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CAT CONNER/Cat House: Obviously Conner knows how to get to me. She makes no excuses or apologies for being a broad and knows how to be a thrush is the most classic sense of the style. A solid swinger with the chops to draw a pack of all star, first call jazzbos to help her realize her vision, this is just what a real jazz vocal fan wants to hear. Killer stuff throughout, she mixes some Frish with some Trane with stuff from the classic song book that's been kind of overlooked. A winning date throughout, this is a golden look at how it used to be when things were done right. Well done.

MASON RAZAVI/Quartet Plus: Remember when you were a youngblood and first discovered Duke Ellington while trashing around in grandpa's basement. You heard of Ellington, but the records gramps had kind of amazed you since the music was wonderful but it wasn't on the charts or familiar and it was your first trip off the beaten path. Razavi has captured that vibe here. Jazz that only needs to exist in it's own time zone, his playing is informed by starting out as a rocker that went on to discover Segovia before turning to jazz. You have to make that kind of journey to make amazing stuff like this. A solid bet for fans of instrumental music that doesn't need to observe genre lines, expect your ears to be opened handily and mightily. Well done.

BOB MUNDY/Something Beautiful: Don't you hate it when you drop into a hotel bar for a drink and the piano player is more annoying than entertaining? There's a lot that are. Mundy understands the art of being a sophisticated but swinging cat. This is the guy that I would hang out at a hotel bar regularly to hear. A male jazz vocalist that understands the difference between background, cabaret, jazz and rest of the styles people tend to lump together, he's here to entertain and he does it in fine style. A tasty, inviting set throughout, Mundy is a wonderful fine. First class all the way.

JOSHUA BELL/Bach: So, when one of the pre-eminent classical crossover violin artists of these times hooks up with Academy of St. Martin in the Field and turns his attention to Bach seminal works, the stuff that got him hooked on classical in the first place, what is there to say except ‘sit down, shut up and listen'? Nothing, other than ‘wow'. An unbeatable, unknockable set, you don't even have to be a classical fan to dig this, just an appreciator of first class instrumental music. Whiners, there's still plenty of great stuff out there coming along the pike. This is at the head of the pack.

RORY BLOCK/Hard Luck Child: The fave sexy senior of any blues fan with a pulse turns the clock back 50 years once again for another tribute to the blues masters she spent actual time with back in the 60s when she was a wild child on the run soaking it all up. Certainly another awarding winning date from Block, this rollicks with the spirit of her honoree Skip James like it's all happening real time right now. One of five of the best lessons you could get in the history of traditional blues, Block is the best teacher there is. Killer stuff that doesn't quit coming, this lone girl and her guitar underscore the meaning of ‘less is more' better than Mies Van de Rohe ever could. Hot stuff throughout.

BILLY BOY ARNOLD/The Blues Soul Of: You're pushing 80 and still here. Duke Robillard wants to sit in your producer's chair. The pre-eminent roots label wants to write check to have you make the record you want to make and nobody is asking you to shed that west side Chicago soul that has gotten you this far. What could be more perfect? Killer stuff that's all right from the heart and has you thinking Muddy might just show up for a guest set. Smoking stuff the mainstream blues fan could eat with a spoon, this is the real deal and feels energetic and timeless to boot. If they aren't making them like this anymore, be glad they are making this. Well done.

PHIL BOWLER & POCKET JUNGLE: What happens when a bunch of funky cats that had it going on but haven't recorded together in 20 years get back together? When they have the well traveled chops this bass player led bunch collectively has, the sparks fly. A set with nothing to prove that just wants to let the good times roll, this funk goes deeper in the pocket than back to the 1994 day. Wonderfully fun stuff that'll get your mind moving and grooving in the right direction, this is unstoppable stuff that has returned to right the wrong of being off the grid for so long. Check it out.

GABRIEL ESPINOSA & HENDRIK MEURKENS/Samba Little Samba: Forget the dogs, who let the cats out? Espinosa & Meurkens had so much fun the last time they did this, they did it again--and invited Anat Cohen, Tierney Sutton, Misha Tsiganov and others along for the ride. The might be professing samba in the title but this set is generally as caliente as the babe acting out on the cover. Call it high octane samba if you will, this is smoking stuff that'll get the blood flowing as it lowers your blood pressure from all that bouncing your leg is doing up and down. Killer stuff that works throughout.

Volume 38/Number 341
October 7, 2014
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2014 Midwest Record

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