Improvijazzation Nation, issue # 110

Your support of our new WORDPRESS site for “Improvijazzation Nation” magazine has been nothing short of fantastic! As we start off 2011 together, I want to sincerely thank you for all your feedback and help in getting this off the ground!

When the links below are SHADED, they already have content – if not, you’ll need to come back to check it for content (of course, I’ll also be posting the updates on FB, if you prefer to use that method):

REVIEWS – Clocked in 27 reviews for # 110, & as I start off 2011 with many new products in the queue (if you haven’t seen it yet, you may want to look at my ZZAJ REVIEW QUEUE page, which will show you what’s coming up… this can really be handy for promoters and artists who have sent me review material too), you’ll find brand-new and exciting music to learn about!

INTERVIEW – for this issue will be with Al Conti; he’s been reviewed many times in our magazine, and plays some of the most beautiful music you’ve ever listened to!

POETRY PAGE: In issue # 109, I “re-started” the poetry page that was such a big part of our earliest issues. This won’t fly unless YOU submit your works for consideration to me by sending them to – I will NOT publish every poem, only the ones that I like and that are music-related in some fashion – but, please DO submit and tell all your friends who are into “words” to submit, too!

ZZAJRANT – as the New Year begins, I have truckloads of thoughts and images flashing through my head, & they’re not all sugarplums & roses. I generally don’t write the rant up until I’m finished with all the reviews and ready to move on to a new issue. If YOU have a rant you’d like to have published, send me an email with your rant in it… if it’s something I like, I may publish it… all material should be emailed to

HAPPENINGS – use this page (always on) to check the latest and greatest happenings… in fact, if YOU have music or poetry events you’d like announced, just REGISTER for our site… just hit the REGISTER button – at the TOP RIGHT side of the page; as a registered user – you can POST gig announcements, commentaries – the list goes on & on – so please consider REGISTERING with us – ok? It’s FREE – no charges or hidden fees! If your post is significant enough to me, I may add it into the HAPPENINGS page!

Many thanks to all of you for joining us… here’s a little shot of me, absorbed in all that music you’ve been sending me – DON’T stop… keep it comin’ folks!

Thanks – & a most Happy 2011 to all of you out there!



Zzaj PODCAST! (listen to Zzaj music while you read our reviews)

Issue # 110 poetry

Those who are new to our magazine probably don’t know that I got my “start” in music with spoken-word… though I had played the piano for many years, I was (at that time, back in the late 1970′s) a bit too nervous to do keyboards in front of an audience, but my poetry was something I could do without falling off the stage from nerves. Therefore, I’ve had a long attraction to how words can fit in with music (or vice versa).

I put out a call for this issue and have received a few submissions, so I’ll continue the page for now with each issue… if I don’t get any input, though, the poetry page will “drop” again… so if YOU (or your poetically-inclined pals) have been “lurking” out there, get up OFF it, ok? Send me your material (the poems that will get an immediate “stamp of approval” are those that talk about MUSIC… “hearts & flowers” stuff probably won’t get published). Send all submissions to




so long at the door

whispered sleep,

softly rustling through the leaves

whispered cold-like death

between the barren trees

while we, the children,

orphans of the Sun

sought peace through our feet,

sliding through and caking with mud

on roads, that curved flat

like our lives

in preparation for civilization


I found myself, a child

heart pumping, lungs hungry, greedy


at life’s breast:

a subtle heat that flowing


a man’s cold fingers clutching

the belly of a child, who–

with his woman

with his sister

who ain’t his

is thinking,

“time is in us;”



that this moment

could be held perpendicular to itself,

and so be absolved of all other moments;

stand alone forever

held together

by my child’s hands

clutching the lapels of a man’s coat against the whisper of the wind

…whispering that was absolved

of the woman and the man

who slid and squished

through the mud on the road,


holding hands

with a child,

who danced


very close to them

on the periphery

like a blur

Copyright 2008 ian d macagy


“for franz kline”

birth and graveyard hung in balance

as his hands swung across canvas

demanding secrets of his doom.

an antonym of macbeth,

foretold the terminal terrible strokes

were but bravery and death,

franz kline knew before he died, he’d won,

for himself and us,

the miraculous unity of the land he’d found.

and made us feel

it had all been done while buying drinks for everyone

at some impromptu nonsense in the Cedar bar.

Robert Mitchell, 1995




having spoken ‘thank you’,

the head, lowered to let calm surround

whatever truth had been submitted

with the single word, is raised

to find an entrance, once ignored, now outlined

matter against shadow, a shy but clear

invitation to visit where few have been.

so it is from a dimension without name

gratitude gives frame to understanding,

becomes a spectral step

taking us to recognition

we are sacrifice ravished into beauty

by the tending of a head from where it has been.

thus do we change that which is within

without utterance and without sin.

Robert Mitchell, 2004


“night watch”

the diamonds and gloves

the ring embedded in wax

the parchment rolled

the men ready for departure,

the same departure the cat seeks

away from its master,

the departure of iron and stone,

the leaving for mountains unknown,

of drums,

the beat of the drums,

the lock and the loading of guns,

and yes, you

from nowhere again,

standing in half shadow to the right

offering a strengh that cannot be denied

a sanctuary that never existed.

Robert Mitchell, 2004



so parsimonious is the sound,

so delicate the eye

gazing into what it has not seen before.

and then, of course, the waiting

the hurried footsteps

the flung open door

the shout, and no more.


without warning



no more


though we survive forever, this process

will never embrace our knowing

never allow us past the membrane

to become one with the eternal ache

that does not happen.

Robert Mitchell, 2001





going into the backroom

you rummage to uncover scribbles

the brain wrote to inject the neon night

into a skin ready only for the growls of

cellos, the grinding of silence to absolute.

it is then you see the black granite, the cracking

and breaking of waves, the spray lashing a face

staring at sea eagles caught in the swoop of eternity

shrieking over and over what, until now,

had been caught in your throat.


Robert Mitchell, 1989


“By The Sea”

In sea eagles circling the flat sands

murmur of ocean in their ears,

I saw the never ending of our earth.

As a white foot touches wet sand,

I rememberedno swiftness in my brain can vision

the time of an up coming seagull

or its hovering

or sea gullcrying.

Robert Mitchell, 1995




I’m not looking at the moon those days,

I can’t see that far.

Across the room, i can just make out your face.

I suppose that is enough: to be aware, you are still there,

within speaking distance.

Come to think of it, even if I saw you up in the sky,

racing through the clouds, winking at me, you wouldn’t be there.

