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February 19th, 2024

The Heavy Sounds – Live at Fitzgerald’s Sidebar

The Heavy Sounds – Live at Fitzgerald’s Sidebar (Modern Jive Records)

Chicago’s answer to New York’s Dap-Kings or Seattle’s The True Loves is The Heavy Sounds. Steeped in the instrumental Memphis Soul of Booker T & The MG’s or The Bar-Kays, The Heavy Sounds are all about a good time. With that in mind, it’s absolutely a great idea for them to record a live album in one of Chicagoland’s coziest and loveable rooms, Fitzgerald’s Sidebar in Berwyn. As an added personal bonus, I was at this show. Over time, The Heavy Sounds have turned into a bit of an all-star ensemble. John Lauler is their bassist and musical director. Alex Kerwin plays alto sax, Pete Benson is the man sitting at the Hammond B-3, John Wills is the guitarist and Ryan Juravic is the drummer. Whether they’re running through Soul classics like “Sweet Inspiration” and “Rainy Night in Georgia” or poppier confections like “Never My Love” and “For What It’s Worth,” this music drips with grease and sweat. Live at Fitzgerald’s Sidebar is a worthy document of a night’s work for them, and a reminder for you to get out and see them when they’re playing around town.

Ethan Iverson – Technically Acceptable

Ethan Iverson – Technically Acceptable (Blue Note)

Whether you know Ethan Iverson as an idiosyncratic pianist that has played with The Bad Plus, Tootie Heath and Tom Harrell (amongst others) or the writer of incendiary editorials for the New York Times, Iverson is a presence in modern day Jazz culture. On his latest album, Technically Acceptable, he puts himself in some interesting situations. There’s a three-part piano sonata which he plays solo at the end of the album. There’s a swinging and supple rhythm section with bassist Thomas Morgan and drummer Kush Abadey on the vast majority of the album that paints Iverson in a completely different light than you’ve ever heard him before.  “Victory is Assured,” “Technically Acceptable,” and “It’s Fine to Decline” all show a love of Herbie Nichols, Lennie Tristano, Thelonious Monk and Cecil Taylor. The effect is kaleidoscopic, and to these ears, it ranks with some of his most interesting work yet.

Charles Chen – Charles, Play!

Charles Chen – Charles, Play! (Cellar Live)

If you’re a believer in the axiom that Jazz, first and foremost, should be happy music, then you need to tune in to what pianist Charles Chen is up to. His debut album, Charles, Play! is filled with the sound of joy. Based out of the Bay Area in California, Chen is certainly in an area that has a history of wonderful, upbeat pianists with chops and charisma to spare, like Vince Guaraldi, and of course, Dave Brubeck. Joined by the A-list team of tenor saxophonist Ralph Moore, bassist Peter Washington and drummer Kenny Washington, these four musicians make this music sound effortless. Split about half and half between some fine originals and standards like “These Foolish Things,” “Be My Love” and “Passport,” listening to Charles, Play will undoubtedly make your head bob and your feet tap. It’d be nearly impossible not to do so with music like this playing.

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