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LAFAYETTE HARRIS JR/Hangin' With the Big Boys: A piano man that can count having a band 25 years ago with Cindy Blackman, Terrell Stafford and Don Braden teams up here with Houston Person for a swinging set of mostly oldies that were once a lot more familiar than they are now and leads everyone through a good time. With this couple of wise, old, owls leading the way, you can't go wrong with this set of up close and personal swing.

MARK CAMERON/Playing Rough: This set feels like a throwback to the times in the wake of when white boys were discovering the uncharted territories of Chicago's west and south sides after Paul Butterfield emboldened them. White boys playing the night away with all the joys of playing where they shouldn't be and getting away with it, Cameron and company bring that vibe from Minnesota, where Mill City had a famous skid row that could frightening suburban white boys, and turn it up in that honking juke joint in your mind. Fun stuff that delivers the goods throughout.

JON SPEAR BAND/Live Music is Better: Long time rockers who know how to party bring the jam band ethos to their second album as a crew and show that there's no substitute for chops no matter how loosey goosey you want to play it. Working a crowd on their home turf, Spear and company have all the right moves in all the right places tempered by years of knowing how to give the audience what they want without pandering. A smoking date where everything is on board in the right measure, you can enjoy the shredding, jamming and over all good vibes without even knowing what hit you. Check it out.

BARB JUNGR/Shelter From the Storm: As always, Jungr doesn't give you what you expect. Varying from her format of single songwriter tribute sets, this time out she's giving her all to ‘songs of hope for troubled times' serving up a set card that doesn't have a single bridge over troubled water in the lot. Although there are other players on board, this is mostly a face off between her and Laurence Hobgood where he gets to turn up the drama in ways he never could backing up Kurt Elling. Jungr will always be an art chick to the core and that's what gives her the oomph to align Rodgers & Hammerstein with Joni Mitchell with David Bowie. Another winning set for the cabaret crew on Mars.

SHARI PUORTO/My Obsession: You might not be familiar with Puorto if your ears lie outside the LA area, but on her fourth album, she's aligned herself with the crème of the crop, all of whom show up to play and not just pick up a check, and she has what it takes to take you back to the day when white, red hot bluesy mommas strolled the terrain. At it long enough that to compare her with the greats of the past is off base, Puorto knows how to tear it up and get the party started. A raucous, rousing date this is a gasser for all fans of Raitt, Muscle Shoals and all that good stuff. A winner throughout.

BLIND LEMON PLEDGE/Pledge Drive: No, it's not Martin Mull finally making good on an off handed remark, it's a real cat that has something to say. Sinister sounding white boy blues, Pledge isn't here just to party as many of his songs are pretty thought provoking. Taking white boy blues to new destinations, this is an interesting bet for open ears looking for kicks that are a mix of right down the middle and from deep in left field at the same time. Certainly for those times when it's time for something completely different.

DAVID FIUCZYNSKI/Flam! Blam! Pan-Asian Micro Jam: Taking Bernie Krause's nature recordings one step farther, this highly left leaning guitarist mixes bird calls with foreign rhythms and a kitchen sink from when they were made of porcelain into a wild mix of left field jazz from Mars that is sure to be prized by malcontents everywhere who want to be different but just don't get what civil rights jazz is all about. Calling it a homage to J Dilla and Messiaen, enter at your own mash up risk, exit if you dare.

DJ SUN/Qingxi: Here's a vastly different kind of set. Commissioned as a soundtrack by an ethnic arts council, DJ Sun retraces the steps of one of his ancestors through his various phases. Not the kind of deep ethnic stuff you might expect, this is an intriguing world beat set that does play like an audio travelogue. Certainly made for armchair travelers, this sounds as authentic as it gets when delving into the Orient past.

MALA WALDRON/Deep Resonance: When your daddy was Billie Holiday's chief sidekick it's a natch you are going to show an aptitude for jazz vocal and piano playing, especially since you are pretty much named after him. Waldron delivers. Expanding this set from her original vision, the former tyro that was showing her stuff at an early age has matured into the kind of pro that would make everyone musically involved with her back pages quite proud with this stuff that really does come right from the soul. Well done.

CHA WA/Funk ‘n' Feathers: Mind blower alert. The new era has come to Nawlins as evidenced by this Mardi Gras Indian tribe that brings all the area brand name funk of the past in line with second line funk and an eye on the future. The most raucous, non stop, wake the neighbors party we've heard in quite some time, this is most certainly not for people that like it nice and easy but is a must for people that want to kick out the jams no matter where they were mashed up and in from. Sure to get the blood flowing, this crew has musical roots in Nawlins that go back over 60 years and the pride is showing. Killer stuff throughout! And this is just this crew's debut!

Volume 39/Number 125
March 5, 2016
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2016 Midwest Record

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