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LAURA BENITEZ & the Heartache/Heartless Woman: So what happens when Shelby Lynne and Lucinda Williams are busy being perfectionists? Laura Benitez comes along, takes advantage of the void and ups the game so that her fore mothers are going to have to really work it to keep up. A tasty bit of insurgent country that finds it's inspiration in Bakersfield and honky tonks, Benitez takes the California country sound and gives it some new zip for nu times. A winning set throughout, Carrie Rodriguez better take note as well. Hot stuff.

LISSY WALKER/Wonderland: With the jazz diva thing pretty much done to death for this generation, what's a gal with jazz chops to do when she wants to stay in the game and wants to stand out? Well, you could gather a bunch of songs that mix Jon Brion with John Latouche for starters. One of the darker feeling jazz vocal albums to come along since Bethlehem was recording thrushes in states of depression, Walker's got the goods but she's putting them in the service of hoping you go gargle with razor blades. In an odd way, this music would fit in well as background music for "Boardwalk Empire".

TAL GUR/Under Contractions: Here's a different kind of emotional jazz. The sax man goes impressionistic giving his musical thoughts on being in the delivery room seeing his child being born while the Israel-Arab conflict rages on outside. Perhaps jazz like Lou Reed would have made if he was a jazzbo, this isn't your typical sitting down jazz. It's even beyond egghead jazz being an Israeli take on civil rights jazz. Hell, we need rights everywhere, right? This is for when it's time for something completely different.

ADAM MECKLER ORCHESTRA/When the Clouds Look Like This: It must be the cold weather in Minnesota that caused some freak occurrence. Meckler is an educator that made this record with a bunch of arts council money in hand and it sounds nothing like arts council music. Rounding up a vast crew of cats you probably never heard of if you don't live on their block, this set can stand toe to toe with any of the very cool jazz big band dates of the 50s that you need an Elvis Costello hat on your head to listen to today. Smoking big band/jazz orchestra stuff that is played with in the pocket with the jazz orchestra vocabulary and syntax in tact, here's the proof there's still players out there who know their quality will ultimately be their brand. Hot stuff.

KALLE KALIMA & K-18/Bunuel de Jour: The funny thing about history is that younger people have less and less sense of it. Only in his 40s but looking more than every inch of it, the guitarist makes his third foray into impressionistic film jazz, this time turning his sonic lens on Luis Bunuel whose glory days are way earlier than previous subjects like Kubrick and Lynch. Until focusing on whores quite a while back, Bunuel was a first call surrealist/Dadaist and Kalima captures that kaleidoscopic world with ease. Free jazz that might even be too wild for civil rights jazzbos, this is close to invading Sun Ra territory. Which ever way your cookie crumbles, you've been warned.

WADADA LEO SMITH/Great Lakes Suites: When is a hell raiser not a hell raiser? I don't know, that's a question you have to ask shrinks and such. Here we find Smith giving us a double cd paying tribute to the great lakes. Think he's gone new age on us? With Jack deJohnette and Henry Threadgill in tow? Lake Gitchigoomy, the lake that didn't give up Edmund Fitzgerald's dead being something pastoral? Smith and company are paying tribute to that side of the great lakes. This set will make you believe the AACM are still young hell raisers aghast at the notion of selling out. Give your old BYG albums a rest and cock your head this way if the out sound is your sound. Probably a must for free jazzbos.

ROB STONE/Gotta Keep Rollin': I can see it all now. It's only a matter of time before I tell my grand children that black people used to play the blues and they call the doctor to up my meds because I'm hallucinating again. Stone is another white boy with a harmonica that's learned his lessons well. Surrounding himself with a bunch of hot and heavy, like minded white boys, Stone and pals tear the roof off the sucker taking to the bandstand with just the right amount of off kilter that comes form the right amount of giggle juice. Blues with a feeling geared to the energy of the party at hand, Stone knows the roadhouse and the frat house even if he dint never spen no time in no cotton fields. Wonderfully killer stuff that has all the heart and soul real, mainstream electric blues requires. Well done.

ANA VELINOVA/The Thief: If you've got good vocal chops, all it take is a little time in New York to get your Bulgarian art chick teeth kicked in a few times to find out that with a little shift of the vector, you can create your own cabaret niche where your voice and tasty originals are welcome. After hiding out in education for a while, it's clear Velinova learned a few of the lessons she was teaching and put them to good use. There's still a lot of art chick overhang here but there's also plenty to be endearing to urbane tastes with a light jazz appetite. Nice stuff for those who like coloring outside the lines---but not too far.

Volume 38/Number 303
August 30, 2014
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2014 Midwest Record

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