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BEVERLY TAFT MEETS THE NATHAN HILTZ ORCHESTRA: Can a Toronto gal write and play new samba flavored jazz vocal tunes north of the border? Apparently yes. Not adhering too strictly to any set of rules, Taft and her crew know what it takes to warm up a northern night and they do it so well. Well played, easy grooving stuff that it's easy to get lost in, jazz vocal fans have a first class good time platter spinning here. Check it out.

DEE ALEXANDER/Songs My Mother Loves: There's just no stopping Chicago jazz's national treasure. Here we find Alexander doing a heartfelt rendition on songs that were her mother's faves, returning the favor to mom for turning her on to these songs in the first place. Pulling together her talents that take her to all quadrants of jazz, she makes each classic track shine with a special, inner vitality that can only come form feeling so close to the material. A killer of a set for jazz vocal fans, Alexander has it all on the ball on this wonderful collection.

BOB MAMET/London House Blues: Mamet isn't really old enough to remember much jazz from the London House, especially the era when Oscar Paterson was there so much that you thought he was a local, but that's ok, he plays with the echoes of the era at his fingertips, even if he kicks in two of his own originals among the classics. Tasty piano trio work that takes you to the old days in your mind without having to inhale any dust on that journey through the past. A proven pro throughout, we should be glad he's come home to Chicago after all those years on the coast so that he's all ours again. Well done throughout.

DAVE SPECTER/Message in Blue: He might still seem like a kid but this Chicago blues vet already has 30 years as a pro under his belt. Here we find him at a special crossroads where he fuses old and new Chicago into a tasty blues gumbo for the future. Whether stepping aside and backing up Otis Clay or letting some young bloods back him up, Specter's stinging guitar cuts through the Chicago night like a switchblade in the days of old when white boys like him would brave the south side nights to soak it all up. This set is a break between yesterday and tomorrow in many ways but high octane quality is the continuity throughout. Hot stuff for ‘traditional' electric blues fans of all ages.

TODD BISHOP GROUP/Travelogue: The drummer that knows how to give everyone else some rounds up the crew again for some killer stuff inspired by recent jaunts across the pond and the growth of the camaraderie it inspired. With a load of groovy sounding 60s stuff running through this collection of originals, the vibe is right in the pocket for anyone that likes straight ahead stuff with a solid groove. Top shelf stuff throughout, this is a trip you must take.

ANTHONY BRANKER & WORDPLAY/The Forward (Towards Equality) Suite: This cat has so many facets it's hard to keep them all straight. Here, we find him lining up some killer cats and getting his non-commie Paul Robeson on for some civil rights jazz and poetry for a new era that might finds it's roots in the past but is looking ahead. If you want music with a message, this is the stuff that delivers it in right on fashion.

LADY DAY AT EMERSON'S BAR & GRILL/original Broadway cast recording: Fine. You want to be one of those goofs that think the pas de deux under pining the architecture of "Porgy & Bess" is so well established that even The Shaggs could knock it out of the park just by stepping up to the plate? You don't want to give props to Audra McDonald and PS Classics for hitting it out of the park because that's a slow, soft ball over the plate for those two? Eat your words. This dynamic duo irrevocably prove that they are the team to beat in this instant, contemporary classic that finds McDonald winning an unprecedented Tony award and PS raising the bar so high you'll get a nose bleed just looking at it. Forget "Private Practice", forget Sondheim. McDonald immerses herself so completely in the role of Billie Holiday that you'll be convinced Ray Ellis will come out and take a bow during the play off at the end. A two disc set that captures the entire performance, you don't have to be a Broadway or oldies fan to be completely knocked out by this tour de force, possibly career defining performance. Great stuff.

PAUL SHAPIRO/Shofarot Verses: For every Jewish kid that thought he was over and done with it after his bar mitzvah, along comes apple cart up setter Shapiro with another set of rhythm and Jews with songs like "Get Me to the Shul on Time" that's just so loaded with funk that even the most jaded, coked out stock broker with rotten kids and a bitch wife will jump up and kvell. Basing the sounds on sounds from Rosh Hashanah, this stuff is often so close to "Pulp Fiction" that you'll feel more like a schtarker such as Bugsy Siegel than the fat kid with glasses who is always picked last and gets to play ‘left out' in school yard pick up games. Utterly wild stuff that adds a new feather to the world beat cap.

Volume 38/Number 259
July 16, 2014
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2014 Midwest Record

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