Visit Zzaj Energy Channel


Issue # 100 REVIEWS

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!



Ann Sweeten - JUST THIS SIDE OF SPRING: My last review of Ann's superb piano works was sometime back, in issue #77, just after returning from overseas.  This CD is just as beautiful and calming, if not moreso.  It isn't "jazz", in the strictest sense anyway, but it's just as heartfelt and penetrating as some of the best be-bop I've ever listened to.  She uses her very talented hands to paint an image of emergence into my favorite time of the year, and does so without "tricks" or "gimmicks"... on the title track, Will Ackerman (founder of Windham Hill records) joins her on acoustic guitar - simple, yet sweet... the recording (as you might expect from someone of Will's stature) is top-flight, and they "talk" with other so you can understand exactly what they're saying.  Several other instruments join in on "Light From a Narrow Window"... this is the best inspirational tune I've heard in 2010, and you'll love it just as much as I did... my favorite piece on the album!  Her subtle, yet soaring vocal on "A Moment in Time" will have you reaching for the skies, no doubt.  I'm again highly impressed and feel deeply privileged to have the opportunity to listen to her CD in advance (it will be released and promoted in February and March of this year, so keep your ears open for it!)  I give it a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED and an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.95.  Get more information at    Rotcod Zzaj

Holly Hoffman-Bill Cunliffe - THREE'S COMPANY: We've reviewed both of these artists with others before (Bill was most recently reviewed in issue # 93), and Holly was in issue # 91... they are both totally accomplished players, and when you put that together with guests Regina Carter (violin), Terrell Stafford on trumpet, Ken Peplowski on clarinet and drummer Alvester Garnett, you have the formula for instant jazz success.  "Dalto" is one of the most energetic piano pieces I've heard lately, and Hoffman's flute adds an element of pure joy to the proceedings... this duo clearly loves playing and expressing themselves through well-played jazz!  The title track (click on it above to go to the FLASH page where the samples are) features Terell Stafford's trumpet in mute, and Bill's piano is almost in boogie mode... if this one doesn't get you up on your feet & dancin' - nothing will... a genuine rhythmic treat that is totally ON IT!  My absolute favorite composition on the CD, though, is "Sweet Andy" (& not just because that's my son's name)... the drumwork from Garnett, together with the jumpin' energies projected by all players, makes this one of the most pleasant pieces I've heard yet in 2010.  I give them a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED on this fantastic album, with an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.96.  Get more information at    Rotcod Zzaj  

Jon Baroni - WAKE UP CALLS: This one didn't come over the wires directly, though in a way it did... my friends Jan & Steve Bartlett FB'ed me about Jon's music & I asked for more... Jon snailed three CD's to me in the immediate, & I was exceedingly happy when I opened the package up to this one... 'coz the opener, "Cane Train" is just absolutely pure rhythm & joy - definitely my favorite on the album, and perfect to open it with!  5:52 is what this power-packed lil' gem clocks in at, & you'll think you're right out in the middle o' that cane field.  He's self-taught, and it's my impression (being in the same category myself) that players who are usually have much more energy for their playing (or they don't, & that's evident after the first 2 bars)... Jon's playing & spirit clearly fall in the "do have" arena!  For something that leans a bit more towards jazz (reminds me of some of Stephen Bishop's wizardry), try "In The Blue Room"... simple (but solid) piano line, and excellent vocal by Jon.  I'm highly impressed, and have no doubt that when I review the other two CD's he sent, I'll be even moreso.  The title track (click on the title above) is both thought-provoking and chock-full of great organ licks!  You can't pigeonhole Jon's music into one category... he has elements of many styles present in his music, but he's got the prime ingredient for success (here at Zzaj Productions, anyway) in spades - ENERGY for the playing!  I give this CD a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, along with an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.97.  Get more information at   Rotcod Zzaj

Harry Allen - NEW YORK STATE OF MIND: If you don't have your spats (GOOGLE it if you don't know what "spats" are) on when the opener, "Puttin' on the Ritz", starts, you'll have 'em hauled out of Grandpa's closet by the time it's mid-way through the tune.  Harry's deep-throat tenor sax will wean you away from whatever funk you've been in & put you on cloud nine (as they used say in Grandpa's day, as they danced the night away).  For pure & raw energy, I think you'll agree that the best track (my favorite, to be sure) on the CD is "Broadway Melody"... though this is our first listen to Allen's work, I know it won't be the last.... this guy breathes energy through his reeds!  The title track (click on it to listen), a tune from Billy Joel, will give you the blues if you didn't have them already... but in a very nice "New York" way, if you know what I mean... full of comfort & pleasure.  Another track I just loved was "Rose of Washington Square".  The recording on this is first-class all the way through, and if you're a jazzer (like I am), you'll find this among your favorite albums of all time, & surely will agree with me - it's MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.  "EQ" (energy quotient) is rated at 4.95.  Get more information at    Rotcod Zzaj   

