Improvijazzation Nation, Issue # 113

Here’s our  fourth for 2011, # 113. 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 # 112, & 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 singer/jazzist supreme Vlada, though he’s on tour in Europe right now, so I’ll have to play this one by ear – I’ve already sent him the questions, so will be looking for his interview replies in the next few weeks – he’s a high-energy singer/player, that’s for sure!

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 – A few thoughts on why we should prosecute EVERY member of Congress and the Senate for TREASON – TODAY!  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!

Our latest reviews for your reading and listening pleasure!

Ingrid Jensen & Nordic Connect – SPIRALS: I’ve been reviewing Ingrid’s fantastic brass works for a long time now, most recently in issue # 103 though most of those reviews featured her as a guest artist.  On this superb aural adventure, her horn is more in-front, since she’s the leader on this ’round.  Though I couldn’t find any direct links for tune samples from this CD, here’s a splendid video of the band at the Ottawa Jazz Festival (2008):







Isn’t that splendid work?  Some of the best jazz I’ve heard in 2011; the 5:15 “Song For Inga” is one of the most powerful horn solos you’ll listen to this year.  A player doesn’t get to the talent level that Ingrid and the rest of her players display on this album without “being there” already.  My absolute favorite track of the nine, from a deep jazz perspective, was the 8:42 “Castle Mountain” – for the dedicated jazz fan, it doesn’t get any better than this!  I give Ingrid & Nordic Connect a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97.  Get more information at Rotcod Zzaj

Evan Weiss – MATH OR MAGIC:  It’s clearly the young players who will revive the whole spirit of adventure in jazz (or just music in general, for that matter).  Evan exemplifies that creative force in his trumpet playing, his composition and the highly talented players he has assembled for this fantastic CD (check the player list out here).  Not 100% jazz, this is more like “adventure” music, I’d say.  Beautiful strings, vocal intrigues, piano wonderment and spell-weaving that just won’t let you disengage once you start listening to it… in fact, I had to listen to all 13 tracks once I started. Check out “Incidents of Half An Hour” to hear the power in the spells woven by these folks… nothing rushed, but with total dedication to flawless performance and conveyance of beauty.  I daresay you’ve not heard the level of “balance” (lately) in a composition that is demonstrated on “Painting With Numbers“.  I’m truly impressed, and you will be too… Evan & krew get a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98 and my “PICK” of this issue for “most intriguing musical assembly”.  This is VOLCANIC, folks.  Check out the label site for more information. Rotcod Zzaj



Wayne Wallace Latin Jazz Quintet – TO HEAR FROM THERE: Arrival of a new CD from Wayne is always a joyous occasion, in great part because the music he plays always puts me in a rollicking mood, ready to “dance the night away in my Maidenform” (or something like that… ha! ha!).  Many times (in my experience, anyway), if a player/band are advertised as “Latin”, the music is sort of “confined” in a certain zone… not so with Wayne’s compositions… Jazz is the first and foremost element in his work!  Latin doesn’t take a back seat, but you can feel the jazz roots vibrating through each and every tune… try out Wayne’s fantastic trombone work on “Serafina Del Caribe” to hear the ultimate in joyous!  For something a little more on the blues side of things, you’ll love “Descarga En Blue“… the quintet “paints pleasure” with this one.  I’ve reviewed Wayne’s various groups so many times now in this magazine that a linklist would take up a whole page… always fun and enlightening.  If you love high-spirited jazz with Latin tones, this comes MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED – it also gets an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97.  Get more information at Rotcod Zzaj



Heshima and Souljourn – HESHIMA AND SOULJOURN: What first drew my ears to Heshima’s work was the totally soul-filled vocal stuff… if you grew up (as did I) with crooners like Marvin (Gaye), Stevie & Patti (LaBelle), you’ll know what you want in a song – & Heshima has the clear talent to pull this off.  The 6 cuts I got for review were from two CD’s, “The Awakening” and “Round And Round“… both are filled with the spirit of life, though I liked the songs from “Round and Round” better; that may be because I didn’t get the full albums in, only 3 cuts from each CD.  At any rate, when you listen to “Beautiful“, you’ll hear why I liked this artist.  I give him a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, and look  forward to reviewing a FULL CD next time.  “EQ” (energy quotient) rating is 4.94.  Get more information at his REVERBNATION page.    Rotcod Zzaj



