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PHIL BROWN & the New Arts Jazztet/Arkadia: Who'd have thought a bunch of teachers hiding out in southern Illinois could sound like full time jazzbos that have been sweating it out for their art? Yep, a teachers paycheck is the best arts subsidy out there. Loading the deck with a bunch of worthy, new compositions from a well that shows no signs of running dry, the gang continues to run in top form at top speed First class sitting down jazz, this is the kind of stuff you might mistake for background music at first until you realize what's being played is more interesting than what's being said. Solid stuff that goes the distance.

ELI BENNETT/Breakthrough: A young Canuck sax man that loves fusion but knows how to tip his cap to Coltrane as well, it sounds like he's about shaking off some of the cold of the frozen north. He knows his way around a groove and appears to have enough wind in his lungs to challenge Chicago's title as the windy city single handedly. Here's a peek at a star of tomorrow today. Check it out.

ALEX SKOLNICK/Planetary Coalition: I get it. You get older. You get tired of leading a popular metal band around the world, especially to diminishing returns, so you make a bunch of new superstar pals and turn your attention from touring the world and thrashing around to touring the world of sound and adding world beat to your arsenal. Let me tell you, the skill sets transfer well. Instead of shredding, Skolnick leads with the versatility of a McLaughlin who can play so sweetly he can make you forget he was ever Pahavishnu. Hell, why should we be surprised he has so much versatility when this hard rocker served time as a sideman to folkie Debbie Friedman. This is first rate, guitar driven world beat throughout. Well done.

AL MUIRHEAD/It's About Time: A charter member of the Canadian jazz community since the railroads were first built, the 78 year old trumpeter finally makes his first solo album. Although he was first smitten by bebop, the set often sounds like a career retrospective of lost Louis Armstrong sides. A review proof set, this unknockable member of the pantheon plays from the heart and delivers just the way you'd expect an old pro who has the option of phoning it in would. And he doesn't phone it in, this is real playing in real time for real listeners that want the real deal. Simply great jazz playing throughout.

ERIN HARPE & the Delta Swingers/Love Whip Blues: It's an old story you've heard before. A second generation, white bluester moves to Boston, brings her vision of Delta blues in tow and proceeds to light the scene on fire picking up awards and recognition. And of course, there's a happy ending because Harpe certainly makes you think she's got the Delta in her soul. Slowing it down from the norm, the easy lope of her sound is a special treat. The vocals and writing are on point and the result is charmer. She even gives "Angel from Montgomery" that certain Delta thing you never heard in it before that give the song a certain sass and twist that brings it back to the future. Well done.

EMILY WHITE/Staking Flags in the Valley: A pissed off industrial folkie with white southern Baptist roots comes to grips with a lot of life's contradictions summing it all up nicely for Gen Y's why me? attitude. A hard driving set that drives it's point home hard, White picks up the gauntlet thrown down by her pissed off sisters of the past and runs with it.

TODD MILLER/Bring Him Home: ‘Here's a record that kind of different but not really. A classical tenor, Miller is making his "obligatory' crossover album and does it with his religious overtones well in evidence. With the kind of theatrical flourish you would expect from anyone from Placido Domingo to Josh Groban when they do their albums like this, Miller is up for the task and delivers the word mightily. All to easy to write this off as a bubby record, that's just too cynical. Full on theatrical pop by a cat with the chops to bring it home, this is right in that PBS premium pocket and we mean that in the best possible way. Check it out.

THERESE HONEY/The Royale Harpist: And here's where Honey will bowl you over once and for all with her formidable chops. With no holds barred, she stomps on the territory Kim Robertson carved out to make her bones when she wasn't sleeping in the desert and chanting. Going headlong into the Celtic/middle period music Robertson claimed as her own, Honey will not come up short in any comparisons. Using period tunings, you will be sure to hear something different going on here and you will not mistake her for the tea time player at the fancy hotel. A mind blowing musical trip that takes you forward to the past, Honey's solo harp makes all the statement that needs to be made. Killer stuff loaded with delicate grace and charm that will transport you to another realm. Oh yeah, I can't help myself; nothing sounds as sweet as Honey.

LARRY STEPHENSON BAND/Pull Your Savior In: In celebration of their 25th anniversary, the Stephenson gang turns in their 5th pure gospel album as a way of showing thanks. Always a highlight of their live show, the gospel stuff is done in a way that really reaches the fans and listeners soul. Going old school and really taking it to church, the field might not always have a lot to pick from, but sets like this make zeroing in on what to pick an easy task. Meet you over yonder. Nicely done throughout.

ABELARDO BARROSO/Cha Cha Cha: The singer has been gone for 40 years and these recordings memorialize his third go around from the mid 50s when he brought the golden sound to cha cha. Classic recordings just as mighty as similar period Sinatra, this is sound of Cuba that made it such a hot destination in the 50s. Timeless, fun dance music that defined a time and place but still lives on, this is too much of a gasser to be lost to time. Grab a slab and let the party begin. Great stuff.

Volume 38/Number 348
October 14, 2014
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2014 Midwest Record

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