Improvijazzation Nation, Issue # 115

 

Here’s our  sixth issue for 2011, # 115. There are just under 100 CD’s (still) in queue, so I’ve been making some progress… 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 another 30 reviews for # 114, & 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 – first in the hopper is exciting music from Shawn Costantino!

INTERVIEW – is with AO Music, a “world/fusion” band that can’t be beat.  I’ve been reviewing their work for over a decade now, and we thank them for taking the time to do this in-depth interview with us.

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 rotcod@rotcodzzaj.com

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!

 

Keith Driskill – A TIME OF INNOCENCE: What a perfect title for this CD… I don’t know how one could capture that time when we were all dreamers; thought locally & saw things like cat-tails & frogs in the pond… that is, in fact, exactly how Keith’s beautiful solo guitar work on  “Lover’s Farewell” makes me feel… pretty, pretty!   The same kind of sweetness, albeit with a slightly more “heavenly” tone is present (in abundance) on “My Angel Friend“… this is by far my favorite track on the CD.  Keith has a clear and evident talent for reaching down deep into your heart and waking up parts you’d nearly forgotten, then turning them into sonic experiences that will both please and bring a tear to your eye.  I give him a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.96.  Get more information at his website Rotcod Zzaj

 

 

 

 

Blaise Siwula – LIVE IN LONDON: You must be a dedicated improv fan to completely enjoy what Blaise is doing here.  His solo tenor sax work is both penetrating and forward moving!  “On The Plains of Brooklyn” will grab your ears and hold on to them for the entire 4:07.  “Transparent Dialogue” uses little “punctuation marks” to guide you through the conversation.  Those of us who are able to let ourselves go & get immersed in the moment will understand what’s being said immediately.  I’ve heard other players like Jack Wright and Jeffrey Morgan perform such antics many times, but Blaise manages to captivate your mind even though it’s a recording.  This is a great performance that gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from me (especially for listeners who can’t do without some freestyle), with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.96.  Get more information at www.blaisesiwula.com Rotcod Zzaj

 

Agogic – AGOGIC: Seattle-based (now, he just returned there from lots of other places) trumpeter Cuong Vu is teaching at U.W.’s jazz program… as a part of his work there, he teamed up with alto saxophonist Andrew D’Angelo, bassist Luke Berman & Evan Woodle on drums to form this very interesting group.  You can scope out the tunes (or purchase the CD for a price of your own choosing) at their BANDCAMP siteI especially enjoyed tunes like “Old Heap, which takes you on a near-psychedelic jazz journey (8:28) through territory that doesn’t sound like it’s ever been inhabited by “normals” yet (& that’s a compliment, to be sure)… nice meandering flow and highly original licks all the way through the track.  My favorite track turned out to be the 4:20 “Use 2“, tasty little exploratory gem that it is.  A half-dozen totally original and inspiring tracks that have an extremely satisfying “EQ” (energy quotient) of 4.98.  I give them a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.  Get more information at www.tableandchairsmusic.com/artists/agogic/ Rotcod Zzaj

 

Cinzia Spata – INTO THE MOMENT: The beautifully laid-back scat that Cinzia performs on the opening track (a Keith Jarret tune), “Questar” is fully complimented by the players backing her (Bruce Barth on piano, Dave Clark doing bass, Yoron Israel on drums, Ken Cervenka’s trumpet & flugelhorn & George Garzone on tenor sax).  Cinzia really grabs hold of your heart and makes you feel the intent of the CD title… in/of the moment!  I especially enjoyed “The Glide“; Cinzia’s vocal soars, & your mind will, too, if you let yourself get into what she’s doing for you.  From a jazz perspective, especially on the “groove” side of things, my favorite on the CD was an original from Cinzia called “Carlos“… what ENERGY this lady displays.  I give this gem of a CD a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for listeners who can’t do without excellence in jazz vocals, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97.  Get more information at Cinzia’s site!     Rotcod Zzaj

 

Jon Lundbom & Big Five Chord – QUAVERS! QUAVERS! QUAVERS! QUAVERS!: The krew at one of my favorite labels (Hot Cup Records) has struck yet again… Jon’s inspiring guitar work is joined by alto sax from Jon Irabagon, tenor sax from Bryan Murray, bass by Moppa Elliott, drums from Danny Fischer, as well as keyboards by guest artist Matt Kanelos. If you haven’t heard these gents before, you haven’t experienced the finest in 21st Century “hardbop”, as Slug Magazine put it.  The 9:20 opener, “On Jacation” is a clear sign that you’re embarking on a most jaded sonic holiday.  On the other hand, my favorite piece on the CD, “The Bravest Little Pilot # 2“, will dupe you into thinking you’re listening to “real” jazz, but by the end of this 8:16 adventure, you’ll find yourself in improv heaven (or hell, if you’re a total traditionalist… ha! ha!).  What all this 6-track adventure boils down to is a “PICK” of this issue for “best “different” jazz”, as well as a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating from me.  “EQ” (energy quotient) rating is right at the top of the heap – 5.00!  Get more information at www.jonlundbloom.com Rotcod Zzaj

