Improvijazzation Nation, Issue # 112

Here’s our  third for 2011, # 112. There are over 100 CD’s in queue, which I expect to clear out soon… but then, each time I produce a new review, I get 2 or 3 more CD’s in… life’s grand, isn’t it? Ha! Ha!

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 30 reviews for this issue, & you will see many new artists and 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); brand-new and exciting music to learn about!

INTERVIEW – for this issue is with Lutalo Olutosin, oka “Sweet Lu”, one of the hottest jazz vocalists on the scene today; I reviewed his powerful jazz vocal work in the last issue & am expecting to hear much more from him in future months/years.

POETRY PAGE: Unfortunately, I didn’t get any poetry submissions for this issue… this won’t fly unless you help us get poets to submit their 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 – Hey – if YOU would like to rant a bit, shoot me a copy of your RANT… 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


Our latest reviews for your reading and listening pleasure!

Obi Kaye – OBI KAYE: I am now (& have been ever since about 4 years of age) a sucker for percussion… & our friend Obi has that goin’ for him in SPADES!  18 very cool streams for your listening pleasure… one of the better is “Let It Out“… this one will have you swaying while you type (as am I while I write this review).  I just loved the kalimba (as well as the pic Obi posted for this one) on “Those Are Not My Hippos“.  I especially enjoyed (my favorite track, by the way) “Spirit At The Crossroad” – only critique is that I’d have liked it to be a bit longer than it’s 3:25 length.  All-in-all, this is a most enjoyable set for those who love percussion and rhythm.  I give this one a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Get more information at Obi’s REVERBNATION page!     Rotcod Zzaj



Pascalito – NEOSTALGIA: No one can say that this music lacks energy… Pascalito clearly is putting himself into the performances, and the considerable cast of characters he has playing with him easily join in the joy he’s projecting.  The cut-sheet calls it “vocal jazz/bossa nova/world pop/lounge”… lounge is where it fits best, I think… “Solestalgia” is a good example of what you’ll get.  The violin on “Le Blues de la Fleuriste” definitely makes me think of gypsy music & players like Stephane Grapelli.  My personal pick for favorite was “Bossa Nova City” – the closest to jazz on the album.  I give Pascalito a RECOMMENDED for this one, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.92.  Get more information at Rotcod Zzaj






Susan Alcorn, LaDonna Smith – AMBIENT VISAGE: This recording is another that kind of got “lost in all the moves”, but it is a treasure!  Recorded/released in ’05, it features my friend LaDonna’s fantastic violin work, along with pedal steel guitar from Susan… a laid-back trek through Wonderland that you’ll not soon forget – & you don’t even need herbs to help you comprehend the images they paint for you.  8 solidly beautiful tracks that will make any “true” listener keep on listening!  This is one of the most calming musical adventures I’ve ever heard LaDonna perform on, without doubt.  If it’s “whacked” you’re yearning for, you’ll have to look elsewhere… of course the duo’s music IS “different”… it’s not what you’re used to hearing on AM stations… but it’s thoroughly enjoyable and full of gently weaving sonic surprise.  I give this one my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, as well as an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97.  Get more information at Rotcod Zzaj





Satoko Fujii – HEAT WAVE: If you are looking for GIANTS in jazz, your ears need look no further than Ms. Fujii… I’ve been reviewing Satoko’s legendary piano improv for so many years now I can’t remember when I started… most recently in issue # 108.  You won’t find a more original & energetic jazz pianist anywhere on the planet!  This ’round has just over 55 minutes of pure improvised jazz bliss for the dedicated listener.  I especially enjoyed pieces like “Beyond The Horizon“… so many twists and turns, your ears will be checking in to the local “D” ward, unless you’ve heard Satoko before.  The thing about Satoko’s work that continues to amaze is that her energy for “new” just never stops… check out the beautiful “The Squall In The Sahara” for an example of that energy… dastardly musical turns that you can hardly comprehend.  I give this one my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating, as well as an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 5.00… this gets the “PICK” of this issue for “best improvised piano jazz”.  Get more information at the SQUIDCO site.     Rotcod Zzaj





