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ECHOES OF SWING/Dancing: It takes the certain skill this crew has to turn the clock back without making things sound retro but keeping the spirit of the vibe in tact. They even do that with the new, originally written tunes they mix in to the chestnuts. In some cases here, we're really talking about rolling the clock back and they handle it all like a dignified, society band that plays with a wink to the audience. A smashing set that is just a gasser to hear, one of the smartest jazz ensembles going has hit new heights again. Killer stuff throughout.

SARAH AROESTE/Oro de Despertar: The wonderful thing about not speaking the language is that you can make whatever you want of anything. A children's album in Ladino, without the bio sheet to explain it, you'd just think this was a whimsical album in some language gringos don't speak. Conceived by Aroeste when she was conceiving her first child, this set is part of a whole children's multimedia concept. No matter how you slice it, you might as well enjoy this as sunshine pop if you don't know what's going on. A very well done diversion, I'll bet the kids dig it even if they don't know what's going on just due to the buoyancy and bouncy fun that's running through it all.

TERRY BARTOLOTTA/Slow Burn: The Chicago guitarist and his pals take their cues from the mid century jazz greats but the cues are all they take. With the kind of flair that you used to not expect from indie releases over flowing, this is just what the straight ahead ears ordered. A solid set of well played smart moves, this bunch has it down so tight that you'll be wondering when their big break out is going to happen. Smoking stuff that doesn't let you down.

POPA CHUBBY/Big, Bad & Beautiful Live: A double cd souvenir of his bad ass world tour, this big, bad white boy with the blues doesn't need to turn it up to 11 to blow the roof off the sucker. Recorded in France, whether they knew what he was talking about or not, the Frenchies were digging it. Shredding, howling and careening through covers, old and new faves, Popa shows what honing your chops for over a quarter century can do and how it can point to the future in the right hands. Smoking stuff any blues rock fan will be thrilled to hear often.

GREAT ON PAPER: Young improv jazzbos firmly in the millennial mind set show what the young ‘uns are up to/on to these days. They come from Boston but are heavily influenced by skronk, you can hear pomo/punk rock energy in their jazz vision along with their love of crime jazz. With a little something for everyone due to gleeful genre blending, this bunch is throwing the tent wide open with an invitation for the nu generation to join in with something as free as the wind blowing. Check it out.

JEREMY PELT/#Jiveculture: I don't know how Pelt came up with the title of this set as it's the realization of his life long dream to play with Ron Carter and the match up really powers him to greater heights than ever before. With both of them shaking off the dust and playing like young lions, straight ahead jazzbos are simply going to call this a great record. Smoking from one end to the other, this is what you get when the stars align in the right order. Killer stuff throughout.

AVATAAR/Petal: An eastern Indian from northern Canada had a spiritual awakening about who he was and where he was and turned inward toward his roots. Of course, things change between here and there and this sounds more like 70s hippy jazz than raga. Without the earnestness of young people invading the mix, this sounds like what said hippy jazz would have sounded like if it was allowed to mature and percolate. With an easy listening/smooth jazz vibe running through it, this cat who's no stranger to playing with all stripes of valued jazzbos is all about blazing his own trail here which he does nicely. Wild without being undisciplined, this is fun, fine listening for those unstructured times when you really want the good vibes to flow. Check it out.

MARC COPLAND/Zenith: With day jobs as the backing crew of two ECM mainstay acts, Copland and pals go really indie here, leaving the Pirouet stable and not asking Manny Eicher for favors as they bring downtown to you and sound younger and more experimental than graying hair would leave you to believe. First class sitting down jazz by a crew that can easily play it any way they want to, this is a good indication of how arts council music would sound if it was beholden to on one. Nicely played, chaps.

PACIFIC HARP PROJECT: Classically trained and with a doctorate in jazz, harpist Megan Ward wanted to take her beloved harp to places it's never been before. Hooking up with a diverse crew of players in Hawaii with dandy resumes, she rolled tape and let the good times happen. Contemporary instrumental music that doesn't fit conveniently into easy pigeon holes, Ward and the gang set sail quite nicely with a set that delivers high quality chops without any self consciousness or ego. A delightful set that feels like summer evenings, they stepped to the line and we aren't required to take any chances. Well done throughout.

BILL O'CONNELL & the Latin Jazz All-Stars/Heart Beat: Another good time set of contemporary Latin jazz by a devotee and his stalwarts, O'Connell let's his piano chops lead the way as he gives everyone on board some and plenty to you. Another in a series of parties on a platter, this set is just right for a year when the groundhog came out and didn't see his shadow meaning Spring and Summer are just around the corner and this is a worthy soundtrack for same. Mature ears will appreciate this the most as the only trend it wants to follow is quality, but anyone who ever enjoyed chips and salsa will enjoy this as well. Hot stuff.

EMI TAKADA/I'm All Smiles: A swinging jazz vocalist that knows how to roast those chestnuts serves up a nice club/cabaret flavored set that has all the right moves in all the right places. Picking it up or slowing it down, Takada stays on point knowing how to tickle and tantalize your emotions in just the right measure. She's certainly well worth getting to know better if you can't check her out at her Houston base.

Volume 39/Number 93
February 2, 2016
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2016 Midwest Record

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