For you told me you are only you and that you are allways near,

never further then the width of a room or your voice in my ear.

Robert Mitchell, 1995



Though often i feel you

tugging at the last strands of our bindings,

seeking release,

I am never away from you.

Never away from those seconds

when all the planets aligned to your movement

and all commandments shattered

as you agreed to walk in your direction for the first time.


can we try looking at the night stars and letting them run

through us

till they are passed and gone,

not forever

but for now

and here,

in this moment


stiller then stone

stiller then any quantity or quality known


Robert Mitchell, 1995


“But If You Do Not Come”

But if you do not come,

I will not die.

I will live on bewildered,

and the sky will have no living,

my eyes no living, the heat of my body untouched.

Robert Mitchell, 1995


“I Have Shared You With Others”

I have shared you with otheres,

Thrown my years away upon a countless bed,

my helping hand killed nightmares you have never dreamt,

sat with the dead not your brothers,

nor mine.

A curse in me, in you, will not make us meet.

A night ago, on a rotten summer street, before dawn,

my feet followed your step,

turned your face, clouded by this lack of grace

we share,

and i knew, we would still hide,


our blood not ready for eachothers eyes,

our blood, not ready for our life, that never dies.

Robert Mitchell, 1995



In the shards of the waking morning, looking at this pen in my hand,

how to write away from the phantasie of the hundred dollar bill and

wish it well, godspeed, goodbuye.

To forget i am here, in silence, to let entropy and rage leave, to believe,

even in these shattered moments of mortality, i can still be a mete-

orite for the truth of dreams, a hard reality flashing through eternal

gloom to stir uneasy amid the bland assurance of our doom.

Robert Mitchell “After The End” 1995 Pineapple Press New York


“I’ve used up all the time”


I’ve used up all the time I’ve had to spare.

A few answers may still be here and there

but I suppose I’ll let those go in the endless walks

of dwindling days.

It is then god might let me know the poem life’s confusion wrought

and allow it to be set down simply as when words are found – not sought.

And let it be here, on this table, where I’ve learned

to brake the dawn with blue-tipped match and coffee pot,

let it be here i record the end of me, not as a thought,

but as a shaft of light is caught beyond my window,

a mystery forever passing through,


then not seen,

then seen again anew.

Robert Mitchell, June 2002



“my story”

i came to a circle of monolithic stone

and dwelt there, in two rooms,

all the rest of my days on earth.

at times i go to explore

but i always return to the space of my own

silence, the balm of my own thought.

angels visit me.

i walk everywhere.

Robert Mitchell, 1995


The Shirt The Sheet

the suit the sack the suit the sack

the clock the slick the clock the slick

the clot the cluck the clot the cluck

the stop the step the stop the step

the dirt the dot the dirt the sot

the bun the void the bun the void

the gun the door the gun the door

the hiss the hash the hiss the hash

the heel the fog the heel the fog

the hot the hat the hot the hat

the glove the grill the glove the grill

the gut the got the gut the got

the fork the flick the fork the flick

the ladder the leather the ladder the leather

the loot the lube the loot the lube

the lung the grin the lung the grin

the gravel the gruel the gravel the gruel

the this the that the this the that

a him a hole a him a hole

a knock a ngng a knock a ngng

the knot the gnat the knot the gnat

Dr. John M. Bennett
137 Leland Ave.
Columbus, OH 43214 USA

Curator, Avant Writing Collection
The Ohio State University Libraries
LOST & FOUND TIMES:—————————————————————————-


tank shutter foam of tristeza named e

chaser left my fork lint .toad of

shoelace treedom gazed .my trust

ed cheese sinks to edge and lo my

storm !fanner lung my twister gas

my loose closed dinner plate what

grease sings against the wall oh

shimmerwise oh squat )oh swallowed

bread( a tongue a tingle tingle

Dr. John M. Bennett
137 Leland Ave.
Columbus, OH 43214 USA

Curator, Avant Writing Collection
The Ohio State University Libraries



in my filed sandwich scored I lob

bed an index bolt toward my con

tusion klept a nut inside my cheek

.corn crossed the stream and my lum

ber smoldered smoldered ,saus

aged a shoot a shit )tapeworm(

)crusty( )nodded at the soup( a

fine faucet scrambles in the under


Dr. John M. Bennett
137 Leland Ave.
Columbus, OH 43214 USA

Curator, Avant Writing Collection
The Ohio State University Libraries


Better Eat

nodding ,laundry …gazed fork the cloud

nung gas o line curving to the south

…melty ones ,my muddy hat crock a

folding tongue shine my shackrow breathes

…toilet hanger ,bedding ,loss of sheet

,miles …my gunned song on top ,an

ashen smile the dripping morsel raised

Dr. John M. Bennett
137 Leland Ave.
Columbus, OH 43214 USA

Curator, Avant Writing Collection
The Ohio State University Libraries



Stacattoed second-hand swept
In crystal’s chronometered rush
As, time-tied
Thought slowed…

Snaked to belly-crawl
Hideous crept…

Up on a mind
Entangled in
System scales…

Weighing it’s oddly
Summer-sunday, diamond-backed
Dangerous dream,
So tempted to please
By minding convention’s cues…

Then, shockingly shed
It’s wash&wear
Polyester pose!

Rotcod Zzaj



wit’ me
in snake’s kin
boogie shoes

Rotcod Zzaj



Sadness verse 3

Could this really be the end

to a love and a friend

both fall victim to a wicked mind but let’s pretend

that maybe things dont bend

before they break and fall apart

communication we no longer see the signs we send

and miss our moody trends

our judgment no longer in line

with the current events of our times

what happened to a love sublime

our happiness was once important

but somehow we lost our minds and ran into misfortune


maybe in time we can come to understand

that people never change and shit never goes according to plan

so maybe I can’t stand

deception growing everyday

and I know the situation is out of my hands

but I’m just a man

stupid as hell to ignore the wind of change so I go and turn off the fan

and stop the gust of bullshit blowing up all this dust and this sand

in my eyes blocking me from seeing that its all just a sham


Gone Fishing



Some time has passed
but yet I find myself still thinking
A year went fast
I thought my mind would start retreating
Your love at last
How foolish can I be for dreaming
I won’t…
Just move on past
I know my heart is always seeking
Loving You
Its all I want to do

My mouth spews trash
I’m trying to avoid my demons
I speak to rash
And make up quick for you just leaving
As I
Get set to Crash
Distract myself with girls to ease in
Or out….
The pain that stabs
A heart that never could stop beating
Just for you
It’s all I listen to

Gone Fishing


Issue # 110 reviews

Our latest reviews for your reading and listening pleasure!

