Welcome to issue # 107, our first issue on WORDPRESS. Click the links below to view each section.
The ZzajRANT page has a thought or two about our new WORDPRESS pages and blogs, as well as an invite to submit your material to us for review!
Evermore exciting MUSIC reviews (We have over 25 splendid new reviews in this issue… there will be many more reviews in upcoming issues, as I start to write up all the wonderful music I’ve been receiving via the nets for DDR (digital download review)); you’ll find a much stronger focus on “home-grown” players over the next few issues.
In Issue # 108 (& later):
More fine interviews & music reviews with today’s energy “shakers & movers”
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Issue # 107 INTERVIEW with Kerry Politzer
Be sure to check her site out at http://www.kerrypolitzer.com/ (+, be sure to tell her we sent you her way, ok?)
Kerry: I did. My folks bought me a toy Jaymar piano, one of those really tinny-sounding things. This was way before the era of the $199 teach-yourself electronic keyboard. I always leaned towards music and was writing and playing by ear from the beginning. When I was eight, I started “serious” classical studies.
Zzaj: How do you choose the players who will join you on a project? Is it more talent level than energy quotient, or are there other factors involved?
Kerry: I always hire my husband, the pianist George Colligan, on drums. He’s a great drummer, tremendously interactive and sensitive. I also end up hiring greatly talented friends and bandmates of his, like the guitarist Tom Guarna and the trumpet player Alex Norris. On bass lately, we’ve been lucky to have people like Johannes Weidenmuller and Boris Koslov, and Paul Beaudry, who is on my latest album, “Blue in Blue.”
Zzaj: You must have been playing keys for a LONG time, because you’ve really got a sensitive and expressive style of touch… do you think that it’s practice that makes that happen, or is the ability to express feelings for a musician something they’re born with?
Kerry: Probably both. I think it was the classical pianist/professor Douglas Buys who said that technique is a means to most effectively communicate the feeling of the music.
Zzaj: It seems to me (from reading through your bio) that you had a lot of classical training… firstly, how did you wind up being interested in jazz? Secondly, is jazz now your “first love”, or do you still hold firm to the classical roots that you were trained in first?
Kerry: I had fully intended to graduate from New England Conservatory with a classical piano degree, but a few things happened to throw this plan off course. First of all, I heard the wonderful jazz pianist Bevan Manson, who was teaching there. Second of all, I developed tendonitis and had to stop playing for a few months. During this time, I could really do nothing but listen and transcribe. So that’s what I did. Eventually I found the Feldenkrais Technique, which zapped my tendonitis, and when I started playing again, I was only interested in playing jazz. Also, I got on the waiting list for the late jazz guru Charlie Banacos - after a year and a half, my number was called, and that began an era of the most wonderful jazz education for me.
Zzaj: If there was one player (any instrument) who you could play with (that you haven’t already)… who would it be, & why?
Kerry: Kurt Rosenwinkel – he’s one of my musical idols! (Not that he needs anyone to comp for him!)
Zzaj: Do you hit the road often, or is most of your recording in-studio? Either way, which do you prefer? Live, or with the headsets on?
Kerry: Not hitting the road really – I have a ten-month-old boy and he is wiping me out! I’ve never done a live recording, this is something I really should do at some point.
Zzaj: Our readers always like to feel like they are truly “in the know”, so give us some “inside scoop” into any upcoming projects you have planned.
Kerry: I’m working on two new projects – one is another singer-songwriter album, hopefully with some guitar work (I’m practicing when the baby’s asleep), and another is a jazz album featuring more through-composed material for my quintet with Tom and Alex.
Zzaj: What kind of keyboards do you prefer to play on (brand name is what I mean)? Do you have a preference, or are you comfortable playing anything you sit down at?
Kerry: I love my Nord Electro. I also really like my light-as-air Yamaha NP-30.
Zzaj: When I’m playing live, there is no sweeter feeling than hearing the applause. Is that an important thing for you, or are you playing more “for yourself”?
Kerry: I guess I’m playing for anyone who is truly listening! That hopefully includes me, the band, and some people in the audience.
Zzaj: We have many independent artists reading IMPROVIJAZZATION NATION… what would be your “words of wisdom” to them as regards a “career” in music? Is it something worth pursuing, & if so, what’s the first ingredient to being successful in such?
Kerry: I’m not sure I have any words of wisdom – I guess I would say, try to play music that you want to hear, as much as possible. The arts are more important than ever in our increasingly mechanized, dehumanized society. They are a way to communicate what is essential about the human experience, and this need to express ourselves has been around ever since cavemen were painting animals on rocks. I don’t think it’s been bred out of our system yet! As far as having a successful musical career, Charlie Banacos always told me to play all kinds of gigs and not be limited to one genre. At one lesson he even had me playing “Killing Me Softly.” It’s a challenge to always be musical in any situation, to not go on “auto-pilot.” But eventually, with enough practice and experience, you get to a point where even an “off” night sounds OK.
