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ARUN RAMAMURTHY TRIO/Jazz Carnatica: Not an area for pretenders to go public in since they have to compete with players like Zappa and McLaughlin who have successfully bridged the Indian classical/jazz chasm in the past, Ramamurthy successfully gives it a go adding some new vibes to the genre. Never falling into the precious gap or inviting yawns inspired by been there/done that, this recording launched from the musical heart of Brooklyn aims high and hit's the target. The only thing about it up for comparison is that it holds it's own with past world/jazz outings that have trod this trail. Easily a must for world jazz fans that dig the opium parlor vibe. Check it out.

JIM SELF/Tis the Season Tuba Jolly: The cat that was the voice of the mothership in "Close Encounters" can't be accused of not having a sense of humor. He puts it on display by having his tuba orchestra salute Christmas on 20 holiday classic/staples as he invites you to celebrate with the Hollywood Tuba 12. Managing not to sound like a herd of elephants, if this doesn't find your lighter self somewhere in that tangle of stress and holiday nerves, you can go back to chemicals. Magically, it sounds like Christmas should and you'll find yourself wondering why no one thought of this before, seriously or silly. You're going to go into it thinking it's a left field effort but will find yourself leaving thinking it's a winner throughout, swinging and everything.

LIZ MANDEVILLE/Heart O Chicago: Ok hipsters, if you take old Route 14 along the old Route 66, you'll come to the corner of Ridge and Peterson where the marquee on the cover of this set has resided for over the last 50 years. The music under the cover shows us Mandeville delivering another, blistering winner of a set with the Chicago blues treasure turning her attention from her regular blues to R&B inspired by the Chess Brothers own vortex of Chicago to Memphis to Muscle Shoals. As always, she shows she's got more soul than a white girl should have. All on board have conspired to raise the roof and a good time is had by all, including you. A winner throughout.

2002/Trail of Dreams: Take that Jackie Evancho. The Copus' now bring their 10 year old into the family business as harpist and primary vocalist. Taking their orchestral new age to the next level, the tyro's vocals are given a pleasing ethereal mix that folds into the overall sound quite angelically. Picking up the orchestral new age baton from where Chip Davis seems to have laid it down, the Copuses have been at it long enough to know their métier well and deliver the goods throughout. Lush and lovely, just waiting for you to sink down into, they could become synonymous with holidays with just a few tweaks to the formula---but then we couldn't enjoy them the rest of the year. Well done.

MARK LOMAX TRIO/Isis & Osiris: Coming on the heels of the 150th anni of Emancipation Proclamation, one of the leading lights of modern civil rights jazz takes it upon himself to get people hip to African and Egyptian mythology letting some culture flow away from Greco-Roman mythology and letting other cultures explore their heritages. Music to accompany smoky blue lights in the basement, it's nice to let everyone know they didn't just get dumped here from somewhere in space and have backgrounds to draw on that's their own. Leader Lomax might be a drummer, but he has his crew lay the Archie Shepp on thick to really let the FUBU vibe make itself known. Heady stuff that'll take you back to the day while letting you stay right here.

BOB LARK & His Alumni Big Band/Sweet Return: Whoa! How long has this swinging big band been blooming under my nose here in Chicago without me knowing about them? The promo pack says this isn't their first album. Leader Lark got he dough to pull this together from DePaul Uni and the big band is a bunch of his charges. This is huge. A solid set down to the last note, there's nothing going on here that won't perk up the ears of the most jaded jazzbo thinking there's no new big band treats to be had. Nailing it throughout, this is real brass with real brass. The test of a crew like this is being able to make something hoary like "Bye Bye Blackbird" into something you want to hear one more time. They do it with flying colors. A welcome treat for big band fans that might not even know they like big band. Check it out!

KNICKERBOCKER ALL STARS/Open Mic at the Knick: As much as you can't go back to the Club Manhattan to hear a young Steve Cropper, you can't go back to the 70s Knickerbocker Room to hear Duke Robillard calling the young bluesmen up to the stage, young men that are now the back bone of the contemporary blues scene. You can get those cats to get together to shake off the dust and that's what's going on here (not that there's any dust on them). Pros on a busman's holiday of kicking it out on blues classics from the real hitters of back in the day, everybody is having a swinging good time, stomping the blues night away in first call show band style. A killer time you don't want to miss.

JOHN DAVID SIMON/Phantasm: The rising sax man surrounds himself with winners and everybody gets together to raise each other's game on this sparkling set that mixes originals with solid jazz covers to create pure combustion. A straight up jazz set that would rather dazzle you with it's brains that baffle you with it's bullshit, Simon is arriving on schedule and bringing great sounds and ideas in tow. Solid jazzbo sounds that are great to mellow out with when you really want the day to fade away and let the night begin.

Volume 38/Number 316
September 12, 2014
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2014 Midwest Record

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