Peter Scherr – SON OF AUGUST: Peter’s expatriate status (he lives in Hong Kong) does nothing to detract from the pure talent he shows on his bass.  The opener, “Tongue“, stride-walks you through what I imagine are murky alleys in some district on the “other side of the trax”… ha! ha!  If you’re looking for tunes that are bit more on the “gentle” side, though with plenty of excitement in the mix, you’ll love “Willing“… bluesy, but full-bodied, with some great sax work.  I’m reminded of some tunes I’ve heard Dennis Rea compose here… lots of heavy guitar to accompany Peter’s bass beauty.  I found “August 2” to be my favorite of the 10 songs.  An all-round great jazz/rock excursion that gets a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED and an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.96.  Get more information at Rotcod Zzaj





Anthony Branker & Ascent – DANCE MUSIC: If you don’t find yourself fully recharged after listening to the opener, “The Renewal“, your batteries are dead already.  I reviewed their first CD in issue # 77 and found it simply wonderful jazz that inspires the listener.  “Dance Music” amplifies that by at least half… very well recorded, with rich big band sound from a small ensemble (yet still too large a group of players to itemize here – check out their REVERBNATION page for all the details).  There’s definitely a grin hidden in “A Smile Awaits“, a slow-groovin’ tune that will put true jazz lovers in a state of ultimate bliss.  It was the Latin-flavored “Depende” that got my clear vote for favorite track, though… a high-spirited closer to a grand 10-song jazz adventure.  I give this one my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97.  Get more information at Rotcod Zzaj





Paradiso and Rasamayi – 3RD EYE RISING: Those listeners who seek after something “higher” in their musical experience will find this CD quite rewarding… the music would make perfect background through your headphones for reading about Yoga or as background for your Nam-Yo-Ho-Reng-Gi-Kyo chants.  No matter what your orientation, you will certainly experience a deep sense of calm as you listen to the chimes and cymbal sound on “Invocation“… it will most assuredly transport you!  My absolute favorite tune of the 11 on this CD was “Abundance“… superbly meditative, with wonderful string washes and deep-toned didgeridoo.  I give this very rich-sounding album a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.96.  Get more information at Rotcod Zzaj






Kathleen Kolman – DREAM ON: There are 11 splendid jazz vocals, with some excellent players behind her on this February 2011 release.  I couldn’t find any directly linkable sample tracks (minor points for that, but it would be advisable to make sure reviewers can get to them), but you can hear flash streams of tunes like the smokin’ hot “Day By Day” by clicking the title (takes you to the AOL music page, as opposed to AMAZON, where it allows you to just click it & then brings up your player without having to go there)… this tune is high-energy/talent on the part of both Kathleen and her players!  I also enjoyed the “jump vibe” on “Get Happy“… superb backup singers, svelte guitar lines behind it… makes ya’ feel like church.  I picked “Until The Very End” (a Kolman/Baert composition) as my favorite… most representative of the sultry and captivating way Kathleen grabs your attention.  This one gets a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from me, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.96.  Get more information at Rotcod Zzaj


Dan Susnara – VENT, GRIN AND CONQUER: Listening to new material (& this definitely IS “new”… it was recorded in 2010) is more than just a pleasure… it’s a discovery trip, every time.  The music takes you back to a time when music was revealing and much more of a personal trip than today’s electro-generated krap.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t find samples on the web yet, though Dan does have a page on FB now (I’d recommend contacting him through there).  One of my favorite trax was “Take A Year Off”… “vacation rage”, no doubt… ha! ha!  Dan’s razor-sharp composition skills come into play on this one, I’ll tell you!  The reason I know Susnara is because he and I did a couple of collaborations together in the early ’90′s, and the same mystical qualities that attracted me to want to play with him are surely evident on the ultra-psych closer, “Drug Toy”.  If you’re “into” underground psychedelia, this gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.96.  Contact Dan at the FB link shown above.    Rotcod Zzaj



Michael Feinberg – WITH MANY HANDS: As the promoters will tell you, I seldom let a CD “jump ahead” in the queue, but Michael’s exquisite bass work, combined with players I’ve reviewed before, like tenor saxophonist Noah Preminger (not to mention alto player Godwin Lewis, pianist Julian Shore, drummer Daniel Platzman and guitarist Alex Wintz), made this one well worthy.  Michael’s bass is “out in front”, yet subtle enough to give the other instruments plenty of room to be heard.  The coolest of the cool tunes I’ve heard this year certainly includes the jumpin’ “Fighting Monsters“… definitely “uptown”, with rhythm that will have you dancin’ in seconds!  If a laid-back lead-in to fall is more your style, try “August“… the guitar is gentle, but full of life on this 6:04 gem… +, I love that electric piano/Rhodesy keyboard!  This is Michael’s second CD & was released in March, 2011… it gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from my ears, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97.  (p.s.  This one gets an “aural alert”, too… keep your ears on this talented young player & his pals).  Get more information at Rotcod Zzaj





