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MARIA SCHNEIDER ORCHESTRA/Thompson Fields: After almost a decade, Schneider reconvenes her jazz orchestra, full of cats that have gone on to be real hitters in their own rights since this thing first took wing 25 years ago, and pays tribute to her native Minnesota with an impressionistic date that reminds me of some lovely Paul Winter thing I can't put my finger on at this moment. Letting her well proven chops lead the way, Schneider makes some wonderful sitting down listening here that's the antidote for so much that's schlock hogging our airwaves and bandwidths. Quite a personal record in ways that you might not recognize or realize, this is pretty much how things sound when they come directly from the center of the heart. A winner throughout.

BIG GALUT(E): So, you take two serious musician, both of which are second generation players and both of which had parents down with the klezmer thing, let them have a meet cute and decide to play together with nothing to prove, give them senses of humor and like minded pals with equally well honed chops that make them take klez seriously but not stuffily---and what do you get? How about a klez session where the apple doesn't fall far from the tree but rolls pretty good once it hit's the ground? Other than the clarinet being front and center, this won't remind you of much klez that you've heard before. Not really falling into easy pockets like world/jazz, this set follows it's own path and takes you on a dandy trip. Fun stuff that's head and shoulders above the pack for anyone looking for something out of the ordinary to open their ears.

TERELL STAFFORD/Brotherlee Love: Whether he's throwing puns our way, giving Chicago jazzbos something to crow about on the various Chicago connections this set has to the town or just playing with more soul than a teacher should have, this is the closest a modern jazz record can come to capturing the in the moment daddio essence that fuels the whole thing. Transplanted and putting down real roots in Philly, Stafford pays tribute to the home grown Lee Morgan who was one of the giants of the trumpet. With the whole crew on board and in the moment throughout, Stafford simply hits it out of the park in a joyous, high octane fashion that is infectious and long lasting. A sure bet to be on all the year end top ten lists, this date is a stone cold winner throughout that young ‘uns will dig even if they don't know who Morgan was. Hot stuff.

GOLDEN EELS/Periscopes in the Air: The endearing thing about this latest session from the Eels is that it colors so far outside the lines it winds up on the next page. Sounding very much like a tribute to Zappa's ‘commercial' period circa the 70s turning into the 80s, this is the new hallmark for offbeat rock that revels in being strange. If you consider yourself a malcontent lite, here's the new soundtrack for your new summer. Check it out.

SATOKO FUJII TOBIRA/Yamiyo Ni Karasu: Fujii debuts her new Tobira quartet with a set that sounds like "Metal Machine Music" attacked Carla Bley in an Escalator Over the Hill. Just when you think this is going to settle down into some left leaning jazz, it's free form head rises up and says ‘not so fast there, bucko'. Solid art jazz for art people.

SATOKO FUJII ORCESHTRA BERLIN/Ichigo Ichie: Upon her recent move to Berlin, Fujii puts on yet another skin as she launches a Berlin big band that sounds like a throw back to when whitey was first taking a crack at civil rights jazz in the late 60s. Like some of the wilder space jazz records Impulse made in that period when they were chasing the trend, this music isn't for the faint hearted. Big band that goes places you'd never expect, Fujii has just embarked on yet another wild ride.

CAILI O'DOHERTY/Padme: Abandon your preconceived notions before cracking the shrink wrap here. This fair colleen with India thoughts is actually an award winning jazz tyro whose debut plays wisely and winningly well beyond her young years. Coming out of the gate like American Pharoah at the Belmont, she takes the lead, keeps the lead and finishes the race wondering when it's going to begin. If piano playing had thoroughbreds, you'd be listening to one here. This is a fine example of a fearless, young voice who found the sweet spot where her way and the right way merge as one well before a flashpoint on the horizon.

JUDY KUHN/Rodgers, Rodgers and Guettel: This set is kind of an interesting master class in the art of vocal. Kuhn pays tribute to the composing skills of the Richard Rodgers family, throwing the spotlight on three generations of them. Her interpretations are respectful but not dry. A tonic for anyone whose ears have been desensitized by TV talent shows, the singing combined with the works of the extended Rodgers family prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that you don't have to write your own songs and you don't have to carry on like a car alarm to show emotion. And make no mistake, Kuhn can trill with the best of them, but it fits in context. Classic material like this always benefits from a fresh airing in the right hands and all the right hands were on deck in the making of this. Vocal fans ought to check it out.

GOLDEN APPLE/ first full length recording: With all the recent Tony nominees and winners that call PS the home of their soundtracks, you have to figure the label knows what it's doing when it records the first full length recording of a 60 year old show whose original recording omitted 2/3 of the music because the label had it's tent pole song and didn't care to work any harder than it had to. Stay with me, this show was a totally sung throughout musical which took Homer's writings and moved them from ancient Greece to turn of the (20th) century, small town America. Here's the real crazy part---it still sounds fresh and in the moment now. Culled from four recent performances staged in Texas, this 2 cd set of the whole show is a killer way to spend a Sunday afternoon if you just want to be dazzled by a show that's really a show. Most certainly another jewel in the label's crown.

Volume 38/Number 221
June 9, 2015
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2015 Midwest Record

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