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BERTA MORENO/Little Steps: A working musician that started in her native Spain (where she probably had first access to all those Fresh Sound reissues of the classic stuff) moving to Holland and then to New York, she's racked up education and awards making her the right on, saxy lady she is today. A hard hitting mainstream, sitting down jazz date that was made for real jazzbo ears, she knows how to hit the right notes as well as call on the right high flying hitters to bring her sound on this all original date to fruition. All she has to do is hold still long enough for you to get a bead on her and stardom is assured for this jazzbo that knows how to blow it up in fine fashion. Well done.

CHAD LEFKOWITZ-BROWN/Onward: When you've got a resume that has you playing with everyone from Taylor Swift to Dave Brubeck and the restless energy you'd find in Jeff Coffin powering you, "Onward" is just the thing you would expect from a sax man that knows what it is to play the Super Bowl and meet the expectations of millions but still want to do your own thing. Playing like a cat playing a dive in New York with something to prove, this engaging, energetic high octane set takes free jazz, dials it back a notch while turning up the heat and takes you to a lot of places you've only heard in dreams. A killer date throughout.

MARI NOBRE/Live and Alive-From Gershwin to Jobim...A Musical Journey: A document that's proof of the healing power of music, this Italian jazz vocalist with a Brazilian bent recorded this live date three weeks after cancer surgery showing her only avenue of expression was to simply kick cancer's ass ala John Wayne. Leading a crew of pros that's feeling the vibe and delivering a socko punch to match as well as underscore, this bigger than cabaret date is a valentine to jazz vocal fans happy to put their ears in the hands of one who knows how to do it right. Very much a special jazz vocal fan treat.

JACKIE MORRIS/Periscope Heart: The opening salvo on Morris's latest grabs you right away as you wrap your head around how this sounds like her take on Lenny's "I'm Your Man" comeback. And then the whimsy, friendliness and organic touches settle in a take over letting you have your cake and eat it too. One of the sharpest folkie singer/songwriters keeps her winning ways in tact, while continuing to hone her edge, as she observes the world through a world view and reports back on what she's found. Tasty stuff of the highest order, this is kind of solid set that will inspire manques to think it's as easy as Morris makes it sound. Top shelf all the way.

NEW ORLEANS SWAMP DONKEYS TRADITIONAL JASS BAND/Slightly Concussed-Live at Meklbus: A wonderful under the radar phenomenon, this is the bunch that got a million views with their take on the "Game of Thrones" theme. A Nawlins variation on the youngsters doing the Hot Club theme, this bunch is the American Hot Club, sending up 100 year old Nawlins jazz with no nostalgia but a certain heartfelt reverence that captures the real spirit of the music. This set, recorded over two years with different line ups, shows leader James Williams has got an ear for the real deal that just never gets tired. Anything but gift shop music, this'll put the cracker jack in your 23 skidoo as it gets the good times rolling. Great stuff anyone who ever had the urge to throw some beads at a comely lass with really get. Well done with both line ups.

YOKO MIWA TRIO/Pathways: Hard to believe it's been five years since we've heard the last record of one of the hardest working jazzbos in Boston but this is proof that time flies. Taking a cue from her fellow piano comrade in arms, Elaine Elias, several of Marc Johnson compositions are on board here and Miwa isn't shy about knowing what to do with them. Also not shy about trotting out a few of her own originals, this modern piano jazzbo has an eye and ear cocked toward the future---without the speculative, way out touches. A solid album that works throughout, Miwa and her gang know what jaded ears want to defrost with a do a great job of delivering the goods. A sure thing throughout.

TINA RAYMOND/Left Right Left: This little drummer girl is over flowing with ideas. Unsatisfied with he current state of affairs, she's chosen to make her debut album a political statement with the help of Art Lande and Putter Smith. Interestingly putting Joan Baez and "If I Had a Hammer" on the same record, she seems to know how to say more by speaking less and calling attention to how positive this country can be rather than dwelling on the negative. With loads of material you wouldn't expect on a jazz trio date, Raymond shows why she's rising to the top in LA due to eyes and ears approaching things being wide open. An auspicious debut from a cat with a 360 degree observational perspective that doesn't fail her. Hot stuff.

ASHANEEN/Dancing on the Edge of Infinity: Ashaneen takes it a step further this time out as he continues his path of taking traditional new age into the future. The electronics are all there, the soundscapes are all there, but this time you get the real feeling of them turning into starscapes as an almost sinister undercurrent defines the limitlessness of outer space, the new realm for your inner space to take you too. Clearly music for escape, and it's not hard to want to escape earths bounds these days---at least when you take this trip, you'll know you can come back from it. As another set of modern realities enters another traditional realm, the open eared will be the real winners here. Check it out.

REBECCA HENNESSY'S FOG BRASS BAND/Two Calls: Hennessy loves nature, improv and mash ups and she's got then all here playing wit the burners up high. At times Zappa-istic, at times a Balkan band on drugs, Hennessy fearlessly leads her crew of fearless Canadian jazzbos hungry to the chance to really go for it into a place they can all really go for it. Freshly returning home from tearing it up around the world where loads of acclaim were left in their wake, this ear opening, energetic set is everything the sitting down jazz fan could ask for and more. Killer stuff on a rampage throughout.

DOMINIQUE EADE & RAN BLAKE/Town & Country: It was nice of RCA to give Eade a shot back in the 90s, but even when things were good, she was too much of a real artist for the suits in 1540 to know what to do with. You just gotta let a wild horse run free, and here we find Eade at her freest ever. The tide of the times have got her pushing her love of the classic American song book aside for folk and other loosely related tunes, reshaped for the tenor of the times, her way. With the proverbial voice that could sing the phone book and make it sound like a polished performance---performance this is. A piano/vocal cabaret sized date that fills every inch of the room, Eade and Blake aren't just making a record to fulfill a contact here. An art set without pretension, this is a text book for all who want to follow in the wake and get it right. It won't be for everybody, but it will be top ten for those who get it. Finely done.

Volume 40/Number 178
April 28, 2017
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2017 Midwest Record

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