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JEFF HAMILTON TRIO/Great American Songs Through the Years: The great thing about being an esteemed journalist that that when a venerable label like Capri makes a deal to license a 2,500 copy run of a cool album recorded for the Japanese market, they get you one of those rare copies. In the way early days if Concord, when vets like Dave McKenna were simply glad to be given the chance to record again, the label turned out too cool to be believed piano trio dates that seem like they were meant to be the blueprint for sets like this. Hamilton records here with his long time trio on a bunch of tunes they could have recorded into their sleep---but they showed up wide awake and ready to breathe new life into the chestnuts. Feeling like a classic any of Riverside's then competitors could have released to counter Bill Evans, classy piano jazz trio fans will simply flip for this---as they claw each others eyes out to get at one of the limited edition copies. Well done.

NTJAM ROSIE/The One: There was a Cameroon music boom a few years ago and then it seemed to cool off like the circus was leaving town. Rosie didn't get the memo. Cameroon born and now living in Holland, Rosie has a dense set that combines tradition with the future and international vibes to create a highly different and individual session that doesn't have it's finger on the traditional world beat pulse. Whether you know what she's singing about or not, the subtle power of the vocals carries you along with the music into a land existing outside of existing time zones. Most certainly a trip worth taking.

UPTOWN VOCAL JAZZ QUARTET with RICHIE COLE/Vocal Madness: Some things happen organically in the strangest ways. The vet sax man that was one of Manhattan Transfer's secret weapons stumbled upon the DC vocal quartet and flipped. The cross pollination began as he started picking up where he left off with a few of the balls he was juggling that dropped through no fault of his own. Having the crew riff on his signature "I Love Lucy" treatment and other things just made it flow more. Almost like a hidden time piece that escaped from the vaults after hiding in a corner for years, this killer jazz vocal set hits all the right notes and will be tickling your fancy before you know what's happened. Killer stuff so thoroughly in the pocket, hearing almost isn't believing. It's that hot.

JEFF CHAZ/Chronicles: A white boy with a legit claim to the blues comes in with a veritable greatest hits set because all his previous collections are out of print and these are tracks he likes best. Like a lite chitlin circuit show band that's been kicking it out between Memphis and Muscle Shoals, this is first class yuppie/suburban blues that deals with life's ups and downs by someone that never picked cotton. This is a head's up for the kind of sounds that makes a night out more than just a few hours away from the kids.

SEAHORSE/The Fire's Heart: We've known a lot of musos over the years that have left these parts heading out for Oregon. Now it turns out that Salem is putting fourth a rich musical scene of it's own. Seahorse has grown out of that loam with the help of Kickstarter. With a vibe that feels unique to that part of the country, this could be the bleeding edge of the return to the regional music scene as the national marketplace is becoming more balkanized and niche forcing the pent up creativity to come out someplace. Like a borderline mid 60s folk rock release, this set finds young people reclaiming their voice away from the mass market.

ZUBIN MEHTA/New Year's Concert 2015: Once again, Sony Classical shows it really has it's act together in making sterling recordings of these New Year's concerts and bringing them to market long before anyone has had a chance to forget about it. An annual event now in it's 70th year, the promoters don't let things go stale as evidenced by this year's program, a tribute to the Strauss family with a boatload of previously unperformed pieces. Mehta, of course, brings flawless sensitivity to the podium for one of his repeat performances at the baton. With two discs of majestic goodness flowing freely, the moldy fig and the newbie can nod appreciatively as they sit next to each other letting this stellar date wash over them. A winner throughout.

BILLY WALTON BAND/Wish for What You Want: You can be dyed in the wool but when you hear contemporary blues' best friend, Mike Finnigan, blasting those piano and organ fills between the notes, you know you are listening to a cat that's arrived. A former member of Southside Johnny's crew, this roots/blues cat can probably pack a bar with the best of them. Settling into a show band, blues rock groove, he makes a groove that let's you listen, talk, dance or drink, all with equal abandon. Fun stuff for fun times that goes the distance.
5 (No Fret)

ROBIN McKELLE & the Flytones/ Heart of Memphis: With people calling her the new Ella over the last decade, I wouldn't have expected McKelle to take a blues turn, but here she is. Shifting gears, she's written most of the white girl soul on board here. A fave in Europe, Sony must be pushing her to play to her strengths. She hasn't been dropped by Sony, but they are only releasing this is Europe giving mighty indie Vizztone a real feather in their caps by grabbing this from the void. McKelle probably still loves Ella and the comparisons but this set finds her shaping up as the new white girl with the blues letting you know she don't plan on taking no mess. Check it out, leave your preconceived notions at the door.
20143 (Doxie)

BRANDON SANTINI/Live & Extended: Globalization means you don't have to hang out on a Chicago Southside that doesn't exist anymore to sound and feel like Paul Butterfield. Recorded at an upscale Canuck venue, this North Carolina transplant to Memphis just plain tears it up. Showing you can learn just as much from Butterfield records as you can staying up all night living on the dark side with like minded pals, Santini has a great offering for anyone with an ear cocked toward modern era traditionalists that knew which end was up. Killer stuff throughout.
5 (OLM)

RAZIA/Akory: Pretty much a political album bemoaning the state of affairs in Madagascar, it always makes us wonder how members of distressed African nations can make music so dense and encompassing when singing about harrowing conditions. It's nothing like the protest music we knew from a few generations back. Kicking it off with a kalimba run that shows only a few that think they can play kalimba really know how to, you are drawn into the tapestry even if you don't know what's being sung about. Recorded over 4 years, this is obviously a well wrought political statement---but it just has this cool, indigenous ethnic vibe that makes gringos miss the point by a mile. Great listening no matter how you cut the cake.

Volume 38/Number 96
February 4, 2015
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2015 Midwest Record

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