Marc Enfroy – UNCONDITIONAL: A word I learned in my earliest years (as a P.K., or Preacher’s Kid) was “Agape”… if you Google it, you’ll find all kinds of definitions, but mine (after those early studies & a few years looking into “Karma”) fits more closely with the title Marc has given this beautiful music he’s composed for your aural pleasure.  Just listen to the soaring sounds of “Uniqueness“, and form your own opinion… if you don’t get an immediate sense of the power of creation through this tune, you’re in the “bad Karma” zone already, no doubt in my mind.  There are times when I really do NOT want to listen to music like this, as some new age artists come across as “syrupy” and “formulaic”, but that’s not true of Mr. Enfroy’s efforts.  I was most impressed by the beauty he paints with “A Positive Spirit” – the bell sounds are simply wonderful.  Marc’s closer, “Reaching Authenticity“, was my absolute favorite, though.  I give him my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Get more information at Rotcod Zzaj




The Chris Crocco Fluid Trio + – THE CHRIS CROCCO FLUID TRIO +: On occasion, I glance at promo sheets when listening to a CD for review, but on most (as on this one from Chris), it’s better to write a review only as I listen to the music… & on the high-energy opener, “Avenge“, featuring George Garzone’s fantastic sax, Peter Slavov’s bass, Francisco Mela’s drums against the stellar energy of Chris’s jazz guitar work, the music tells the story all by itself.  This January 2011 release is among the best jazz CD’s I’ve reviewed this year (somewhere well over 100), especially when it comes to groovers like “Trial Of Time“, one of my preferred tunes on the album… nice & slinky is the way my ears describe it for you… a swinging tune that takes you all the way up the alley & back.  I found the laid-back & mellow “Spice Mine” to be my pick for favorite, though… each of the players does it with conviction to the degree that you will find yourself hearing this tune for days, months even.  I give Chris & his crew a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97.  Get more information at Rotcod Zzaj




Oliver Capparos & Lionel Marchetti – EQUUS:   A bit of a cautionary note for those who realize that experimental CD’s should be listened to with the phones on… keep the volume DOWN (on the first pass, anyway).  This is one of the most interesting recordings I’ve listened to since it was recorded in ’01/’02… but it also has some LOUD noises in it that you can’t predict until they happen.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any “short” samples (though you can get the CD from I-TUNES).  The most engaging piece of the 3 on the CD was “Equus Part II”… a 16:40 dance through sonics like you’ve never heard before… snippets of life interspersed with music that might have been the background for a mystery thriller.  It’s taken me a while to get to this one, because I know that recordings from our friends at POGUS just DEMAND concentration & focus.  This isn’t music for listeners who want to escape from life; rather, it is for those who want to IMMERSE themselves in life.  An excellent sonic experience that gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from me, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.96.  Get more information about the recording and the artists at Rotcod Zzaj


Jake Fryer/Bud Shank – IN GOOD COMPANY: If it’s “power jazz” your ears are hankerin’ for, this CD is your ticket to ride, no doubt about it!  Listen to the sultry bass intro to the opener, “Caravan“, then aurally watch it build into one of the most solid listens you’ve ever had!  The terrible irony of the session, though, is that the leader, Bud Shank, passed away only one day after the recording – what a way to be remembered, though!  Nearly all pure original tracks, tunes like “The Time Lord” will simply melt your mind… each of these compositions has what I call a high “bounce factor”… they will totally engage your ears & your mind.  Jake’s own sax work stands right up there near the master himself on this one – just check out my favorite track, the 9:38 closer, “Speak Low”, & you’ll hear what great jazz really is.  I give this one a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, as well as an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97.  Get more information at Rotcod Zzaj




Harlan Mark Vale – LANUGO: Readers of this ‘zine who have been with us for a while know that I first met Mark Vale almost 3 decades ago, & that we played together on many tapes & CD’s.  That makes it genuinely easy for me to listen to new works by him… especially pieces like the gigantic “Virga” – truly universal in scope, his original compositions (like this one) will have you soaring out to other galaxies and then reaching for even more.  If ever you’ve lay groovin’ to th’ clouds floating by overhead, you’ll relate immediately to “Cumulus” – superb is all I can say for this one!  My favorite track on this stellar excursion, though, is the closer, “Mortimer & The Dudes @ The Tar Pit“… I don’t know if Mortimer was a woolly mammoth or not, but you can instantly picture the trouble one might be in if stuck in such a pit.  This one gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for all of you who want depth and dimension in your listening… the “EQ” (energy quotient) rating is 4.99, & Mark gets a “PICK” of the issue for “most cosmic CD”.  Get more information at Rotcod Zzaj