Issue # 107 REVIEWS
Taeko – VOICE: Whenever I look at a jazz CD cover in the Orient (particularly when they come from Japan, for some reason), I almost automatically have expected it to be all cover tunes that are (either) poorly executed or backed up with bands that can’t quite “make the grade”. &, yes, I know that’s not “PC” – but that’s not our forte here at this magazine… & I’ll tell you right now, this young lady has GOT IT! Whether she’s doing Herbie Hancock, Monk, a Taeko original composition, or a Japanese jazz song – it’s all very pleasantly done, with superb ratings on both talent and energy. She relocated to NYC during the late ’90′s, and has clearly learned her lessons well… just listen to her spirited singing on Marvin’s “Inner City Blues” – clearly brings the fact to light (again) that “The Man” still has his arms wrapped ’round everything… I mean, she OWNS this performance of Gaye’s classical soul tune! It doesn’t hurt that she’s joined by some players we know already (Greg Lewis on organ; Kevin Mcneal on guitar), but the even 11 tunes (+ one bonus track) very nicely feature her superb vocal talent… this isn’t a set of tunes you’ll relegate to the bottom of your playlists anytime soon. The tune that struck me as favorite track was Stanley Turrentine’s “Sugar“; whether you like puns or not – jazz just do NOT get any sweeter than this. A very, VERY cool jazz vocal album that gets my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating, as well as my “PICK” for “best female jazz vocals” in 2010. “EQ” (energy quotient) rating is 4.98. Get more information at www.songbirdtaeko.com Rotcod Zzaj
Amina Figarova – SKETCHES: I have listened to and reviewed Amina’s stunning keyboard works quite a bit (issue # 87 and most recently in issue # 91)… she drew high marks from my ears, and on this U.S. pre-tour release, she will wow you yet again. What is so striking about her piano playing is her ability to “paint” moods for you… she literally draws you right in to whatever emotional “key” the tune is in and makes you want to listen! This is surely one time when I wish I hadn’t been out of the states, as she hit Seattle (my home turf) in late August of this year. Put your ears to “Caribou Crossing“, & though it’s only aural, you’ll clearly see the marvelous animals at a crossing or taking flight over the hills of your imagination. What you know beyond the shadow of a doubt when you’re listening to Amina is that you’re in the presence of true talent and wonderful energy… one of my favorite tracks on this CD exemplifies that – “Happy Hour” will do far more for your psyche than any 100 drinks you might swill down! The stellar energy on “Flight N°” made it my favorite of the 13 tracks. Excellent jazz that includes each and every instrument in the aural images and will transport your soul to new heights… I give this a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, along with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98. Get more information at www.aminafigarova.com Rotcod Zzaj
Kerry Politzer – BLUE IN BLUE: One of the fantastic things about reviewing music is that once you “get to know” an artist through their work, they often come back to you… of course, if the player draws a “thumbs down”, you’ll probably never hear from them again, but Kerry has been sending such excellent music (every time) that I truly look forward to her next release. (Do a search on the reviews page and you’ll be able to see just how far back she & I go). She is joined on this fifth outing by Donny McCaslin on sax, Paul Beaudry on bass and George Colligan on drums (all players who have been reviewed here before, too), and you’ll hear just how sensitive they are to each other as you listen to the wonderful opener, “Desolation Or Hope” – after her beautiful keyboard intro, the rest of the players join in (at about :43), the tune moves into the “hope” side, and you hear the pure joy of that feeling! The recording quality on “November“, along with the clearly expressed emotion of fall moving to winter, will impress you just as mightily as it did this reviewer, I assure you. It was the bouncy and energy-filled “Shifting Clouds” that snagged my ears for favorite track, though… everything (as you might imagine out in that cloud-filled field) is in constant movement, and every note propels you to a new vista! “Blue In Blue” is just the kind of jazz you’ll want to have in your collection, particularly if you can’t do without shining keyboards in the mix. This high-talent excursion gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from me, along with a “PICK” of the year for “best piano jazz group”… “EQ” (energy quotient) rating is a staggering 4.99. Get more information at www.kerrypolitzer.com/ (be sure to tell her I sent you, too, ok?). Rotcod Zzaj
Dave Bass Quartet – GONE: If you think about it (notice I didn’t say “analyze it”), those who feel the rhythm & are able to express it through their fingers, lips, etc., have a gift that comparatively few have… & Dave & his crew (Mary Stallings on vocals, Ernie Watts on tenor sax, Babtunde Lea on drums & percussion, Gary Brown doing acoustic bass & Harold Muniz on conga) have GOT IT – in spades! Just listen to the opener, “LeGrand“… these people are cookin’ up a HOT batch o’ jazz for you on this one! They slow it down a bit as Mary segues into the beautiful “Surrender“… her husky vocal style will paint the image for you most clearly. 11 superb jazz adventures that you will mark on your playlists for years to come… again, hearing is believing… listen to the Latin-flavored “Mi Guajira” if you want to be transported to a totally different mood/vibe… Ernie’s reeds make this one SMOKIN’ Latin tune. The excellent blues piano licks from Dave on “Someday” made it my favorite track in a big way, and at about 2:50, Ernie makes you feel like you’re right in the front pew… HEAVY duty jazz & blues… I love what these folks are doing here, & you will too. I give “Gone” a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98. Get more information at www.davebassmusic.com Rotcod Zzaj