John L Holmes – THE HOLMES STRETCH: With all my years in Washington state, I’m surprised I hadn’t heard John’s extremely talented music before this. The sheet that came with the CD (from the promoter) shows that he’s traveled extensively ’round the world and absorbed pieces of the musical culture everywhere he’s been (much the same as me)… he’s back in his native Walla Walla (as of the time the sheet was written, anyway). He plays some highly energized guitar, with a whole host of musical personages joining in on the fun. His “Back Burner” was among my favorite tracks, especially since his solo work is highlighted. One of the most unique things about his arrangements is that they don’t follow “traditional” or “pattern” form as much as you might expect. He has lots of wonderful little surprises throughout the mixes. My absolute favorite track was the closer, “Two For The Show“… lots of space for improv there, and all the players take full advantage of it. I give this stellar performance a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97. Get more information at the promoter’s site. Rotcod Zzaj

Mr. Ho’s Orchestrotica – THE UNFORGETTABLE SOUNDS OF ESQUIVEL: I don’t think I’ve heard this much pandemonium on a jazz CD in quite some many years… it’s a definitely “horny” band, in “Big Band” style, with a little taste of Hawaiian islander tossed in for good effect. “Mr. Ho” is actually Brian O’Neill, & his dedication to Juan Garcia Esquivel’s music stands on it’s own in a sea of mediocre music. If this doesn’t energize the lame, there’s nothing can be done for them anymore. I wasn’t acquainted with Esquivel, but (of course), that’s the whole purpose Mr. Ho has in life… to bring this totally tasty & unique musical adventure to your aural appendages. Brian’s piano work on here can only be described as “fun” and “crazy”, two of the words I grew up with in my sojourns through western Pennsylvania in the ’50′s. Definitely cool is “Frenesi“, but it was the very abbreviated & ’60′s-ish “Mini Skirt” that got my vote for favorite! Strangely enough, O’Neill & his large-band crew bring this up to a suitable standard for the 21st century. I give it a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.96. Get more information at Rotcod Zzaj

Evan Wish – FORGET ME NOT, BLUE: This isn’t “just another beautiful piano album” (though it IS THAT, too)… Evan incorporates some of the prettiest string arrangements I’ve heard yet this year for most dramatic and emotional effect… just listen to the opener, “Tara” to get an aural taste of his talent. He performs on a 7′ 4″ Bosendorfer Grand Piano, a truly amazing instrument (wish I could get hold of one, to be sure). The 10 tunes on here are, in Evan’s own words, all about it being “a message that I wanted to send to the world”. Those of you familiar with playing will understand immediately (as you listen) that he’s gotten his message well in-hand and knows just what he wants to say to us. The reason I say it’s unique, though, is for tracks like “What Will Man’s Legacy Be“, on which he weaves in some marvelous spoken-word segments… the integration of the strings with his piano and the words makes this one of the most powerful listening experiences I’ve had this year, and surely merits my HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating. I’ve no doubt we will be hearing much more from this truly talented player. I give it an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97, too. Get more information at Rotcod Zzaj

Leslie Pintchik – WE’RE HERE TO LISTEN: I’ve been reviewing Leslie’s fantastic keyboard work for years now, most recently in issue # 79, and was overjoyed to see this beaut roll in through the mail-slot! The review package came with a totally entertaining DVD from a live performance in October, 2010… vibrant and head-on playing that captures the viewer and makes them stay through the entire performance. The “moods” go all the way from blues to funk to straight-ahead jazz. I just loved the opener, Leslie’s quartet playing Dylan’s “Blowin’ In The Wind“… Leslie is joined by Scott Hardy on bass, Mark Dodge on drums & percussion from Satoshi Takeishi. The true beauty of the performance is that (because of the DVD, I believe), you feel like they are performing for YOU. My favorite cut was Leslie’s original, “There You Go“, which gives new meaning to “swing”… high-energy and totally focused jazz that will have you jammin’ for days! All ten songs are clear winners that merit my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating… the CD/DVD gets an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 5.00 (the very TOP of the scale), & I give this my “PICK” of this issue for “best piano jazz”. Get more information at Rotcod Zzaj

Rick Cutler – FIRST MELANCHOLY, THEN THE NIGHT STRETCH: Rick’s talent on this second CD, released in January 2011, is beyond categories… which, when you think about it, may be where that odd title came from. There are moments when you’ll think you’re in church… “Isle Of Words Forgotten” is a perfect example of such… but others, like “Alien Landscape 3” put you in a completely different place. My ears tell me that the overall tone of the album is tied up in the “melancholy” part of the title… cleanly sculpted notes all the way through, firm keyboard touch and dedication to the mood being created make this a very enjoyable (& new) sonic adventure. My particular favorite was “From Then Till Now” with it’s grand right-hand excursion through eternity. For those who love piano that has new moods than those you’re accustomed to hearing, this is MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED; it gets an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97. Get more information at Rotcod Zzaj

Chris Dahlgren and LEXICON – MYSTIC MAZE: This CD is one of the best I’ve heard this year (& I’ve already reviewed 50 or so)… there are shades of verbal anarchy here that remind me of the best in spoken-word ever performed! Based on reviews of composer Bela Bartok’s music, Chris & crew speak and play through the reviews with total excellence. I especially enjoyed cuts like “Bitter Champagne“, where the words are challenged by the superb musical performances. Chris’s bass work on tunes like “Painless Dentistry’ no.1” can’t be “poo-poohed” away into any ol’ pigeonhole – this is highly creative work, with time signatures that twist, turn and take you down the rabbit hole over & over again. My absolute favorite track, though, was the 2:21 “Repetition Unit 2… you just don’t hear energy like this any more – think Frank (Zappa, that is). I give this one a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, as well as an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98. Get more information at Rotcod Zzaj

Lew Soloff, Steve Richman – SKETCHES OF SPAIN: Though I believed I had reviewed Lew’s works before, I could only find reference (in issue # 91) to a live-show review I had watched him perform at a couple of years back up in Seattle. His trumpet work under conductor Steve Richman (with Harmonie Ensemble New York) will hold you spellbound for the entire 41 minutes, no doubt! Lew’s homage to Miles is amplified in stature since he had played with the man… check out the fantastic “Solea” if it’s brass inspiration you’re after… you will be entranced for the entire 12:22, I’ve no doubt. I didn’t like the theme of “Saeta“, probably because of the “military overtones”, but it’s played with excellence and high energy. The intricacy of “The Pan Piper” made it my clear favorite, though it only clocks in at 3:59… a truly magical experience! I give this my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating, as well as an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99. Get more information at Rotcod Zzaj