Jenny Thom – GROOVY STREET: There is some KILLER rockin’ pop vocal stuff on Jenny’s CD… I can’t even remember how it got to me (Jenny did send me a cut sheet & the CD, so I’m assuming it was from FB or somewhere) & it took a while to get to.  The keyword for her music is VARIETY… the difference between th’ rockin’ “Right To The Bone” & the laid-back acoustic/electric guitar on “Go Easy” is measurable, to be sure!  (Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any samples loaded on the net to link in).  I’m reminded of the raw ’60′s/’70′s energy of Janis on “So Cool”, yet feelin’ like I’m in an “uptown jazz juke” on “Birdtrane”.  Lots of energy for her vocals gets a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating from me, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.96.  Check her out at her FACEBOOK pageRotcod Zzaj






Alon Nechushtan – WORDS BEYOND: Here’s a jazz trio you won’t soon forget… 9 masterful compositions by Alon (piano), Francois Moutin on bass and Dan Weiss doing drums.  Alon’s keyboard style is “crisp”… that doesn’t mean cut-off or “rude”, it’s just that each of his strokes on the keys are well-defined and the recording seems to emphasize the crystal clarity of the hammers on the strings.  I especially enjoyed the bouncy “Spinning The Clouds“… each player has their part to play, and they do it with full verve, yet not “in your face”… the stride on this track just makes it “feel like fun”.  If you’re looking for something a bit more soothing, try out the bouncy “Spring Soul Song“…. this one is still full of the vigor of life, it’s just a bit more gentle in approach.  My favorite was the (almost) boogie-like (in places) “Entranced“… true talent is demonstrated by each of the players on this one.  An all-round great CD that gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED  and an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97 from me.  Get more information at Rotcod Zzaj




Harlan Mark Vale – CANTICLE OF THE SUN: My friend Mark may not be Saint Frank (unless ’twas a Frank whose last name starts with “Z”), but he certainly “gets into the spirit” of this deep and moving religious song.  Though it was composed by St. Francis of Assisi, in Marks’ very capable hands (and voice), it could have easily have been been realized in a Native American sweat lodge.  This music is not necessarily a “departure” for Mr. Vale… he’s always been very involved in things spiritual, albeit not in any “organized religion”, methinks.  The church this player clearly has joined is the church of CREATIVITY – oh, so many eons ago!  I wish there were samples of the power he projects here, but (sadly) I wasn’t able to find any on the net.  For now, content yourself to visit his SITE and gorge yourself on the high talent he plays with.   I give him my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98 on this one.     Rotcod Zzaj




Linda Presgrave – INSPIRATION: There is definitely a mood created that inspires listeners (even “non-jazzers”) to new heights on Linda’s great CD… the opener, “Insomnia“, will keep you up all evening, especially with the wonderful bass solo that comes on right after Linda’s beautiful keyboard setup (at about 5:10).  I also enjoyed the lively “Struttin’ In Manhattan“… what shines through on Linda’s grand keyboard style is a sense of joy, both in the playing and the performance of such spirit-filled tuneage!   My favorite track, partially because of the title, but more for the total energy devoted to the playing, was “Cheap Cheese“.  This is wonderful jazz that merits my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, as well as an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97.  Get more information at her page on METROPOLITAN RECORDS.

p.s.  Now you can WATCH Linda & crew, too:




Rotcod Zzaj



Roxy Rossroxy Coss – ROXY COSS: Roxy’s tenor/soprano sax and flute work merit a clear one-word description – AMAZING!  Based in the Big Apple now (she’s originally from Seattle), she’s far more talented than many of her peers there, on first listen!  It certainly helps that she has a ton of talented players with her (Kate Miller on trumpet & flugelhorn, Ryan Brennan on guitar, Justin Kauflin on piano & Rhodes, Kellen Harrison on bass and Shawn Baltazor on drums/percussion), especially on tracks like the high-spirited “A New Time - her flute is free floating and totally inspiring on this one.  She shows versatility in her compositions, as on “The Slow Ascent”, featuring some wonderful guitar… heck, all the players shine on this tune!  My verzure favorite, though, was “The Cherry On Top“, one of the “bounciest” tunes I’ve heard this year.  She gets (not only) a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from me, but a “PICK” of this issue for “best new sax/flute jazz”.  “EQ” (energy quotient) rating is 4.98.  Get more information at Rotcod Zzaj