 

The Sheryl Bailey Four – FOR ALL THOSE LIVING: I’m quite simply amazed at having “missed out” on Sheryl’s wonderful guitar work before… my first listen to her awe-inspiring jazz guitar on this May 2011 release tells me she’s a talent beyond measure.  As you listen to the title track, “For All Those Living“, you’ll surely know why I feel that way.. her guitar is right at the forefront of the action, but there’s also perfect balance with her pianist, Jim Ridl, drummer Shingo Okudaira & bassist Gary Wang.  The jumpin’ “Masa’s Bag” is, quite simply, the best groove jazz track I’ve listened to in 2011, & certainly my favorite of the eight originals on the CD.  These mighty mellow pieces demonstrate just the kind of high-energy jazz this magazine is all about, & get my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99.  Get more information at www.sherylbailey.com Rotcod Zzaj

 

The Fred Hess Big Band – INTO THE OPEN: Wow – talk about ENERGY… we’ve reviewed a LOT of Fred’s work in this magazine, but I can tell you without hesitation that this is one of the “largest” sound sets I’ve ever heard him do!  The opener alone, “Sooz Blooz“, makes the 8-song CD totally worth the purchase… it sounds like every reed (& brass) instrument (not to mention drums & a whole lot of others) is on this song.  Recording quality is flawless on all the tunes… you’ll have to check out the CD PAGE to get the particulars on all the players – it’s a LARGE list.  This is one of the tastiest “big band” adventures I’ve heard in 2011 (though after thinking it through a bit more, it isn’t really “B.B.J.” (Big Band Jazz) so much as it is “I.O.S.”  (Improv On Steroids)); in fact, I’ll venture to say that it IS the finest!  I give Fred & crew my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, particularly for fans of high-energy & easily accessible big-band jazz.  “EQ” (energy quotient) rating is 4.98.  Get more information, or purchase, at the BUY page.     Rotcod Zzaj

 

Claire Ritter – THE STREAM OF PEARLS PROJECT: Unfortunately, I could only find one sample of a song from this CD, “Island Jingle, Dancing With My Heart” on YOUTUBE.  Actually, after looking ’round a bit more on GOOGLE, I did manage to find two more, “Fortuity“, a totally energetic piece, & “Swiftly Winding“, which will certainly make you think about water.  I’ve reviewed a lot of Claire’s work previously, most recently in issue # 78.  This CD is “packed”… there are 18 beautiful piano tracks that were composed based on water… I can certainly relate to that, as some of my own best improvisations were put together right next to the Puget Sound.  Many keyboard players make attempts to weave nature into their compositions, but Claire does it flawlessly in 47:59 minutes of pure sonic pleasure.  I give her a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97.  Get more information at www.claireritter.com Rotcod Zzaj


 

Eliane Amherd – NOW AND FROM NOW ON: There are times when my review stack yields up a whole “row” of a certain style, in this case female jazz vocalists.  When you listen to the catchy rhythms Eliane projects on your ears, like the heavily guitar-based groove tune “Where Is Home“, you’ll find yourself falling in love with her style right NOW, volkz!  If you’re lookin’ for something more along the lines of Peggy Lee’s “Fever”, you’ll dig what Eliane does with “Temptation“… my only complaint with this one was that it was a bit short (2:49), but you’ll put it on repeat at least a few hundred times.  My personal favorite was the laid-back “Steady and Slow“  – blues your mind can taste! I give Eliane & crew a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97.  Get more information at www.elianeperforms.com Rotcod Zzaj
 

 

Susie Meissner – I’M CONFESSIN’: Since I reviewed her “I’ll Remember April” CD in issue # 106, Susie has been busy! She takes hold of tunes by some of the giants in jazz (Cole Porter, Duke Ellington & on & on), and makes them her own… witness her stellar performance on Porter’s “I Love You“… grand, grand, kiddos!  This May 2011 release features 14 high-energy and soulful tracks that will lift your spirits, no matter how down&funky you are!  It was Susie’s gentle and subtle inflections on Hoagy’s “Skylark” that got my vote for favorite track, though.. 5;41 minutes of pure unadulterated pleasure.  If you love jazz vocals, you’ll agree with me on my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating… this CD gets an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.96.  Get more information at www.susiemeissner.com Rotcod Zzaj

 

Lou Volpe – HEAR AND NOW: Though this is my first listen to Lou’s fantastic (& right on-time) guitar work, his pianist (Onaje Allan Gumbs) was most recently reviewed in issue # 71, so my ears were drawn to Lou’s CD right away.  Lou is a session player at studios all around NYC, but he’s also released several CD’s as well. I wasn’t able to find (any) clips of the songs on this CD (not good), but I did watch several clips of Lou at work… check out the intensity with which Lou plays on “Barney’s Blues“.  His “Coltrane of Thought“, though slightly different on the .mp3 version (which was a previous CD release), is the slickest jazz guitar piece I’ve heard in 2011!!!  (& that says a LOT, ‘coz I’ve heard 100′s of them).  I’d like to see (link-able) samples of the entire CD up somewhere on the web, but that’s only a minor crit… the bottom line is that Lou gets a (well deserved) MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from my ears for absolutely superb jazz guitar, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Get more information at http://louvolpejazz.com/ Rotcod Zzaj

