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ROSSANO SPORTIELLO/Pastel: A card carrying member of the Arbors All Stars, Sportiello often gets a chance to strut his stuff on behalf of the label, but it's a rare opportunity for him to get the spotlight to himself and show what he really can do and what he really wants to do. Imbued with all the best elements of Euro tradition, he is a masterful stride player that can shift from barrelhouse to elegance in the blink of an eye. A smokingly tasty tour de force, this set removes any doubt about whether this piano man is the real deal or not. A big nix on the not. Hot stuff throughout, the chestnuts and classics that warm to his touch are grateful for the reinvigoration.

SAM BOSHNACK QUINTET/Nellie Bly Project: Paying tribute to her proto feminist hero (Sam is short for Samantha), Boshnack seems to have an ear cocked toward JCOA period Carla Bley showing she has a lot of respect for pioneering types that have come before her. Not quite free jazz, you can hear the echoes of struggle in the music and the vibe tilts toward prevailing. A very solid listening date, this trumpeter delivers the art without being artsy. Sitting down jazz fans have something solid to sink their teeth into here.

FRANK PIOMBO/Keep It Movin': We certainly get our share of records by white boys with the blues in here, but a white boy with a case of Philly International? This set by this Libya born guitarist was an award winner before it even came out and it's easy to see/hear why. On fire and getting hotter in all directions since his 2010 debut, this set is the tonic the smooth jazz genre needed to keep everything running right for some time to come. Killer stuff that captures the sound of summer perfectly.

MELVILLE/New Zero: Following a stint in the lo fi world, this crew has turned up the amps and seems to have set their sights on becoming the nu generation's Heartbreakers (Tom Petty) with an emo edge. Coming up the way a band has to do it these days, they've shared stages and been at events that raise the profile and the flag. It's all up to the kids now.

THE MICA BETHEA BIG BAND/Stage ‘n Studio: What can you say about a cat that's so brimming with ideas and vigor that he doesn't let a little quadriplegia slow him down? An ambitious double discer that finds him dishing up the same tunes live and in the studio with a crew that plays like you'll be knowing all their names in short order, this bunch doesn't serve it up like your father's big band. With smoking charts and tunes at hand, this cat isn't telling you his back story for any ‘poor me' askance as the music that speaks for him stands straight and tall. Energetically eclectic, this set is a total cooker that'll open your ears in fine style. Well done.

JOHNNY RAY JONES/Feet Back in the Door: Not only a white boy with the blues, Jones is a white boy with the deep southern blues. Producer Tony Braunagel rounds up his usual suspects and has them sounding like show band found somewhere between Memphis and Muscle Shoals---not surprising since the band is filled with names like Finnigan, Hutchinson, Schell, Castro, Grebb, James and more of the most reliable in the genre and more. Rollicking stuff powered by the fury of pros knowing they can cut loose and knowing just how far to go, this is the real deal. Well done.

ROY BOOK BINDER/In Concert Road Songs & Stories: Nearly 50 years into a life most would envy, he's been an under the radar road warrior that rubbed elbows with his heroes, had high profile gigs and scored royalty checks from high fliers that recorded his songs. Not a bad a life at all. This live recording finds him in his natural milieu, playing for a group that knows the wheat from the chaff and can't get enough of his modern, Americana medicine show. Organic as it gets and still pro throughout, this is a most engaging back porch record you're sure to leave on repeat once you put it in the player of your choice. This is like a textbook showing the fount from which it all flows and a grand showcase for ground zero Americana.

MARC VW ALL STARS/Raise the Marc: Good music for a good cause as the best of Bay area Latin and jazzbos come together to help out a fellow traveler that was hit by a train and survived. A hard swinging, hard charging set that's bursting with energy and good vibes, the players on board here are sending out the funk with hopes for a speedy recovery. Smoking stuff even without the good cause attached to it.

RHONDA VINCENT & DARYLE SINGLETARY:/American Grandstand: Giving The Rage the night off, Vincent surrounds herself with Pig Robbins, Stuart Duncan and other A listers for this Giant Record reunion date that finds her reprising a bunch of country classics with deep voiced country pro Singletary. Feeling more like a fun busman's holiday record than an effort to make you forget Loretta & Conway or George & Tammy, this is a feel good date by two pros that wanted to blow the dust off the dusties and have some fun. The fun is infectious and it captures the back in the day vibe righteously.

DANI WILDE/Live at Brighton Road: Already a British blues award winner, Wilde doesn't have to steal anyone else's thunder, but her new set sounds like she Wiki-ed Rory Block only to find Block isn't as young as she was 50 years ago and had a light bulb moment. Dividing this set into acoustic and electric on mostly originals, this set lends itself to deep commentary like ‘wow', ‘damn', ‘sunuvabitch', ‘I don't believe it". Everything is just so perfectly played and nuanced that your mind is blown with every note. A sure footed road warrior, Wilde has found that rare sweet spot where a pro can give you a show without making it feel like a show. Killer stuff throughout, and that's even before you get to the DVD that documents it all and more.

Volume 40/Number 249
July 8, 2017
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2017 Midwest Record

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