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NATE NAJAR TRIO/Aquareta do Brasil: If you don't know jazz guitarist Najar yet, the fault is on you. Following up his Charlie Byrd tribute with a date that takes his strings farther into Brazil, he dances around bossa nova as he touches on that sound book ending it with pre and post tunes as well. Not looking to break anything other than the jaded impasse that is surrounding your ears, this is killer playing for the sake of killer playing. Bright and joyful, this is the kind of happy music that lifts you out of your funk, or in the alternative, keeps the clouds away. Fine stuff that so deceptively simple that it grabs you before you know what happened. Check it out.

FRED HERSCH TRIO/Floating: Interestingly enough, Hersch plays under so many different guises, I wouldn't have thought twice about this being the first studio album by the trio in four years if the hype sheet didn't trumpet it. Counter interestingly enough, they set this set up to follow the way they roll it out live--so maybe they could have saved the studio costs if...? Meanwhile, all that is irrelevant to the fact that this is a kick ass album that should win him high jazz awards in locales other than France because you don't need Euro sensibilities to appreciate this. Finding that sweet spot between post bop and arts council music, Hersch is gracefully aging into accepting the commercial realm must the same way Sonny Rollins did; without compromise. The daddio sensibility is really in evidence in his choice of covers that display an angularity that would make Monk proud. A savvy, sassy jazz piano trio date, this is killer stuff throughout that's a real gasser.

MONICA GIRALDO/Que Venga La Vida: Well, here's something from Medellin you can get hooked on without dire consequences. A Columbian singer/songwriter that racked up some frequent flyer miles before coming home to Columbia, her tongue and words might remain native but her sound is world wide. While the lyric sheet doesn't provide any translations, her voice and vibe is another of those touchstones that underscore how music is the universal language. The playing and arrangements cross all bridges and this is one dandy set that really goes the distance. A smoking little date that seems to provide enough of the right kind of heat to set the Latin Grammys on fire. Well done.

JOE MAGNARELLI/Lookin' Up: This jazz trumpeter might have cut his teeth working out under the aegis of the old timers, but he's distinctly modern in sound and vibe leaving no dust around him as he marches toward middle age on his own. Sounding very much like he used ground up Jay and Kai records to flavor his cereal instead of sprinkles, Magnarelli can drive you back to the day, but he does it in a hybrid. Tasty, mainstream stuff that hit's the mark throughout.

MICHAEL DEASE/Relentless: The debut of the jazz trombonists big band and you have Bones Malone hiding in the mix as well? It's not a debut, but it's the debut of his big band and it's an auspicious debut. Kicking it off with some grandly arranged Duke Pearson and going through a nice mix of originals and chestnuts, Dease and company raise the bar for anyone that thinks it's easy to righteously bring big band back. Played in a grown up fashion, it's classy and sophisticated without being stiff and bloodless. Tasty stuff that sets the table well as well.

DAVINA & THE VAGABONDS/Sunshine: All you musos out there bitching you can't break through ought to take a tip from Davina and her posse. A Minnesota posse that was delivering the blooze a decade back wanted more so they changed their vibe up a bit and have been the toast of every town they hit ever since. Shifting gears from Janis manqué to Bessie Smith appreciator, the crew displays the fun history of American music over the last century, even when doing it with originals, and delivers a left field roots/Americana sound that is a wonderful kick in the pants for the genre. Smoking stuff for left of center tastes that want their entertainment to entertain them, boomers may well enjoy this more than kids and that's just fine. The kids can find out who Fats Waller was on their own. A winner throughout.

LINDSEY BLAIR QUARTET/A New Dawn: We all know what SoCal jazz sounds like but Blair and his posse, including Gloria Estefan's music director of 28 years, are out to let us know there's more to Florida jazz than what you hear at country clubs, restaurants and alta kocka condos. You can't deny the sun and surf infused in the tunes but the flavors and colors show a distinct difference from the SoCal sound even if it all comes out of the same smooth/easy going gate. A delightful serving of easy jazz for easy times.

PAT HALL/Time Remembered-The Music of Bill Evans: And here's one of those things that make you go m-m-m-m-m-m-m-m; a tribute to Bill Evans led by a trombone player with Greg Lewis filling the piano chair and bringing his smoking organ to do the job. With "Waltz for Debby" and "Time Remembered" filling over 20 minutes by themselves, this is clearly a re-imagining of Evans oeuvre. Often as low key as Evans himself, this is a wild album for all his fans that would like to see the cat's influence not be forgotten and get more of the due that's due him. Tasty? You bet! Easily as one of a kind as he was as well. Check it out.

Volume 38/Number 238
June 25, 2014
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2014 Midwest Record

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