Greg Lewis – ORGAN MONK: As I cruise through the first couple tunes of Greg’s superb organ playing, I can’t help but remember my own forte into the world of jazz organ at a little B.B.Q joint on 125th Street in Harlem (way back in the mid-’60′s, just before I went to Deutschland the first time). Of course, if compared to what Lewis is doing with his trio (Ron Jackson on guitar and Cindy Blackman on drums), I’d have been laughed right off the little stage. Greg’s playing is brash and bold, with a take-no-prisoners approach… there’s no question but what he & the trio have their own style on this grand debut CD romp through 15 solid jazz tracks. Just scope out the opener, “Trinkle Tinkle” to hear how vibrant it gets… all three players are right in synch behind Greg’s light-speed fingers on the boards, but when Ron kicks in with his guitar solo at about 2:30, you’ll be in jazz heaven! There are some “odd” ones, too, like “Criss Cross“… the organ sounds like the grim reaper (perhaps having something to do with the image on the CD cover, I’m not sure). For pure funky sound, you’ll love “Comin’ in the Hudson“; tight rhythms & a definitely “uptown” sound. The most robust track, though, for my ears, was “Monk’s Mood“… excellent recording on this one, captured every intimate detail of the performance. I’m highly impressed & give Greg’s debut work a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with a strong belief that we’ll all be hearing much more from this shining talent. “EQ” (energy quotient) rating is 4.95. Get more information at www.allaboutjazz.com/php/article.php?id=37228 Rotcod Zzaj
Howard Wiley – TWELVE GATES TO THE CITY: A continuance of Howard’s sax-based thematic exploration of African-American prison music, this is a full-blown suite of tunes that will give you some serious insight into the spiritual traditions of some of the inmates at the Louisiana State Penitentiary (The Angola Project was the first outing), this is a very powerful musical journey! Much of the music is woven into, around, over & through adaptations of original field recordings from those in the prison. If you want to listen to the “true roots” of black music in America, this will give you an experience you won’t soon forget. Howard’s sax just WAILS on tracks like “Three Days” and thumps right on down boogie & blues lane on “Come Forth (To The House Of The Lord)“; this is totally powerful music, without gimmicks or tricks… just takes you back to the roots. I can tell you right now, I’ve been prowling the web for music by Wiley. All the way from gospel to rap to straight-ahead jazz, this is absolutely one cool CD. My favorite piece was the high-spirited “Endless Fields“, if for no other reason than the forthright sax lines… big-time listen for those who dig down deep into their jazz. I give this my HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating, with a 4.96 “EQ” (energy quotient) rating. Get more information at www.howardwiley.com Rotcod Zzaj
The Paul Abella Trio – THE PAUL ABELLA TRIO: This Chicago-based group first came to my attention in late summer on REVERBNATION… it’s taken a while for me to get to them in my review queue, but their motto is what brought them to the attention of my ears… they state that their goal is to “make jazz fun again”… lots of groups lay such claims in their liner notes, but percussionist Paul and his cohorts guitarist/vocalist Mitch Corso, bassist Bob Ferraris and vibraphonist Stephen Lynerd make it all good, without doubt. Just scope out one of my favorite tracks, “Caravan“… if that don’t have shades of short’nin’ bread in it, I’m flat-out lyin’ – & it’s GREAT fun. “You Come Back” weaves some great percussion and bass around the vocal, to be sure. The svelte undertones of “Dark Star“, along with the sense of “universal journey” had me listening many times to this one. Bein’ the blues wackozoid I am, though, made me fall in love with the totally bluesy “Baby Baby All the Time“.. it’s definitely my favorite track. Last time I checked the page, all these tunes were free for download, so go GET ‘em, volkz. I give this cool group a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.95. Get more information at www.reverbnation.com/thepaulabellatrio – & be sure to tell them Zzaj sent you! Rotcod Zzaj