John Noble – JOHN NOBLE: John’s bio sketch on his REVERBNATION page tells us he’s from down where thee Voodoo Chile’s were first conceived. His guitar work is nothing short of fantastic on the 13 tracks he sent me for review (all of those, plus 4 more are available for DOWNLOAD, too – so get there before he turns it back to stream only). Billed as jazz/psychedelic, there’s nothing fraudulent about his claims whatsover… just listen to the hard-chargin’ “Firefly” – one of my favorites – to get an idea of how ramped up his playing gets! The clear winner for favorite track, though, was “Egyptian Sands“… this is one magick karpet ride you won’t want to miss. I give John & krew a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for any & all who love music with POWER! “EQ” (energy quotient) rating is 4.98. Get more information at Rotcod Zzaj

Tyler Blanton – BOTANIC: If it’s a “cool vibe” you’re after for your listening experience today, you’ll have to check out Tyler’s debut CD… his vibraphone is magical, and there is (absolutely) nothing lame about it. He’s joined by saxophonist Joel Frahm, bassist Dan Loomis & drummer Jared Schonig (with guest shots by bassist Aidan Carroll & drummer Richie Barshay) – & what a joyous frolic they have! I especially enjoyed the fun on “Good Ol’ Joel“, but all 8 tracks promote that spirit of celebration that often is the key ingredient to a successful recording. The totally laid-back “Mellow Afternoon” is absolutely refreshing & will renew your faith in the good spirits that music can bring to our lives. My clear pick for favorite track, though, was the closer, “Vestibule”.. 6:44 minutes of jazz beauty to behold. I give Tyler & crew a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.96. Listen to what I say, peepz – you WILL be hearing much more from this great player! Get more information at Rotcod Zzaj

Curtis Fuller Sextet – I WILL TELL HER: This 2-CD set, dedicated to Curtis’s late wife, is an absolute jazz adventure. His trombone work is some of the most penetrating I’ve heard in the last five years of reviewing (& that’s saying a lot, ‘coz I’ve listened to a LOT of ‘bone players in that span); Curtis is a jazz legend, having performed with giants like Coltrane, Blakey, Dizzy & on & on. He’s joined for this recording by Keith Oxman on tenor sax, Al Hood doing trumpet, keyboards from Chip Stephens, bass by Ken Walker and drums from Todd Reid, in an epic performance you’ll spin over & over again! When you listen to the second cut, “Sagittarius”, you’ll have no choice but to agree with my assessment… this is the kind of “old school” vibrant jazz that infused the genre with energy and made it such a force in music. The hard-charging “Maze” will have your ears running in circles to try and catch up… this is one stunning track. The excellent piano chops on “Alamode” made it my pick for favorite, but you may find something you like better in the total of 14 tunes on the two CD’s. This epic jazz adventure gets my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99 and the “PICK” of this issue for “best sextet jazz”. Get more information at the CAPRI RECORDS site! Rotcod Zzaj

Margie Baker & Friends: LIVE AT RASSELAS: My most recent review of Margie’s marvelous blues & jazz vocals, was in issue # 104… this ’round is a little different, as it’s a live set in San Francisco…. you’ll feel like you’re right there in the front row, especially on tracks like her rendition of “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore“! If you’re a hardcore blues fan, you’ll also dig down deep on “I Got A Right To Cry“… she really tells the story on this one, folks! I found lots to love on these 20 tunes, but the standout tune for me (this time) was “R.M. Blues“, on which that organ (along with all the OTHER instruments) is just SMOKIN’, people… it’s only 3:19, but it will take you back to when jazzy blues RULED! Margie’s vocal on “God Bless The Child” will bring a tear to your eye in a heartbeat, too. Some of the jumpinest blues on the scene today, this CD is a must-have for anyone who loves blues/jazz vocals… I give it a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, as well as an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97. Get more information at JAZZNOW! Rotcod Zzaj

Tom Culver – I REMEMBER YOU: If you were weaned on lounge lizard jazz, especially in Tony Martin or (in this case) Johnny Mercer vocal razz-ma-tazz, you’ll find this hepped up jazz vocal set from Tom unavoidable. His player list is far too long to accomodate in this review, but if you visit the label site, RHOMBUS RECORDS, you’ll be able to check it out. I grew up listening to crooners like this (Perry Como, Andy Williams & many more), so this is quite enjoyable as a nostalgia machine (though it’s not necessarily what I listen to every day any more). Tom certainly gets carried away when doing a session – there are 18 lovely tunes here for all listeners who still revel in this style. I dug “On the Atchinson, Topeka and the Santa Fe“… in a big way, ‘coz it takes one back to boogie roots! This won’t win any free-jazz fans, I’m sure, but if your cup of tea is upbeat Johnny Mercer standards, this will be one of your favorites for the year. I give it a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.94. Get more information at Rotcod Zzaj

John Goldman’s Quadrangle – OUTSIDE THE BOX: Today’s world is full of great jazz, & nowhere is that more evident than on tracks like “Moore Is Moore” – definitely one of my favorite tracks (already) in 2011… totally fitting, as John’s latest release was on 1 January, so you’re getting the “inside scoop” here, no doubt. I’ve got no doubt that one reason why I love his sax/flute work so much is that one of his mentors was the legendary Eddie Harris… just listen to th’ down&durtee licks on “Dr. Jeckyl & Mr. Hill” to hear why I’m talkin’ ____ (heh! heh!) – truly sophisticated phunk that you’ll fall in love with at first listen! If you want somethin’ with a bit more verve, check out “Harrison“; great playing from everyone here, and some GREAT guitar work by Scott Hesse – this one goes way OUT, too! My absolute favorite track, though, was the closer “Soy Gonzo“… some great Latin work featuring John’s superb flute and a wonderful vocal by Leslie Beukelman… very inspiring music all around! I give this one my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98. Get more information at Rotcod Zzaj

