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Improvijazzation Nation

Issue # 78 REVIEWS

FEATURED Zzaj Productions album samples -

New! New! New!  Zzaj PODCAST!


We now have 3 TOTALLY FREE CD's (with free cover art) available for download at our NETLABEL site!  The only thing we ask is that you scroll to the bottom of the page(s) & give us a REVIEW!  Please ADVERTISE this to ALL your friends... tell them we are GIVING AWAY music!

Guideline for artists SUBMITTING to us:  We do NOT generally review .mp3 files/sites.  Being an active artist myself, though, I understand the need for the use of Internet sites as a "staging ground" for reviews!  You are encouraged to email us your .mp3 links... we will visit the site/link, & if we like your energies, we will contact YOU!  (We will NOT respond to followup inquiries about .mp3 files, though!!!  p.s.  If you EVER e-mail me .mp3 files, you will be BLACKLISTED on this site!!!)

NOTE:  You can also purchase any of these CD's (use your credit card) by going to our HOMEMADEMUSIC catalog page!

The Stryker/Slagle Band:  LATEST OUTLOOK:  We first reviewed this fine jazz group (last year) in issue #73, & were mightily impressed with their live performance at The Jazz Standard.  This round is in bassist Jay Anderson's studio, in New Paltz, NY, & is "fresh" - just hit the streets in March of 2007.  Dave Stryker's guitar is definitely in the "present tense", a clear vision of what that instrument should sound like in this 21st Century... when paired with Steve Slagle's superb alto/soprano sax statements, & all the other fantastic players (Jay Anderson, bass; Billy Hart, drums; & Joe Lovano, tenor sax), your ears will get a taste for how exciting jazz in this new century IS!  It's actually the title track that makes th' whole album "come together" for my old aural appendages... if you can't hear th' spirit of jazz these gents lay down for you - you ain't GOT th' "spirit" - this is my favorite track on the CD (though cut 6, "Turning Point", with it's hints of blue, comes in a close second).  All but one (cut 6, Charlie Mingus's "Self-portrait in Three Colors") are originals, and as readers of this 'zine know, that is exactly what we love to review in our pages.  The players are together on every track, on every note - not a sad or dropped note on the whole performance.  For jazz lovers the world over, this comes MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED by th' Zzaj!  Get more information on this great band on their site, HERERotcod Zzaj

Ed Johnson & novo tempo - THE OTHER ROAD:  Good Gourd-a-mightee, talk about "verve"... I imagine it's the heavy Latino influences on the opener, "Samba 2 Tom", that make it feel so energetic, but the CD is "pitched" as "Brazilian jazz", & wears that theme well!  The title track is more like a "dance tune", slow & smooth... conveys the sweet joy, to be sure, especially about a minute in when Ed's guitar kicks in - but it's actually the 6:43 "Katrina" that sneaked up on me & made it my absolute favorite track on the album!  I suspect that has something to do with the vocals (I believe that's Ed, not positive, since I didn't see anything on the liners to that effect), but the jazz organ, fine percussion & trumpet by John Worley probably had a lot to do with it, too.  What I enjoyed most about this first listen to Ed's work is the unquenchable thirst for many different styles of music it inspires... I haven't heard another artist this versatile the whole year of 2007.  If you want boring old standards, with little originality, & the "same music all over again", do NOT COME HERE!  I am strongly impressed with all the original tracks on this album, & excited to discover a player with such musical fire!  "The Other Road" is a grand sonic adventure that gets our MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating!  Get more information on his site, at & be sure to tell him Zzaj sent you!  Rotcod Zzaj

Towner Galaher - PANORAMA:  Th' promo sheet said to file this one under "JAZZ" - & they weren't just whistlin' Dixie, either, volkz!  There's some absolutely smokin' (original) jazz here, as well as a few "covers" of greats like Mingus, & Rogers & Hart.  The opener, "Midtown Shuffle", will have ya' up on yer' tippy-toes, shufflin' all th' way 'cross town to their solid beat... Onaje Allen Gumbs' piano (which was reviewed in our own pages, issue # 71) on that track will enchant you from the opening bar on this great cut!  It is the title cut that gets our vote for favorite, however... especially if you enjoy new & adventurous landscapes... Galaher's drums on this track woulda' made Buddy Rich jealous!  "Charisma", track 7, comes in a close second for my ears, but the musical vista painted for your ears (& your mind) by Mr. Galaher's arrangements will, on all the cuts, give you years of pleasant listening.  This is highly impressive jazz, with full body & a very high "spirit quotient".  I give this album a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for jazz fans everywhere!  Rotcod Zzaj