Dave Anderson & Mike Wingo – CONVERSATIONS: You will hear (in only the first few bars) why pianist Dave titled his CD thusly – this is really a keyboard and percussion dialogue with percussionist Mike Wingo… it’s one of the most enjoyable jazz discourses I’ve heard in a long time! There are many artists on many albums who have used this kind of theme before, and what they have to say is often boring and very much clichéd… none of that on this one, I’ll tell you… just listen to one of the prettiest versions I’ve ever heard of “Gentle Rain“, and you’ll hear what I mean – crystal-clear keys and cymbal work as crisp as though you were right there only 3 feet from them as they talk through the tune. What that means from a listening standpoint is that you must listen to this CD with your headphones on, and ensure that you won’t be interrupted… heck, if we could get a couple of politicians to sit down and have this kind of honest communication, our troubles would soon melt away. Dave’s original composition “Song Of You” is far more than “just another piano track”… I fell in love with his message on this immediately. The tune that had the most sensitive aura about it (for me, anyway) was another Anderson original, the six minute “Light Of Darkness“… it’s my absolute favorite on the CD. I’m impressed enough to give this one my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating, as well as an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97… I believe you’ll agree, especially if you love music that talks to you! Get more information at www.daveandersonmusic.com Rotcod Zzaj
Kathryn Smith – WITH EVERY BREATH I TAKE: A most pleasant listen awaits you on Kathryn’s debut CD… this is a jazz vocal style I grew up on back in the late ’50′s and early ’60′s, but she’s managed to infuse it with a sense of “revival” that will make you listen raptly through all 11 tracks, to be sure. Just listen to her bouncy and breathy rendition of “I Get Along Without You Very Well“… for those not familiar with “saddle shoes” or “spats”, this will take you back to those times, to be sure. Smith has a level of sophistication that’s rare in our times, and will impress you with a style that’s fresh through and through. Kathryn’s take on Carole King’s “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow” will absolutely blow you away… and Brian Conigliaro’s harmonica is killer! As she sings Brian’s original tune “Nothing Beats The Memories“, you’ll feel like I did (back in the ’60′s) when I first listened to Stan Getz and Astrud Gilberto sliding through smooth Latin… GOOD! I’m highly impressed and expect you’ll be hearing much more from Ms. Smith. I give her first CD a resounding HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, as well as an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.96. Get more information at http://kathrynsmithmusic.com/Kathryn-Smith-Music/Kathryn-Smith.html Rotcod Zzaj
The Either Orchestra – MOOD MUSIC FOR TIME TRAVELERS: When I see a CD with a title like this, it immediately makes me think it will be entertaining, as the players HAD to be “thinking” when they were coming up with the name for their efforts… this group has been on the jazz scene for a long time… I know we’ve reviewed them before, but I can’t seem to find the issue (Gourd, I’ve been doin’ this “reviewing thang” for too long, eh?)… “creative” is the keyword for music like this, especially when you let your ears dig down deep into “Beaucoups KooKoo“… the composition is quite relaxed, in a Latin sorta’ way, but as you contemplate what they are doing, you’ll realize that there are “hidden mysteries” hidden between the notes (Quetzalcoatl, maybe?) The CD was released in early August this year and features 10 splendid trax that will stay right up at the top of your jazz playlists… to get a strong taste of what I’m talking about, scope out the very funky “The Petrograd Revision“… one absolutely tight tune that made my pick as “favorite”, hands down. You owe it to yourself to put the headphones on while you listen to this the first time… lots of intricate beauty and pure energy! Highly impressive jazz that gets an instant MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from this ol’ reviewer, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98. Get more information at http://either-orchestra.org Rotcod Zzaj
Darrell Katz Jazz Composers Alliance Orchestra – A WALLFLOWER IN THE AMAZON: I’m not 100% sure where this title came from, but my reading experiences about the jungles down south were chock-full of memories of intrigue and adventure, and that’s a great description of Darrell’s fine compositions on this ’round of jazz orchestrals! We first reviewed his work in issue # 84, and gave him a “PICK” on that one… in other words, Katz’ and friends’ work is definitely a “cut above”… you’ll surely hear what I mean when you listen to Rebecca Shrimpton’s stunning vocal on “I Like The Sunrise: I Hope It Likes Poor Me“! There are amazing contrasts in the styles of music put together for “Wallflower”, as well… one of the best blues I’ve heard lately is available on “Tuff Luck Blues“… this is about as “down & dur-tee” as it gets, folks… and Mike Finnegan’s vocal/organ have one HECKUVVA’ lot to do with why it’s such a smash! The thing about this listen (for me, anyway) is that it’s both pleasurable and complex… that’s a truly hard combination to pull off, but as you listen to my favorite piece on the CD, “Visiting My Aunties: I Promise I Will Never Laugh Again“, you’ll surely realize that Katz & krew realize the absolute necessity of making music FUN… (as I always say, “If it ain’t FUN, it ain’t MUSIC!) Killer music all the way around that rates a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from me, as well as a “PICK” (yet again) for “most adventuresome jazz of 2010). “EQ” (energy quotient) rating is 4.99; get more information at www.jazzcomposersalliance.org/node/350 Rotcod Zzaj