Dino DiMuro – DINO’S 50: I’ve been listening to Dino’s home-produced excellence for eons (well, maybe not QUITE that long), but I’ve never had the pleasure of 50 tunes at one sitting from him… orbviously, even with short tunes, that’s still more than one CD… a double CD, to be precise.  I was particularly sliced to ribbons by tunes like “Joni Thinks”, which reminds me in particulate of the moods one Frank Zappa used to create when singing about Ms. Creamcheese – no kidding, it’s totally nostalgic, with shades (on the guitars, as well as the rhythms) in there of the kinda’ madnesses Frank’s pal Beefheart used to exhibit.  You can learn more about him at his FB page It only makes sense that he would have a home-producer legend with him on many of these songs, our long-time friend Don Campau… these guys don’t make millions in greenbacks, but they generate true “Hoover” power (dam or vacuum, your choice)!  The guitars just WAIL on tunes like “N.I.M.B.Y.” – my absolute favorite track on the 2 CD’s.  Is it jazz?  Decidedly not… Is it “hard” rock?  Don’t think so… Is it (totally) INDIE?  You BET, & I give this one my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.  Get more information at Don’s LONELY WHISTLE catalog!  “EQ” (energy quotient) rating is 4.98.     (p.s. Dino & Don fed me the link for the one track they have up – “The Man Who Gave You The Buzzer” – enjoy!!!)   Rotcod Zzaj


John Medeski & Lee Shaw Live At The Egg – TOGETHER AGAIN Issue # 86 was my most recent review of Lee Shaw’s splendid works, and this set (in part because it’s a live recording) reigns supreme if you’re after music that is high in the ultra-talent range.  The opener, “Lizards“, spins you through a kaleidoscope of emotions; put that together with Lee’s “outroduction” to the tune title, & you have some very personable music, to be sure.  The bass work on “Holiday” (Rich Syracuse) is the most well-crafted & spontaneous I’ve listened to (yet) in 2011… when you put that together with Jeff ‘Siege’ Siegel’s drum excellence on this 8:34 wild rollop, it can’t be beat.  The killer track (for me), though, was the closer, “Wiggly’s Way“… two better keyboardists in one sitting is (nearly) more than this ol’ heart can take – SUPERB energy.  I give this one my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, as well as an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Get more information at Rotcod Zzaj


Crepuscule Trio – UNVEIL: If it’s intricate and creative jazz you need, you’ll get (far, FAR) off on “Vajra“;maybe off the edge of the planet, eh?  The drummer/percussionist Alan Cook sent it to me for review, & I’m most pleased that he did… totally engaging and creative jazz for those who demand more in their listening!  Alan is joined by Ken Kawamura (saxophone) and Anthony Shadduck (contrabass) in one of the most amazing sessions I’ve reviewed this year!  Check out the complexity and accessibility of “Kill Yr Idylls” to hear why I dug this one so deeply – every instrument has a clear voice on this great tune.   The absolute “smash hit” for this reviewer, though, was the superbly crafted “Nancy’s Dance“… a 9:21 aural adventure you won’t soon forget.  This all-original 10-track set is a genuine keeper & I’m more than just impressed… in addition to a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, they also get an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Great music for those who want to stay engaged.  Get more information at Rotcod Zzaj


Drum 510 – DRUM 510: The music this cat (Todd Gregory) plays (obviously percussion-based) from way “down under” (meaning Australia, though after you listen, it could very well mean the “sub-conscious”) is bound to have you hoppin’!  Scope out “Mash Potatoes” to get a taste of what those spuds must feel while th’ mixer’s grindin’ ‘em to pulp!  “Sex O Clock” will have ya’ thinkin’ ’bout bump/grind after only a few notes!  I don’t always go for these “beat” bands (or one-man bands, for that matter), but Todd’s got somethin’ extraordinary going on here; well worth listening to.  There were only 8 files on what he gave me for download, but his REVERBNATION page has 15 streams you’ll find quite enchanting.  The best track (for this reviewer, anyway) was “Wasted On You“… complex rhythms & great vox make for a composition I’ve been listening to over & over.  This ain’t “debbil music” – it’s music that’ll give th’ debbil a freaky ride!   I give Todd a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED on this one.  His “EQ” (energy quotient) rating is 4.96.  Get more information at Rotcod Zzaj




Jeff Palmer, Devin Garramone, John Fisher – PERMUTATION: When a “true” jazz fan listens to powerful presence like this, it just blows them away… Devin’s stellar alto sax, John’s killer drums & (most especially), Jeff’s superb Hammond B3 work, rock you right from the first fire-breathing bar of the opener, “Dragon“, & the lively “Penetration” will surely have you dancin’ on the edge of your chair!  If jazz-based organ work is your thing, you don’t have to look any further than Jeff’s powerful style… this stuff is killer!  It doesn’t hurt that these are all originals, which kicks the “EQ” (energy quotient) rating up to near-the-top, at 4.99.  There are 11 totally solid cuts here, & each of them has something new to offer your ears… my personal favorite on this outing, though, was the totally down&funky “Punchie“… if you can’t catch the joy here, you’re already six feet under! The only critical thing I’ve got to say is that it would have been really nice to find a YOUTUBE vid of them posted.  I give them a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, as well as the “PICK” of this issue for “best organ jazz trio”.  Get more information at Rotcod Zzaj