Benjamin Herman – HYPO CHRISTMAS TREEFUZZ: This track isn’t on this album, but it gives you an excellent idea of just what these folks are capable of (in the way of mayhem & madness)…. ha! ha! “Brozziman” is slammed all over the netz for your listening pleasure, and your ears will be jumpin’ right out of their sockets. What these guys bring to life is “jazz” itself – it’s no longer “dead” in their hands, to be positively sure. I’m not sure if that has to do with their locale (Holland), or (just) their love of music in general, but any way you look at (or hear) it, these katz do ROCK that jazz envelope – your ears will be surely pleased! Their live performance of the title track, “Hypo Christmas Treefuzz“, is one of the best examples I’ve heard (& now seen) of just what true “free spirit” in jazz is truly about (actually, the version on the CD is far higher quality sound, though). Benjamin’s alto sax is right out in front on this one, but each & every player gets their moment to express themselves. The 2-CD package comes with 10 studio tunes (plus a bonus track), and 9 pieces from a live set at the North Sea Jazz Festival. Listeners who love freedom in their jazz will find this highly amusing and inspiring… I give it my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating, as well as an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98. Get more information at Rotcod Zzaj

Laura Harrison – NOW… HERE: As I listen to Laura’s opener, “Shulie A Bop“, I’m snappin’ fingers & poppin’ toes, to be sure! If you claim to be a big fan of jazz vocalists and you can’t “grok” this tune, you’ve got a B-I-G fib goin’ on, ‘coz this is th’ STUFF, volkz! The fact that she’s joined by some players we’ve reviewed here before (Peter Smith & John Proulx on piano; Chris Colangelo & Kevin Axt on bass and Jimmy Branly & Steve Barnes on drums) makes the listen even more exciting, but what truly stands out is that Laura knows just what to do to make the lyric come ALIVE, no matter what mood it’s painting. Scope out one of my favorite tracks, “Berimbau” to hear what I mean… she’s a vocal chameleon, moving from mood to mood in a matter of seconds, and you’ll love what she’s doing. It’s the beautiful “Habanera” that gets my top favorite pick, though… she lilts you right into another culture, and it takes real talent to be able to do that. I give this one my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.96. Get more information at Rotcod Zzaj

Lauren Hooker – LIFE OF THE MUSIC: When I first reviewed Lauren’s fantastic vocal work on her debut in issue # 81, I was more than just “impressed” – I was captivated by her husky-toned marvels. On this new release (11/16/2010), she took it a step further in the direction I love my music to go, with a beautifully done spoken-word piece & title track, “Life of the Music/Your Music Brings Out the Poetry In Me” (spoken by Jeanette Curtis Rideau). This is a whole new dimension, & I love it, ‘specially since my own initial forays into performance were oriented around spoken-word. It’s my personal opinion that when a truly talented singer performs poetry, it’s even better than “straight singing”, & this piece proves it beyond the shadow of any doubt. It’s also most notable that Lauren does acoustic/electric piano & Djembe drum on several of the cuts… more of those “new dimensions” that show the depth of her talents! Another tune that really caught my ear was Lauren’s rendition of Joni’s “Song To a Seagull“; some beautiful cello by guest Mike Richmond on this one, too. It was the lively & down-home tune “Countin’ On the Blues” that got an immediate favorite pick from me, though… Lauren shows herself to be a sultan of swingin’ blues on this one! I give her a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98 for this one. Get more information at Rotcod Zzaj

Ken Thomson and Slow-Fast – IT WOULD BE EASIER IF: Ken’s reeds (bass clarinet and alto sax) are joined by trumpet from Russ Johnson, guitar by Nir Felder, bass from Adam Armstrong and drums/electronics from Fred Kennedy, and what a cool collection it is! This isn’t your “standard jazz” experience, though it surely is jazz! Just listen to the opener, “Kleine Helmet” to get a taste of the wonderful pacing the arrangements provide… some beautiful passages here (also, be sure to check out the YOUTUBE vid). I get a vibe similar to some of the tunes Don Van Vliet (aka Beefheart) composed on Goddamn You Ice Cream Truck - one WILD ride, to be sure… it clocks in for 9:04 adventure-filled minutes. There is nothing “simple” about the webs Ken weaves… these are pretty complex tunes that “average listeners” may not grok right away – but they should be encouraged to hang on, as they’ll definitely learn something (good) about what improvised music can be. Shades of orchestral works permeate the arrangements, but you can clearly hear jazz as the strongest presence. Timing is right ON throughout the tracks, but the one that captured my ears for favorite track was the ever-moving “Wanderangst“… definitely impressive talent just shines through every note. I give this CD my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED and an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97. Get more information at Rotcod Zzaj

Syntony – SCAVENGER: This CD is one I thought I was reviewing earlier in this issue (see my review of Yoshi Hampl’s “Water Dealer” below)… one of those “senior moments”, I guess… yikes! First, watch this vid on YOUTUBE it will give you a strong feel for the dexterity and light-speed performance this stunning group is capable of performing! If “fusion” wasn’t a word in your lexicon before now, it will be after listening to this group. Check out one of my favorites (especially for the energy), the deep-toned “Lehrgut“… if you’re not trained well in their mysterious approaches to the sonic realm by the end of this 7:06 masterpiece, you’re beyond learning. The keyword for all 8 tracks on this marvelous experience is “creative”… there are no 3-minute-wonders here – on the other hand, your ears must be dedicated to letting yourself go… scope out my favorite track, “Super Track of Sounds” to hear why I’m a fan of these folks after only one CD. I can guarantee you you’ll be hearing much more from them in the coming years. I give them my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, as well as an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99. The CD also gets the “PICK” of this issue for “most creative jazz”. Get more information at the BANDCAMP page! Rotcod Zzaj

Eugene Marlow’s Heritage Ensemble – CELEBRATIONS: I tagged this as a “C-mas” album, probably because of the title, but it’s about as “jazz” as it gets! Seven splendid tracks that will inspire you to do just what the CD title says – CELEBRATE, which clearly means (according to one online dictionary, anyway) “To observe (a day or event) with ceremonies of respect, festivity, or rejoicing”. The jazz here is indeed festive and rejoicing… check out the joy in “Sevivon“, one of my favorites on the album… players like drummer Bobby Sanabria, keyboardist Dr. Eugene Marlow and saxophonist Michael Hashim use all their talent and energy to enchant you in the magical sonic spell they weave. The clear winner, for this reviewer anyway, was the splendid “Mishenichnas Adar Marbim Be-Simcha” (yikes, did I spell that right)… my only critique is that it would have been nicer if it went a bit longer than 3:51). I loved this CD & give it my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.96. Get more information at Rotcod Zzaj

Lisa Maxwell – RETURN TO JAZZ STANDARDS: There’s clearly something to be said for the old standards – & Lisa says it all quite well, thanks very much! Settle back into your favorite groove chair & scope out her rendition of “Lazy Afternoon” – some of the most beautiful strings I’ve heard this year (or last, or the year before) – but it’s Lisa’s high-talent energy that makes the tune come ALIVE! Her rendition of “The Shadow Of Your Smile” will give you a great big grin from ear-to-ear. I’m not always enamored of “standards” albums, because unless they’re infused with the kind of high spirit Lisa brings to all her work, they can feel kind of “re-hashed”; no danger of that here… all 11 tracks are stellar. I give her a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97. Get more information at Rotcod Zzaj