Federico Barabino/Charles Rice Goff III - METAMORFS:  If you haven't heard CRG III's strange sounds before, this is a perfect CD to introduce them to your ears!  Though I've listened to (& reviewed) a lot of his Taped Rugs Productions works over the last 20 years, this is one of the most amazing, no doubt.  You would have to consider it more in the experimental jazz realm than as "pure"... in fact, Charles points out on the liners for the album that his were only one set of interpretations of the "Expresiones" Federico provided him... no matter who else they were farmed out to, it can be stated with certainty that you will never hear anything exactly like these.  You MUST be in an experimental frame-of-mind to listen to these... anything else would do them injustice... these are finely crafted, with a real sense of (musical) "sculpture" - artworks, to be sure.  For those listeners who love music that isn't "normal", this experience is MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED - & in fact, it gets out "PICK" of this issue for "best experimental works"!  Superb & well recorded!  Get more information at C. Goff's "Taped Rugs Productions" catalog - or e-mail him at  (p.s.  There's also a very interesting video available)  Rotcod Zzaj

Saco Yasuma - ANOTHER RAIN:  The music clearly reminds me of the types of jazz I used to listen to in coffee-house gigs up in Washington state, especially on pieces like track 3, which features our (long time) friend Golda Solomon whangin' words about to paint pictures of Brooklyn like you've never heard before.  That's only one aspect of this fantastic CD, though... "Invisible Matters", the opening track, features some high-energy reed & brass work by Saco & Roy Campbell, respectively.  This is just th' kind of jazz I "cut my teeth on", back in th' day - when combined with bass by Ken Filiano,  piano/bass/clarinet by Andrew Bemkey & drums/percussion by Michael T.A. Thompson, you'll be transported to that (same) kinda' "jazz cellar" environment I was in during my first tour in Germany ('65 - '68).  Compositions that morph from one era to another, without missing a beat!  My favorite cut was track #2, "Liquid Entity", probably because of that poppin' bass... I mean, this piece just moves!  Any way you listen, if you dig "real" jazz, you'll find this most enjoyable - it gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from these ol' ears!  Get more information at Saco's site, or purchase the CD from CD BABY!  A truly creative jazz experience.  Rotcod Zzaj

Ronno Jaxon - SO MUCH TROUBLE:  We reviewed our first CD from Ronno in the last issue; that had a much more bluesy feel than this album... I'm hearin' a much stronger RAWK element on this round!  The opener, "Hard On Me", is pure SMOKE & FIRE!  If you can't get down to some serious rockin' while scopin' this track out, or catch a vision of yer'self toolin' on down th' road on a Harley, then yer' ears got some serious problems.  One thing I will say, though - you gotta' have this music KRANKED to thee MAX to really enjoy it - so, make sure there ain't no anti-noise neighbors around, & turn that zucker UP, kidz!  There are "special times" when I listen to this kinda' music - like when I need ta' blow th' steam off - get in that rod, slam th' turbo on full speed & CRUISE on down th' road!  This album will "take you there" - it gets a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from me, verzure!  Get more info on his site, at or send an e-mail to  Some FINE, fine rockin' music here!  Rotcod Zzaj

Dick De Graaf Quartet - MOVING TARGET:  10 all-original tunes that jazz lovers world-wide will fall in love with immediately... Dick's tenor & soprano sax work will have you in jazz heaven!  I particularly enjoyed the opener, "Cascade", which lives up to the word... at the same time it "flows", it also "surges" & in some moments, it "tumbles", too.  In addition to the splendid sax lines, you'll also hear the great piano chops of Jeroen van Vliet, fine bass (both acoustic & electric) from Guus Bakker & the perfectly punctual rhythm backing of Pascal Vermeer on drums.  The title track, a 20 bar blues originally written in 1996, is my favorite, with perfect balance between the instruments... when music moves like this, NO "blue meanies" will ever be able to target it!  While De Graaf's playing is clearly in the realm of "sophisticated", it also achieves a pinnacle that few groups do these days - timeless!   This is music that will melt in your mind, but won't fade away... the Rhodes on Demasque, combined with the Pastorius-like bass, will stick with you & keep bringing you back to listen to this wonderful CD over&over again!  We give this a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating... since it hit the streets in early June, 2007, you should still be able to get a copy!  Get more information at Dick's websiteRotcod Zzaj

