The long established musical relationship between guitarists Dave Specter and Steve Freund goes back nearly 20 years, when Specter sought out Freund as a guitar teacher. They have shared many stages, but this marks the first occasion that they have recorded together. In the best of the Chicago blues tradition as illustrated by the legendary Delmark label, Is What It Is is a loose, swinging, tough blues date filled with great tunes, inspired playing and loose-groove vibes. While Specter has become well-known for his jazzy blues playing, his former teacher Freund has stayed close to the roots of the Chicago sound. That contrast works beautifully here on both covers and originals. Freund's tunes are some of the bets on the set as evidenced by the opener "My Little Playhouse." One of the reasons for this is his deep, clear soulful singing which adds punch and nuance to the dueling guitars Specter brings classy elegance to the set in his instrumentals.
New Morning: The Paris Concert is a new DVD that takes you up close and personal with the Yellowjackets - keyboardist Russell Ferrante, saxophonist Bob Mintzer, bassist Jimmy Haslip and drummer Marcus Baylor - on stage at the New Morning, one of the most celebrated clubs in Paris. The DVD captures 90 minutes of live music at the New Morning. The disc also features "Soundcheck Sketches," a brief but insightful segment narrated by Haslip, who introduces each band member and provides an overview of the Yellowjackets philosophy as a whole.
Legacy’s 2010 collection The Essential Highwaymen doesn’t merely cover recordings made by the supergroup of Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash, and Kris Kristofferson, it rounds up selections from their solo albums of the ‘70s, ‘80s, ’90s, and 2000s. Specifically, these selections are written by other members of the group, so the net effect is a generous 36-track collection of Highwaymen highlights in all forms, drawing a more detailed portrait of their crossed paths than any individual album by the supergroup.
On Awakening, his second album for Columbia Records, Leon Parker continues to shake things up, mixing worldbeat and funk with hard bop. It's an ambitious record but one that is surprisingly successful; it reveals more upon each listen, becoming a thoroughly enchanting record.