Isaac Shepard - THE RENEWING: If you love solo piano as much as I do (that could have something to do with the fact that my instrument is piano, I suppose), you will love the 10 original compositions Isaac puts in front of your ears on his third CD.  His compositional skills are fully evident, but he doesn't get so wrapped up in his playing that he forgets what the listener wants to hear - imagination and emotion.... that's especially true on tracks like "Let Me Sleep", one of my favorites on the album.  For the ultimate in relaxation and joy of spirit, though, you'll want to listen to "Simple Moments" over and over again... his use of overtones and full keyboard range on this one is just excellent... it will leave you wanting more, as it clocks in at just under 3 minutes (2:59 on my player).  The CD is set for release this month (January, 2010), so get your copy now.  The piece that I felt conveyed Isaac's feelings most clearly, though, was "Dimming The Lights"... totally accessible and easy for the listener to settle into, it gets my vote as favorite.  I give this a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.92.  Get more information at   Rotcod Zzaj

Joe Beck & Laura Theodore - GOLDEN EARRINGS: This is my first listen to Laura & Joe's magic together... Beck's self-invented alto guitar perfectly compliments Laura's marvelous full-tilt jazz vocals, and you'll know that you're hearing nothing but high class energy on this CD (unfortunately, it was Joe's last session)!  The recording has some grand reverb moments, especially on tunes like "Fever", the tune we all remember Peggy Lee being famous for.... in fact, you'll hear a lot of similarities between Laura's vocals and Ms. Lee's work... the difference is that Beck and Theodore clearly have their own styles, and their energies take the tunes into the 21st Century realm without any hitches whatsoever.  The performance that caught my ear as favorite, though, was "You Was Right Baby"... Laura gives this one a genuine "down home" feel that makes you believe in "reality audio"... cool, but with feeling, to be sure.  This album will stay at the top of your playlists for some time to come, & gets a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from me... "EQ" (energy quotient) rating is 4.94.  Get more information at  Rotcod Zzaj

Kat Parra & The Sephardic Music Experience - DOS AMANTES -  I was highly impressed back in issue # 80 when I first listened to & reviewed her stunning jazz vocals... and if you're into Latin jazz with spirit that's infectious (along with music of the Sephardic Jews, which makes for a truly interesting mix of styles) you'll find her just as enchanting as I did on her 3rd CD.  Even if you don't understand the language she sings in, you'll grasp every heartfelt emotion she expresses through her vocals.  The percussion behind her is pure adventure, with a cast of 100's (not quite, but you'll have to visit this page to get a full listing of players... the only samples I could find are in FLASH (not linkable) at her CD BABY page... but when you listen to tunes like "Avrix Mi Galanica", you'll understand right away what high talent you are listening to!  This tune combines all the styles with solid jazz arrangements (courtesy of another regular in these pages, Wayne Wallace) that will have you slip/slidin' and scattin' right along with her amazing vocals!  More than just "impressive", this is classic cross-cultural jazz that makes it ever more clear just how important each and every culture on our globe is.  I give this my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating, along with an "EQ" (energy quotient) of 4.97 - very high & certainly well deserved.  Get more information at   Rotcod Zzaj

Kelley Suttenfield - WHERE IS LOVE?: This November 2009 release from Kelley is among the better releases from female jazz vocalists for '09... her voice has a rich, full-throat projection that reaches right out & grabs you where your heart is.  Excellent players with her keep the music behind her strong singing well jazzified... Michael Cabe does piano & Fender Rhodes, electric guitar by Jesse Lewis, acoustic guitar from Tony Romano, bass from Matt Aronoff and drums/Tablas by Brian Adler all work together to make for a most interesting listen, no doubt.  The arrangements on "Ode To Billie Joe" breathe new life into that tune & clearly put it in the jazz realm... definitely Suttenfield's own interpretation and style... I loved it!  If you're in the mood for something a bit more pensive, try Kelley's rendition of "Charade"... some excellent guitar and bass behind her.  My favorite piece, though, was the swingin' "West Coast Blues"... you'll think you're right at the end of Route 66, in a smoky-blue jazz parlor, right in with all the rest of the late-nite hepkats, no doubt!  Full of fun and high spirit, "Where Is Love" gets a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from these ol' ears.  The "EQ" (energy quotient) rating is 4.92.  Get more information at    Rotcod Zzaj

