about the dark side. With hardly a touch of Texas in the mix, there's still plenty of Baja Oklahoma in her soul to make this stand out from the pack marking it as an auspicious debut. College girls have a new pin up girl to lead them through the wilderness called life.

JEFF DENSON & CLAUDIO PUNTIN/Two: A session of bass and clarinet free improv looks pretty daunting on paper but when one cat is a hard core pro and the other cat has earned his stripes plucking a mean bass for Lee Konitz and around downtown, free jazz ears have cause for celebration. With a vibe that'll be familiar to listeners that like Euro sessions that flow along these waters, it'll be a homecoming. Others not too down with arts council music will want to run in the other direction, as they usually do.

JEFF DENSON & JOSHUA WHITE/ I'll Fly Away: In which we find the bass ace pairing up with a piano man for a Sunday morning set of spirituals and hymns much like Hank Jones and Charlie Haden have done a time or two. Not aping the previous duo's efforts, these cats almost deliver whorehouse hymns like you might hear as you run out the door to Sunday morning meeting in slept in clothes. This is a must for any jazzbo with a musical sense of humor as it's a real gasser throughout and nothing like you'd expect. Check it out.

JONAS KAUFMANN/Winterreise: So what do opera singers do when they want to take a little time away from the fat lady and stretch their muscles in other directions? This opera singer tackles lieder, and he does more than dip his toe in the waters or chase it as a busman's holiday. With a bare voice accompanied by a bare piano, Kaufmann lets the passion flow just as if he was trying to reach the back row in a vast opera house. The thing here is that it's not just about "American Idol" style emoting, this is singing and feeling that has to come from the heart or else it won't touch others. One of Schubert's enduring classics, Kaufmann is this material as he more than makes it his own. Killer stuff that'll really open the ears of the classical newbie and perk up those of the vet.

420 FRIENDLY COMEDY SPECIAL/various: The label takes it's mics to California for a double album of reefer/drug humor to celebrate April 20th and it's underlying meaning. Luckily for the funny cats on board here, not everything is drug related or else, as reefer gets more and more legal, they would run the risk of being the Foster Brooks' of tomorrow. So fire one up, enjoy these cats that won't harsh your mellow and check out these comics views on everything from hitting your kids to the Kardashians. Fun stuff that doesn't shoot any blanks.

THE TOOTHE/Talons EP: Party time with the freek folk. Sprung from the same back porch Holy Modal Rounders must have sprung from 50 years ago, the student housing ghetto is still producing off beat creative types that might not get the girl they want but they do ok for themselves. They might be dooming themselves to a life on the back 40, but it will be a fun ride along the way.

TRACY MORGAN/Bona Fide: Morgan is throwing black tax humor right down the middle for perfect strikes, but he's staked out an interesting turf here. Rather than follow in the mainstream-ish footsteps of Eddie Murphy, Richard Pryor or Chris Rock and invite those comparisons, or follow in the footsteps of Katt Williams and miss the mainstream, Morgan brings his skewed visions into the territory of being a black tax version of George Carlin. This might be hard to imagine, but he pulls it off and it works. Never straying too far from keeping it real throughout, you might have taken the gent out of Brooklyn but you haven't taken Brooklyn out of the gent---and when he keeps the laughs coming, it's all good. Check it out.

Volume 38/Number 168
April 17, 2014
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2014 Midwest Record

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