Plunge – TIN FISH TANGO: Some of the same folks who played on the “Pelican” CD reviewed below played on this one as well… James Singleton on bass & Mark McGrain on trombone, & Tom Fitzpatrick on sax to be specific.  It has a much “straighter jazz” orientation than “Pelican”… scope out “Bright Side” to hear what I mean.  “No Spill, Spew” features excellent & right-on-time improvisation, & “Big Bhang Theory” takes you right down to what the “core” of jazz is all about!  My absolute favorite track was the closer, “Diddlin‘”… high talent & subtle energy displayed on each & every note, with a low & funky groove that satisfies to the max!  These guys are tight – have to be to do all 13 tunes without drums… I give them a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, especially for listeners who want a little taste of “different” in their listening experience.  “EQ” (energy quotient) rating is 4.97.  Get more information at Rotcod Zzaj





Kathryn Kaye – DREAMING STILL: There are times when you know right away that you are in the presence of a true artist, and I’ve found that to often be true for solo pianists than for other players.  Just listen to the opening track, “Time Moving Slowly“, and you’ll know why I’m saying that.  Kathryn’s style on the keyboards reminds me of folks like George Winston and Susanne Ciani (as well as many others), but what’s distinctive about her playing is that there is nothing “rushed”… it’s what I like to call “natural playing”.  She also has Eugene Friesen on cello, Charlie Bisharat on violin and Jill Haley on English horn) with her.  As you listen to the beautiful “Leaf Dance“, the whole season will come rushing into your ears… simple, yet beautiful.  I’ve no doubt that piano lovers ’round the world will agree when I declare her work on this 14-track journey to be HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, and give her an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.96.  Get more information at Rotcod Zzaj




Fitzpatrick-McGrain-Gillett-Singleton – PELICAN SESSIONS: The cover made me think this was a “nature” CD – & in some respects, I guess you could say it was… all-natural improvised music (though there are some “purist” jazz fans who might argue that “all-natural” and “improvised” don’t fit together well – to heck with them, though.  This is great jazz, all 11 tracks, featuring Tom Fitzpatrick on soprano/alto reeds, Mark McGrain on trombone & alphorn (my last review of Mark’s work was in issue # 98), Helen Gillet doing cello & James Singleton on double bass, in a chamber jazz session unparalleled (in my listenings, anyway) this year!  This is a free download, by the way, so that alone makes it worth listening… check it out at One distraction for me was that the tunes are all the same name (i.e., “Improvisation 1, 2, etc.), but then it’s the music that counts, eh?  I especially enjoyed the 6:18 “Improvisation 5“… dense and rich with flavors you’ve never tasted before.  For listeners who thrive on the unknown, this gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.96.  Get more information at the site above.   Rotcod Zzaj



Bann – AS YOU LIKE: This group’s main member that we’ve reviewed is Seamus Blake (issue # 92)… his monster tenor sax, along with guitars by Oz Noy, bass from Jay Anderson and drums from Adam Nussbaum, make for one hellacious (& delicious) 9-song jazz CD that will be the envy of everyone’s ears for years!  Oz’s guitar solo work on the opener, “All The Things You Are“, makes the album worth the purchase.  There’s plenty of “standard-sounding” jazz on this debut CD from Bann…   “Days of Old“, for instance, will have your ears in bass heaven on the intro to the track, and the bouncy modern sounds of “Minor Shuffle” (my favorite, by the way) will have you dancin’ ’round your floor in only moments!  What’s best about this quartet is that their sounds are always fresh & new, with more than enough energy for even the most demanding jazz fan… pure creativity!  I give them my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, as well as an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Get more information at – & keep your ears ON this group, they’ll be pleasing you for years!     Rotcod Zzaj




William C. Harrington – NUCLEAR MENACE: With all the threat the title implies, William pounces on your senses with this collection of 15 sonic vignettes… as always, he doesn’t just stick to “one” format; the sounds are varied and most interesting.  I particularly enjoyed the second cut, “The Ventura New Music Authority“, with it’s slow bell/chime sounds & incisor-like drill sounds – it’s like a “less harsh” industrial grind kinda’ thing!  It was actually “Rockitt II” that snagged my ears & wouldn’t let go, though… my favorite track, albeit a bit short… the keyword on almost all of William’s music (that I’ve listened to, anyway) is “subtle”; do this with HEADPHONES.  I give him a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for this one, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.96.  Get more information at Rotcod Zzaj