Jason Kao Hwang/Sang Won Park - LOCAL LINGO:  It's not necessary to speak Korean to grasp the beauty of this duo's playing (Jason on violin, with Mr. Park on kayagum, ajeng & vocals) - but it might help.  Certainly, having lived in Korea for 15 years, I have some understanding of "where this is coming from" - particularly on tracks like "Ari Rang", a traditional tune about a lost lover... these gents breathe new life into a tune that's already stood the test of time.  The kayagum meshes perfectly with the violin to make a piece that's filled with (both) sadness and hope for the future.  To "grok" track 4, "Third Sight", it would be best to put the 'phones on and make sure you won't be disturbed during the listen.... definitely music from a different perspective than traditional jazz!  One recommendation for future projects would be to ensure that the track titles are burned straight on to the CD, so the listener doesn't have to keep glancing back/forth between the liner/jacket to find the titles.  I enjoyed this, & hope to hear more in the future - the CD gets a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from us for listeners ready to experience something sonically different!  Get more information on Jason's website!   Rotcod Zzaj

Dave Tofani Quartet - NIGHTS AT THE INN:  We first reviewed Dave's work way back in issue #57.  We're overjoyed to hear his exuberant jazz/sounds again!  You may remember (from that earlier review) that Dave plays sax... on this outing, it's tenor, & he's clearly at the top of the hill - still!  He is joined with Jesse Green's pretty piano, great bass lines from Evan Gregor & perfect punctuation (drums) from Ronnie Zito (there are also guest shots by Steve LaSpina on bass & Jack Wilkins doing guitar).  Dave's original tune, "You Caught Me" (cut 4), is my favorite on the CD... lots of spiff & totally upbeat all the way through.  "Trip To Madrid" is a (very) close second, though totally different rhythmically.  Several covers of tunes by Duke Ellington, Thad Jones & even Cole Porter.  This is very pleasant jazz, & I've no doubt you'll keep coming back to it... sort of like a night at a splendid hotel... if it "strikes you right", you'll always return.  I give this a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED - if you're seriously engaged with/in jazz, you'll want this for your collection!  CD is available through www.solowinds.comRotcod Zzaj

SelfTort - N.I.C.:  We've been advertising on MIXPOSURE , our number one choice site for "home-produced" music; what was called, when I joined in the movement 'round 1980, "D.I.Y." music.  SelfTort (a.k.a. Brian Ralston) was one of the players we particularly enjoyed in MIX, so we were especially happy to receive this CD from him... his playing has energies often not heard in the "big bands" these days - just RAW vitality!  All th' way from high-end rawk (track 6, "Frankenstein's Bride"), to beat-driven jazz/blues ("Light The Flame", cut 9, which brings back mem'ries (in some ways) of N'Aw'leans & Dr. John-like funkin' 'round - some STRONG & gravelly vocals on this one).  It's th' mellow & bluesy opening track ("Best Man") that was my favorite piece on th' album, however... some genuinely funky bass rolls down, 'round, under & through SelfTort's soul-filled vocal - this tune (along with many others) will get it's "hook" in ya', & you won't forget it - & he plays some kick-azz organ on this cut, which grabbed me right away!  Brian's been playing since th' '70's, so he's got chops that won't quit, & it's clear that he's dedicated to expressing his soul through his music.  I'm highly impressed, with the clear artistry demonstrated on his first album, as well as the grand production values!  D.I.Y. ain't never been as good as it is today!  If you're looking for music with clear focus & creativity, this comes MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from me!  Get more information at or e-mail him at   "N.I.C." is also available for purchase at Rotcod Zzaj

Daniel Smith - THE SWINGIN' BASSOON:  It's been forever (maybe closer to never) since we've heard a bassoonist who could play such tasty standards (yah, unfortunately, there weren't any originals that I spotted) in total swing mode.  His rhythm section (Martin Bejerano's piano, John Sullivan's bass & Ludwig Afonso on drums) makes a lot of difference for the listener - they are definitely tight together, but leave plenty of room for Daniel's fantastically upbeat front lines.  This is among the best quartet jazz albums I've heard this year, with precisely punctual delivery - yet fluidity galore, enough so your ears know that these gents are deriving as much joy in the playing as you are from listening to them.  My favorite tracks are Monk's "Well, You Needn't", & Dizzy's "A Night In Tunisia"... they both feature the fantastic lines of jazz masters, but with Smith's (very) unique interpretation via his bassoon.  I'm strongly impressed - this album is a "keeper", & gets a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from me. Thoroughly enjoyable & unique jazz for all listeners!  Get more information from   Rotcod Zzaj

Charmaine Clamor - FLIPPIN' OUT:  The opening track on this "W-O-W" CD will do much for anyone with qualms about havin' "brown skin"... "My Funny Brown Pinay" celebrates the joy of being "of color"... a very interesting track!  There are lots of tunes written by other folks on this album, but Ms. Clamor makes them all her own... stylistically, & soul-wise as well.  I believe it's her deep-rich vocal quality (& it is quality, through & through) that will astound you most... she can reach right out & hook you into her audio fantasy.  What comes to mind (even tho' I wasn't there during the era) is the deep, dark after-hours environment of an old-fashioned speakeasy... I can see (& hear) the audience watching (& listening) to this enchantress, as though I were right there.  The list of jazz players accompanying her total talent is too long to list here, but if you visit her site at - you can learn much more.  My favorite track (tho' it's very haunting), is "I Hadn't Anyone Till You", cut 2.... Charmaine really weaves her web well on this one.  This is a very pleasant jazz experience, & gets a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from my long-jazzified ears.  Rotcod Zzaj

