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January 25th, 2021

Charlie Apicella: Classic Guitar (zoho)

Guitarist Charlie Apicella has made a career out of wearing his love for Grant Green on his sleeve. On his latest, Classic Guitar, Apicella shows off more parts of his arsenal, with solo guitar features, bare bones trios and duets with saxophone. The result is a varied collection that swings, grooves, and in general, pleases the ear.

Lisa Hilton: More Than Another Day (Ruby Slippers)

Pianist Lisa Hilton conceived of the music for her new album, More Than Another Day, at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, but you'd never know it. This is a loose and grooving album reminiscent of Bob James' acoustic trio efforts. Featuring Luques Curtis (bass) and Rudy Royston (drums), this might just be Hilton's best effort yet, as her skills on the piano impress more with each subsequent release. This is a mostly original program, with one notable exception: a nice run-through on Cole Porter's "I've Got You Under My Skin".

Erwin Helfer: Celebrate the Journey (The Sirens)

Chicago's own jazzy-bluesy, boogie-woogie pianist, Erwin Helfer, has gotten January off to a nice start with his new album Celebrate the Journey, released on Steven Dolins's local record label, The Sirens. He calls the ensemble he leads the Chicago Boogie Ensemble... a fitting name for this bunch. The rhythm section of Helfer, Lou Marini (bass) and Davide Ilardi (drums) is joined by saxophonists John Brumbach and Skinny Williams on a batch of fun tunes - from St. James Infirmary to a handful of Erwin's originals. Everything here is laid back and smile-inducing, as you would expect.