Rebecca Cline and Hilary Noble – ENCLAVE DIASPORA: This 2009 release is some of the freshest and lively music I’ve heard in a long time… they classify it as “Latin Funk”, & that surely is an apt description.  Rebecca’s Rhodes work is unparalleled and full of wonderful little twists & turns that made me fall in love with here magic on the first bars of “A-Frayed“… this one POPS with the vigor of life, folks!  Hilary’s reed (tenor sax) & flute work would make any other player jealous on the totally enchanting & energetic “Mars Bars” (must have been on a sugar rush when they named that tune, eh?)… purely FUN music.  The closer, “Blue Cross“, is where I felt the band was really at their best, though… every note of every bar was ON IT!  I give these folks my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99.  They also get my “PICK” of this issue for “best Latin funk/jazz”.  Get more information at Rotcod Zzaj  (also check out the YOUTUBE vid below):



Many Axes – 2 MANY AXES: As often happens with releases from our pals at the pFmentum label, I’m sitting here simply amazed at the wonderful sounds that can be coaxed out of “different instruments”; as you listen to the throbbing/moving whirl on “Entropy“, you will realize why I’m always excited about sitting down with my headphones to absorb the dense sonic palettes the artists (Brad Dutz, Susan Rawcliffe and Scott Wilkinson) paint for us.   The flutes on “March Of The Whales” will make you feel like you’re right there in the water with the monster creatures.   The percussion/kalimba-like sounds on “Pillbug’s Nightmare” will make you realize what “Bennie’s” were all about for those truck drivers back in the ’50′s… dark/rich textures that totally enchant.  It was the bell sounds on “Dali Comma” that did it for me, & made this my absolute favorite on the CD.  This is one sonic adventure you will NOT want to miss – I give it my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97.  Get more information at pFmentum!    Rotcod Zzaj


Larry Polansky – DIY Canons: Those who have stayed with this magazine since it’s inception (over) 20 years ago are fully aware that “different” doesn’t (necessarily) = “bad” here.  Larry’s double CD will introduce you to sounds even veteran listeners (like me, of course) haven’t heard before… cats snoring, amplified to the ‘nth degree, voices from “L” and a whole host of other sonic adventures that various composers/performers have carved from his four original voice canons (not performed by Larry, but by the other performers, btw).  The only piece I spotted available on the net for direct link was “Pizzicato Canon“, a stunning piece of string work packed into 1:38.  You can also catch flash samples of all 15 pieces at e-music.  It is surely recommended that you do your first listen on this one with headphones on… this is music you must focus on, or you’ll lose the essence of Larry’s skill.  I give this one a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, and an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97.  Get more information at the POGUS label site.     Rotcod Zzaj


Satoko Fujii Orchestra Tokyo – ZAKOPANE: Though Satoko is (just) the conductor on this CD, her total commitment to keeping the jazz energy moving ever on to new planes will be evident on first listen.  My most recent review of her orchestral efforts was in issue # 95, which used words like “volcanic” to describe the jazz spell she weaves for the listener, & this ’round is no less intense.  Fusion rules here, with styles all the way from funk to free & everything in between… the performer list is huge, as is the full-bodied, full-tilt sound they play.  You can listen to several samples at the SQUIDCO site (though unfortunately they aren’t labeled)… you’ll just have to trust my jazz judgment when I tell you that this is some of the most “penetrating” jazz orchestral work you will ever hear.  From the perspective of Big-Band orchestral jazz, there’s only one tune that gets my vote for favorite (though many of the other 7 were superb, too) is “Trout”… total adventure wrapped (or is it warped) up in one track!  I give Satoko & her orchestra my HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, as well as an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97.  Get more information at Rotcod Zzaj



Bob Szajner – ON THE BENCH IN THE ZONE: My last review of Bob’s work was in issue # 106 I was highly impressed on that one, but on this release, he’s elevated himself to a new level (in the opinion of my ears, anyway).  As you listen to the hyper-drive “Nichols For Your Thoughts“, you’ll immediately agree with my excitement about his superb piano style!  Jazz doesn’t get any more energetic than this.  If you’re hankering for something a bit more laid back, you’ll love the mighty mellow “Seems Like Spring“.  I personally found a tune titled “Ragman” to be my absolute favorite, perhaps because Bob’s keyboard style on this one encompasses stride, get-down boogie & sophisticated up-town across the entire 5:10.  This is the kind of jazz true fans will listen to over & over again.  I give it my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97.  Get more information at the group’s FB page.   Rotcod Zzaj





