Regards To You II is the self-released follow-up to Julphan Tilapornputt’s 2012 Inspired CD wherein the guitarist from Thailand fuses classical music with jazz to create a stunning synthesis of otherworldly instrumental mysteriousness. All original, each track was inspired by a different person in his life, thus we get “Song For My Uncle” and eight other winding, twisting, surprisingly syncopated beauties with the help of tenor saxophonist Joe Wagner, bassist Jeong Hwan Park and drummer Ken Ychicawa. Julphan puts his Masters Degree in Jazz Studies from NYU’s Steinhardt School to good use here. Highly recommended.

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Composer/Arranger Al Strong can wail on trumpet and flugelhorn. His self-released LoveStrong Volume #1 debut has nine fine tracks and one awful one. John Coltrane [1926-1967] made “My Favorite Things” from the 1959 Broadway production of The Sound Of Music into a jazz standard in 1963. Here, Strong does it as Afro-Beat so cool. His three-horn front line on “Fond Of You” is in tribute to Art Blakey [1919-1990]. His sense of balladry is totally dreamy what with “Liquid” and “Was” but it’s the closing “Blue Monk” that skates away on the thin ice of a new day. I keep playing it over and over. The awful track?
As a parent and grandparent, I thought I’d never have to hear the damn “Itsy Bitsy Spider” ever again. Strong is wrong in considering this atrocity “beloved.” He even uses a damn children’s chorus. If I ever hear it again, it’ll be too soon.

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Certainly the most wild and way-out of this week’s entries has to be Pasar Klewer (MoonJune Records) by pianist Dwiki Dharmawan, an Indonesian hero for over 30 years. Recorded in England, Italy, Jakarta and, in the case of the Balinese frogs for the 8:31 “Frog Dance,” Bali. Dwiki has long been an activist for world peace, all the while composing, arranging, performing and accompanying a wide range of artists in every imaginable genre. While his last CD on MoonJune (So Far So Close)—Brooklyn’s hippest label, home to “Exploring the Boundaries of Jazz, Rock, Avant-Garde and the Unknown,” as they like to say—was straight-up fusion, Pasar Klewer falls into that “Unknown” category, two discs of unfathomable, esoteric eccentricities. Dwiki’s piano and compositions lead a merry band of pranksters including bass, drums, udu clay percussion, shaker, vocals, guitar, clarinet, rebab (three-stringed violin), soprano sax, a full orchestra on the 12:58 “Tjampuhan” and, of course, those frogs. Soft Machine drummer Robert Wyatt’s “Forest” closes things out. What will MoonJune possibly come up with next?

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Ronnie Earl and the Broadcasters play the blues on Maxwell Street (Stony Plain Records). The hotshot guitarist/composer leads his quintet on covers of Otis Rush (“Double Trouble”), Gladys Knight & The Pips (“I’ve Got To Use My Imagination”), Albert King (“As The Years Go Passing By”) and the classic Cindy Walker country lament “You Don’t Know Me,” as well as his originals, one of which is in tribute to T-Bone Walker, one of his main ax influences. It all amounts to a soulful good time of hot licks, Hammond B-3 and the balls-to-the-wall vocals of Diane Blue.

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Bridges From The East (Milo Records) by Elektra Kurtis & Ensemble Elektra is a doozy. I’m lovin’ it. Its 16 tracks bespeaks a tribal eloquence led by Elektra’s violin and compositions and buoyed by a second violin, clarinet, electric bass and powerhouse drumming. There’s hints of classical herein like Bartok, Stravinsky, Bach and, dare I say it, Monk. Ethnic folk music and dance music rear their worldbeat heads as does Middle Eastern snake charmer music. Poly-rhythms abound. Arabic/Greek tonalities arm-wrestle with the blues and bebop. She grew up in Poland and studied the classics in Finland. Now based in New York City, she also incorporates Afro-Cuban motifs. This is one-of-a-kind joyousness. Music for music’s sake.

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