 

Rusty Taylor & Friends – SOUTHERN STANDARD TIME: It’s possible that being a jazz vocalist down Columbus, GA way might be a rough-row-to-hoe, where country music (& I’m sure gators) ROOL!  Rusty accomplishes this feat quite nicely, though, particularly on tracks like his rendition of Brubeck’s “Take Five“… delectable vocal treatment and some high-energy players behind him, to be sure… Rusty does some scat on this one… not exactly Ella, but (still) with a full spirit!  I’m impressed at the dozen track, and for all listeners who want vocal jazz with full-body, I give this my HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating.  “EQ” (energy quotient) rating is 4.95.  Get more information at www.southern-standard-time.com Rotcod Zzaj

 

 

Carlos Franzetti and Allison Brewster Franzetti – ALBORADA: The very first word that came to mind on my first listen (among many) to this great CD was “tasteful”; the second was “elegant”… so, there you have it – “tastefully elegant”, especially on tracks like the 5:49 “Illuminata“.  His Rhodes on my favorite track, “Mirage“, is artful and full of soul!  This May 2011 release will definitely fall in on your “want list” if you love well-composed jazz joined by full orchestra.  His wife’s piano work (Allison Brewster Franzetti) is sensitive and full-bodied, too!  Though strongly influenced by his Latin heritage, the music remains true to the “jazz ethic”, if you will, and stays free and free-flowing over all 9 tracks.  I give this one a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for all but the most “hardcore” jazz purists.  “EQ” (energy quotient) rating clocks in at 4.97.  Get more information at www.carlosfranzetti.com    Rotcod Zzaj

 

Dave Fuglewicz – ONE: It’s been a very good while since I reviewed work like this from my pal Dave… this is work that far exceeds his sonic “normal” (if there is such a thing for Dave… heh! heh!).  This 60-minute opus is far more than just “drone”… it is thick, rich & densely packed with tons of those “little sounds” that eat at your brain and come back to haunt you after midnight.  Dave and I have a lot of history together, especially in the “home-produced” arena, and I can tell you (without qualification) that you will totally enjoy this sonic sculpture (unless your head is so steeped in “tradition” that there’s no hope for you anyway).  I am (as always) staggered by the universal depth Dave manages to infuse in this single-song adventure… for those who have adventure in their ears, this comes MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.96.  Get more information at www.davefuglewicz.com Rotcod Zzaj

 

Charito – HEAL THE WORLD: I was highly impressed with Charito’s vocals when I reviewed her back in issue # 96; it’s not just her sultry & laid-back vocal style, either… there is superb high-talent & soul on display for your ears (& your heart as well).  If you’re not touched by “Man In The Mirror“, then you’ve got NO soul anyway & should retreat back to the graveyard with the rest of the zombies.  It’s her beautiful interpretation of Michael’s “I’ll Be There“, though, that gets my clear vote for favorite track… she just SHINES on this tune… & the true beauty in her talent is that she does it without having to “try” to get you to listen to her… your ears will automatically seek her out, & on at least a couple of these tracks, a warm tear (or two) will fall!  Charito gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from me, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.96.  Get more information at www.charito.com Rotcod Zzaj

 

Pitom – BLASPHEMY AND OTHER SERIOUS CRIMES: I said it in issue # 111 this is one HIGH-ENERGY group… it definitely isn’t jazz, but Yoshie Fruchter & his krazy krew blend all forms of anarchy into something that is about as blasphemous as it gets!  Ha!  Ha!  I’m actually quite sure these folks are just havin’ lots o’ noisy fun at the expense of listeners who can’t STAND anything that isn’t “NORMAL”.  “Head In The Ground” pokes fun at far more than those with ostrich-like posture… it rips to shreds any ideas you might have of what gr8 rock/jazz is all about, & does it at light-speed pace.  If you’re a Zappa fan (like I am), you’ll hear the resemblance on tunes like “Resentful Repentance” (I can almost hear them napkins turnin’ black).  It was the moto-cycle boot paradigm of “Vos Zogt Ir” that got my vote for favorite… some SMOKIN’ lead guitar lines.  I give this one (yet) another MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97.  Get more information at myspace.com/pitom Rotcod Zzaj

 