DUO RHYTHMIGRATION – UNE JOURNEE ANONYME: This 2005 CD, in from Henri based on a personal contact (I believe it was via FB, but can never remember for sure these days) is not “crazy improv” (the kind of music my wife says I play, in other words)… it’s some of the most moving improvised piano, guitar and percussion I’ve listened to in some years!  Check out one of my favorites, “Les fourmis aiment le biere” to hear the kind of wizardry that Henri and his co-player, percussionist Ismael Robert, generate…. if this isn’t beauty, there is no beauty; the duo covers every emotion in the spectrum on this one (7:49) song.  The absolute favorite track (for this reviewer, anyway) was the epic (13:43) “Noya Mondea“… this is definitely the way improvised music ought to be… no listeners (except maybe a few Baptists or Free Methodists) will be offended – ha! ha!  I give this one my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for listeners with lots of latitude and adventure in their blood.  Get more information at Henri’s blogspot.      Rotcod Zzaj




The Leonisa Ardizzone Quintet – THE SCENT OF BITTER ALMONDS: Some very attractive & high-energy vocals from Leonisa and unmatched talent by her quartet (Jess Jurkovic on keyboards, Bob Sabin on bass, & drums from Justin Hines).  Check out her silky vocal style on one of my favorite tracks, “Midnight Sun“… it’s easy to tell from listening to the quartet that they are having fun with it – a key ingredient (in my mind, anyway) to musical success!  Her scat work on “Joy Spring” just bubbles (excuse the flaky pun, police) – she just “mines” a tune for all it’s worth and makes it come out shiny as diamonds.  To get an even better “feel” for it, I’m including a short YOUTUBE vid here:

You won’t find yourself in a “slack” listen in any way, shape or form on this CD… it gets a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from me, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.95.  Get more information at Rotcod Zzaj


Jane Ira Bloom – WINGWALKER: I’m not 100% sure why, but I thought for sure I’d reviewed Jane’s work before… the opener, “Her Exacting Light“, is just the kind of tune that will make you feel like you’ve known the player(s) for eons.  …and Jane’s soprano sax takes this tune a zillion miles beyond anything that Kenny G ever thought about playing… not “hook-filled”, but classic in approach!  The 12 songs feature her partners Dawn Clement (piano), Mark Helias (bass) and Bobby Previte (drums) in one of the most “connected” CD’s I’ve listened to this year.  I just loved Freud’s Convertible“, and any jazz listener worth their salt will too… no pretensions, just straight-ahead jazz that’s fun to listen to (& groove on).  My absolute favorite, though, was the second track, “Life On Cloud 8“… you can almost picture those angels & imps floatin’ by in th’ sky as you listen through this one!  I give it my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, as well as an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Get more information at Rotcod Zzaj




The Eddie Daniels Quartet – MEAN WHAT YOU SAY: An even dozen jazz gems from a jazz stalwart… I’ve been reviewing splendid music from Eddie for a long time, most recently in issue # 95, & can tell you that this is one of his best.  Scope out the sultry “Azure“, where Eddie’s clarinet will transport you to one of the bluest moods you’ll ever get down into!  It’s one of those “lazy” tunes that makes you feel you’re on top of everything, lighthearted & free.  Eddie’s tenor sax on the upbeat “You and the Night and the Music” is one of the best versions you’ll ever hear, and the opener (title track and my absolute favorite on the CD) “Mean What You Say” is a perfect listening adventure for novice or veteran.  With vets like Hank Jones (piano), Richard Davis (bass) & Kenny Washington (drums), you won’t find a better jazz experience any time soon. 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




Roberta Piket – SIDES, COLORS: Roberta’s beautiful piano only has two words that can describe it – “simply stunning”.  There is nothing terribly complex for the listener, yet at the same time, the entire range of “tools” a pianist has for wrapping a listener into their web are employed very effectively.  This is especially true on pieces like “My Friends and Neighbors “… totally enchanting bass intro, wonderful string-weave, then strong emphasis on the keys.  If you’re looking for something a bit more lively, you’ll have to listen to “Shmear“… smokin’ hot opening, nice alternating phrases, but even veteran listeners will have quite a time keeping up with Roberta’s fantastic twists & turns.  My personal preference was “Relent“, because of the skillful organ, I think… superb playing.   Well over an hour’s worth of splendid and exciting musical adventure!  I give this one a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97.   Get more information at Rotcod Zzaj





It is TIME… time to ACT… time to arrest each and every one of the criminals in congress and the Senate who have committed TREASON:  “the betrayal of a trust or confidence; breach of faith; treachery.”  To think that anyone on either side of the aisle would contemplate shutting down the government over some ideological sticking point, & thereby render hundreds of thousands of people (military, civilians and others in the service of their country) unable to cope with the already mounting pressures in today’s society (most of which were CREATED by these same elected representatives) is worthy of a charge of treason!

