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JEFF HACKWORTH/Heart of the Matter: Yes, you can be a New York sax man without being a daddio or a skronker. You can have well toned lips and sure fingers and deliver the goods in fine style, just like Hackworth does. Putting blowing and chops front and center, well, right in front of the B3, Hackworth has the warm, round tones that keep ‘mainstream' from being a bad words. Tasty, well played sax jazz that'll keep you hooked throughout.

SCOTT HAMILTON/Plays Jule Styne: This is just such a perfect club feeling session that it almost hurts. The pairing of Hamilton with Duke Robillard worked once before and this second outing shows it was no fluke. Picking out a handful of Styne's greatest tunes that fit a small group format (yeah, that's right, he doesn't do ‘Some People' here), this whole set fits together like a jig saw puzzle you haven't taken the shrink wrap off. This is all you need to hear some unassailable playing on some unassailable tunes by one of the modern masters of the sax. Killer stuff throughout.

FRANK VIGNOLA & VINNY RANIOLO/Swing Zing: This guitar duo makes it sound so easy that it's easy to take them for granted. Their first record made you wonder how the record industry could be so ignorant as to have them self release it. That this second set is self released takes away all the wonder about the establishment and their follies. Improved killer stuff with a varied guest list that'll make your head spin, this is as good as it gets for straight up guitar jazz. The set card is top heavy in familiar tunes but the playing has you convinced these are Django's grand sons doing a tribute set. Dead solid perfect throughout.

WEE WILLIE WALKER/If Nothing Ever Changes: A little vindication anyone? Producer Rick Estrin runs into Walker a few years ago and suddenly realizes this is the cat that made some obscure single s for Chess back in the day that Estrin was a big fan of. You know what happens next. A little hero worship and budget raising later, Estrin and company put together a righteous session for a neglected/over looked would be soul giant that was a shouter right in the same pew as the great soul singers of the time that still has plenty on the ball. A contemporary rousing soul record with a classic vibe running through it, you can't go wrong here if you want some solid soul that will reach down into yours. Killer stuff.

RON THOMPSON/Son of Boogie Woogie: An itinerant electric bluesman, Thompson was once the virtual house band for the Oakland chapter of Hell's Angels but he couldn't parlay that into the success Doobie Brothers found as the house band for a biker bar and kept rolling down the line to the next gig like a true itinerant bluesman. Gathering praise from many heavy hitters that never followed up or through, Thompson just kept honing. With probably his first record in 30 years, this is one white boy that has the bluuuuuuzzz! A killer guitarist that makes everything sound like the west side of wherever you are (as long as that's a down side of town), this stuff could make the hair on Blues Brothers arms stand on end. Smoking throughout, hopefully this will be the source of some long overdue recognition.

DAVE ELLIS/With Any Luck But Bad: When it comes to cowboy music, if you aren't really into the culture, which runs pretty deep, you only really know polar opposites like Ian Tyson and Michael Martin Murphey. Ellis, a real old time cowboy, might fall somewhere in the great middle between the two but that doesn't mean he doesn't make a mark. Almost with the same kind of vibe you'd get if John Koerner made the conscious effort to make a kids record, Ellis doesn't stand on ceremony when it comes to song selection as he moves from campfire songs to Willie Nelson and soundtrack picks. Mostly just him and his guitar, this is a charming and captivating enough set to make you want to make plans to vacation at Elko. Well done.

LOS TRES AMIGOES-SNUVIKO/Three Friends from Where the Clouds Descend: This might be pretty wild. Back when the earth was cooling, we used to hitch hike to school. For some reason, a Latino family ‘adopted' us on our morning trek and, since they stopped or us almost everyday, we saved a load in bus fare. They never wanted any money and never tried anything funny, they just seemed to revel in doing a good deed for some gringos. Who were we to say no? Ok, here's where the story gets strange. They always had an 8 track hanging out of the deck that they never played when we were in the car with them by a group called Trio Los Amigos and two of these guys look old enough to have been in that group. Maybe? This three piece guitar/fiddle/bass trio are turning in the traditional Mixtec sounds that have been ringing in the mountains and valleys for generations. The kind of vibe here is like the one you would get from a Celt group playing it straight on the traditional tunes. Any gringo worth his multi culti stripes could easily enjoy this at any backyard, summer party. You'd have to try pretty hard to find ethnic music more authentic than this.

ARFO-CARIBBEAN PARTY/various: Putumayo amps it up once again for the arm chair traveler with a heady, tropical cocktail of a mix that avoids the usual precincts and trawls some back alleys for some off the beaten track fun. A real party on a platter, this set opens the ears nicely taking you to the land beyond soon come. A winner throughout.

DENNY ZEITLIN-GEORGE MARSH/Riding the Moment: In which we find the good doctor going back to his experimental post Miles roots with his old fellow traveler from the period. Ensconcing themselves firmly in the present to carry out some one take imrpovs, brother, all we can say is there are chops and there are chops. Playing with the curiosity and experimental nature that could inspire the young ‘un feeling their oats, this is a solid dose of what improv jazz etc is all about. They've been there, they've done that but they're wearing new t-shirts. This is a wild ride that offers up nothing you are expecting but you don't want to miss it as it pulls out of the station. Check it out.

JOAN CHAMORRO & ANDREA MOTIS/Feeling Good: This record is simply one of those unexpected treats. The set card is loaded with old fave jazz/pop tracks (without another rendition of "Nature Boy"!!) as delivered by a vocalist that sounds like Blossom Dearie with a case of...? You can't put your finger on it because the thrush is a 17 year old from Spain! Not trying to be a nu diva, she's been recording since she was 11, won a slew of awards and brings the Euro sensibility to the tunes that Verve kind of squeezed out of Dearie's cabaret vibe. With backing that fits perfectly, this is a winner of a low key/high intensity jazz vocal date that merrily goes the distance with none of the tortured artist effect that divas gravitate to. Well done throughout.

Volume 38/Number 210
May 29, 2015
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2015 Midwest Record

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