Marty Williams – LONG TIME COMIN’: I’m not 100% sure, but I believe I hear a little bit of a younger Les McCann in this fine pianist’s vocals (not to mention Marvin).  Marty has a really nice bluesy thang goin’ on for the opener, “Brother – Where Are You“… nice keys, nice vocals & a real feeling of melancholy!  He says he was inspired many years ago by Ahmad Jamal… I definitely hear some o’ ‘dat on “Love For Sale“.  When Marty kicks out an old Les tune (one of my all-time favorites), “Compared To What“, I’m in nostalgia-land instantly, thinkin’ back to the way Les & Eddie did this one oh’ so many years ago… excellent chops from Marty, to be sure.  Turned out to be Marty’s rendition of Cannonball’s “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy” that did it all for me… this was my favorite of the dozen tracks on the CD.  I give this one a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, as well as an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97. This one will spin over & over on my .mp3 player, no doubt! Get more information at Rotcod Zzaj




Soulfood – GUITAR MEDITATIONS VOL 3: Many of my (many) reviews of music from “Soulfood” have featured a cat named DJ Free doing more rhythm-based composition (as in issue #87 ), but on this one the music is, as you might imagine from the title, very relaxing and inspiring guitar-based music that is perfect for transporting you away from the terrible troubles we face now every day!  Among my favorites are “Daybreak“, which is one of the most calming pieces I’ve listened to in 2011… the flutes are definitely magick!  Another one that got the attention of my ears right away is “Desert Sage“… you can have the vision WITHOUT the peyote on this tune.  It was the synth/guitar mix on “Reflections” that took me to Nirvana though… my absolute favorite track on the CD.  Total quality music that gets my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, as well as an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Get more information at Rotcod Zzaj




“Proxy” with T Daniel Robbins – PROXY WITH T DANIEL ROBBINS: I don’t always listen to show rock these days, but ev’ry once in a while I get a little dose!  Their jumpin’ version of Spencer Davis’ “Gimme Some Lovin” just MAKES IT HAPPEN, folks!  There’s a heavy overtone of some kinda’ gospel goin’ on here… uno’s, maybe it’s got somethin’ to do with the fact that they’re from out Reno (yeah, Nevada) way.  They play an absolutely FINE version of “Wild Flower” that’s definitely got the power!  It was “Step In Time With The Music” that got me up & dancin’ ’round with my Sennheiser’s, though… killer stuff.  I give these folks a definite HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97.  Get more information at Rotcod Zzaj



North Star – EXTREMES: My, how the years do fly by… I last reviewed Kevin Leonard’s stellar playing in issue # 25… this CD takes me on a journey back to the wonderful and high-spirited days of “Yes” and other progressive-rock dreamers!  As I listen to the fantastic guitar work on “Sometimes In The Suburbs“, I’m pleasantly reminded of the fantasy flights we all used to take with this music that wraps you right into it & won’t let go (in places I’m reminded of an ancient rock group named “Touch”).  It’s the dynamic pulse of “Unleashed” that displays all the power these truly talented players (Dave Johnson/guitar, bass/Glenn Leonard/drums, Kevin Leonard/keyboards & bass/Joe Newman on vocals) have at their disposal, though… what a journey!  I give this one a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Get more information at Rotcod Zzaj





Natsuki Tamura-Satoko Fujii – CHUN: Yet another recording from Japan, but this one features our long-time improvising friends Natsuki and Satoko.  Satoko’s piano and Natsuki’s trumpet make for some of the most intriguing improvised jazz duos you will ever listen to.  While I couldn’t find any directly linkable .mp3′s, they do have several of the tracks loaded with flash on the SQUIDCO site. I fell in love with her piano a long time ago, and her husband Natsuki is equally enchanting for listeners who want to hear works that are all-original, fresh and new!  This was a 2008 release that got “stuck” in the review pile, but I never toss CD’s from these two great players away – it would be like dumping diamonds… this one gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, and an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Get more information on the label page!     Rotcod Zzaj