If we can contemplate impeachment for a Prez with “loose zipper syndrome”, we can CERTAINLY pass a resolution to levy charges of treason against those who are MONKEYING AROUND with the very fabric of our society!

Allowing them to continue in their positions is tantamount to a death-wish.  They should be arrested ON-SIGHT and placed in confinement.  Who would “run” the government if we did that?  Put a NATIONAL DRAFT in place (TONIGHT), and select citizens who don’t have felonies on their records… tell them when they replace the congressmen and senators who have been locked up that they have 10 days to PASS a budget, or ALL of their assets will be seized (of course it goes without saying that all those already locked up should lose everything they have).  Do you think these petty ideological arguments would continue if those in the positions knew that THEY would be charged with treason if they fail to meet the deadline?

We need to DO THIS – & we need to do it TODAY!  I’ll look forward to your comments!



This young gent is FULL of energy… even tho’ he was in the middle of an extensive European tour, he took time out from his busy schedule to make sure I.N. readers can get to know him better – thanks, Vlada!!!!

Zzaj: Vlada, we always start off with a “bio sketch” from the artist… I’m sure you have a LOT to tell my readers… the sketch I read said you were “raised in Switzerland”… tell us (from the beginning, as you remember it) how you came all the way from there to here (where you are NOW), what influences your family had on your choices about music… you know – who IS Vlada?

Vlada: It’s true, I was born and raised in Switzerland, but of Serbian parents, which is why I have a Slavic name. I grew up in the 70s, listening to the Beatles, American Swing music, Serbian Folklore and Disco! My Dad was a dentist and my Mom was a dental technician, but there was always music playing in the house or in the car. I started singing at the age of three or so, seriously impersonating Elvis at the of age of five… Since my grandfather was a violin maker, I began playing the violin at age 7, but I had always rather been drawn to the piano, which has been my main instrument since my early teens, when I started writing my first songs. My main influences were my older cousins, who introduced my to jazz, soul and funk music and played me their favorite records every time I visited them in Belgrade. I was hooked! I sang and performed as a teenager, but despite my passion for music, I still finished school and graduated at the University of Zurich with a Masters degree in English Literature and Economics. During my studies, I had also attended Jazz School Zurich, where I was taught in jazz vocals and theory, and I had been involved in various jazz and gospel projects as a singer, arranger and producer. After graduation, I worked as promotion manager for Swiss concert promoter AllBlues for several years. In 2003, I started recording my debut album, and that production eventually brought me to the US, first to Nashville and then to New York, which is where I am now.

Zzaj: As I listen to your CD (right now, as I’m writing these questions), I want to know, as do my readers, how you picked up on all that SOUL, man? It’s clear you’ve GOT SOME, so share with us how you can sing what sounds so much like “black soul”?

Vlada: Well, thank you! From a very early age on, I had been attracted to African-American music, be it Jazz, Soul, Funk, Gospel, or Blues. So I listened to a lot of Stevie Wonder, James Brown, Aretha, Tower of Power, Motown, but also jazz singers such as Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, Joe Williams, Bobby McFerrin, Jarreau, to name just a few. And most of all: Take 6. All of these people have definitely influenced my singing. On top of that, I was the musical director, lead singer and arranger of the Swiss funk-gospel-group “awake” for about 10 years, which meant that I was deeply involved with contemporary Black Gospel music and many of its amazing singers. After all these years, a blend of all these genres and influences is what’s coming out of my heart and I guess out of my mouth!

Zzaj: I watched a YOUTUBE video on which you appeared to be having more FUN than any person should be allowed to have… in fact, that’s why I liked your music so much… tell us your ideas (if you agree with me) on why it’s so important for singers/players to HAVE FUN?

Vlada: Music can express any kind of emotion, of course, from love, joy to melancholy to even grief or sadness, and my music touches on various of these shades. But most of my stuff is uplifting, positive and joyful, simply because I love life that much, and so naturally, I also want to and do have a lot of fun presenting my music. In general, I think it’s crucial for us to enjoy what we’re doing, and I’ve experienced that our joy on stage is truly contagious and that it affects the audience as well. If you’re a singer/player and making music becomes just a job for you, then you might consider switching careers!