Greg Burk and Vicente Lebron – UNDUALITY: Yes, it’s true that the CD title makes this sound like it will be music written by and for the schizoid of the music world… ha! ha! There’s truly “method” to their madness, though, because even though Greg’s toy piano sounding intro on “Unduality One: B Prepared” makes it sound like the bird who done flew over the nest already, you will hear begin to feel the tunes (in a big way) when Vicente kicks in with the percussion… just check out “Guateke” (one of the longer tracks, by the way, at only 3:29)… then you can hear that what these gents are really doing is having FUN… & (as the Zzaj always says) – “if it ain’t FUN – it ain’t MUSIC”! There were many of the 23 tunes that I enjoyed over and over again, but the killer track for me (my absolute favorite on the CD) was “Camino della tristeza“… interspersed between totally professional drums and percussion by Vicente are all kinds of swirling little bell sounds (by Greg, I assume)… this one will have you on the edge of your seat the entire time through! This was a August, 2010 release from our friends at Accurate… be sure you get this one – you’ll laugh your musical ears off! Get more info at the Accurate site link above. I give this one a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.80 Rotcod Zzaj
Jacob Melchior – IT’S ABOUT TIME: Of course, as any listeners in our reading audience know – it is ALL about time… music, that is; and Jacob’s crisp drumming keeps it all on target flawlessly. He’s joined by Tadataka Unno on piano, Hassan JJ Shakur on bass and special guest vocalist Frank Senior on this October 2010 release. 9 songs that weave together the best parts of jazz, both old and new… when you listen to Frank’s superb vocal on “For All We Know“, you’ll feel that kind of timeless vibe that all great artists in this genre have. High talent abounds here, and you’ll be mightily pleased that you got this excellent jazz experience. One of my favorite tracks was “The Lady of My Life/My Baby” – strong bass intro from Hassan, and all the players are totally IN to what they’re doing… nice laid-back (but powerful) energy on this track! My absolute favorite on the album, though, was the lively opener, “Dancing Foo/Squatty Roo“… though it was only 4:09, it sets your head up for this group’s most timely adventure into fresh jazz. I give it a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, along with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.96. Get more information at their http://jacobmelchior.com/ Rotcod Zzaj
Cynthia Felton – COME SUNDAY: I fell in love with Cynthia’s high-powered vocals when I reviewed her in issue # 84… well, she’s back at it again on this October 5th, 2010, release… she pays tribute to Duke on this one, singing 13 classic jazz tunes for you, with all the verve and power you’d expect from a star. Scope out her rendition of “Lush Life” to hear the rich vocal tones she wraps you up with… you’ll be a fan forever, no doubt. If it’s something with a little more cosmopolitan, you’ll have to hear her sing “Take The A Train“… absolutely stunning and high-spirited singing that doesn’t settle for any of the old (and tired) clichés! Cynthia definitely goes all out for you, and it’s clear she loves making you feel the zest for living she projects through her fine vocals. If you “gave up” on female jazz vocalists a long time ago – try her CD… it will revive your faith, I’m telling you, people. My absolute favorite track on this outing was the extended (7:07) “Caravan“… the players are right IN there with her vocals, & contributing in a big, BIG way to her success. Lastly, since I reviewed her 2008 release, she’s had a complete web makeover… really nice site to get more information about this top talent star at www.cynthiafelton.com/ Rotcod Zzaj
Robin Spielberg – SEA TO SHINING SEA: Those readers who have been with this ‘zine since it’s inception know that Robin’s music has been part and parcel ever since publication started… that’s because her piano playing is something a player (like me) can truly aspire to… her approach to the instrument is as subtle and tender as though it is her lover. On this latest outing, there are (as you might glean from the CD title) American “roots” songs… tunes like “Sweet Betsy From Pike” will remind you of times when our country was in “exploratory” mode; young and fresh, so to speak. She will enchant and delight you with “Oh Susannah“. and the rich tones of “America The Beautiful” speak of a glorious time (before politicians ruined that spirit with hyperbole and outright lies)! 20 marvelous sonic memories that are timeless in/of their own, and pure magic in Ms. Spielberg’s talented hands, “Sea To Shining Sea” is an album that will spin over and over again on players between those shores – no doubt in my mind. I give it a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED and an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98. Get more information at www.robinspielberg.com Rotcod Zzaj
