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ERIK APPLEGATE/Two's Company: You can't argue with the results when poppa loves his work and has a sense of humor (as seen on the cover). The acoustic bass ace has always loved the sounds of duets and here he rounds up a slew of like minded pals to deliver the duo goods on a variety of adjoining instruments. Straight up, straight ahead and always on the money, this is a deceptively sophisticated set that slides in under the radar and makes itself right at home in hipper jazzbo ears. A solid tour de force. Check it out.

BRAD HOYT/Past Future: Soundtrack fans ought to be well served by this set of the new kid on the block that's quickly making himself at home next to the current crop of the current masters. A smart, high tone set that's meant to be heard as art and out of no specific context, this guy has it all on the ball and creates music that skillfully takes you places you'd hardly expect. Well done.

GABRIELLE STRAVELLI/Dream Ago: Before there were the interwebs, Stravelli is the kind of jazz vocalist that would be the toast of New York, unknown west of the Hudson and living modestly since the club pay in New York ain't all that great. Now, she can trumpet the fact that hot shots from Wynton Marsalis, Fred Hersch and Bob Dorough all adore her, as have audiences around the world. A cabaret set too brassy, bold and life affirming to be held by such a niche genre, it's certainly a swinging, grown up record for grown up times that just simply kicks ass. Get on board so you can still catch the tail end of claiming you knew about her first. Hot stuff.

NINA MASSARA/Watch Me: Debut of a dangerous femme fatale shows us a blues mama hiding behind of cupie doll voice that's dripping with dare and daring. A morass of influences from a mash up of an upbringing in Denmark, Massera's earthy funkiness might be too much for the top of the pops that likes it's raunchiness sanitized, but for those that like hanging out on the back 40, she's sure to be a super star. This is how you become a blue eyed queen of the blues. Well done.

RALPH TOWNER/My Foolish Heart: Don't go thinking Towner has gone soft on you in his old age and started making gift shop records. The only chestnut on board here is the title track--the rest being Towner originals. Going solo, so it's just Towner and Eicher alone in the studio facing off through the glass, this luscious and lovely guitar solo set is a total throwback to the kind of solo guitar records that got your grandpa and grandma fired up for some courting and sparking 40 years ago when the world was young. The sound of a master at the top of his game going beyond jazz and classical into some other instrumental realm, this stands easily toe to toe with all the master class solo guitar records in the canon. Killer stuff.

BINKY WOMACK/Womack Style: What the world coming to when a chop laden member of the Womack family has to go so far across 110th Street that that he winds up in England to get a record deal? A solid slice of modern, electrified soul for a turned on generation, this cat who has worked on or with everyone at the top of the charts shows what he's kept up his sleeve for himself. This set might be a along way from a love tko in sonics but certainly not in spirit. Well done throughout.

JOEL LARUE SMITH/Motorman's Son: With a couple of decades of this under his belt, this jazz educator leaves the theory books in the classroom once he decides to step out. Stepping out royally here on this this mash up of modern jazz, Afro Cuban jazz and underpinnings of funk, Smith knows what it's all about in giving up and out a joyful noise. Never less than snazzy and pizzazzy, this is how to turn it up when you are turning it out. A real party on a platter, if this doesn't liven up your barbeque this summer, you better head to the emergency room. Hot stuff that brings the caliente throughout.

BEN ROSENBLUM/Instead: The recent music grad who more than proved himself at the student level by winning all there was to win now steps up to take his place as the leader of a jazz piano trio with Billy Hart and Curtis Lundy watching his back. The result is a tasty debut that can be either an easy going soundtrack to your cocktail hour or the getaway to the hip jazz club hiding in your headphones. Certainly the kind of cat that's going to go the distance, with a purely bodacious debut like this, only good things can flow form here. Well done and right on the money.

TAMUZ NISSIM-GEORGE NAZOS/Liquid Melodies: Now is the time to catch up with this Israeli jazz vocalist that came to conquer New York after making her mark on world stages. This set keeps things intimate and small clubby, and that's not going to be her métier for much longer. Scatting, swinging, singing and working her way into your heart as well as your ears, the vocal/guitar duo at the core of this show knows what are they are doing and where they want to go. A deceptively simple date, the skill and chops that go into making this all work are quite impressive indeed. Well done.

THE RIGHT NOW/Starlight: Casting aside their blue eyed soul moves, these white kids take their place in the young, energetic club realm. Even when they slow it down, they are better off owning what/who they are than they are in trying to be something they want to be but aren't. If everything hadn't fallen apart, this set would be the stepping stone to them being the opening act for some arena rockers and successfully holding the attention of the half of the audience that was paying attention until the headliner took the stage. Showing great growth over the course of three album, the footing is firm and this can easily be the new sound of the suburbs.

CHIP TAYLOR/A Song I Can Live With: The old pro puts on his gambler's poker face and delivers an album that feels like what it is to sit around the campfire at Kerrville and discover something that comes out of no where and hits you like a freight train----and that's why Taylor is finally getting admitted to the Songwriters Hall of Fame this year. Sounding incredibly stream of consciousness and personal, this set is almost like listening to Leonard Cohen dictate his new lyrics into a personal recorder in a coffee shop booth behind you without him knowing you are listening. Of course, even at his most dour, Taylor doesn't make you feel like gargling with razor blades. This set is purt' near literary in style without any of the pretensions. Don't know if it's a masterpiece but it's certainly on helluva set of songwriting. Check it out.

Volume 40/Number 94
February 3, 2017
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2017 Midwest Record

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