Marcos Fernandes/Bill Horist - JERKS AND CREEPS:  These guys are (& prolly always have been), like WACKED, volkz!  Bill's guitar works have been reviewed many times in our 'zine, as have been Mr. Fernandes's electronic artistry.  They are joined by many other players (Haco on electronics & voice; Masafumi Ezaki on trumpet; Bunsho Nishikawa on electronics & Tim Olive on electric bass), all in a celebration of the great, wonderful & strange things the musically talented mind can conjure up.  Yes, I use that word (conjure) because I want you to understand that these folks are FAR from being "regular players"... instead, they are "wizards".  No, they don't turn bars of soap into gold - but they do turn seconds into sonic wonders - "gems", if you will... & so what you wind up with is a treasure trove, nearly 60 minutes worth, of exploratory sound that will both astound and (at times) confuse you, at least in auditory ways.  All the compositions were recorded during a 2005 tour Bill & Marcos made of Japan, totally in "live" mode.  If you're looking for music that will challenge your mind, yet leave you walking away refreshed & inspired, this comes MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, & gets the "PICK" of this issue for "best live improv".  Get more info at  Rotcod Zzaj

Tevet Sela - TEVET SELA:  We solicited this great CD via internet, & are we ever glad we did... talk about heart & soul - this young gent's GOT it, in spades!  Strong & forthright jazz, all original, that display a superb talent, & a joy of playing seldom found in store racks.  The player list is far too long to itemize here, but if you Google "Tevet Sela", you'll find over 219,000 references (that's FAR more than you'll find if ya' do that for "Zzaj" - ha! ha!).  One of th' funkiest tunes I've heard this year (& my favorite cut on the album) is ""One Inch Journey"... solid bass & drums compliment Tevet's sweet & groovin' sax lines.  A close second for favorite track was "Smoken Blues" - some great Rhodes-sounding keyboards combine very nicely with Sela's soulful lines to transport you away from those nether regions you've allowed yer' heart to sink down into!  All-in-all, this is one of the best sax-based jazz albums I've listened to in 2007, & merits an instant MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!  If you want to hear what real jazz (not that syrupy trash that's passed off as "smooth" these days) sounds like - GET THIS ONE!  For the "official word", visit his site, at or his site on Myspace -  We WANT to hear MORE from this rising star!  Rotcod Zzaj

Nathan Hubbard - BLIND ORCHID:  Quite a few reviews of Nathan's music have been written in these pages (check out our ARCHIVE), but this is the first pure percussion CD we've reviewed by him.  It is recommended that you do this listening with headphones, & that you allow for (at least) an hour's worth of isolation... it's not the kind of album you will "grok" in spurts.  The opener, "i/nside (no exit)" is nearly an "industrial" kind of sound, wherein he uses various & sundry elements (including his voice) to project a feeling of frenetic energy.  There are, in fact, whole worlds inside his forays into the mysteries of percussion.  "Witchball" (cut 7) is my favorite on the album, as it is the "crispest" recording of drums I've ever heard, & believe me, I've heard more than a few.  If you're looking for ballroom jazz, or a host of horns, you'll go elsewhere... but if your mind is attuned to exploring true talent in a hyper-creative zone, you'll GET THIS one!  It gets a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating from us!  A very interesting sonic experience!  Get more information at  Rotcod Zzaj

Eddie Daniels - HOMECOMING (Live At The Iridium):  Live recordings don't always "make the mark"... quite often, we find the recording quality to be abominable, not capturing (at all) the verve inherent in such performances - well, I can assure you, that is NOT the case with this recording of Eddie Daniels.  It's a 2-banger (2 CD's in one package), & shows the shining talent of this extremely gifted reedist!  Daniels is joined by Joe Locke on vibes, Tom Ranier on piano, Dave Finck on bass & Joe La Barbera on drums, & these guys have the audience doin' far more than just ordinary "toe-tapping"... several original compositions (along with plenty of standards) thrill those in attendance at the Iridium show, & will hold you spellbound, as well.  The opener for disc 2 ("That's For Afta"), composed by Eddie, was my favorite track on the album - it features his lightning-speed clarinet, with some really kickin' backup playing - surely one of the highest-energy jazz originals I've heard in 2007!  For something a tad more "laid-back" in nature, "Chosen Words" (also on the 2nd disc) came in a close second.  This is our first listen to Mr. Daniels (that I remember, anyway), & he was instantly elevated to my "favorite players" list!  This grand CD-set gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from our ears, to be sure!  (The CD was only released on 4 September, 2007, so you should still be able to get yours).  Get more information at Eddie's site -, where you'll also find links to purchase!   Rotcod Zzaj

