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CLARICE ASSAD/Imaginarium: Those musical Assad's have tossed another family member in our direction. Not only does she not believe in doing anything in a small way on her second release (with 52 pieces backing her up), she comes out of the gate like a bat out of hell and you almost think she's doing a tribute to Valucha (Hurricane) deCastro here fusing the Brazilian beat with jazz, funk and contemporary grooves, just like deCastro was doing in the 70s. Whether tribute or not, this is smoking, sizzling date that takes world fusion to the next level of the game and sets some breathless standards and bench marks along the way. While this set if purely and unmistakably Brazilian, it's also loudly and proudly saying "yeah, samba this!" A wild ride for the open eared armchair traveler that's up for some kicks he hasn't even imagined yet. Hot stuff.

CYPRESS STRING QUARTET/String Quartet & Quartettsatz: This is a pairing that you simply can't go wrong with whether classical music vet or newbie. The quartet has shown how well they can play anything in the past, and they do it once again here. Pairing a well loved Schubert piece with a piece that came after he was away from his desk for three years, they have the grace and simpatico as well as the vision and the touch to do these works more than justice. Playing like the pre-eminent chamber group they are, this is a peerless recording that deeper classical music thinker than I shall be raving over for quite some time. Killer stuff for the pure music fan that wants a first class, sitting down, listening experience.

ED ROMAN/Letters from High Latitudes: A Canuck guitarist that has as much Rundgren as Zappa running though his chops, Roman plays 90% of the instruments here and goes as much off the wall as he does funky. A wildly eclectic release for those who like things that are well played but don't fit the format, this is a wholly fun diversion that keeps you guessing. A cool set for the left leaning that enjoy all kinds of music, especially when it's done right. Check it out.

GANN BREWER/Peddlers & Ghosts: A road warrior with over 20 years under his belt, this rambling folkie has recorded infrequently over the years and when he does, the inevitable comparisons to Prine/Clark/Van Zandt et al are going to be flying. This back porch set invites those comparisons in spades, but they should only be taken as a point of reference as, like those masters, he's got his own point of view and bottle of special sauce that makes everything his own. You dig that unique, off beat folkie perspective? This set is a great place to find it. Well done.

KERANI/Arctic Sunrise: A new age, distaff view from the other side of the pond kind of takes the usual thinking and turns it upside down. Taking her keyboard and electronics to task to give a sonic impression of the sun coming up in the arctic, this oddly isn't a cold set but it does give you pause to realize there's a real variation on a theme going on here. With no touchy feely noodling in evidence, this is the kind of new age set you can dig your teeth into and come away with some real sonic meat, even if you're a vegetarian in real life. Smart stuff for the left of center, instrumentally turned ears.

THE GENTLEMEN OF BLUEGRASS/Carolina Memories: While Country Gentlemen/Seldom Scene might be getting older, even in bluegrass will you find a crew peering over your shoulder ready to step into your footprints. Discovered by the label at a bluegrass festival, this crew keeps the traditional bluegrass sound alive and well. Even if this crew looks like they have a few miles under their belts, they are young by traditional bluegrass standards. Wonderfully fun and lively stuff for the mainstream, heartland bluegrass fan that wants it real and uncut. Hot stuff.

OSBORNE BROTHERS/Nashville: The last of the four part series documenting the Osborne's rise from Kentucky to Nashville offers up some previously unreleased tracks from Bradley's Barn with the crème of Nashville circa 1975 in tow. In step with all the hot stuff they delivered through their career (continuing now as one of them celebrates 50 years at Grand Ole Opry), this is how good it all sounded before research took over everything. Well done, and don't be scared off by this set calling itself a documentary.

PETER EPSTEIN QUARTET/Polarities: The improvising sax man who has been spending more time teaching than touring in recent years, he shows that he's lost none of his fast ball and knows how to pick up and comers to hang with to keep him sharp. High octane stuff for those that like it left of center, Epstein doesn't act like a teacher once he goes off that clock, at least here. With a sound and fury that isn't shy about making it self known, front and center, this is how contemporary jazz improv can sound without detouring into the church basement.

ASYLUM STREET SPANKERS/Last Laugh: Every town has one; a beloved, off the wall, underground band that everyone loves that finally calls it quits after 17 years. The Spankers are Austin's version of same. Rounding out their run with a set of live performances running right up to their end that's loaded with things they never recorded before, this is fine end note to a smoking career that provided an alternative to assembly line pop. Living it up right until the end, the Spankers were a crew not to be missed and at least the fun is preserved in bytes. Check it out.

Volume 38/Number 176
April 25, 2014
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2014 Midwest Record

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