Patty Ascher -Bossa, Jazz ‘n’ Samba: Though Patty’s vocal work on this wonderful Latin-based CD is excellent & definitely in the 21st Century realm, the addition of strings made it feel nostalgically like some of the 1950′s/’60′s recordings like that I listened to back in the day (the player list is huge – you can check it out HERE).  That’s particularly true on songs like the opener, “Springtime“… & while that may sound like a criticism, it’s not at all… Patty’s music takes me back to an era when our outlook on the world ’round us was more pleasant & simpler.  For something with a bit more blues in the mix, yet way too cool & “now”, you’ll dig “Girls Just Want To Kiss” as fervently as did I.  Strangely enough, it was “The Sun” that got my vote as favorite… a definitely soulful 3:10 track that will have you dancin’ round the room!  I give Patty & krew a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED on this one, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.96.  Get more information at www.pattyascher.com Rotcod Zzaj

 

Ezra Weiss:   THE SHIRLEY HORN SUITE: I’ve reviewed Ezra’s fine piano work before, most recently in issue # 78… what’s most striking about his keyboard style is the relaxation he projects – nothing hurried, nothing rushed, particularly on tunes like the opener, “I Wish I’d Met You“… his piano totally contributes to the laid-back atmosphere Shirley Nanette goes for on this superb rendition!  Ezra’s soulful playing on “The Great City” is complimented strongly by drums from Steve Williams and bass by Corcoran Holt.  This is, in fact, one of the strongest jazz performances I’ve heard (yet) this year.  My favorite of the 9 tracks is “Blues For Shirley” – again, it’s Ezra’s “unrushed” approach that makes it such a killer tune!  I give this one a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for jazz listeners of all persuasions, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.96.  Get more information at www.ezraweiss.com Rotcod Zzaj

 

Ken Peplowski – IN SEARCH OF: Man, if there were still diners like the one pictured on the CD cover, I’d be there every night for my taste of jazz… the totally upbeat “Peps” is just the kind of music I could listen to all night as we danced the evening away – delectable, to be sure!  For something with a little more laid-back feel to it, I’d want to hear “False Baiana” – some mighty mellow sax work from Ken on this one, & his partners Shelly Berg (piano), Jeff Hamilton (drums), Tom Kennedy (bass), as well as visiting artist Greg Cohen (bass), Joe Ascione (drums/percussion) and Chuck Redd (vibes) show your ears what jazz is really all about on the dozen tracks assembled here.  My favorite was the opener, “The Thespian“, which grabbed my ears & wouldn’t let go!  I give these high energy players my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97.  Get more information at the CAPRI RECORDS label site.   Rotcod Zzaj

 

 

Emily Hay & Marcos Fernandes – WE ARE: The title track, “We Are“, opens this fantastic exploration by veteran improvisors Emily & Marcos (who have been reviewed many times here)… Emily’s vocal here is an instrument unto itself.  If you haven’t experienced the “out” before, this is a perfect place to start.  Check the PUBLIC EYESORE label page to see the list of other performers who contributed to this journey.  The intimate nature of my favorite on the CD, “Wicked Child“, sucks you right into their vortex & won’t let go!  There are 12 fantastic performances here for you to absorb.  They get a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for those who demand some adventure in their listening, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97.  Get more information at the label site linked in above.     Rotcod Zzaj

Native Soul – SOUL STEP: The keyboard work (Noah Haidu) alone makes this May, 2011 release well worth purchasing it, but when you put that together with splendid percussion/drums by Steve Johns, bass from Marcus McLaurine & high-talent/energy sax/flute from Peter Brainin, it’s a combo that can’t be beat!  Noah’s organ work on the opening title track, “Soul Step“, is among the best I’ve heard this year!  Plenty of original composition here, too, but I liked their interpretations of other artists as well – scope out one of my favorite tracks, their down & funky rendition of Jimi’s “Castles Made of Sand“!  The thing that stands out for my ears on Native Soul’s work is their “cool sound”… urban & high-steppin’, to be sure – dig my favorite track, “Slipstream“, to get a taste of just how icy they are together!  This is a GREAT jazz band that gets my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating, as well as a stellar “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99.  Get more information at the artists’ sites linked in via their names above.     Rotcod Zzaj

Justin Kautzman – THIS IS SERIOUS: I seldom start off with my pick for favorite, but in Justin’s case, I’ve got to make an exception… “I Did” is some of th’ smokin’est rock guitar (with a totally cool bass driver down underneath) I’ve heard in 2011!  Justin actually only lives a few klicks from me, right over here in “Morning Calm” – but I can tell ya’, when you listen to “Sittin’ On Ur Ass“, things are anything but “calm”… there’s a little bit of “language” on this track, but Justin tells it like it IS on this one. This young cat has far more goin’ than just hot guitar licks, too… when you scope out the epic “Your Past“, you’ll hear his talent for tellin’ power-stories like they need to be told…. there was a bit of feedback on this one, but who’s to say it wasn’t part of the aura Justin was establishing in this 8:14 monstah!  If you want high-energy R&R, you’ll agree when I say this comes HIGHLY RECOMMENDED… I will tell you, you’re bound to be hearin’ a lot more from this fellow!  I give him an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97.  Get more information at http://www.reverbnation.com/jkautzman Rotcod Zzaj

