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BLUE LARGO/Sing Your Own Song: Blue Largo used to be a 40s/50s blues revival band but after being sidetracked by medical issues for a few years, ideas began to pile up between recordings. What a cool result came out of the other end of the tunnel. Front babe Alicia Aragon who sold Dinah, Billie, Bessie et al so convincingly in the past makes the new originals fit in so well you go running for the credits to find out why you don't know these ‘classics'. Sultry as ever, with the new edition of the Largos picking up the slack in fine form, this is one of those records that shows the divide between the music business and record business as this is the kind of set for people that want music as opposed to product. Hot stuff that goes the distance from a crew that could easily get you out of the house every night.

JACOB VARMUS SEPTET/Aegean: A commissioned work to celebrate the lives of various members of the underwriters family, the versatile jazz/classical trumpet player rose to the challenge to make something artful, meaningful to the backer and fine listening in that it's clearly arty without being artsy. He also invited some of our fave jazzbos, Pete McCann and Sam Trapchak, along for the ride to bring the conception to life. First class sitting down, instrumental jazz throughout, this is a ticket to that part of world jazz you've haven visited yet---and you'll be glad you did. Art and music can come together delightfully when the fit is as good as this. Check it out.

DAVID GILMORE/Energies of Change: There is something to this touchy feely stuff when it's done right after all. Gilmore likes to play and compose from the heart in a pure state of energy. He does this without major labels pressures bearing down on him and as a result he makes the kind of records major labels should be making if they want to have a jazz presence. Improv inspired, you can feel the pure energy flow in the playing. If you aren't going to be swinging for the fence, this set makes a real case for playing from the heart (and probably landing damn close to the fence anyway). Tasty jazz that really touches you throughout.

PETER ERSKINE/Dr. Um: The nice thing about being the editor of the pre-eminent music for the rest of us site is getting free records from guys like Peter Erskine. But nothing is free in this world. Hell, they sent it to you and expect you to review it if you want to get the next one free as well. How do you review a Peter Erskine record at this point in time and tide? Jeez that's like reviewing a Steve Gadd record, isn't it? Well fusion fans, lets put on our yellow jackets and take a few steps ahead so I can give you the weather report. It's big, bright and sunny with a spread of jam and some improv along the way. Yowzah. Fusion fans, Erskine and his name brand pals just plain nail it without retreading the past because they just don't know how to do anything else. Top shelf throughout.

T.G. SHEPPARD/Legendary Friends & Country Duets: A purely commercial act has nothing to lose when he falls out of fashion. If he's a real showman, he can always take his show on the road. He might not have the superstar trappings that went with the glory days, but he doesn't lose much off his fastball either. The parade might have passed Sheppard by, but he brings his skills to bear on this new wave of gift shop records where old stars round up old pals and a good time is pretty much had by all. Funny as it seems , this lion in winter recording is more satisfying than a host of his old Warner records. Country fans that want to keep it real have a real dandy, unexpected treat on hand here. Well done.

TIM O'BRIEN/Pompadour: O'Brien is generally the lazy writer's friend. He's so consistent and consistently excellent that all you have to do is look up your last review, tweak it a touch if needed and reprint it. Yeah, it's the age of Goggle, sure, but people are generally so lazy that they won't bother Googling unless they feel like sticking something up your butt. So, now we find O'Brien is unreliable this time around. With an album inspired by a divorce released four years after his last solo set, the sea change in his life cast a sea change in his recording. Covering James Brown and Michael Hurley while refashioning W. C. Handy, this country boy let's his freek folk flag fly (leaving center field of that turf to Hurley but being left of center nonetheless). Great entertainment for boomers that remember campus coffeehouses and back porch guitar pulls, O'Brien crosses the great divide with new vigor and style raising the Americana bar for all comers. Killer stuff.

KIM NAZARIAN/Some Morning: If you have to throw in with an Armenian woman named Kim, do yourself a favor and make it jazzy lady Nazarian. If nothing else it seems like she has a bunch of friends you'd much rather hang out with than other Kims, especially if you have jazzbo ears. A delightful vocal album recorded at a leisurely pace with a great guest list in tow, this long over due solo album from the vocal vet was well worth the wait. Existing strictly in it's own time zone no matter how hard it crashes into the mainstream at times, this is more of an experience than a record and a listen or two will make you appreciate how you can have it in your pocket at all times. This set sets the gold standard for jazz vocal. Check it out.

NANCY LANE/Let Me Love You: So why do I feel bad for the lovely and talented Ms. Lane for the row she has to hoe ahead of her? This Canadian jazz singer that likes to swing the classics couldn't look and sound more like Diana Krall if she made a full court press to do so. It seems like the only difference between the two is that Lane spent more time listening to Peggy Lee and Patti Wicks than Shirley Horn and Carmen McRae. Not to say this isn't a great album. Hell, it's the best Diana Krall album since "When I Look in Your Eyes". Lane was probably still in pigtails when Krall first came along. I can't imagine Lane standing in front of her mirror singing "Frim Fram Sauce" into her hairbrush and deciding that was her career choice. Well, they say everyone has a doppelganger. Forget about the comparisons, this is the real deal nonetheless. Well done throughout giving chestnuts and classics the dose of special sauce they need to keep them fresh and tasty.

GEORGIE BONDS /Hit It Hard: Good back story, good music, what more do you want? Bonds might have never picked cotton but he was a blacksmith before putting down his hammer and picking up the mic. Recovering from several hip surgeries, this Pennsylvania blues hall of famer might be Germantown throughout but he knows his west side Chicago sound. Gritty and honest, this from the heart recordings is a must for contemporary, electric blues fans that want to raise the roof. Hard core, hot stuff, this set is easily a winner throughout. Check it out.

CHRIS YAKOPCIC/Next Place I Leave: This white boy with the blues plays to his strengths rather than be something he's not and have it fall flat. A real shredder from the git, Yakopcic isn't about the pyrotechnics so much as he is about making down home get powered with moonshine. Trading on NRPS' version of rocked up blues, he uses that as a nexus to find the blues in Leonard Cohen (uh, really not hard if you do it right) and turns "Tower of Song" on it's head as he takes it down to Piedmont. This DIY-er might be doing it for himself, but he's spreading unstoppable goodness for the rest of us. Hot stuff.

Volume 38/Number 358
October 23, 2015
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2015 Midwest Record

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