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AL LERMAN/Slow Burn: A rootsy Canadian MVP of 40 years standing shows those of us stateside there's more to roots in Canada than the great stuff we all know from Stony Plain. Swinging his ax through the country for over 40 years, we find him here taking a laid back approach to blues with a rock bent giving us a taste of what roots from the eastern side of Canada taste like. A solid back porch/organic effort, this old pro has been in the game too long to show up with less than his A game. Sounding like it came from the swamps of Canada, this just might well be the great north equivalent of Tony Joe White. Check it out.

HANS STURM/A Day in Paris: Recorded in an afternoon in Paris on basically a whim, Strum and his pals take advantage of a busman's holiday giving us a genre blending art jazz date that goes beyond the usual parameters of art jazz. Being the consummate bass player of this time, Strum will have you guessing whether this is classical, instrumental, jazz or what--but you will like it because it's loaded with beauty, chops and tons of heart. The kind of ear opening stuff that's needed every so often to cleanse the palette, this is unabashed art of the highest order that is not only artful, it's full of the kind of art that'll scare off hipsters and poseurs leaving everyone else to enjoy it as it was meant to be. Hey, some of it doesn't even feel like art. Well done throughout.

RICARDO BACELAR/Concerto Para Moviola-Ao Vivo: What happens when you play music you like, whether you wrote it or not and everybody outside the concert hall is partying to carnival while you are tearing it up inside at a jazz fest? I'd say you'd get a pretty neat record if this is any example. The piano man and his crew are tearing it up live on a set that pays tribute to fusion from the 70s and 80s with a few of his own inspired tunes in the mix as well. Giving his roster of masters their proper due, he's playing these tunes with his own special sauce but not wandering too far off the reservation. Betcha that's how the composers enjoy it when the covers come rolling in. Tasty stuff fusion fans are sure to enjoy, his "Birdland" is irresistible and it gets better from there. Well done.

EVENFALL QUARTET: Once upon a time, there were a lot of bands criss crossing the country at once because there were a lot of places to play. Often, band members would wake up after noon and wonder what to do until show time. Savvy, small label owners would gather the players from different bands together. Legend has it the owners would give the players a bottle of whisky and $50, roll tape and tell them to play songs they all knew. Lots of cool, off beat jazz records were made in an afternoon that way. With this skilled quartet kicking it out on a bunch of jazz classics in a program that would have been at home on Concord years ago, they claim to be playing tribute to the zeitgeist vibe behind the jazz on the fly records made over half a century ago. Recorded in a day, old school style, these guys don't need to come up with any back stories as their playing speaks for itself. If they feel bad about breaking any new ground, they shouldn't, this is simply an album full of great playing that works throughout. With the glory days of labels that gave jazz greats a home for a late career bounce fading from view, this is how the vibe is kept alive. Killer stuff that comes at you right down the middle.

DOUG MacDONALD/Just for Fun: Don't know if you're going to care about the back story behind this set, but when you're sitting and enjoying it, you might wonder why it took two discs to hold a dozen tunes, so here goes. The concept of a jazz marathon started in Hawaii and got transplanted to LA by some jazz pals that saw it worked in one place and hoped for the best. The concept is to have two rhythm sections on hand so the tunes are continuously playing and the players can have a second to catch their breath and think up some new ideas. And they get to stretch out as well. From the sounds of this set, it sounds like a good time was had by all. Recorded live, you know most of the tunes, you know the players and you know good vibes when you hear them. Sounding like a small big band, this bunch delivers the goods in fine style with chops to spare. Solid stuff that will not let you down.

JON LUNDBOM & BIG FIVE CHORD/Play All the Notes: Some times it's hard to keep all the Hot Cup crew straight but here we have the crew's guitarist releasing the third of his 4 eps this year bringing in a progressive sax date that sounds like it could have come directly from the loft jazz/free jazz years in New York. Lundbom knows what progressive ears are looking for and delivers straight with no chaser here.

KAT KINGS/Swingin in the Swamp: A high octane record that has nothing to offer other than the message that the party better keep going, this jump blues/rockabilly roots flavored set was made for good times. The kind of sound that once made being a top shelf bar band a higher calling, this isn't about artifice and posturing. Whether these cats live the life or not, they put on a good show and that's all that matters. Peopled by a bunch of Canadian pros that have been through several music biz wars, they've come out the other side playing for the fans and not the snobs. Certainly a party where you want to be on the list. Well done.

ED NEUMEISTER/Suite Ellington: You'd pretty much have to be The Shaggs to screw up an Ellington program. Here we have a cat with over 40 years in jazz, 15 of them spent with the Ellington Orchestra. How do you think he and his jazzed up jazzbo pals are going to fare here? Structured as a tribute to Billy Strayhorn on his 100th birthday, no matter when it comes from in the Ellington canon, when cats are out to do right, right results. With smoking interpretations of the music and the charts throughout, this freshens up Ellington for ears that love it all but have a taste for something new. Simply killer stuff by cats that can do no wrong. Well done.

EAMONN KARRAN/Celtic Skies: Now that Celtic music delivered with bombast is behind us for a while, those musos with real Celt souls can come back to the front and make the kind of music that makes everyone yearn for the touch of the old sod, even if they aren't Irish. A well textured set that brings in female vocals augmenting Karran's solid piano chops, you almost feel this is a direct lineage to classic stuff from this genre. Less new agy than the label's mainstay offerings, Karran is finding his own voice more and more with each release and tapping into something within himself where the rivers of life flow from the heart. Killer stuff for relaxing and thinking, this is one lovely album throughout. Well done.

LIGHTNIN' MALCOLM/Foot Soldier: Going back to being a one man band, this Hill Country blues man serves up much more of a racket than one muso should be able to. Funky, hard core and somewhat futuristic, this is mind bending/mind melting stuff that bowls you over with the power of one and makes you look even if only encountering the audio. Coming from someplace deeper than the soul, this is blues that might be electric but is tapped into the life force in the cotton fields. Wild stuff that'll make you rethink your approach to hearing blues. Check it out, this is some white boy with the blues.

KEITH BROWN/The Journey: Here's a jazz piano man that has a yen for space and the kind of jazz that was swirling around Miles as he was exploring his space period, but this is more about the Miles off shoots than Miles himself. With a real feel for the keys and bringing just the right touch to the proceedings to give you a lot of notes without it being over kill, Brown explores freedom without much reliance on white space. Solidly tasty for listeners that would rather have their ears to the heavy lifting than themselves, this active, high octane set really fills the bill. Hot stuff from a cat that knows how to bring the heat.

Volume 39/Number 216
June 4, 2016
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2016 Midwest Record

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