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KUKU/Ballads & Blasphemy: An international kind of cat that defied convention by moving from America to Nigeria, Kuku has steeped his soul in many cultures between here and there finding his sixth album one that seekers of truth will enjoy in any language as he doesn't hit you over the head in his search for truths and makes delightfully buoyant music for the setting of it all. The kind of world pop where the vibe fills in any gaps for gringos, this flies in the face of being girl friend music so much so that it's its own kind of pop that hits well for both the thinking and the feeling. A dandy stew that's more than the sum of it's parts. Well done.

BASTIAN WEINHOLD/Cityscape: With so much going on in all quadrants of New York, who can blame this German transplant for not taking the A train to get off in Harlem when you can soak up so much just walking from here to there in the big apple? Picking up the flavor of so much of it, there plenty here and there's plenty of room for a snappy volume two as well. Solid stuff contemporary jazzbo will enjoy.

JOANN FUNK & JEFF BRUESKE/Jazz in the Lobby Bar: For those of us in the rest of the country that don't live in Frostbite Falls all we know about local ladies playing piano jazz in Minneapolis is Mary Louise Knutson. Funk is walking down the other side of the street but she is walking down the same street. A mainstay at the St. Paul Hotel for the last seven years, Funk adds welcome vocals to her arsenal. Coming from the land of 10,000 lakes, that's a lot of waterfront to cover and she covers her's in fine style ranging from Billy Joe Shaver to Mose Allison to (of course) the Gershwins and Porter. With loads of her own special sauce to slather over everything she does, Funk is a find I'm glad I found as she removes all the jive from hotel/cocktail jazz and presents it the way it should be----as anything but filler with loads of class, sass and style. Hot stuff.

CUNAO/Sangre y Arena: Wild stuff. This Ecuador/Afro fusion leavened with some LA sounds almost Arabian/Turkish to gringo ears. Unfolding almost like a play, this semi-suite effort takes you on a trip you can feel especially when you don't know what they are talking about. One of those cool sets that's at once familiar and foreign, the armchair traveler is sure to move this to the top of his play list. A very enchanting, entrancing world beat outing throughout.

ADAM LARSON/Selective Amnesia: Saxing it up as gestalt? In which we find the smoking, rising sax man using this new ensemble work to chase away his inner demons and reconcile the irreconcilable pushing through it like a self help book. Inner demons are always more fun to explore when they aren't your own and Larson is kind enough to let us in on his own dramas so we don't have to pop Xanax. Certainly an emotional work where you can feel the feelings that went into it all, this is a killer set to put on when your own restlessness is over taking you.

KARIM NAGI/Detour Guide: The more things change... This Arab is as pissed off as Gil Scott Heron. He delivers the same message in a different way---with an intentional sense of humor that you were never sure Scott Heron had. Bridging American/Arab relations better than any career diplomat ever could, armed with his drum and his wit, Nagi makes the most political record to come along since before pissed off rappers struck it rich, he's a voice that ranks right up there with Dylan, Ochs, Sugar Hill Gang and others that opened the eyes as well as the ears. Anyone that wants more from politics and world relations than the side shows currently in the center ring on CNN owes it to themselves to check this out and get infected/inoculated by the message. Killer stuff.

RAGING FYAH/Judgement Day: No matter what the genre, everything has it's ‘back in the day' contingent. The Fyah bunch finds their roots somewhere back in the 70s with the reggae bands that weren't getting the budgetary love from Chris Blackwell but were kept in the Island fold anyway. There were a lot of bands back then that were talented and the homespun edge to their sound actually made them more endearing because it sounded like they were keeping it real. Raging Fyah falls right in that time and vibe. This set is being reissued as they capitalize on some stateside momentum that should find everyone getting infected with their own brand of irie that uplifts in several ways---and keeps the party going. They sound a lot like the kind of group white kids would like to go see but might be too afraid to venture out to. Check it out.

RAGING FYAH/Destiny: Kind of like the reggae version of three chords and the truth, the Fyah gang mixes reality, politics, messages, blazing sun and blazing into a fine stew that just feels like it was recorded in a sound system in Trenchtown by a bunch that were growing up in the nascent prosperity that was affecting the third world as well as the rest of the world during the boom years. Loaded with sunshine pop that was entrenched in the haze on the beach as opposed to the haze over the land away from the beach, this is great stuff for anyone that wants contemporary reggae that doesn't sound like it's selling out. Well done.

MICHAEL SARIAN & the Chabones/Escape Suite: A world wise trumpeter that draws as much from classic Miles as he does from contemporary mash up, Sarian makes sitting down jazz that makes a self contained statement that makes sitting down for it quite easy to do. Almost like a visual enterprise, this theatrical sounding jazz requires you to put it front and center because it will get lost in the background if you aren't paying attention to the intricate moves planted in the music like so many land mines. Quite the engaging date, everything about it is killer throughout.

IKE STURM/Shelter of Trees: Once again bringing sacred music to jazz, Sturm celebrates his tenth anniversary as leader of jazz vespers in New York, where the enterprise is celebrating it's 50th anniversary, and dedicates this all to his musical father who passed shortly after the recording was completed. Having handily shown his chops on past recordings, Strum ups the ante here making this into a set where outsiders have to come into the tent rather than just press their noses against the flaps. Celebrating it all in a place that has seen many august jazz personages off to their final rests, he opens the ears to a place where jazz and faith can come together. A fine baptism for the uninitiated.

Volume 38/Number 323
September 18, 2015
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2015 Midwest Record

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