Bill Cole and Billy Bang – LIVE AT UVA: It’s really too bad that the advertised site to purchase this live improvised recording doesn’t have anything on it (other than an announcement that it will be updated soon).  It’s also too bad that the sonic gems these two Bills create together aren’t available somewhere on the web (if YOU have links to any samples of the trax, please let me know right away).  With that out of the way, I will simply say that the 6 long improvisations are gems from modern improvising masters.  I especially enjoyed Bill Cole’s penetrating performance on the opener, “Digeridoo and Violin Improvisation”… what’s most unique about both of these players is the pace… there is nothing rushed in their playing, and you know from that – they have nothing to prove to anyone – they’ve GOT IT & they KNOW IT (without having to say so).  This is a great CD for folks new to improvisation, as well as veteran listeners, but it will require your total & undivided attention and focus.  I give it a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED (& it would have gotten an even higher rating if the web site were “available”)… “EQ” (energy quotient) rating is 4.96.  The website (though there’s really nothing there) is www.shadrack.org Rotcod Zzaj (NOTE:  Information was received from the promoters as follows – The following sites/addresses should make it a bit easier to get hold of this music:

http://www.downtownmusicgallery.com/Main/index.htm
http://www.bopshop.com/
http://www.billcole.org )

 

Dan Raphael, Rich Halley & Carson Halley – CHILDREN OF THE BLUE SUPERMARKET: Man, this spoken-word/jazz performance brings back some monstrous mem’ries for me (I used to do spoken-word/performance up near where these players are doin’ all this at – th’ magickland of OlyWa).  Dan’s instrument is (definitely) his voice… in spots, he sounds like some of the C’p'n Beefheart stuff that inspired me in my performances… groove to the ultra-urban & soul-filled transport that the opener, “First Car I See Tonight“, takes you on!  (His line – “graceless as an erection in reverse” – is KILLER… ha! ha!).  As you who read my reviews frequently know, saxophonist Rich has been at the top of my jazz playlists for many years now… as you listen to the commercial-like “& Now A Word From Your Atmosphere“, you’ll hear just how seamlessly Rich’s sax & his son Carson’s drums work to amplify the story Dan tells.  It was the short (2:05) “Bent” that captured my vote for favorite… just love the percussion twists that stay RIGHT with Dan’s punctual pronouncements.  If you love superb spoken-word pictures & great jazz aural adventures, you’ll agree with my assessment – MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, as well as my “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99.  Additionally, Rich & krew get the “PICK” of this issue for “best spoken-word/jazz performance of 2011″!  Get more information at www.richhalley.com Rotcod Zzaj

Jason Robinson/Anthony Davis – CERULEAN LANDSCAPE: This is some of the sweetest piano/sax work you’ll hear on the planet right now, though it’s not for the weak of heart (or mind) listeners in the audience, as it requires concentration & focus!  The opener, “Shimmer“, shows just how vibrant they are together!  It’s like the two instruments kind of “melt into each other”… the 8:58 “Translucence” brings out shades of blue your ears have never even imagined, and they do this without coming across as players who have to “reach” you… they’re just ABLE to do that without (seemingly) even having to try.  It was the most rambunctious “Andrew” that drew my vote for favorite track, though… just over 7 minutes of dual intensities playing right off each other.  I give this duo a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Get more information at the CLEANFEED LABEL site!     Rotcod Zzaj

Harlan Mark Vale – NECTAR: An aural substance from the Gods, no doubt… Mark has outdone himself on this one, part of a BOX SET I got in from him late last year.  This CD hasn’t languished, I can tell you… I’ve been listening to it ever since last year, just waiting for the right moment to write about it.  These kinds of visions (or “realizations”, as Harlan calls them) come from places inside the spirit, and they overwhelm both player and listener with equal force.  The energy flow is rich/intense, what some might call “drone” – but it’s so much more than that… the opener (title track), “Nectar”, is one of the most splendid aural experiences I’ve ever had, and you’ll no doubt agree!  Since these tracks aren’t presently available on the web, I will refer you to Mark’s page, where you can contact him  direct to get the box set.  7 lengthy adventures that any dedicated listener won’t want to be without – he gets my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 5.00 – & the “PICK” of this issue for “most creative listening experience”.  Contact Mark via his site, at http://harlanmarkvale.com Be sure to tell him that I sent you his way, please! Rotcod Zzaj

Jane Stuart – DON’T LOOK BACK: It’s been a while since I reviewed Jane’s superb jazz vocal work (issue # 80, in fact), but she’s still singin’ strong, to be sure!  Check out the bouncy opening track, “I Just Found Out About Love“, to get a feel for her huge talent… even if jazz vocals aren’t your normal cup o’ tea, you’ll be infected with her high energy on this one!  Her rendition of the Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby” is the most unique and interesting I’ve heard in many, many years… “sleek” is the keyword here.   This dozen-song aural adventure was just released in March, 2011, so get yours NOW!  My favorite on this outing was Jane’s way-cool performance on “Summertime“… she proves that jazz classics don’t always have to be “covers” – she OWNS this tune here, & the keyboard is SUPERB!  I give Jane & crew a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, especially for listeners who can’t do without their daily vocal fix!  “EQ” (energy quotient) rating is a stellar 4.98.  Get more information at www.janestuartmusic.com Rotcod Zzaj

