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LAS RUBIAS DEL NORTE/Ziguala: Fueled by their own mythology, these Brooklyn gringas create their own multi-culti universe where the kitchen sink reigns supreme. Unlike so many other sets that try for this result and fall short, this one goes the distance and breaks the tape without even trying. Imagining themselves as making pop music in a world where rock never happened, it's wily and wild self reverential world beat for pomo wise asses that like to occasionally hide behind a patina of seriousness---or is it? A delightfully left leaning set that reminds you of everything but doesn't let you put your finger on anything. Pretty much invented in a Brooklyn bar, you tell me this isn't the great off beat party music you've been looking for. Well done throughout.

ALTAN/25th Anniversary Celebration: It's a long way from dingly-dingly music on off beat labels to being among the front rank of Celtic music, even long after the bloom has faded from "Riverdance" etc. They were here first and they are still standing now. With a concert orchestra on board to help celebrate their quarter century milestone, this is a deep, passionate recording that lets them elbow The Chieftains aside and take a bigger part of the center stage. Tasty throughout, if you haven't been up on Celtic music before now, start here then feel free to work your way backwards at will. This is simply a dazzling, state of the art performance.

QUEEN ESTHER/What is Love?: She doesn't look anything the Queen Esther I've envisioned from Purim stories but she breaks loads of bags between here and there so why hold that against her. A jazzy vocalist with a lot of well placed jazzbo buddies, she prefers to think of herself as a specialist in black Americana considering some jazz chestnuts as folk music. It's ok with us if she's a jazz vocalist. A nice, gutsy two fisted performances from a multi-discipline artist that calls all her various talents to the fore to really sell a song. A solid bet for jazz vocal fans looking for a set and a performer that isn't afraid to let it show she's gone for the gusto. PS: anyone saying there's similarities between Esther and Nina Simone is taking the easy way out and shouldn't be given too much cred.

BRAD HOYT/Together Alone: Hey, we're incredibly easy. You want to be a classical piano man doing a harp guitar duet record and have it stand out? Just put on a track of you and Muriel Anderson and you have our attention. While we aren't as familiar with a lot of the other pickers on this set, as is the case with Hoyt as well, we can safely tell you everyone here knows their stuff. Very much in the pocket of the kind of simple and elegant records Windham Hill was putting out when they first set the world on fire and hadn't yet become a brand just waiting to jump the shark, this is a glorious and overdue look back to the glory days of NAC/new age in sound, spirit and texture. A delightful surprise, this is good, solid, meaty adult music you can really dig into. Hot stuff.

JEFFREY LEPPART & the Hip Notists/They Still Live in the Music of My Thoughts: Simply nutty. Recorded over the last 6 years, this music educator has had this simmering in his soul for much longer than that. A conceptual tour de force for the last 60 years of contemporary jazz, he's feeling Lambert, Hendricks & Ross, Jackie & Roy, Charlie Parker and everyone else. A totally original work, it's just begging for a workshop stage and it's sure to knock you out with it's originality, chops and style. Krikey, this could be used to flush all the wannabes out of all the church basements that have been boring their friends with ‘statements' for year. A wonderful time, this is a must for the classic eared jazzbo that really could use a well played flight of fancy that hits it out of the park when you aren't looking.

JAMES ZOLLAR/Zollar Systems: A trumpet ace that's been around the block a few times and currently calls Duke Ellington legacy and Don Byron bands home, he knows how to blow hard, how to bop and how to let the new wife have a star turn on vocals along the way without having her go all Yoko and everything. Tasty, straight ahead hard driving jazz much like the kind you like to hear when the old guys take over the local college radio station (because the kids are all doing internet broadcasts). Charming, entertaining and well played; what more do you want? Well worth your jazzbo time.

KRISTNE MILLS/Bossanovafied: Houston. The town is not generally known as a bossa nova capitol. Bossa nova, the 50th anniversary. Mills takes things into her own hands by recording a set of her own bossa novas in Houston without even so much as a Tom Jobim. Does it matter? Not really, and that's probably why she's the toast of the town. Powered by a kittenish voice with bite, this sassy singer knows her way around a song, especially when she's written it. A smooth jazz set with lyrics that aren't annoying, gratuitous lyrics "geared" for radio play, Mills has done some high profile work in Chicago along the way and if Houston isn't careful, we're going to claim her for our own. A delightful after hours date that's got the Brazilian vibe but has filtered it nicely through the here and now. Check it out.

LIN McPHILLIPS/My Shining Hour: Somebody is going to say it so it might a well be me. Hey, I deserve all those random Google hits from pervs looking up their fave keywords. What was McPhillips thinking when she okayed a cover that looks like she's the centerpiece at a bukake? Go figure. Behind that cover is an accomplished jazz vocal date from someone that's been honing their chops in the vineyards for a long time, grabbing each new rung on the ladder tightly with both hands. Very much a lovely club flavored date, it's right down the middle and enchanting throughout. Balancing nicely between jazz and cabaret, this is a solid bet for sophisticated ears looking for a new kick. Well done.

Volume 33/Number 102
February 11, 2010
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2010 Midwest Record

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