Monotract – MONOTRACT LIVE IN JAPAN: Never let it be said that Zzaj Productions isn’t up on the “cutting edge” in music… this CD, which I believe was actually the inspiration for all the earthquakery & nuke explosion activity going on right now, will definitely melt the core of your mind!  Just scope out the crazy antics on “California“… total destruction, for sure.  Is it jazz?  Hardly!  Is it “interesting”?  For those of us who can’t abide by “regular” (like this reviewer), it surely is – but for those steeped in tradition, this will seem like something from another world.  My favorite, though short, was “Load 2“, which will make you see the rods melting – without the acid!  I give this one a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, and an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.96.  Get more information at PUBLIC EYESORE RECORDS.     Rotcod Zzaj




Vlada – ALL ABOUT YOU: When I think “Swiss”, it’s either about cheese, clocks or something totally unrelated to “soul”… well, this cat’s debut CD makes it very clear that I’ve got some new things to be thinkin’ about when it comes to Switzerland!  Just listen to the second track, “Never Changing” – boy BE rawkin’ it all th’ way through this winner!  14 all-original tunes that just KICK IT, people!  Get a load of his funky groove on “Everything“… I somehow doubt they’ve got (a lot of) black churches in “The Hills Are Alive”-land, but Vlada had to get it somewhere, & it’s definitely ON this song in a big, BIG way!  This stuff takes me all the way back to folks like “The Staples”, Stevie Wonder & all those performers who helped us all through the rough years in the good ole’ U.S.A. with their soul-chillin’ songs.  My favorite, especially from the standpoint of spirit & energy, was the joyful (what else) “Rejoice!“.  Vlada has managed to take ’60′s & ’70′s soul & transition it to something totally meaningful for those of us who are looking for a return to music that inspires!  I give this my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99 – as well as the “PICK” of this issue for “most soulful jazz”!  Get more information at Rotcod Zzaj



Balval – LE CIEL TOUT NU (The Naked Sky): If you weren’t in a “gypsy frame of mind” when you started listening to the dozen songs on this high-energy excursion through freedom music!  Jump & dance along with the gently swaying rhythms of “Gela Phuro – or just do your couch potato act & feel the images of campfires, swirling skirts & fine wine come roiling through your mind – but (for the first listen, anyway) be sure to do it with headphones on!  My personal favorite on this one, though, was the high-spirited “Mamo” – though I’ve not a clue what the words mean that the singer is wrapping me up in, it’s clear that I understand every nuance of the song… some great music for getting you out of whatever dumps you’ve allowed yourself to fall into.  I give this one a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.95.  Get more information at Rotcod Zzaj





Mark Masters Ensemble – PORGY AND BESS REDEFINED: I’ve been reviewing work from Mark for many years now… the latest CD was in issue # 92, which garnered a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating from my ears.  This album, which explores classic tunes with a totally fresh view & a most listener-friendly way, charts right up there at the top, too… just check out the ensemble’s lively and heartfelt version of “Summertime” – you’ll waste no time on the other pretenders to the jazz throne after you’ve heard what Mark’s arrangements do for these tunes… upbeat and high-energy to the max!  My personal favorite (probably because of the solid blues environment it creates for me) is “A Red Headed Woman“.  Your preference might run more towards the jumpin’ “It Ain’t Necessarily So“, just depends on your mood, I reckon!  11 totally solid jazz performances that get (yet again) a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from me, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  You can purchase the CD at TOWER Records, AMAZON & several other outlets!     Rotcod Zzaj




Joani Taylor – IN MY OWN VOICE: I couldn’t actually find song samples on the net, per se (though I’m sure they’re out there somewhere), but Joani’s YOUTUBE performance was (definitely) the CAT’S MEOW!  This lady is about as UPTOWN jazz as it gets, but on Brubeck’s classic, she’s doin’ th’ drill with a rapper (Jay Kin) & it SMOKES!  The CD has a total of 13 fantastic jazz vocal pieces… you can listen to short flash samples at CDUNIVERSE …though it would have been nice to have the songs in .mp3 format, so one could link right to them; that’s only a minor complaint, though, because Joani’s sultry vocal style will have you yearning for more, especially on tracks like the mighty mellow “You Are My Sunshine” (which was clearly my favorite track) – it don’t GET mo’ “jazz” than this, volkz… & I can tell you now, you’ve never heard such a beautiful rendition – just like church!  This dynamic & highly energized artist gets my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, as well as an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97.  Get more information at Rotcod Zzaj