Ernesto Diaz-Infante/Mike Khoury - HYMNS FOR NEW FATHERS:  Since this 'zine was founded on improvised (& jazz) music, it would hardly be fitting to publish an issue without an improv masterpiece like this set.  It's been a while since I've reviewed music with Ernesto (or Mike, for that matter).  This postal collaboration features an evolution for Mr. Diaz-Infante... his guitar(s) are far less "processed" than on CD's I'd reviewed of his in the past few years... Mike's violin works may have something to do with this more mellow collection of improvs... or, perhaps it's just a matter of staying more closely to the title theme, not sure which.  Both of these improvisors are known for the intricacy of their compositions, & you get that in spades on this mini-CD.  The pieces are quite short (the longest clocks in at only 2:36), but they have a "stick to your ribs" flavor, as is often true with improvised music.  You'll find yourself "hearing" (parts of) this during your trip to the grocery store, just before your meditations, or even at the arena game.  This is a VERY WELL recorded set, & those interested in hearing well-recorded, well-performed improvised music will surely agree when I declare it to be HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.  You can get more information at (either) or  (Be sure & tell 'em Zzaj sent you, of course).  Rotcod Zzaj

Christine Rosander - SMOOTH RIDE:  We reviewed a fantastic vocalist in our last issue, Carla Hassett... she sent us information on Christine, & we got in touch right away (after checking her out on the web).  "Smooth Ride" features an even dozen tracks, all but one of them being originals (which is the music we really like to review - I mean, there's nothing wrong with covers, but I seem to get a much better "feel" for the "inside" of the player when the tunes were written by them).  The music Rosander writes isn't jazz, per se, though that spirit (blues, jazz) is a part of what she projects (particularly the blues part), 'specially on comps like "Cattle Press"... high energy playin', & laden with emotion (though without falling in th' dreaded "sappy" realm).  The album is well-recorded; on the "tech-end", one suggestion would be to make sure the track titles are embedded in the CD next time around.  There are snatches of blues, some heavy soul & even songs that come close to bein' a little "countrified"; a real smorgasbord of styles... I can hear a lil' bit of Rickie Lee in there, or maybe Bonnie Raitt.  This is high talent & very attractive music that will weave you (easily) into it's spell.  Definitely a "keeper" for listeners who want somethin' to "tool on down th' road" with.  My ears rate it as HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, to be sure.  To get more information, check out the site at, or on her MYSPACE site at (this debut album hits the streets 'round 17 October, 2007).  Rotcod Zzaj

Ezra Weiss - GET HAPPY:  We've enjoyed & reviewed Ezra's fantastic piano works before (issue #75), & were mightily impressed then - as are we on "Get Happy".  As per usua, it's his original tracks that thrill our ears the most, especially on the opener, "For Heather", or our absolute favorite composition on this album, "Run Under The Fountain", featuring the deep & mysterious vocals of Elif Caglar; this is a truly funky tune, taking me way back to th' Zawinul days... some wonderful walkin'-bass lines & Rhodes-sounding keyboards make it a winner!  If Rhodes/electric piano is a preferred listen for you, you will certainly "get happy" when you listen to the last track, "Don't Need No Ticket", another Weiss original.  There are far too many players to list here, but you can get all the information you need about the album & players at  (just click on the "More info" button under the CD cover image).  There are 7 other fine tracks as well, all combining to make for a most pleasant ride through jazz-land, & an album that jazz collectors everywhere will want to add to their collection.  We rate this work as MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, in the strongest terms possible.  Rotcod Zzaj

Michael Camacho - JUST FOR YOU:  This is our first exposure to Michael's silky jazz vocals, & what a joy it is... whether the original title track, covers of Beatles tunes like "Norwegian Wood", or my favorite cut on the album (another Camacho original), "Here's To The Blues", you'll find yourself put right back into "mellow-land", no matter the mood you started from.  Michael's stylings are far deeper than "lounge lizard" drudgery, & his voice even reminds me (in places) of another favorite artist of mine, Mose Allison.  This is definitely an "uptown" jazz experience & Camacho & his accompanying players have a full grasp on how to be infectious without being invasive.  The key to his musical attraction, methinks, is his sense of rhythm... he's able to slip/slide his way into your heart without coming across (in the least) as too "syrupy", or "smooth".  This guy's jazz is the epitome of cool, & the album is a "keeper", in every sense of the word... it gets a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from our ears.  Get all the information you need at, or purchase it HERERotcod Zzaj