Louis Colaiannia – A MOMENT BETWEEN ETERNITIES: If what you’re yearning for is music that inspires, you will want to get this CD… one of my favorite pieces, “Desert Winds“, though only 3:43, will definitely put visions of sugar plums (or something like that) in your head (no, I’m not sure how I got from the desert to Christmas, either), & you’ll definitely be dancing!  The tunes meld into each other (editing, I’m sure) seamlessly as you move from mood to mood… some nice vocal work interspersed on pieces like “Sea Of Stars“… a true haunting quality on the vocal on that track.  It was the 10:55 closer, “Journey Inward” that got my vote as favorite… you will be totally absorbed in this tune & will listen to it over and over again.  I give Louis a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, especially for listeners who are looking for meaning in their music.  “EQ” (energy quotient) rating is 4.95.  Get more information at www.louismusic.com Rotcod Zzaj

Robert Linton – THROUGHOUT THE AUTUMN LIGHT: Robert and his players (Jeff Pearce on EBow/Guitar, Jeff Oster on Flugelhorn, Stephen Katz on Cello, Tracy Silverman on violin & Jill Haley doing English horn) will give your day a pleasant wake-up call, to be sure.  Robert’s own guitar work is solid, yet not rushed on all 10 tracks on the CD. I particularly enjoyed “Glistening After The Mist“, featuring Jeff… could almost hear the dewdrops forming through the guitar strings.  A shorter piece, “Moments of Reverie” featured Tracy’s penetrating violin… very pleasant & a playlist “keeper”!  Even the most hardcore jazzer needs a set like this to keep musical perspective in balance, & “Throughout The Autumn Light” fills the bill without question.  I give this one a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.96 – well done, folks!  Get more information at www.robertlinton.com Rotcod Zzaj

John Vanore & Abstract Truth – CONTAGIOUS WORDS: John & his players got stellar ratings from me in issue # 101, and they’re no less impressive on this effort.  “Envy” was a great 6:54 tune to introduce your ears to John’s 12-piece ensemble, but I just loved the pensive intro to “Dreams“… the bass clarinet/guitar merger sets the tone for a track you’ll listen to over & over again!  For something with a more “urban/uptown” flavor, you’ll dig “Neopolis“… very cool sounds here, with a more “big band” sound, yet still somehow more “jazzy” than “showy”.  As often happens, it was the closing track that got my vote for favorite… “Felony” gives you the opportunity to imagine what’s inside that mobster’s head (without actually goin’ upriver – lol)… I just loved that sneaky Rhodes work!  This CD gets my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating for listeners who demand the best in jazz, as well as an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97.  Get more information at www.johnvanore.net Rotcod Zzaj
 

Michel Reis – POINT OF NO RETURN: The promoter billed Michel’s compositions & playing as “cutting edge”, & that’s NOT just the normal hype… this is for REAL “edge”… the opener, “The Power Of Beauty“, will put your ears in “astounded” mode… there certainly is “power” in the beautiful piece!  Michel is joined by bassist Tal Gamlieli, drummer Adam Cruz, soprano saxist Aaron Kruziki and flugelhorn player Vivek Patel on 9 of the highest aural adventures you’ll encounter in 2011!  The bass work on “Folk Song” helps to amplify the superb talents of all the players.  The most notable part of this CD is that it’s totally fresh & new for your ears… as evidenced by my favorite listen, the closer, “The Sad Clown“… Michel’s keyboard will simply dazzle you on this most memorable tune.  I give these gents my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, and they get the “PICK” of this issue for “most solid jazz in 2011″, as well as an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Get more information at www.michelreis.com Rotcod Zzaj

Shawn Costantino – WALTZ FOR ANNE: Seasoned ol’ ears like mine can tell music they like on (just) the first few bars – & this young Boston player’s reed work – alto/tenor sax, flute, alto flute, clarinet & bass clarinet (‘long with his crew of Andrew Synowiec on acoustic/electric guitars, Lincoln Cleary on piano, Fender Rhodes & organ, David Hughes on bass & Jens Kuross on drums) falls right in that group on the first 8 bars of “Can’t Buy Me Love” – the tune just ROCKS, & you’ll hear (immediately) why Shawn is a natural-born music leader – there is real SOUL in this cover!  If it’s “mellow” your lookin’ for, you’ll dig deeply on the Rhodes & synth sounds under Shawn’s sax on “Whatever You Do“… one of the things you do after you listen to this sample is rush right out & BUY this one – classic jazz, folks, classic!  From a totally jazz perspective, it was the closer, “Bailout” that got my vote for favorite – these cats have GOT IT TOGETHER!  I give Shawn & his group my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97.  Get more information at Shawn’s FB page!   Rotcod Zzaj

Issue # 115, INTERVIEW with AO Music

I’ve been reviewing this fantastic group (nearly) since they started.  They are among my favorite groups, and that is truly saying something, as I listen to so many groups over the course of a year that those picked as favorites are few & far between.  I truly appreciate the group taking the time to respond to my interview questions with such great answers!!