Ralph Lalama Quartet – ENERGY FIELDS: There’s nothing worse for a reviewer than discovering a gem that didn’t get added in the queue properly… I’ve been listening to Ralph’s highly charged CD off&on for (well) over a year now, thinking it had already been reviewed… in fact, this CD has stayed in my MP3 player nearly the whole time (which generally means it’s been reviewed).  With sincere apologies to Ralph (& the promoter), I finally realized that it had been overlooked.  Ralph’s tenor sax literally SMOKES on one of my favorite cuts, “Buzzy – once his reeds start wailing, they just will not STOP!  Pure pleasure for jazzists ’round the globe, this tune is right up at the TOP of my playlists… John Hart’s energetic guitar, strong bass from Rick Petrone & dashing drums from Joe Corsello will have you listening to this one over & over again!  It was actually the super laid-back “Indian Summer” that got my vote as favorite, though – all the players have a piece of this solid tune!  I give this one my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, as well as an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99.  Get more information at Rotcod Zzaj



Pulga – PULGA LOVES YOU: The 8:41 “Return To The Forest Of Shoes” will walk all over any pre-conceived notions you may have had about what “experimental” means… for listeners steeped in traditional forms, it will be a journey through the redwoods of Hades… for those who can’t do without some true adventure in their listening, this sonic extravaganza will be among your scariest pleasures… Vanessa Rossetto (Austin, TX) joined Valerio Cosi (Taranto, Italy) in the collaboration, and it’s a stellar landmark for those who desire true chaos in their aurality.  It was the gigantic closer, “Raga Pulga“, that got my vote as favorite… an 18:42 journey through the minds of two of the hottest experimentalists on the scene today… this takes me far back to the original Davey Williams & LaDonna Smith epics… totally free, total abandon and high creative energy.  I give this one a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for listeners seeking an unparalleled sonic adventure.  “EQ” (energy quotient) clocks in at 4.96.  Get more information at Rotcod Zzaj




Send My Regards – GRANDMA’S COOKIES: The electronics on this one are decidedly “not jazz”… a total deluge of electronics assault your ears on tunes like “Sold“, & it isn’t diluted one bit… pure power to overwhelm your aural appendages, not to mention your mind.  When you absorb what Justin Cassidy & Patrick Rodriguez are creating for you here, you will come out (either) brain-dead or totally energized!  It was the cosmic drone of the opener, “Stay Black” that fried my circuits, though… some nice little bell effects in amongst the dense and rich washes these guys paint (electronically) with.  Those with (only) jazz running through their veins will probably avoid this one, but experimentalists (like me) will agree with me that this is MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for the truly jaded!  My “EQ” (energy quotient) rating for it is 4.95.  Get more information at Rotcod Zzaj



Sarah DeLeo – THE NEARNESS OF YOU: A common hazard of aging (yah, I know, you’ve heard it all before) is having those “senior moments”… I knew I’d heard Sarah’s lovely work before, but had to actually search my archive for it… she was in issue # 89, where she drew a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from my ears.  On this CD, she’s even more amazing… just scope out her beautiful vocal on “It’s A Good Day“… super laid-back opening & then a bouncy & lilting adventure through the entire 3:36… the best way to describe what Ms. DeLeo is doing here is “tasty” jazz!  I must certainly apologize to her (& the promoter) for taking so long to get ’round to writing this one… her downright funky performance on “The Glory Of Love” makes her energetic talent absolutely clear to anyone listening.  The “favorite” track for me, though, was “Too Young For The Blues“.  An all-around groovy tune that Sarah fills with soul!  I give her a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97.  Get more information at Rotcod Zzaj




Noah Preminger – BEFORE THE RAIN: My last review of Noah’s splendid sax work was way back in issue # 84… I was impressed, then, but certainly am even more enchanted on this second CD!  “Quickening” is among the most adventurous I’ve heard (yet) in 2011; random meets cool meets “sorta’ normal” – yet not so far in left field that a “regular” jazz listener can’t enjoy it.  The 8:27 title track, “Before The Rain” gently reminds you of that totally calm state of mind you find yourself in just prior to the vibrant storm that always comes – this tune is TOTALLY a “keeper”.  The coolest track on the CD (for this reviewer, anyway) is the marvelously entertaining “Toy Dance“… if you can’t put a vision of marching Barbies & cool jazz soldiers in dance mode on this tune – you’re a zombie anyway.  It’s truly easy to give a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED to this jazz outing, as well as an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Get more information at Rotcod Zzaj