Claire Ritter - WALTZING THE SPLENDOR:  Claire's piano sounds better every time I review her works... we've reviewed a couple of her CD's already ("RIVER OF JOY" & "GREENER THAN BLUE"), and have been amazed at how her simple stylings breathe such life into standards & originals as well.  She's got a fine cast of players with her on this outing, including Jon Metzger on vibraphone; Jane Hart Brendle, violin; Ashima Scripp, cello & a guest shot by a long-time player (bass), Dave Holland.  One of the most unique things (I thought) about this recording is that most of the pieces are quite "short"... the longest clocked in at 4:29, & the shortest at 1:23... strange thing to catch one's attention, but we kind of have gotten used to "hit length" tracks (I think).  Even with the shortest of tracks, though, her playing will come back to haunt you like "brain candy"... melting in, then coming back to tease you with a taste of the splendor she paints for your ears with her keyboards.  This is a "happy" CD, but that makes it no less jazz... we enjoyed it all the way through several listens, & give it our MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for those who want a slight taste of "different" in their piano jazz.  Visit the links above to purchase Claire's wonderful CD's, or .   Rotcod Zzaj

Joe Friedman - CUP O' JOE:  If yer' lookin' for high-energy & high-talent guitar jazz, this will be yer' "cup of tea"... er', whoopz, "cup o' joe"!  There are only 2 originals on this round (the title track, & "A Darker Shade of Rose"), but that doesn't detract at all from the joy of listening to the fantastic players on the CD... Joe on acoustic & electric guitars, George Colligan's high-spirited keyboards, bass from Peter Washington, drums by Neal Smith & Renato Thomas doing very punctual percussion.  Strangely enough, it's a George Benson cut, "Myna Bird Blues" that I found to be my favorite piece on this album... as you all know, it's usually the originals that I'm totally attracted to, but this one displays the full range of talent & totally tight groove of all the players; one of the best "jumpin jazz" pieces I've heard this year.  It was a bit short, but I know I'll be playin' it all th' way to Honolulu ev'ry morning & afternoon (you actually get to "meet" the players, too, 'coz this track is featured on a studio video that accompanies the CD).  For a more laid-back mood, Friedman's composition, "A Darker Shade of Rose", really had my attention... it's my second favorite piece on the album.  All in all, this will be a perfect album for those in love with jazz guitar, no doubt... it gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from us!  Get more information at  Rotcod Zzaj

Mostly Other People Do the Killing - SHAMOKIN:  Ha! Ha!  They call this "Terrorist Be-Bop", & it definitely fits... if those fellows who flew th' planes into the towers had been listening to this, they'd have gone way off course... plus which, they would still be around to enjoy this sheer jazz voyage!  Moppa Elliott, on double bass, is the leader - he's joined by Peter Evans on trumpet; & Jon Irabagon doing alto sax; Kevin Shea on drums.  Everything is "in synch", but it's somehow "out of kilter"... "unbalanced jazz", maybe?  Title track is an absolute riot & will have you (not only) tappin' yer' toes, but wondering how you ever got IN on this set; that's the thing about the way these guys play - there's "humor" in it.  I enjoyed the heck out of this album, & will be hoping more to drop in through our mail slot... nothing makes my day more than heavy talent that doesn't have a problem with lettin' it RIP!  GREAT jazz, great music, great improv feel.  The favorite track, from a "compositional" standpoint (for me) was cut # 7, "Evans City".  Some fine trumpet, & Moppa's bass thumps, walks & rocks all th' way from start to finish.  This one is an absolute MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, no matter what "school of jazz" you grew up in.  GET it!  Read more at  Rotcod Zzaj

Melvin Smith - PORTRAIT:  Mr. Smith's talents for passing the (musical) message of his muse are clearly displayed on this neat little CD.  Melvin's soprano & tenor sax works keep solid focus on th' rhythms, & will have you tappin' right along with him!  Solid playing from the other artists as well (Lino C. Gomez, acoustic & electric bass; Reggie Pittman, trumpet & flugelhorn; Stephen Lee's piano, Gregory Royals piano tracks, & drums by (both) Sam Knight & Ezra Henry), to make for a well-rounded picture (ah, portrait) of players who respect & love th' power of th' music!  One of the comps I found most listenable was an original by Melvin, "Manasseh"... it made me reach way back in th' mem'ry banks, where I found comparisons to great ol' "Blue Note" tuneage - but with a 21st century "flavor", if you will.  Clean & crisp recording throughout will make this a favorite for jazz listeners everywhere.  My favorite cut was "1750 Washington St", yet another original by Mr. Smith (4 out of 9 were originals); nice upbeat piece that makes for perfect "road" music - ya' know, as in "movin' on down" - it moves, folks!  The best thing about this album is that it blends many styles in the jazz arena to form a perfect "whole", & it comes HIGHLY RECOMMENDED by us!  The release date is listed as 28 September, 2007, so you should be seeing it soon, or you can get information direct, by visiting   Rotcod Zzaj