Zzaj: We often hear “new age” bandied about as a “catch-all” for music that’s supposed to inspire people… your music, in fact, DOES that. Please tell us why? What makes AO Music so different from “all the other new-agers”?

-answer by Richard Gannaway  Timing, is likely why AOMUSIC is so universally appealing, because what we intend to be the appeal is a sense of unity – of belonging. Feeding that basic need causes anyone feel better, especially in the current theater of great changes and adjustments. Music that offers a bouquet of cultural indigeny implies unity, which is an irresistible thing and everyone alive is entitled to feel it. AO means light or all colors blended, and of course musical expressions have respective resonance to not just color, but every natural phenomena, which is how it causes us to feel. New hybrids of artistic expression are always risky in this business, yet the whole process recreates us in a very positive way. The experience of AOMUSIC is just a bold and imaginative place to recall unity.

Zzaj: I am a firm believer in the idea that music can (& should be) a “cure”, or at the very least, the start of one, for all the ills that politicians and other hucksters have inflicted on the world. Please tell us if you agree with that idea – if so, why? If not, why?

- Answer by Miriam I have always stated that my music is neither politically nor religiously motivated, though I do believe in the healing nature of music in a spiritual and holistic way. I am a huge proponent of Musical Qi Gong, which has been used throughout the centuries to help a myriad of medical  and psychological problems. I receive emails from people all over the world, expressing their gratitude for helping them to get through very tough emotional and physical hardship through my music. AOMUSIC definitely has that component. I also recall watching a medical show on British television quite a few years ago, where a young child suffering from Leukemia chose one of my songs to help her through a frightening and invasive procedure.
 

- answer by Richard Gannaway Yes. We like to think that artistic culture is only a thin surface on a virtual ocean of ripening expression, and people have to immerse in this water to feel the gravity of the wave, which is always a collective voice of change, emanating from a great coronation of fresh hearts and minds. An artist can naturally sense evolution as a personal surrender to one’s innermost influence, which develops in any individual on its own, like a laugh line. Ultimately, the global culture is defined by a creative depth and openness of each community.

Zzaj: When you’re not doing music for AO, what music do you listen to? Or, if you don’t listen to other music, what do you do in your off-time?

- Answer by Miriam Stockley When I’m not writing and recording music for AOMUSIC or indeed other projects, I prefer not to  listen to music. When I was a full time session singer in the UK during the 80’s and 90’s, it was important to listen to commercial radio stations, in order to stay up to date with the latest trends and music styles. I have a second passion – martial arts. I am a first degree martial artist and I train 5 – 6 times a week. I have found that my music and the martial arts integrate and work in synergy with each other. I am inspired and centered by both.
 

Zzaj: I see (from one the bios for AO on the web) that some of your members came into this from the world of rock music… how strongly did rock (or maybe progressive rock) influence the creations you realize for AO music?

-answer by Richard Gannaway In the beginning, yes. Jay Oliver and I embarked on this project in 1996. I had just come off an overseas tour of Tiger & the Helix and had several new rock songs ready for a new T&TH album. We both had a desire to explore world music, and I had this vision of involving children from different cultures. We simply took my song templates and replaced the rock elements with indigenous textures from Jay’s ethnic sample library, which sometimes required stripping everything out but a melody and chord structure. What came out of those sessions was our debut release “Grow Wild”, and though it was a worldbeat album, the songs seeds were germinated in a rock framework.

Zzaj: One of the most impressive things about the CD’s I’ve reviewed from you is all the wonderful vocal work behind, under & through many of the songs. Are those all sampled, or do you do some on-location recording to achieve a specific sound for a specific composition?

-answer by Richard Gannaway   Miriam Stockley is responsible for the rich tapestry of vocal layering. Her musicality is brilliant in every sense, and when she turns in her tracks, the whole song transforms into something quite new and exciting. Her vocal arrangements and performances have become a primary element in our sound.
 

Zzaj: It’s been my experience that (based on both playing and listening) much of the music from the ’70′s and ’80′s (& by extension, the music you are playing now) was influenced by some sort of drug, or other mood-altering substance. It’s also been my personal experience that once I got past the need for such artificial stimuli, my compositions/improvisations were able to reach more and more people. Please tell us your own experiences with such influences, or lack of such experiences.

- Answer by Miriam Stockley I can only speak from personal experience, but I chose not to follow the drug / alcohol culture in order to get inspired or to ‘enhance’ the musical experience. I am a bit of a control freak – especially when it comes to music – and I do not enjoy feeling out of control. The best buzz in this business is the one you get naturally from doing live performance in front of  20,000 strong audiences. 80,000 will get anyone’s adrenaline soaring without any artificial enhancement!
 