Nick Stefanacci Band – 26 YEARS: Our first review for this issue is a way cool release from last year (yah, that IS a long time to wait for a review – tho’ I didn’t get it until December 2010).  Nick’s reeds, flute & keyboards are joined by some very interesting vocals by Kenny Simmons, guitar from Walt Stefanacci, additional sax work from Frank elmo, guitars/keys by Tom Schizzano, drums from Cliff Hackford, bass by Tony Ventura & a whole host of horniness from Michael Blutman (trumpet, tenor sax from Nick & trombone by Alaina Alster.  There’s a real feeling of rock in the vocals, but they stick right ON with their core of jazz, especially on tunes like “Why Did I See You“.  These are all original pieces, so that helps to boost the energy quotient (in my mind, at least).  When you listen to my (totally) favorite track, “Prisoner“, you’ll hear right away why I think this group is a winner!  Another favorite is the heavily bass-influenced “All That’s Left Behind“… though this isn’t “pure jazz”, it still gets a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from me, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97.  Get more information at Rotcod Zzaj




I often find myself reading as I listen to music coming up for review, and lately I’ve been doing a lot more of that than usual.  Many of the writings I’ve delved into over the last 2 months talk about the 2012 Mayan calendar, rebirth of a new world and all the things that would happen if there were a universal convergence.  As I watch those around me muddle through lives that seem to be dictated by stupid TV ads, useless political dramas and religions whose main goal is self-perpetuation and narrow agendas, I wonder if we will be found lacking when/if such a reckoning were to occur.  At the same time, I know that it is only the dunderheads who “make” the news… those of us who contemplate the beauty and look at life with a positive view don’t count when it comes to “newsworthy” (at least for today’s jaded journalists).

So – what am I saying?  I guess what’s on my mind is that if any one of us reaches out to another with a kind word and a spirit of discovery, it can be like that great universal presence speaking through us… & that can (& should) lead to a world where all the petty and nonsensical things that folks are consumed with today would just kind of melt away into the gutters (where they belong).  In other words, make a conscious effort today (& every other day) to avoid anyone with an agenda (i.e., politicians, preachers, car salesmen – all worms from the same dung heap), reach inside yourself and DISCOVER all the marvelous things you have to offer… then share them with others.

Of course, being a realist, too, I know that those of us who do NOT play by the rulebook our culture has tried to force on us are often viewed as “troublemakers”… a real paradox… if you’re a “real person” in today’s world (rather than someone who conforms to every norm), you’re worse than “odd” – you may be considered criminal.  What’s imperative in all this, however, is that you don’t let the barstards get you down… keep ON being yourself…. keep ON being creative – even if they eventually pass laws against that (which they probably will) – keep on being YOU-nique.

I suppose that’s enough for now… some of it was muddle, but I know there’s substance somewhere in those words I just penned… ha! ha!

Till next issue….

I reviewed Lu’s, aka Lutalo Olutosin, “Tribute To Greatness” CD in my last issue, # 111.  When he jumped down on AFRO-BLUE, I knew I had to do an interview with him.  This cat projects pure/raw vocal power, but not in an overwhelming way… natural talent that anyone who digs jazz vocals will relate to!  My thanks to him for taking time from a busy schedule to do do this interview!

Zzaj:  Lu, I read in one of your bio sketches that you started your journey somewhere ’round Gary, Indiana.  Give us some “bio” to tell us how you got all the way from Gary to where you are at today, please (my readers want to know).

Well, both of my parents are Southerners and they wanted to get back to the ‘simple’ lifestyles and Southern living, so when I was around 10 they loaded the 7 kids into the family station wagon and moved us all to Jackson, MS (that was my mom’s hometown).

I finished High school at Madison-Ridgeland HS and promptly joined the Military

Zzaj:  I hear a lot of “gospel” influences in many of your superb vocals… where did that come from (or who, perhaps).

Oh that, well that goes back to my mom and my dad.  Both of them were singers (mom sang only gospel, while dad did alot of the Doo-Whop quartet stuff and occasionally some gospel) actually, that’s how they met.  There was always gospel playing in the house and everybody sang in the church choir and school choir -

Zzaj:  The blues & jazz that you sing has often been my only friend when I was in the “hot zones” (like Kuwait & Iraq, for instance)… has it “carried you through” tough times, too?  Give us the “long story”, please.

Wow, good question.  Yes, without a doubt the music has gotten me through some tough times.  Sometimes it seems to be my only friend.  I won’t EVEN start with the emotional/relationship aspect of that (although you can’t really know the Blues until you’ve lived through some heartbreak), but that’s a book – we’re doing a magazine (LOL)….      I recall during the 1st Gulf war my platoon would be stretched out so far away from the logistics bases that sometimes we wouldn’t see anyone for days (we were MPs securing the main supply routes (MSRs) there was no email and such back then and we got to call home once a month………

Then in December 2001 there were some pretty sticky times in Afghanistan (Kabul was a very different place from what it is today and there were very few of us on the ground), but the Jazz & the Blues and the Gospel have always been a place where I could find sanctuary (even if just for a little while).