Yoshi Hampl – WATER DEALER: There is a clear air of danger in the music from Yoshi & co-producer Markus Reuter ... takes me back to yesteryear, in the heyday of the psychedelic years… just listen to the opener, “Waterside“, to get a taste of what I’m hearing. It’s a truly world-shaking form of original and (often) improvised music that you MUST listen to with your headphones on to get the full effect. A supremely talented player , Yoshi can’t be shoved into any pigeonholes… this is music that stands on it’s own, and that will challenge your concept of what life is truly all about! I greatly enjoyed the percussion & bass oriented track “Water Dealer“… in fact, this is my favorite of the dozen tracks I received on the CD for review. The one thing I must advise is that you do the first couple of listens with your headphones ON (at full blast, of course)… you will want to be totally wrapped in the sonic dream. This is definitely the most interesting CD I’ve reviewed in 2011 – and I expect it will stay that way through the year to come! I give this one a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98. You can listen to streams of the tracks at Yoshi’s MYSPACE page, or read more about the creation of this CD at his BANDCAMP page! (ED: due to a mixup at my end, the group SYNTONY’s “Scavenger” will be reviewed (either) later in this issue, or in # 111… my apologies to Yoshi & the rest of SYNTONY for any problems my initial review may have caused – & thanks go to Yoshi for getting me straight) Rotcod Zzaj

Jim Peso: Jim was a find on REVERBNATION while I was looking for Washington-based players. He’s one of those “all-around” kinda’ players, doing guitar, sax (as you see here), keyboards and vocals as well. It was his “Howlin’ At The Moon” that made my ears sit right up and take notice – mainly because of the fine arrangement and Jim’s silky vocal right at about the 1 minute mark! It’s very clear that he loves playing & performance… just check out my favorite piece, the definitely funky “Sazzaphone“… he shines like the star he is on this one! There were 8 tunes on the downloads Jim gave me for review (though there are 9 streams up there now – 2 of which are in download mode – so grab ‘em while you can), and what he shows is that his musical talents are truly diverse. I give Jim a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.7. Get more information at Rotcod Zzaj


Lis Addison – THE GRACE OF THE GREEN LEAF: Listeners and players alike will find something to love here, I assure you. Billed as “body chants & trance grooves”, this type of CD might have gotten “shoved to the back of the stack” in my early days of reviewing, but even though the release was in early October, 2010, it’s not because it languished… I’ve been listening over & over again to Lis, and am constantly amazed by pieces like “New Nation“! The keyword for what Lis does here is “pleasant”… you will be just as enchanted as I was with the marvelous vocal work on the 7:23 “My Big Community“, & it will stay right at the top of your playlists for years to come. One special advisory, though… this is fine for speaker listening, but on the first 2 or 3 listens – DO it with HEADPHONES! I give Lis a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for this one, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98. Get more information at (be sure & tell her that Zzaj sent you, too, ok?). Rotcod Zzaj

Shambhu – SACRED LOVE: Here’s (yet) another fantastic CD in from an artist we hadn’t heard before. Once again, Shambhu is produced by Windham Hill’s Will Ackerman, and as you’ve been reading about here, that’s a sure-fire formula for a successful recording. If you were into “classification”, you’d probably peg this somewhere in between “contemporary” and “world” – but it’s the ENERGY levels (for the playing) that count when I’m deciding which CD’s will get reviewed (& which won’t). Though Shambhu’s approach on his compositions and arrangements is clearly in the “calm” zone, it’s the timeless kind of music that demolishes genre labeling and makes you fall in love with all of the dozen tunes on it! I particularly loved “Eyes Of A Child” for that laid-back (yet high-energy) approach. Variety is a hallmark, too… just listen to the wonderfully moving “Natural Moment” to get a taste of the love this gent is radiating. It was the beautiful overtones on “Shiva Grove” that captured my pick as favorite, though… simple, but beautiful – a wonderful way to start 2011! I give this one a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, as well as an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98… it also gets the “PICK” of this issue for “most inspiring music”. Get more information at Rotcod Zzaj

Broken Holmes – BROKEN HOLMES: If it’s pure gut-funk & fun you’re after in your listening, you’ll dig this band just as mightily as I did. This is a DDR (digital download review) they hooked me up with… the players (Jon Snyder on guitar, Larry “Fab” Folz on tenor sax, Mark Strivings on alto sax, Logan Muckler on bass, Dave Perlowski on percussion & Scott Roush on drums) will definitely “sock it to you” (as we used to say back in the ’60′s.. ha! ha!). Hail, even the titles are retro-funky, as in “Boogaloo“… where thee phonk sneaks UP on yo’ ears & gets you STEPPIN’, no doubt about it, & when you do it with headphones on, your family will be thinking you got “St. Vitus Dance” or somethin’ like that. Since ENERGY for the playing is what my primary criteria is, though, you’ll hear why I found “Squid” to be my favorite track right away… this thang just ROCKZ – that guitar solo will require a whole fire hydrant to put it out! Overall, these folks get my HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, & I’m truly looking forward to when they send their first full-production CD for review – you WILL be hearing more from them, I’ll guarantee that. “EQ” (energy quotient) rating is 4.96. Get more information at Rotcod Zzaj

Dan Adler – BACK TO THE BRIDGE: I first reviewed Dan’s totally engaging jazz guitar works back in issue # 90 – he captured my ears on that one, but since he brought in Joey DeFrancesco’s superb organ work on this one (along with most timely drumming from Byron Landham), I find myself spinning this over & over again (and if you’re any kind of jazz fan at all, you will too). Just check out one of my favorite tracks, “Between Jobs“, to see why I get excited about this kind of jazz.. this DEFINES “mellow”. Though this was released in early November, 2010, if jazz guitar is your thing, you’ll want to rush right on out & get this one today! It was actually the 7:43 “A Beautiful Friendship” that got my vote as favorite, though… all three players are ON, & fully devoted to keeping the energy moving. I’m highly impressed, and have no doubt you will be too! This one gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, especially for those who love high-talent trio work… “EQ” (energy quotient) rating is 4.98. Get more information at & be sure to tell them I sent you, ok? Rotcod Zzaj