Chuck Anderson Trio – FREEFALL: There’s really only one word to describe this great guitar jazz album from Chuck & the rest of his trio (Eric Schrieber, 5 string bass; Ed Rick on drums/percussion) – EXCITING! That doesn’t mean that it’s all “jump”, or “near-rock”, either… you’ll find some absolutely sweet tunes in the 12 all-original pieces… try the truly laid-back “Song for Coreen” to hear what I mean… 4:06 gem, to be sure, with gentle strings that will lull you into mellow-land. On the other hand, if you DO want to jump a bit, try the opener, “Princess of the Nile“… great walkin’ bass line, and the drums are there in grand fashion to help the strut that Chuck leads your ears through. This is great music, not just great jazz (though it certainly is that). The 4:34 title track, “Freefall“, has some beautiful interactions between all three players; I dug it in a big way, but being the uptown blues kinda’ cat I am, it was surely “Exit Blues” that captured my vote for favorite track… while it surely isn’t “gut-funk”, it will make you taste what the aftermath of the blues is – pure JOY! I give this fine jazz CD my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, as well as an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98. Get more information at Chuck’s page (be sure and tell him Zzaj sent you). Rotcod Zzaj
Brad Hoyt – TOGETHER ALONE: Some CD’s “reach right out and grab you”… others are either too lazy in their energy levels, or they are the “keepers” – the ones with true staying power that continue to float to the top of your playlists… Brad’s piano (& guitar on the lead-out track) is joined by several harp guitarists in a collection of 14 tunes that will hold your attention for many years to come. Just listen to “Moravian Deluge” (with Gregg Miner) to hear what I mean… this piece is subtle, as are many on the album, and will stick in your head… you’ll definitely find yourself humming it, then experiencing déjà vu when you remember it was on this CD that you heard it. If you like a little taste of Latin, with high energy & talent, you’ll surely enjoy “Westside Rendezvous” (with Mike Doolin) as much as I did. My favorite track, though, was “Martyr’s Last Crossing” (with Jeff Titus)… the artists very quickly weave you into their intense web. There are many players who lay claim to being “the best” when it comes to piano/guitar duos – but Brad and his pals exemplify best in every sense of the word. I rate this fine CD as HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) of 4.96, and have no doubt your ears will agree with me. Get more information at www.harpguitarmusic.com Rotcod Zzaj
Klezwoods – OY YEAH: I’ve reviewed a lot of klezmer artists in these pages in recent years, but none of them with the level of sophistication I hear in this one… an August release featuring Joe Kessler, with a whole host of other Boston area players who shed a whole new light on (so-called) “gypsy” music. My ears are genuinely impressed, and it takes a very high level of talent to do that these days… just listen to the high-spirit antics on “Gankino Oro” to get yourself impressed, too. Joe’s doing his debut as bandleader on this CD, and ’tis one ‘ellacious job he does uv it, I’ll say… musicians being such a rowdy lot and such… ha! ha! Be sure to scope out that album cover, too, eh… purely clowning, but therein lies the genius, for it (as I always say) ain’t MUSIC unless it’s FUN, too – & this adventure surely is that! The tune I found most engaging of the 10 was “Giant Jew“… totally solid recording, with high talent on display for the entire 2:56… normally you would hear me complaining about such short length on the tracks (the longest is the opener, “Ki Eshmera“), but the arrangement on “Giant Jew” has just the right hook and will have you slavering for more. I give these folks a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97. Get more information at www.facebook.com/pages/Klezwoods/48861593251?v=wall Rotcod Zzaj
Michael Stribling – PARADISE LOST: My last review of Michael’s work (in issue # 98) alluded to his playing music the angels would adore, and this effort is just as stunning and heavenly! The difference on this outing is that the music is thematic… capturing in very poignant ways the plight of Native Americans at the hands of the “white man”. That may sound like a recipe for a boring album full of musical clichés, but in the case of “Paradise Lost”, Michael’s supreme compositional skills make this one of the most memorable musical experiences you have this year. As I listen to “Eagle Above, River Below“, it’s very easy to feel like that majestic bird soaring and looking over the chaos and sadness below as the displacement occurs… the wind sounds Michael realizes are pure talent! I also greatly enjoyed the thrills in “Hunting Party” (though I’d have enjoyed it more if it were just a tad longer than 3:24). The most engaging track, I though, was “Vision Quest“; beautiful “builds” from the drones that meld into a near-choir orchestral that I fell in love with immediately. I give “Paradise Lost” a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, particularly for listeners who demand beauty be woven into the music they listen to. “EQ” (energy quotient) rating is 4.97. Get more information at www.leela-music.com Rotcod Zzaj
Ann Licater – DOORWAY TO A DREAM: Ann’s beautiful flute work on this totally fresh and new musical adventure will touch and thrill you in equal measure! You will indeed find yourself at a gateway to the grand majesty of a universe totally unlike anything the “Dubya’s” or “Obummer’s” are able to conceive… it’s highly recommended that you listen to this with headphones on, at least for the first sitting. Over 53 minutes (14 tracks total) of very healing music that you will love and find your ears returning to often. I just loved the percussion on “Into the Heart“, and the interaction between Ann and the other players is totally unrushed, making it very easy to get in to! We need to make music like this a prerequisite for serving in any public office… if the potential candidate doesn’t come away expressing joy and insight, they are banned from ever applying for office again.. ha! ha! It was the 3:18 “Ancient Code” that captured my vote for favorite… simple and well-paced, but totally elegant in style and substance. Some hardcore jazz folks won’t agree, but I give this a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.95. Get more information at www.annlicater.com Rotcod Zzaj