Laura Klein & Ted Wolff - CERULEAN BLUE: Nothing but unabashed joy on this great little piano (Laura) and vibraphone (Ted) CD; though this is our first listen to their magical works, it surely won't be the last.  Their high-spirited and fun-filled playing will elevate you to heights you hadn't even imagined before... it's one of those "sleeper" WOW albums that only catch your ear once you've played it the second time around, but that makes it even better for the long haul.  Just amazing how tightly they are knit together in their playing - I mean, every note is on time and wrapped 'round the other instrument so sublimely that you don't even realize these are two folks playing together. It all makes perfect sense when you check out their bios... they've been playing together ever since they first met at Berklee College of Music many years ago.  For those in our readership, I strongly suggest that you check out "Impromp-2"... it's only 3:25, but their intricate weave together was clearest on this one for me... it comes close to being my favorite, but the one that actually captured that position was the opener, "Voyage", a Kenny Barron tune that they are RIGHT ON time with from the opening note to the last bar.  This CD gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from me, as well as the "PICK" of this issue for "most joyful jazz"... "EQ" (energy quotient) rating is 4.97.  Get more information at   Rotcod Zzaj

Mon David - COMING TRUE: I surely don't think I've heard this much exuberance coming from a jazz singer (male or female) in many years... this gent's rendition of "Footprints" as the opener is just KILLER!  Even if you had never been to the Philippines, you'd want to claim it as your home after hearing him on this song!  He has a cast of characters far too long to itemize here, but one of the standout talents is Tateng Katindig's piano... it's right where it belongs in the mix, out in front when required, but pulling back to give Mon plenty of room for his vocals.  My favorite cut on the CD is "Only Once", which features a guest artist we're quite familiar with, Ms. Charmaine Clamor (who we last reviewed in issue # 85)... their duets are superb, & the rhythms will have you up off your feet in seconds.  This is the kind of jazz vocalist any experienced jazz listener will want to have in their "permanent" collection... classic jazz with lots of feeling... I give it a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.95.  Get more information at    Rotcod Zzaj

Nilson Matta's Brazilian Voyage with Harry Allen and Anne Drummond - COPACABANA: If it's killer Latin jazz with a taste of Brazil you are yearning to hear, this CD from Nilson is the TICKET!  We had actually listened to him before on a CD from Hendrik Muerkens, reviewed in issue # 74, and his beautiful bass work shines through on this February 2010 release just as brilliantly as it did then.  He's joined by some others we've listened to & reviewed in these pages, too... Harry Allen on tenor sax, Anne Drummond on flute, Klaus Mueller's piano, drums from Mauricio Zottarelli and percussion from Ze Mauricio.  The thing that's most impressive about the all-original compositions here is the feeling of "natural" you get when listening... there is nothing "hyped", or "phony", about the music here.  At times (like on the gently flowing "Aguas Brasileiras"), you'll feel like they are right there in your living room playing just for you; on other tracks (like the opener, my absolute favorite, "Baden"), the vibe is sun, brightness & sidewalk cafe-like.  Every musical moment on this gem is to be treasured, with new facets each time you listen through it again - & again - & again... it gets my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, as well as the "PICK" of this issue for "best Latin jazz".  The "EQ" (energy quotient) is a very high 4.98.  Get more information at    Rotcod Zzaj

Patrick Rydman - I WILL DO IT: Patrick's jazz vocals on this CD isn't 100% jazz - but regardless of the genre, he makes it feel like cool... he's from Sweden, which (based on my own roots there) wouldn't have been my likely suspect for a place that someone with (at least) as much suave as, let's say, Mose Allison.  Heck, just check out his hat on the CD cover... anyone with a hat like that WILL be a hep-cat (whoops, showing my age).  BUT, more importantly, the dozen all-original tunes show a talent for lyrics with lasting quality... especially on pieces like my favorite track, "When You're Not Around"... this song will stick in your head for days (if not months) - & the rhythms just KICK IT!  I've a feeling you'll be hearing much more from this swingin' singer, & if you don't, check in with your local (or online) dealer & tell them you want this CD.  I give it a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, even for the jazzers out there, with an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.95.  Get more information at   Rotcod Zzaj