Roy Gaines and his Orchestra – TUXEDO BLUES: This is exactly the kind of gutsy blues that got me started in the genre (oh, so many eons ago)… Roy’s jazz-influenced blues will reach right down into your heart & GRAB hold of you. Your ears will be fully sated by the time you finish listening to his stunning vocal on “Blues From Hell“, and you’ll wonder why you hadn’t caught on to the “Gaines style” of rockin’ when you listen through his super-cool “Thang Shaker“! There are flashes of B.B. throughout, especially on Roy’s vocals, but when he stretches out on deep jazz guitar solo mode on the down&funky “Rock With You“, you’ll know you’re in blues heaven fo’ sho’! The thing I like so much about his style is that it’s not “under pressure”, or “rushed” at all… a totally natural & laid-back feel that will stick to your ribs for years to come. My favorite track was surely Roy’s rendition of “Route 66“, though… the orchestra is ALIVE, man! This is one of the best jazz/blues CD’s I’ve heard in 2010… it earns a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from me, as well as an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99. “PICK” of this issue for “best blues CD”, too! Get more information at Rotcod Zzaj

Here I am writing Issue # 110Many thanks to all of you for joining us… here’s a little shot of me, absorbed in all that music you’ve been sending me – DON’T stop… keep it comin’ folks! Thanks – & a most Happy 2011 to all of you out there!






Issue # 110 Zzaj-Rant

It’s time for a new rant, to be sure. Issue # 110 took a bit longer than I thought it would to complete, mostly because I had some travels (& travails) along the last 2 months.

A trip to San Diego for some infernally stupid courses… oh, then instructors were cool, but the subject matter has SO little bearing on what I do every day… OTOH, it was nice to be right up next to the bay while it was snowin’ cats & dawgs here in Korea. I won’t bore you with the “travails” part, just a bunch of annoying idiocies… I really begin to think that the less people there are, the less problems there are…. but then, everyone can’t live with headphones glued to their ears, I s’pose… ha! ha!

Your support of this magazine was just stupendous during 2010… my hatzoff to each & every one of the readers, players, promoters & guest artists that graced our pages… we hit some new countries… just check out the map:

I sincerely hope that no matter where you reside on this big ol’ globe, you’ll tap into the power that music offers to change lives… to turn politicians & preachers on MUTE (where they BELONG)… and to turn the map you see here into one big global BLOCK PARTY! If we can ’round up all those who have SPIRIT in the world, and get them to focus their energies on curing the world’s ills, we will all be better for it. I don’t care what the genre is, if the players, singers or performers put all their ENERGY into it, it has the potential to take the power away from those who have had it for all these eons! & turn that damned stupid TV – OFF… whether you realize it or not, that is one of their tools for keeping their hold on you! Put yer’ headphones ON & just IGNORE them!

Reckon that’s about it for issue # 110… more next!

Issue 110, Zzaj INTERVIEW with Al Conti

I’ve been reviewing Al’s splendid and adventurous music for a long time now, and felt it was time to get a bit more insight into “who he really is” for all of our readers. While he doesn’t play “straight-ahead jazz”, his compositions are full of high-energy talent that just doesn’t stop. Thanks, Al, for taking the time to do this interview for IMPROVIJAZZATION NATION readers.

Zzaj: The bio I read on your site shows that you’re originally from Argentina and have traveled ‘round the world quite a bit… please give us a brief “rewrite” that tells us how you grew into the fantastic music you’ve been able to create… feel free to go all the way from your first musical experience all the way to today; in fact, “cap it” by telling us where you live right now, & what made you settle there, if the muse strikes you so… our readers WILL be interested, I have NO DOUBT!

AC: Hello Zzaj, good to be with you! Growing up with artistic parents helped quite a bit, particularly having a ballerina for a mother. Music was always part of my life as a child. I was always – and still am – quite a loner, so I spent countless hours alone, listening to music. I devoured books as I devoured music, which may be why I seem to intermingle both now in my work. However, I knew from the start that I was going to be an actor. So much so that at age 3, I stated to my parents this was what I was going to be. While I did end up working as an actor, music never left me. To this day I wake up in the morning with music in my head, either mine or someone else’s. Because of the harrowing times Argentina was going through during the 70’s, I left with my family in 1980, first to the United States and then to Europe, where I also have family. It almost feels like the von Trapp family! (Ironically, they reside in Vermont as I do and the children record in the same studio as I do). While I lived in different places of the United States, Vermont felt like home from my very first visit here. The energy of this place is very creative and peaceful, which explains why so many artists live here.

Zzaj: The CD’s I’ve reviewed from you seem to embrace a kind of “theme” each time, making them truly epic… do the themes usually come from something you’ve read, or something you’ve experienced in real life?

AC: I am never quite sure. I think probably both. I read quite a bit as a child and was always fascinated by stories from lands I found mysterious and magical. Growing up traveling probably cemented this in me even further, because the world truly became very small to me. Living amidst various cultures throughout my life has clearly had an effect on what I now create.

Zzaj: What inspired you to be an actor, as well as a musician? Are you ever able to “merge” those two talents in your ventures? If so, give us an example… if not, tell us why they’ve stayed separate?

AC: I do not think anything inspired me to become an actor, because I wanted to be one since I was born. There was absolutely nothing else I wanted to be, even remotely. Everyone that has known me since I was a child knew I’d be an actor. Because music was also in every fiber of my being that eventually both would merge was inevitable. So, while business-wise they both remain very separate (I no longer act, at least for now), they are still tied together in the work I compose. The music becomes a story that is acted not by people, but by instruments. I never really planned on this, but I seem to approach my work with the music from an actor’s perspective.

Zzaj: What is your primary instrument, or do you play (& prefer) to play many?

AC: Piano and guitar are my main instruments, but I feel I need to know how other instruments ‘behave’ in order to know how they will fit into whichever song I am working on. I also like to work with other artists and let them bring into my music their own energies.

Zzaj: What is your feeling about the ability of music to heal the world’s ills? Is that only “wishful thinking” on my part, or can it be/become a reality in our everyday lives?

AC: I think it already has, for as long as music has existed. You can see humanity always turning to the arts for healing in times of tragedy, joy and celebration. I am a firm believer in sound toning, and truly feel that sound can heal, as light has been found to do. There is much turmoil in the world right now and people are hit by it from every direction. I think music now plays a bigger part than it ever has in ‘taming the beast,’ so to speak.

Zzaj: If you had the chance to play with one player (that you haven’t played with already), alive or gone – who would it be (& why)?

AC: That is a hard question to answer, because I admire many musicians from just about every genre. If you think that my iPOD has over 18,000 songs, this alone gives you an idea! Another well-known New Age artist and I have entertained the idea of collaborating on a project together, but because of our schedules, it has not yet panned out.