Sarah Wilson – TRAPEZE PROJECT: When you spin this one, you’ll realize that it’s truly a qualified “high-wire act”… Sarah’s totally satisfying trumpet work is joined by clarinet from Ben Goldberg, our old friend pianist Myra Melford, bassist Jerome Harris and drummer Scott Amendola in a lively session that your ears won’t soon forget. Just listen through the rousing opener, “Blessing” – or kick back with the laid-back “She Stands in a Room” if you’re not ready to kick up your heels yet! One of the most striking features of the music Sarah offers up for you on this circus of sound is the variety… you won’t find yourself stuck in one mood, but you’ll know you’re in the presence of some of the strongest jazz players on the scene today… especially evident on tracks like the bass-driven opening section on “Himalayas“… if you’ve never been “high”, you will find it a most pleasant experience on this tune. She has a most interesting background; while working as musical director and composer for Lincoln Center, she worked with puppets, of all things… lots of strong images come through in her music, as you’ll hear on my favorite piece, “Fall Has Arrived“… I can see (and hear) the leaves drifting gently to the ground (wow, the clarinet echoes really amplify that effect, too!). I give this great CD a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, as well as an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98. Get more information at www.sarahwilsonmusic.com Rotcod Zzaj
Dana Marcine – CROSSING LIGHTS: A very contemporary jazz vocal experience that will reach right out and touch your ears, as well as your heart… the keyword for Dana’s vocal style is “husky”, at least that’s my first impression. 8 of the 9 energetic tunes are Dana originals, which is why it comes across as so vigorous, methinks. If it’s cool you’re listening for, you’ll love “Jumpstart My Heart“, though if you’re looking for something in a slightly more “funky” vein, you’ll dig down deep into “Long Island Serenade“. Another keyword as I listen through this one the second time is – FUN… it’s clear that Dana and the other players (Rob Roman on piano, Angus Mackie on bass, Joe Siracusa on guitar and Karl Sterling on drums) know how important it is to stay away from cliché and boring repetition. It was the 3:55 “Evil” that put the frosting on my cake, though… solid lyrics, tight playing and extra special talent all combine to make this a great CD… I give this one a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for any and all listeners who want a spot of magic in their listening lives. “EQ” (energy quotient) is 4.94. Get more information at www.danamarcinejazz.com Rotcod Zzaj
Maputo – MAPUTO: This unsigned ReverbNation band came to the attention of my ears back in May, & it’s taken this long for me to get ’round to writing the review up (sorry for the delay, folks). Players are Alan Newsom on bass, Neil Rogers on guitar, Pat Deem on drums and Dave Arnett doing keyboards. Though they advertise themselves as “smooth”, there’s far more depth to their playing and energy levels – enough so that I sent them a note right away to ask for a digital download for review. The title track, “Maputo“, has a lot of punch to it, and some excellent guitar and keyboard patches…. very satisfying and invigorating. Their cover of Stevie’s “Higher Ground” uses a LOT of bass to keep the spirit moving in a B-I-G way… I liked this one a lot – great energy! The one that caught my ear as favorite track was the down & funky “Westchester Lady“… again, the intensity of the bass and lead guitars sold it for me. I give this one a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, and an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.96. Get more information at www.reverbnation.com/maputo#! Rotcod Zzaj
Heavy Tin – FUZED JAZZ: Fans of “raw” bop, with only piano and bass hittin’ the licks, will be amazed at what they hear here from BR Pearson (piano) and Izzie Reel (bass); an even dozen highly entertaining pieces for you to groove to – WITH the headphones on, at least for the first listen. Without doing this in a closed fashion, you run the risk of losing some of the essence of what these gents are doing for you… compositions like “Persian Rug” are indeed a magick ride for your aural appendages. I enjoyed all 12 tracks, though certain of them really stood out for me… “midnight strut” had me visualizing tom cats on late-night prowls through back alleys in some severely jaded dime novel, & “circumlocution” had me doing my own jaded hop-dance. The only danger with these pieces is that after the first 5 or 6, you think you’re hearing the same tune over and over…. go back and listen again – it’s well worth it, as these are distinctive tunes in their own write. I give this fluid duo a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, and an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.94. Get more information at www.concinnityrecordings.org Rotcod Zzaj
