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April 11th, 2022

George Freeman – Everybody Say Yeah! (Southport)

Guitarist George Freeman is one of Chicago’s elder statesmen, one of our greatest musicians, and one of our coolest cats. So, a celebration of him and his work for Southport Records in time for his 95th birthday is a great idea. Everybody Say Yeah! is that great idea put into action. Featuring eleven tracks drawn from five albums and two previously unreleased tracks and a brand-new recording, well, that great idea just got even better. Especially when the brand new recording captures George and fellow guitarist Mike Allemana playing a beautiful Freeman-penned ballad called "Perfume," and one of those previously unreleased tracks is a cool version of "Manteca" where George takes his time working the groove a whole bunch of different ways. It’s a solid 7:30 masterclass on why we all appreciate George so much in the first place. Add to that, collaborations with his brother Vonski, his nephew Chico, bassist Eldee Young, and many other leading lights on the Chicago jazz scene, and it becomes clear why a combination like this has been needed for a good long while.

The Sure Fire Soul Ensemble – Step Down (Colemine)

There’s been an ever-growing list of Jazz bands in the past couple of decades that have tried to find the common threads between soul and funk groups like Booker T and the MG’s or The Meters and their Jazz counterparts, namely the organ based groups that poured out of Blue Note and Prestige in the late 1960’s and early 70’s. The Sure Fire Soul Ensemble is the latest of these groups, and their new album, Step Down is a solid slab of Jazz-Funk. The grooves are tight, the solos are mostly short, and the goal is clearly to get feet tapping and necks popping. On Step Down, they have most certainly succeeded.

Adonis Rose and the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra featuring Cyrille Aimee – Petite Fleur (Storyville)

Drummer Adonis Rose and the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, in a story that is still all too familiar two years on, were in the middle of producing a program with vocalist Cyrille Aimee when March 2020 rolled along. But, when you see and hear a great idea, you find a way to make it happen, and that’s exactly what they did. The end result ended up being Petite Fleur, an album that tries to pull together the threads between Paris and New Orleans. And to that end, we hear music written by Sidney Bechet (“Petite Fleur”), Django Reinhardt (“Si Tu Savais”), among others. Adonis Rose has always been a swinging drummer, and Cyrille Aimee has always been a fantastic vocalist. The New Orleans Jazz Orchestra is excellent throughout Petite Fleur, and I can’t wait to share this one with you!

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