Tom Furgas - harpsichord1.wrk.:  Here's another very interesting CD from friend Tom in his ".wrk" series.  8 pieces recorded that feature (all) harpsichord compositions that will enchant you.  They were all recorded using "Cakewalk" on a ThinkPad.  The days of poorly recorded computer-based music are clearly over, as Mr. Furgas clearly demonstrates.  You can look forward to quite a few more reviews, as we still have 3 or 4 CD's to review in upcoming issues.  This music isn't strictly "jazz", though there are moments (like cut 4) which will make you sort of "feel" like jazz.  The real point about the kind of talent Tom displays (as on all his compositions) is - creativity!  He's able to translate (often) complex ideas to something your mind can wrap itself around, & without resorting to clichés or hooks, wrap you in & make you enjoy it.  For listeners who demand high originality - this is MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.  If you're looking for something different - GET this!  (added notes from Tom:  the disc is available for $9 postage paid (US) or $12 postage paid (everywhere else), or is available in trade for any other artist's CD, to 1840 Paisley St #3, Youngstown, OH 44511-1024; feel free to e-mail me at ) Rotcod Zzaj

The Claudia Quintet - FOR:  John Hollenbeck is back with his (as always) fantastic drum, percussion & electronic tape wizardry, on an album that is all "for" (as in, like, "dedicated", man) other artists like Fritz Pauer, Jan Garbarek & many others.  What you'll find, though, is that it's really for you; this is some absolutely invigorating jazz that will inspire (other) artists & listeners alike.  Quite often when an album is led by a percussionist, there's a tendency for the recording to "focus in", sort of exclusively, on his playing; what strikes me most about this experience is that all the players (Drew Gress, acoustic bass; Matt Moran, vibraphone & vocals; Ted Reichman, accordion & Chris Speed's clarinet & tenor saxophone) get "equal time", with no loss of the rhythmic push that is driving this train.  Your ears will be amazed, & unless you're a total jazz purist, you will find this some of the most enjoyable & inspiring music you've ever heard.  We rate this are more than MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED; it also gets our "PICK" for the year for "best creative album".  This is truly the best creative jazz album I've heard this year!  Get (much) more information at  Rotcod Zzaj

Gemini Soul - THE LIQUID SOUL TOUR:  Fine lil' CD here, sorta' comes off as "jazz retro"... lil' snatches of Ramsey Lewis, th' feel of Stanley Clarke & even some Funkadelics in there somewhere.  The players - Andre Ajamu Akinyele, bass & drum programming; Jon O' Bergh, piano, keyboards & programming; Andrew Foster, percussion & Alex Marks, drums - are tight & definitely together!  Great bass-driven jazz... though there are elements of th' dreaded "smooth" in there, they've got th' soul chops to make it "more than just smooth".  For a tune that will take you in many different directions (with MLK's speeches woven in 'round & through), you'll want to check out "Supernova" (# 11), for sure; lots of finger-poppin' bass lines, with nice piano lines after the intro.  There weren't a lot of "volcanic energy" tunes on here, but the live performance sections were recorded well & will stick to your ears!  A good all-round jazz experience that gets a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from us!  Get more information at  Rotcod Zzaj

The Rocco John Group - DON'T WAIT TOO LONG:  Rocco John Iacovone's (all original) alto sax work will please the ears of jazz aficionados the world over, especially on driving tuneage like (my favorite on the CD) "Bicycle For 2"!  He's joined by Michael Irwin's trumpet, double bass by Aaron Keane & drums/percussion by Dalius Naujokaltis -  & not just "joined"... these players are right on th' mark(s) together.  Absolutely kickin', no hesitation & high-energy all the way through the album.  Another jumpin' tune was track 8, "Cursory Rhyme"... the reeds & brass are in synch from the opening note, & that bass/drum syncopation keeps the music at full-tilt... I'm very much impressed, & you will be too if you cut your teeth on jazz that doesn't compromise & allows no hint of "smooth" to creep in - ANYwhere!  A "way of life" is presented sonically - not that '30's "hep-cat stoned be-bopper" thang, either - this has th' mellow parts, but it also has edges that we all have to navigate on our journey!  Very tasty jazz adventure that gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from us!  Get more information about the group at  Rotcod Zzaj