Zzaj: What kind of gear do you use for your recordings, or do you let others take care of the technical aspects? Are the INSTRUMENTS more important to a successful recording, or the talents of the players?

AC: Hmmm…does a chef ever really reveal the secrets of his or her recipes? Gear has become more and more computerized these days, but I can say one of my favorites is a Yamaha SY-77 keyboard that I have had for almost 20 years. The poor thing, I am afraid, is now relegated to be more a controller keyboard rather than lending me its beautiful sounds like it used to.

I do a lot of the recording in my home studio and additional recording is later done at West Street Digital, in Vermont. Even when tracks have been recorded in other studios or countries, as it happened with my second album POETA, which had tracks recorded in a studio in Germany, I still return to West Street to finalize a project. I trust my engineer implicitly and he is well attuned to my work by now. I become like a family with those I work with and once that level of comfort is created for me, this is where I feel safe.

As far as software, we use many between my studio engineer and I, the staples being WaveLab, Nuendo and REASON. The final mixing and mastering of my work I trust to my studio engineer André Maquera. While I work sitting next to him for the arduous process that can easily take weeks, Andre is much better at figuring out the maze that different software can create. Having someone else to work on this part of the process is what I consider mandatory for anyone wishing to release a professional album. A great recording can be easily be destroyed by bad mixing and mastering.

As far as instruments being more or less important to the talents of the player, I believe that both are equally so. What instruments I choose to use in each song is of course key to the final sound the audience hears. And while I love using new instruments with unique sounds, if only one instrument is out of place, the whole song can go down in flames. Another important factor is the guest artists I work with. Many musicians express their innermost soul through their instrument. The artist’s energy and emotion comes through their instrument and adds an incredible amount to the song.

Zzaj: One thing I’ve especially loved about the music you create is that (though in a “sort of” New Age zone) it avoids genre labeling… usually because you infuse each and every section with a wide variety of musical influences and heavy energies… that’s not just flattery, either, because I’ve reviewed a LOT OF MUSIC, and yours comes across with much broader scope than many who are playing similar music… how do you do that? What inspires you to pick a particular instrument for a particular section or passage? And how do you accomplish what you’ve set out to do? (I know this seems, in some ways at least, like a very hard-to-answer question, but please take a stab at it anyway)…

AC: You know, as a person, I have always felt that I could be challenging to others. Years ago, I was tested using the Myers-Briggs personality type indicator, it turned out that I am an INFJ (less than 2% of the American population falls into this personality type). This describes me as an individual who is very private, highly sensitive, very complex, introverted, and abstract in the way I communicate. That was an ‘aha!’ moment for me. I also have a learning disability, which made things more complicated for me. Being understood was always an enormous task for me as a child. I always fear the same will happen with my work, and that others will not be able to understand what my music is trying to say. I put myself through a very hard time to maintain a balance between what is commercial within the genres I compose and what will keep me true to myself as an artist without losing my audience. And I am never quite sure if I have succeeded until people start writing in, telling me how they feel about my work. I encourage people to let me know, because I never know myself how well I did in their ears and hearts until they tell me. And then in a moment all my work can be validated when I hear from someone, like the therapist who wrote to me letting me know that she devised a whole program using my music to work with military personnel returning from Iraq with post-traumatic stress. She wanted me to know what I have done for our troops. I was in tears reading her e-mail. I will never forget that email.

I think all of this comes through in my work because it is the way I am wired. In fact, my manager reminds me often to that a different way to look at my learning disability is to think of it as a gift that allows me to see the world differently and compose beautiful music. So, in a way, my so-called challenges are a blessing. But because of this I am also never able to actually pinpoint a formula or the ‘how’ behind what I compose. Somehow, in my mind, I know what a song needs to sound like. I hear it before it is composed and then go through the harrowing process of bringing that into reality. My ears will then let me know what is right for the song and what is not. I do not read or write music, so I rely entirely on what is in my head and what my ears tell me. If something just does not sound right, it is not. The same with the instruments, they have to fit the sound that was originally in my head.

Zzaj: I’ve read (again, in your bio) that you are able to speak many different languages… again, a strange question, but do you think (perhaps) those language abilities have influenced your music to the point where IT also speaks in many different dialects?

AC: Absolutely. I learned languages as I did music: by ear. I was forced to learn languages because I moved to different countries during my childhood. I was a disaster in grammar, but I could speak the languages flawlessly. And because of being so different (2%, remember?), I worked very hard to understand how the rest of the world functions and how I should function to live in it, all without losing myself in the process. Rather than demand others conform to me, I chose to figure out a way to ‘catch up,’ yet take time to be alone to regroup. If I could not have been an artist, I was going to be a Psychologist because I was always interested in why I do the things I do and why others function the way they do. I think that this has made me extremely sensitive to what is going on with people around me. Because of this I think that I compose music in a way that it can speak to everyone.

Zzaj: What is the most important thing you would tell a musician? In other words, if you felt they HAD some talent, how would you tell them to pursue a career in music? Or WOULD you tell them that? Is music as a career really worth the study and hard work it takes to achieve success?

AC: Far be it for me to advise anyone! However, since you asked, I guess I would approach it the same way I did when people asked me about acting. I will say this: if music (or any form of art) is everything to you, what you breathe, eat, smell and hear, then do it. Like many people, I believe I was born an artist and, frankly, am a bit useless doing anything else. Still, I do feel I should warn anyone entertaining this kind of life. It is a difficult path and even more so in this day and age of digital piracy and illegal downloads. There are not set formulas either. You could study all your life and get nowhere, or be like some extremely successful musicians who had no professional training and make it quite nicely in the business. I think that there are many factors involved in this line of work, fate being also a big part of it. In any case, perseverance is imperative. You have to keep going forward no matter what. It can be a discouraging career and if you are not driven, you get stuck in the first snow bank you bump into and never come out. I am an extremely driven individual, and perhaps this is why I am still in the business. I do recognize that not everyone has that kind of drive. I created my own record label and the publishing company that holds the rights to my work, I am in charge of both these entities and everyone that works with them. It takes a lot of unwavering dedication – you have to believe. That said, no one who wants to create should be deterred. I encourage people to be creative in their lives, no matter how they choose to express it. If, as a musician, you choose to get into this crazy business, my advice is to get informed. Know what you are doing and, above all, realize that the music business is indeed a business.

Check out Al’s pages at:
Official Web Site
MySpace Place
Facebook Fan Page