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ADAM ANDREWS/A Thousand Springs: The neat thing about solo pianist Andrews is that he can play will all kinds of emotion, depth and coloration but he chooses to make his work constantly joyous and upbeat. Interestingly enough, this time around, when doing an impressionistic set about water, he avoids all the standard clichés that avoid lapsing the music into a smorgasbord of strum and drang as the water moves from spring to ocean. Everything here is celebratory or inspiring. Clearly a nu kind of new age piano set, Andrews hits all the right notes and will inspire a sea of pretenders that just don't hit the notes with the precision and passion he does. Well done.

STEVE SMITH & Vital Information NYC Edition/Viewpoint: Here's a sad but good example of why you shouldn't always put your picture on the album jacket. These pros have been playing together forever, and on the back cover they look like a bunch of old men going to a bar mitzvah or a funeral. A bunch of the tunes they play are older than you are. But back at the bytes, they play the proceedings with the kind of youth and vigor they had the first time around when they were writing the book on fusion. It's tough to exist in today's world where image is more important than chops and you've got chops to spare with many more back in the warehouse that have been stockpiled for years. It's hot stuff no matter how you want to take it and take it you should. Whether you know it or not, Smith is one of the cats that's been inspiring air drummers for years.

BILLY PRICE & OTIS CLAY/This Time for Real: When you get the blues in Rhode Island and record them for a Canadian label, it never hurts to let people see your Memphis side once in a while, especially when you know how to recreate the Hi vibe when everyone else is aping the (always welcome) Stax vibe. With Duke Robillard eating classic Willie Mitchell productions for breakfast, this vocal pairing comes in with all the trimmings as tasty as can be. Otis Clay is a known quantity but Billy Price, former vocalist for Roy Buchanan probably requires some education for the average music fan. Equipped with great white, southern soul pipes (from Pittsburgh, of course), he's a fine match for Clay and this set burns like a mutha! Yes, Virginia, there's still loads of great music out there. Here's a sterling example.

JOSHUA BREAKSTONE/2nd Avenue-The Return of the Cello-Quartet: The proof that people aren't listening to music deeply enough these days is that there's still plenty of people that are hearing Breakstone for the first time and are amazed that he's in the same class as a Pat Martino. A be bopper in his soul even if he doesn't feel the need to unleash the fusillade every time out, this is classic jazz guitar trio/quartet music made by cats that play because they have to. If you didn't know who you were listening to, you'd think this is the second coming of Wes Montgomery. Hot stuff in a cool mode.

AMANDA FISH BAND/Down in the Dirt: A white girl with the blues from Kansas City turns her misfortune into compelling songs showing how you can deliver the blues without resorting to being manqué Janis. With several local luminaries, including the drummer from Trampled Under Foot on board, Fish may no longer have any pain in her soul once these tunes get a proper airing. If you give it a spin, you'll wind up really paying attention because Fish is too hard to ignore. Check it out.

DAVIS FRANKLIN/Playing with Shadows: So a former NYC rocker who is now a NoCal marriage therapist buys a grand piano, but in a switchback, he meets up with Mike Manring who he decides to record with to explore his guitar compositions. It's always good to hear Manring again, especially in an after hours kind of mode, and it's nice to sonically meet up with Franklin. He does get mileage out of his piano after all and the over all feel here is kind of like a classic period Windham Hill album made up of out takes that wound up being more commercially pleasing that the actual, rigidly formatted, final record. Even contemporary instrumental music needs to expose it's after hours side and this set does a great job of it.

PETE RODRIGUEZ/El Conde Negro: Not to be confused with his Fania All Star late father of the same name, this Rodriguez is one of those cats who goes into the family business but won't bring it down. With modern Nuyorican chops that are a bridge to the past and the future, this trumpeter has a great vibe and sound and knows how to pick the right musical pals to hang around with. Almost an egghead take on Latin jazz, this is sophisticated stuff that was made to be enjoyed with cocktail in hand and smoldering gazes across the table to melt the ice. Well done.

GILLIAN MARGOT/Black Butterfly: Jeremy Pelt brings his trumpet to the producer's chair and turns in a stunning debut by a jazz vocalist who sounds like she has chops that must have been related to a civil rights era jazz/soul singer to be this on the natch. Properly supported by a crew that's the bubbling under A team of New York jazz, this after hours flavored vocal set is a real charmer. Margot knows her stuff and how to roll it out in fine style. A clear cut winner throughout that's a cut above throughout.

TODD MARCUS JAZZ ORCHESTRA/Blues for Tahrir: What an interesting transduction. Marcus draws upon his Egyptian roots to create civil rights era, big band jazz for the Arab spring generation. It might sound confusing, but this nine piece big band makes it all work behind his clarinet work that sounds like anything but toodling. This cat knows his stuff way to well and does an interesting turnabout wherein his world jazz is something that can be enjoyed anywhere in the world instead of just being an euphemism for ethnic music. Sitting down, arty listening jazz for sure, but what a way to be riveted to your seat as the work unfolds. Killer stuff.

AMY HART/Live at the Mayne Stage: The long time bluesy babe that's been hitting them to all fields for quite a while, even as she manages to stay under the radar, turns in a bag breaking live date recorded for PBS telecast. Softening her blues into more of an easy rolling Americana/roots vibe, let's see if PBS can do for this gal what being on the soundtrack of "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" couldn't. A wonderful set from a local girl making good.

TRON SYVERSEN/Piano Mediations: As Billboard used to say, this is instrumental music with vocal coloration. The major domo of the northern European relaxation music community, the piano/keyboard man is one of a massage therapists best sonic friends. Going far a field from the drippy stuff too many practitioners still have in their offices left over from the 90s, this stuff nicely does the job it was created for.

TEXAS HORNS/Blues Gotta Holda Me: This bunch almost sounds like they were old when Stax was in full flower, but they've been together for ‘only' 15 years, backing up and providing the special sauce for a host of acts that not only have their choice of whoever they want to back them, those acts could probably con the players in to playing for free just for the halo effect. With a sound that finds them rollicking across the times and the time zones, this horn driven blues band has a sound supported by chops that'll just blow you away and have you sputtering every cliché that means superlative. A smoking set that's the real deal throughout.

Volume 38/Number 182
May 1, 2015
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2015 Midwest Record

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