Zzaj:  Do you play any instruments?  If so, what?  If your voice is your only instrument, tell us how you practice, please. (I mean, is it just “singin’ in th’ shower”, or something a bit more formal than that?).

Actually I play drums (started in the high school band) and still mess around a little with that, but my skill (‘chops’) is not even close to being competitive on any level.  Early on I really wanted to be a Jazz drummer, but the more I sang the more people wanted me to sing and eventually the gravity of the microphone was to strong for me to resist (LOL).  As for practice, I listen and study the techniques of the great Jazz vocalists, I do scales & vocal exercises and follow some of the practices I get from  But I was lucky to have gotten good instruction early on from my chior director a Mrs Marquis Butler who always pushed me to ‘use your diaphragm.. enunciate…and what was that?’ as encouragement (LOL)

Zzaj:  I believe (without gettin’ TOO religious about it) that good music comes from “the spirit”… do you agree?  If so, tell us why… if not, tell us why.

Absolutely – good music IS spiritual.  Its the one thing that is truly universal and every culture has it.  With regards to Jazz & Blues music, I recall a good friend telling me once “You see Lu, the Blues had a baby and she called it JAZZ”, he was speaking to the evolution of the music, but the great Jon Hendricks did a whole production on the ‘evolution of the Blues song’ where he talks about how the spiritual songs of the cotton plantations in the south became the Blues of the ‘Juke Joints’  after emancipation and finally when the Blues was finally able to fully develop it changed its name to JAZZ.  If you’ve never heard Jon Hendricks tell the story you need to……. So to answer your question YES, music comes from the spirit (LOL)

Zzaj:  Who are your musical heroes?  Pick one or two of them & tell us why/how they’ve inspired you.

Jon Hendricks, Billy Eckstine, Ella Fitzgerald, Joe Williams, Lou Rawls, Al Jarreau, Kurt Elling, Eddie Jefferson and most recently  George V. Johnson – George is an amazing vocalese artist who has played or recorded with many of the greats like Benny Golson, Pharaoh Sanders, James Moody, and more.  He now runs the DC Jazz network George lives in the Washington DC area and has been both a friend and mentor to me.

Zzaj:  I know that my travels around the world with the U.S. military have helped me in many ways, but especially in understanding the music of other cultures… would you agree with that?  If you have a specific memory of such cultural enlightening, please share it with us.

I totally agree, it is always an amazing thing for me to experience the music of a culture I’m unfamiliar with.  When I travel I make it a point to seek out the music that most closely speaks to the area’s history and I try to find its foundation.  I was able to travel to Israel a couple of years ago and was so taken by the musical fusion of world instruments, styles,  and most importantly the passion that seems to drive the music.  There was such a love for Jazz music that I’m looking for an opportunity to go back.

Zzaj:  The CD I reviewed of your work (Tribute To Greatness) was your first release… there are lots of readers in our audience who like to get the “inside scoop”… please tell us what projects you have in the works (with on-line sample links, if you have some).

Well, I’m working now on a film score for an independent film maker from Chicago by the name of Agin Muhammad.  The title is ‘A Man’s Got to do What A Man’s Got to do”.  That has been interesting and different, actually it’s challenging also. I’ll be doing a Christmas CD this fall.   Sorry, no samples yet.

Zzaj:  Do you enjoy vocalizing more in the studio, or on the road?  Tell us what the differences are (for you, anyway) between those kind of performance energies….

I’m and live performance guy hands down!  The studio is ok, and I have fun with the band as well as trying different takes, but it’s the live shows that really make it happen for me.  There is an energy exchange between the band and the audience that is second to none.

Zzaj:  I speak (both online & in person) with a lot of aspiring artists who aren’t sure if a musical career is “worth it”… they say it’s a lot of work.  Please give us your views on whether music is worth pursuing as a full-blown career & what it takes to do that.

Well, I really think it’s important to follow your dreams…… AND I think it’s important to put your own food on the table.  Sometimes it’s hard to do both simultaneously.  So my suggestion would be to do what you LOVE doing and if you can find a way to make a living at it GREAT!  If not, then get a job and keep doing what you LOVE until you can make it take care of you.  After all if you really love it, then it’s not really work is it?