-answer by Richard Gannaway That I know of, none of us engaged heavily in the drug culture as a way to connect on a creative level, though we grew up in that era and watched a few of our contemporaries take it to the extreme.

Zzaj: Who are the musicians, or groups, who you believe most strongly influence your current state of creativity? Why and how did they influence what you now create? Please give examples if you can.

-answer by Richard Gannaway Miram Stockley influenced Jay and I with her tracks on the Adiemus album, “Songs of Sanctuary”. I had also been writing lyrics with made-up phonetics and using the voices of children to put them over. When we heard her, we began trying to emulate that spirit. Peter Gabriel, Bill Whelan of Riverdance, Pat Metheny, Deep Forest and many others also influenced AOMUSIC.

-  Answer by Miriam Stockley My South African upbringing, with it’s multi cultural musical influences, has enabled me to inject a spirit of the children of Africa into my former recordings and my most recent work with Richard and Jay, and the musical palates that they create are not only musically challenging and brilliant, but they are inspirational. From a purely vocal harmonic standpoint, groups such as The Carpenters, Sergio Mendez & Take 6 were my strongest influences.
 

Zzaj: I detect a strong sense of “joy” in your music… do you believe that’s true? If so, where/how does it come from? Is it because of all the travels you’ve had to meet different peoples and cultures, or is it something more universal and spiritual?

-answer by Richard Gannaway We purposely inject sections of street festive atmosphere, and in the refrains, a sense of release and jubilation. We do this, because it makes us feel hope and promise of a world where all people are unified in a spirit of vibrant life and freshness. It’s much easier to accomplish that impression with children and the way Miriam constructs the vocal refrains. Without these elements, it would be tricky.

-Answer by Miriam Stockley Further to Richard’s comments, Richard, Jay and I have traveled extensively, capturing the spirit of many different musical cultures. Without these life experiences, AOMUSIC would lack that essential ingredient which makes it so refreshing and unique.

Zzaj: I’ve also read that some of your members are writers. Please give us some examples of what you’ve written, with your own explanations of why you wrote it… was it “inspired”, or “logical”? Was poetry a part of your writing at all? (I realize that may seem like a pretty inane question, but our readership includes several poets and spoken-word artists)

-answer by Richard Gannaway I’ve written two books, the most recent entitled, “Drops and Sparks” (Proof that Love Created the Universe). Both books came from one very large journal that I began in 1996. It was my way of authenticating the overall message in the AOMUSIC project. The books illustrate the relationship between music, color, form and movement from a whole circle of perspectives.

Zzaj: Please give us a bit of bio… I know (from web articles) that Richard and Jay grew up in St. Louis, for instance. What about the other key members of your group? Please tell us how you trekked all the way from the Midwest to where (ever) you are right now in your growth, to include what most inspired (or drove) you to leave where you originally came from?

-answer by Richard Gannaway I moved to Los Angeles as a composer in 1986, and at that time, Jay was a very well established St. Louis music producer. He was the quintessential “big fish in a little pond”. In 1999, I convinced him to move to Los Angeles, and he on his own merit began working with several big names. The three contributing artists: Andy Georges is also from St. Louis – George Bernardo I was introduced to in Tampa Bay around 1994, and Doug Lunn we met in Los Angeles in 2002. All three of these musicians are creative and technically brilliant.

-Answer by Miriam Stockley   I was born in Johannesburg, South Africa. I moved to the UK as a teenager and worked there primarily as a session singer before making a name for myself as a solo recording artist. I moved across to the US 9 years ago.

 

Issue # 115 ZzajRant

As I sit here listening to CD’s for review, I’m also watching the hyped-up “political drama” that O-Bummer & his puppetmasters are unfolding to make you feel the fear!  Of course, I’m not paying much attention to what they’re saying, as it’s all pablum anyway.  Try going out into the city & contrast what you see there – the “real people”, their true concerns, as well as their joys & pains, and you’ll see that almost everything the politicos say in the name of “the american people” is false!   Any of us who trust one word uttered from a politician’s mouth are total fools… turn those guys OFF!

On a much more pleasant note, I’m most highly impressed with the quality of music we are getting in for review these days – it seems to me that when politicians/preachers are at their fullest hype levels, I get more music in that’s full of hope and “real” energy!  Turn those musicians ON, people!  Listen to what they’re playing, singing & improvising from their spirits… don’t “follow” them (like we tended to do in the ’60′s & ’70′s), but hear the insights that creative spirits can offer.. the world will be a better place for it.

I’m still waiting on my INTERVIEW questions from the INTERVIEWEE, so it may be a couple of weeks before I close this issue out… for that reason, you’ll see a few more reviews than are usual for an issue… as soon as I have the INTERVIEW back & on line, I’ll close out # 115 & move on to the next issue.

As always, thanks for reading our reviews & opinions… & I especially want to thank the promoters and players who support this ‘zine with their submissions for review – without them, there would BE no “I.N.”!  Keep on PLAYIN’ people!