the Laverne Christie Trio - EAST OF THE SUN, WEST OF THE MOON:  Don't imagine the title would give much away about this very pleasant little jazz CD... there's a real "swing" groove here, & the approach to the playing is simple, yet (somehow) sophisticated!  The recording quality is superb, & you'll listen to this (if you're at all like me) over & over again... this album is definitely a "KEEPER".  My favorite cut on the album was a classic, "Well, You Needn't"... Laverne's trio interpretation is decidedly unique & original!  For something with a heavy drum influence, you'll love cut 8, "The Sunset Hour".  The title track is a gem, too, brightly displaying the talents of each of the players (Laverne's joined by Mike Candito on drums & bassist/cellist Mark Ruben), which are considerable, to be sure!  If you like guitar-based jazz that will keep you swingin' (both mentally & spiritually), you'll love this - it gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from me!  I can tell you now, you'll want this if you're a collector... get more information at   Rotcod Zzaj

The Mark Kleinhaut Trio - HOLDING THE CENTER.:  We've listened to & reviewed Mark's wonderful jazz guitar work before, & were mightily impressed then, too.  On this round, he's joined by Jim Lyden on bass & Les Harris, Jr., on drums; it's one of the tightest jazz trios I've heard in 2007, & their comfort level with each other is apparent immediately!  For somethin' funky, check out cut 3, "Baby R"... my only complaint was that with only 3:31, thee "groove" didn't last quite long enough - but this one makes great use of the bass to keep th' beat movin' right along.  A flavor of "high tech" invades th' funk on # 7, "Erika's 8:30 Rule"... but, my favorite track on the CD was track 12, "Gospel of B" - this tune seems to pass along the "soul" of the players (all of them)... nice laid-back bluesy kinda' mood.  Superb album all the way through with lots of excellent musical flavors.  This one comes MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from these ol' jazzified ears.  Get more information (& some samples) at  Rotcod Zzaj

Felix Werder - THE TEMPEST:  Our friends at POGUS PRODUCTIONS continue to amaze us with CD releases that feature some of the finest experimental/electronic adventures you will ever hear.  All of Mr. Werder's compositions (except one, "V/Line", recorded in 1992) on this outing were put together in the 1970's, yet the recording quality approaches that of the 21st Century.  My favorite piece of the four compositions was track 1, "Banker", recorded in 1973.  Felix's and Keith Humble's synths, percussion by John Seal, guitar by Jochen Schubert & piano by Dennis Henning all combine to take you on a journey that could (as well) be a space odyssey.  There seems to be no "competition" amongst the players - all the sounds mesh into a very cohesive sonic adventure that is quite calming (yet strange).  1971's "Oscussion", from a performance in Melbourne, was quite intriguing as well.  If you're only looking for "straight-ahead" jazz, be-bop or R&B, it's doubtful you will get much further than the first track, as this kind of music requires intense involvement on the part of the listener - but if you're willing to engage yourself in the composer's imagination, & participate in adventurous sonic exploration, you will agree when I declare it MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.  Get more information on this CD at  Rotcod Zzaj

Turkey Makes Me Sleepy - THE BIG PART OF THE WISHBONE:  Never let it be said that C. Goff III makes "strange" music... well, maybe a "little strange", but not abominably so... it's actually "forward looking" music.  This CD by "TMMS" is their 10th anniversary recording... C. Goff, of course, is a member, along with Michael Adams & Eric Matchett.  Heavy electronic editing ensured that only the relevant portions of their electronic experiments made it onto the album.  Strangely enough, it was track 5, "Turkish Coffee", that was my favorite ride - that may (or may not) have anything to do with my having been (nick)named "Cp'n Cappucinno" in an earlier time, but the energy levels on this particular piece (second longest on the album) approach the same 'igh eye get when on my coffee I.V.  It's also the nearest to a piece that is "accessible" by the masses (not that that is a "goal" of "TMMS"... after all, accessibility is purely in the mind of the beholder).  Another excessively odd (& eminently enjoyable) cut is "Deeple Speak", #3 on the CD... totally engaging (tho' if you're "normal", don't let yourself become too engaged, eh).  I rate this a definite MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for those who are experimentally inclined!  Check out C. Goff's "Taped Rugs Productions" catalog - or e-mail him at  Rotcod Zzaj

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  In This Issue: - IF you are the FIRST e-mail respondent to this note (to  - MAKE SURE your subject states ALEX CD), you will receive (free of charge) a copy of a superb jazz CD by Alex Kontorovich, titled "DEEP MINOR" (which was reviewed in our last issue).  We will have (some) more freebies coming in future issues, so be sure & tell all your friends about us!

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