Zzaj: Why Nashville? I mean, was it because they have great backup singers there, or are there other (more personal) reasons?

Vlada: It’s very simple: one of my biggest musical heroes, Mark Kibble of Take 6, suggested to co-produce and finish my debut album if I came to Nashville. So of course, I went and I was blown away by the talent that you’ll find in Nashville, so-called Music City USA. We recorded the horns there, all the backing and lead vocals, percussion and Kirk Whalum on sax as a special guest. I kept going back to Nashville for recording sessions, but then suddenly so many doors opened and I made so many friends that I decided to stay for a while. I definitely grew as an artist and as a person during that season in Tennessee.

Zzaj: Though I note that some of your tunes are “spiritual”, I also get the impression that you don’t want to “preach” with your music… am I right? Or wrong? This is important to me, because I was a preacher’s kid, & have some pretty jaded views about why it’s important NOT to “preach” too much. Tell us your thoughts on that, please.

Vlada: You’re right, some of the songs are spiritual and I’m a guy who loves and follows Jesus Christ, but I don’t intend to force my faith on anybody. I cannot and don’t want to make you believe anything, that’s your individual choice. Many of these tracks are my personal stories about the ups and downs of life, and since God is central in my life, I‘m gonna mention him here and there, simply since he‘s changed my life so much. Essentially, my hope is that this album will encourage, uplift and bring joy to people, whether they’re believers or not.

Zzaj: If you had the chance to sing/play with a particular artist – who would it be?

Vlada: Stevie Wonder, hands down. But I also wouldn’t say no to a duet with Aretha, Whitney or Lizz Wright…

Zzaj: Everything I read about you says “world traveler”… do you ever get tired of touring, traveling & no “roots”? Or are you really just a “homebody” in disguise?

Vlada: I do love traveling, discovering new places and meeting all kinds of people. In the past, I lived in Switzerland, England, Germany, and the US, and it’s a blessing that I can call various places my home. Lately, however, I realized that it wasn’t wise for me to have three different “homes” at the same time and that I had to grow deeper roots again. So I had to make a choice and I’ve decided to call New York my new home. But because of music, I’m still traveling a great deal, and I’m loving it…

Zzaj: As you know from reading my review, I was really impressed with your debut CD; my readers always like to get the “insider view”… please tell us what music/projects you have coming up… with some samples, if they’re posted already.

Vlada: I’m currently writing new songs for my next album. In essence, it’s still gonna be soul music with real musicianship, but slightly more accessible than the first record. We’ve played the first five songs live already, but I’m afraid I don’t have any samples published yet. The goal is to record the album towards the end of this year and then release it sometime in 2012.

Zzaj: Do you play any instruments? Or is your voice your primary instrument? If you do play, why did you choose vocal work over playing an instrument?

Vlada: I play the piano and I write and arrange my songs on the piano or the keyboards, but my voice is still my primary instrument. It’s sad but I stopped practicing the piano daily when I went to the Swiss Army and then to university in the early 90s. That’s when the vocals took over. Today, I try to hone my piano skills again and it’s slowly coming back. I’d love to play the bass and the drums as well, since funnily enough, many of my songs are based on a bass line or a groove pattern. But I have to play those on the keys or sing them to my musicians…

Zzaj: From the joy I see you project with your music, I expect you’re feeling pretty good about a career in music… because this magazine has a lot of readers who are aspiring players/singers, please give them a few “words of wisdom” on what a performer must do to “make it” in today’s tough musical market.

Vlada: The big question is, what does “make it” mean these days and is it really something that is worth pursuing? Would you also want to sing/play if nobody was listening? If not, you’ll have to ask yourself what your motives for a career in music are. Is it your passion or are you after fame and money? The latter is less and less realistic these days and it will not make you happy anyway. If you’re an aspiring player/singer, then my advice is this: Work on your gift, keep practicing and getting better. Develop your own style, tone or language. Don’t just play or sing notes, but LIVE them. Talent alone will hardly be enough, it always takes a lot of hard work, tenacity, and perseverance as well. Don’t be afraid to take risks and fail at times. That’s always better than never trying. The difference between the ones who make it in the end and those who don’t is that the ones who make it got up one more time. Pursue your dream, work hard for it and don’t forget to have fun along the way!

Zzaj Productions