Peter Jennison- LONGING FOR HOME (SONGS FROM WAR): Many who know me are aware that my first instrument is the keyboard, and that makes it extremely tough for piano players here, because my ear is always a bit more critical when listening for the first time to an artist I’ve not reviewed before. I can tell you that Peter’s wonderful compositions passed every one of my tests within only the first few bars. One of the reasons, perhaps, is because (like me), he served time in Iraq (as a MEDEVAC pilot, meaning that he saw some truly horrible things), and all 10 songs paint images that will make you feel the impact that any war creates in any soul. Just listen to the beautiful “Solitary Peace” for the inspiration that shines through Peter’s fingers… the highest emotional impact for this reviewer, though, was the simply titled, but extremely poignant “War“… having ridden with many chopper pilots streaming heavy rock or metal through the headsets, it is clear from this stunning musical experience that Peter was hearing different things while flying on missions of mercy. This wonderful CD gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from me, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97. Get more information at www.peterjennisonmusic.com Rotcod Zzaj
Chris Greene Quartet – SOUL & SCIENCE, VOL. 2, ELECTRIC BOOGALOO: …and boogie it DO, people! I reviewed the first CD in this 2-CD set back in issue # 106 (after hearing his splendid and highly energetic sax work earlier this year on ReverbNation), & can say without qualification that perhaps I should have reviewed this one first! 9 jumpin’ tracks that will have you on the edge of your jazz chair, if not up and steppin’ ’round the room with pure unadulterated joy! Scope out “Bernie’s Tune” to hear why I’m so excited by this young cat’s music… 6:15 minutes of bliss. Chris’s penetrating opening lines on Stevie’s “Boogie 2.0” will surely inspire you at the same levels experienced when you first heard Stevie do it; and the down & funky “Adamantium, Part III” will more than likely wind up right at the top of your playlists (as it did on mine) – solid licks and high spirit make this one of my most memorable jazz listens in 2010. I give this one a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97. Get more information at www.reverbnation.com/chrisgreenejazz (+, tell Chris that you read about him here) Rotcod Zzaj
Elisabeth Lohninger – SONGS OF LOVE AND DESTRUCTION: I am seldom captured by a lady vocalist as firmly as I was while listening to the opening bars of Joni Mitchell’s “River” as performed by Elisabeth – totally captivating. She doesn’t get stuck in any ruts, either… just listen to the mood change she creates on “Si Me Quieres“… light and lively, to be sure. Reviewers like me tend to get jaded when it comes to vocalists of any size, shape or style, because it’s easy to hear them all “running together”, being cut from the same cloth, so to speak… there is just NOTHING like that with Ms. Lohninger’s vocal magic! An even dozen musical experiences that you’ll have creeping into your playlists every time you turn around… I’m telling you, folks, this lady has a style that will sate even the most addictive personality…. you’ll just have to get your daily dose from Elisabeth. My favorite piece on the CD was “A Little Bit Tricky” – one of the bounciest snatches of fun I’ve heard in 2010. I give “Songs” a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98. Elisabeth also gets the “PICK” of this issue for “most engaging jazz vocalist”. Get more information at www.lohninger.net Rotcod Zzaj
Elektrosphere – ELEKTROSPHERE: Here’s a digital download from my ReverbNation scouting that will make your ears stand right up and take notice… guitarist Max Makin (and friends) produce some tuneage that isn’t “stock” or “clichéd” in any way, shape or form. Check out Max’s guitar and some stunning vocal works on “element 4” to get your dose of different – I just loved this one… cosmic work that will stay in your mind for days (if not months) to come! For pure percussion (and electronic) pleasure, you’ll find “element 3” fills the bill. Comparisons I make to players are often in the realm of those that average listeners have never heard… but this is one that is clear as glass for me… I’m really reminded of my friend Dennis Rea www.reverbnation.com/elektrosphere#! Rotcod Zzaj
Issue # 107 ZzajRant
I also want to let you know that I’m getting a “late start” with WORDPRESS, having just put my first set of pages and blogs up – hope you’ll visit the main page at http://zzaj.freehostia.com/wordpress/ and spread the word to all your musically inclined friends. I’m (re)building my Zzaj catalog there, & will soon pull it down from other hosts… IMPROVIJAZZATION NATION will remain where it is, with the blog posts announcing new issues, or linking you out to the specific page for a particular review, but the WORDPRESS site will become the new “hub” for all my musical and press efforts… again, please pass the link above on to all your best friends (heck, even to your enemies)!
One thing totally nice about residing here in Morning Calm is that I really do NOT have to be involved in ANY form of politics… for an old rogue like me, that’s the only way to go. Yah, it’s a “closed world”, allright, but the way the whole political scene is going right now, I’d TOTALLY rather not be involved with it.
If you have any material in need of review, don’t forget to contact me about it – simply email to firstname.lastname@example.org That’s it for this issue….
Till next time….