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STEVE GADD BAND/70 Strong: It's always inspiring when someone that played on almost everything you loved as a kid is turning 70 and still looking forward. Gadd and his equally chops laden pals are pushing the groove here, loading it with loping funk that just doesn't quit. Tasty stuff from a bunch of masters led by a master, this'll take you back as it propels you into the future of the groove. Killer stuff.

BIRNBAUM WEISS FOSTER/Three of A Mind: Birnbaum and Weiss have been working for Foster for the last six years so this is more of a working unit than you'd think. Birnbaum's piano is quickly becoming the New York go to spot so it's time he starts giving his own name a run for it's money and he does a great job of that here. Breezy, enjoyable jazz piano trio with edge (so it never gets lame). Easy to listen to but never easy listening, these sounds are what being a jazzbo without alienating your audience are all about. Well done.

PLS.TRIO/East River: A jazz piano trio more influenced by new age and Oregon than Ahmad Jamal serves up a simply lovely set of acoustic music that is a real breath of fresh air. All that and the piano player's last name is Salami. Modern jazz is in good hands even if this white boy from Italy isn't hesitant to grab a paycheck working on high profile rap records. Check it out as hearing is believing.

JOHN O'GALLAGHER TRIO/The Honeycomb: There's something so engaging about the opening sax riff that just grabs and forces you not to skip to something else. Pushing the envelop as a trio without making it sound claustrophobic, the cats here have put in their 10,000 hours and are emerging as champs. Sax fans that like it progressive without having to sit through skronk will find this trio so on point that it's sure to become a go to set for jaded ears. Well done.

JOHN STOWELL-MICHAEL ZILBER QUARTET/Live Beauty: A live date recorded at the end of a two week tour, the crew on board here developed the mental telepathy that it takes to make an improv date feel like it's been well scripted to sound like the notes have been well laid out but the players are given the freedom to play around them. Not a hooting an hollering set, it's about low key fire and intensity. This is sitting down jazz played by real pros that know how to hold you in rapt attention. Well done.

LUCAS PINO/No Net Nonet: Playing a month at a crack at Small's, this well educated sax man doesn't let his education get in the way of leading a bebop crew that sounds like they played a set Alfred Lion forgot to release. Crackling with high octane energy throughout, Pino leads his crew through a smoking outing that'll singe those pesky hairs on your ears that you just can't shave right. Blazing through a set of originals, Pino has a special knack for finding the sweet spot that let's his music cut through all the competition and connect right to the pleasure center of your brain. Killer stuff.

SPIN MARVEL/Infolding: So what happens when you get a bunch of Euro prog types together, some with very impressive credentials, and let them jam out seeing where things take them? You get a pretty dandy tribute to Steve Reich. While we know that "Music for 18 Musicians" wasn't for everyone, we now have a proper session for those people's children who heard this stuff around the house for years and didn't rebel into grunge when they got their first chance. Crazy stuff that hits you from so many directions at once you won't know which way to cock your ears.

FREE NELSON MANDOOMJAZZ/Awakening of a Capital: First pass, you think this Euro trio is doing their best to hide out in civil rights era church basements. Sure they admit to being influenced by Sun Ra, but these astral travelers are really into doom jazz as opposed to really advancing racial relations. Free jazz for when you're ready to take the next step after you've freed your mind so your ass will follow.

LARA DOWNES/A Billie Holiday Songbook: The centennial thing might have lost some steam since the Ellington one 16 years ago but that doesn't mean you shouldn't show the love and give the props. Downes give a solo piano performance on a load of Holiday signature songs in honor of Holiday's centennial and it sounds like anything but a cocktail time tribute. Getting into the music in a certain way, even using a few of the original arrangements, this set is emotionally dense without being work to listen to. Quite the loving tribute to an artist that would be sure to appreciate the indulgence.

KING MONO/Bump in the Night: Whether or not EDM can spread tentacles long and large like rap has remains to be seen but King Mono are trying to do their part. With machine made funk and vocals that show Pharrell's influence is spreading pretty hard and wide, this crew serves up sounds that draw you in and have the vibe it takes to get the kids attention spans today. Wild stuff sure to take you on a wild ride, EDM is now showing some professional chops at the street level.

Volume 38/Number 99
February 7, 2015
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2015 Midwest Record

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