Stefano Pastor - CHANTS: One of the things that's so great about having a 'zine that's run for a long time (as IMPROVIJAZZATION NATION has - since 1990 or so) is that we get artists we've reviewed before submitting their stuff again & again... I first reviewed his work (with other players) in issue # 96.  This new CD is all solo work from him... he does everything, including violin, viola, vocals (superb, by the way), mandolin, guitar and percussion.  This is one of the most interesting CD's I've listened to in 2010... it certainly has the elements all jazz listeners will want... improvisation, free spirit and high energy, but it can NOT be shoved into any pigeonholes.  "Chants" is almost like a musical conversation Stefano is having with himself... much more revealing than one might think, and not at all schizophrenic... beauty is the keyword that comes to mind, particularly on cuts like the opening track, "Naima", my favorite piece on the album.  One of the most beautiful vocals I've heard (on any CD I've reviewed in the last couple of years) was on "Chi mi Ha Insegnato".  This is an all around wonderful listen, and I give it a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, as well as an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.95.  Get more information at    Rotcod Zzaj

The Zeke Martin Project - U4IRIA: Zeke's drumming on this one is (of course) at the forefront of the 7 superb tracks, but he's rounded up some excellent players, too... Sean Berry's sax work, keyboards & harmonica by Yusaku Yoshimura, bass from Rozhan Razman and vocals by Nina Pralour on "Summertime".  Every punctuation from Martin's drums is timing-perfect, and all the instruments play for the listener, in every sense... I was especially impressed with the swirling keyboards on the opening track (my absolute favorite on the CD), "Freedom Jazz Dance"... just love the sounds that Yoshimura pulls out of the board on that one, and every player meshes rhythmically in perfect fashion, to make for one of the most inspiring tunes I've heard in a long time!   The keyboard intro to "Naima" is absolutely stunning, and when the strings and percussion kick in behind it, you know you're in jazz heaven... Berry's sax is excellent on this one, too.  I've no doubt that you'll be hearing much more from Zeke & his pals... no doubt that I want ALL his works for review.  He gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from my ears, as well as an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.97.  Get more information & watch the vids at  Rotcod Zzaj

Brian Groder - GRODER & GREENE: This is one smokin' hot little (9-track) CD that features trumpet and flugelhorn from Brian, with keyboards from Burton Greene, along with alto sax by Rob Brown, double bass from Adam Lane and drums by Ray Sage.  It's an October 2009 release jammed full of very interesting spontaneous improvisation, and I dug it in many different ways.  Sage has played with some other underground folks we've reviewed here, most notably Bonnie Kane, reviewed in issue # 81... so I expected something different... something "off the path"... and I got it in spades!  The keyword for the playing these guys do is "different", in fact... not so strange that a reg'lar jazzer couldn't dig down into the soul of what they do, but certainly off-kilter enough that no self-respecting "middle-of-the-roader" would be caught with a copy of their CD.  Of course, this kind of music is more suited to the readership of this fine 'zine, where the unexpected IS the norm... because that's what keeps life moving in new directions... one of the best examples is "Only The Now", one of my favorites... just listen to Lane's double bass on this one - truly moving (every second of every measure).  My absolute favorite, though, had the sounds of hobgoblins from the netherworlds... that would be "Hey Pithy, Can You Thropt the Erectus"... definitely something along the lines of an improvised exorcism... ha! ha!  These guys clearly know how to have fun with their music, and easily pass it along to the receptive listener.  They get a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from me, with an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Get more information at (& be sure to tell 'em Zzaj sent you).    Rotcod Zzaj

Thomas Lorenzo Quartet - SPANISH BREEZE: There are always a couple of "sleeper" CD's in the review stack, & though I listened to snatches of this as I was burning it to the review drive, I didn't catch the intensity until I (just minutes ago) spun it up for the review... these guys (Thomas Lorenzo on electric & Spanish guitars; Alphonso Johnson doing upright & electric bass; David Garfield on piano/keyboards; and Walfredo Reyes Jr on drums) just KICK the jams out.  Any jazzer who digs on the funk true soul can bring will listen to this dozen-jam set over & over again.  I had a lot of favorites on this album, most notably tracks like "1, 2, 3, Let's Go", which can't help but make you shake your moneymaker a bit... Thomas's guitar literally smokes your ears.  My favorite, though, was "A Happy Dream", with superb keyboards from David and excellent rhythmic performances from all the other players and some of the most wicked guitar lines I've ever heard (from any player - & that's saying something, as I've listened to thousands of them)!  These gents have a firm handle on every tune they play and their CD will bring you hours of repeated listening pleasure.  They get a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from me, with an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.94.  Get more information at   Rotcod Zzaj









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 that I haven't requested, you will be BLACKLISTED on this site!!!)

Here are a few tunes of MINE for you to listen to - it's from my latest CD release, "AC not PC" (Alphabetically Correct, not Politically Correct)




Search this site or the web powered by FreeFind

Site search Web search

RETURN to Zzaj Productions MAIN page!

'k, alla' you hardcore D.I.Y'er's!  We've added a D.I.Y. forum board!  Simply click on the lil' button below to TELL US wot' you think...