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Issue # 101 REVIEWS

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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!




Jon Baroni - IMPROV AT THE PARLOR:  There is a different mood as I write this review than for the last CD of Jon's I reviewed... some of that is because his style on this one is much different, but the more notable difference is that I actually got to spend some time with this gent in his "parlor"... a splendid little nook called Tenino Smokehouse & Pizza in which he has a fine old upright piano that we traded licks on, sorta' like talking to each other (& if you're at all inclined towards playing, you'll know just what I'm talkin' about).  That's the flavor of his solo piano on this CD, too... very much like him saying his piece to you... and the beauty that comes through his fingers isn't (at all) contrived or high-minded.  In my mind, this is the way those old stringboards were meant to be exercised.  The pseudo-blue mood of "Time" will spin you into it's web and keep you there in solitude for the full 5:42... the opener, "Postcard to Spring", moves in zones closer to New Age, but Jon's chord blends will keep you in the real world so that you don't get spun away with some unachievable vision of grandeur.  8 other beautiful tracks will give you solid hours of listening pleasure and let you clearly hear the real talent this great young pianist has!  I'm highly impressed with his playing on this CD, as well as with the aura of "real" he has... there are many players I know (even some in this area) who seem to have lost touch with what us "day job" folks experience as we go through our lives, but Mr. Baroni tells his story with elements of reality that shine through to your ears.  This one gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, as well as the "PICK" of this issue for "best improv piano"; "EQ" (energy quotient) rating is 4.96.  Get more information at    Rotcod Zzaj

Timucin Sahin Quartet - BAFA:  I hadn't listened to Timucin's guitar mastery before this CD, but if you're a fan of indie jazz with both challenge and high talent, you won't be able to do without this splendid album in your collection!  He's joined by John O' Gallagher's alto sax, Tyshawn Sorey's excellent drums and contrabass by Thomas Morgan & it's one of the most enjoyable quartet CD's I've listened to this year.  There is nothing "schlock" or "normal" in the music they paint for your ears, yet you'll hear lines (in certain sections) that will make you feel like you've been hearing them for eons.  Purely original compositions add the dimension that's recognized here at Zzaj Productions as "different", which means that each tune is an energy adventure, no matter the form or genre... if you can't abide by music that challenges you to "hear" the puzzle being put together, disassembled and integrated back into a solid piece - you'll move on in the racks to look for something more MOR (middle of the road), no doubt.  The meandering and slow-paced beauty of "I Also Know How to Live Like Stars" will be your guide to transit through the wormhole into the other side of normal, and the Zappian pace of "It's Time" will let you know (right away) that you're in the presence of aural genius - all FOUR of the players are superb on this piece - but DO IT WITH HEADPHONES!  My favorite on the CD, though, was the intricate weave of "Ciccado & Guguk"... it's the rhythm of their (collective) soul being exposed for you, in pure and unabashed form... when John's reeds kick in at about 3:15, you'll realize just how tight the quartet is!  A superb 7 tracks that will raise your spirits each time you listen, this gets my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.97.  Get more information at    Rotcod Zzaj

Torben Waldorff - AMERICAN ROCK BEAUTY:  As so often happens here, the artists we haven't listened to before are the ones that bring the most pleasure to our ears... Torben's guitar is absolute silk on the opener.  This is an ARTISTSHARE project, so I couldn't find any easily accessible sound samples (that's one thing I'm not greatly in favor of... if you're going to use ARTISTSHARE, at least put something from each of the releases out there).  There was a YOUTUBE vid of studio work for an older album, but nothing of real quality that could be deep linked; not even CD BABY.  With that lack of accessibility in mind, I'll have to describe my feelings about the tunes with only titles... the opener, "Shark", was definitely high-energy and you'll hear a lot of talent... Waldorff is joined by tenor sax from Donny McCaslin, piano, fender Rhodes & organ from Jon Cowherd, bass by Matt Clohesy and drums from Jon Wikan... pace is excellent and will get your mind (and your feet) moving in new directions.  All tunes are composed by Torben, so (as regular readers here know), they already get high marks, since I believe originals have a higher level of energy and involvement by the artists.  It's the 10:37 "Late" that garnered my vote as favorite track, perhaps because that length allowed them plenty of time to develop the tune... it's like a fine aural painting & displays talent from all five players... just loved the pace and timing on this one - Donny's sax just KICKS on this piece, too!  This gets a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from me (& would have gone higher, except for the lack of easy to access samples), as well as an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.95.  Get more information at    Rotcod Zzaj

Christopher Lehman - POPJAZZIC:  If "funkified" is what your ears are thirsting for, Christopher & krew have it in spades... with influences all the way from Lee Morgan to Freddy Hubbard.  Lehman's approach to his trumpet is straight-forward, but with a twist of pop integrated into the mix that will attract the ears of listeners not in the "jazzhead" camp.  He's joined by a LOT of players, too many to call off here, but you can check 'em out at his press agent's one-sheet.  Tunes are all originals from Christopher, which (as you know by now) is what makes my ears stand up & REALLY listen...  the opener, "Well Funk Me Up!" is a perfect example of that... catchy beat, superb organ and Lehman's brass right out there at center stage, makin' you get on up & boo-ga-loo the nite away!  "Party Grind" will make you have visions of that good ol' hip-shake & bump until you're ready to kick back and enjoy the love on "More Than You Know" (can't help but think of Al Jarreau as I listen to Frank D'Agostino's vocal on this track).  It's the uptown flavor of "Boogaloo for Dexter" that captures the favorite vote from my ears, though... Christopher has taken the soulful music of another era and integrated it into the 21st Century for sure!  I give this one a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED and an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.94.  Get more information at his page.    Rotcod Zzaj

ComputerChemist - AQUAL MEASURE:  I first reviewed this electronic genius (Dave Pearson) in issue # 91... very impressive, and this new CD is even moreso - sweeping electronic washes invade your consciousness and take you to the edge of universes you didn't even know existed.  The opener, "Tantric Race", is one of the best build sequences I've heard in 2010... throbbing bass leads into synth washes that will make your ears stand up and take notice, & when he morphs into the echo guitar lines, you'll realize just how timeless his aural visions are.  The synth layering on "Mirage" makes it my absolute favorite... the key to a successful listen for this gent's music, however, is that you must listen with your headphones... you don't want any of his intensely focused energy to float off (wasted) into etherspace!  This is like listening to an aural painting, and you'll find yourself drawn back to certain pieces over and over again... very satisfying music, but not filled with the electronic clichés that some players in this genre tend to use to mask their low talent levels.  I thoroughly enjoy Dave's music (we've got another couple of albums to review yet) and give it my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating for any and all who love high-talent (and high-energy) electronic music!  It also receives an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.94.  Get more information at    Rotcod Zzaj

Chris Greene Quartet - MERGE:  Chris's quartet is the REAL DEAL, no doubt about it in my ears... 9 superbly solid original tunes that will have jazz lovers dancin' th' jazz dance in a big way!  It's the 3rd CD from this group and I'm surprised that we hadn't heard his excellent tenor and soprano sax work yet... Chris is Chicago-based, which is probably why his originals have a very sophisticated funk presence, albeit with jazz as the primary emphasis.  The other members of his quartet are well-chosen, to be sure... piano/keyboards by Damian Espinosa, double bass by Marc Plane and drums/percussion from Tyrone Blair.. .one cookin' combo, no doubt.  I just fell in love with Damian's electric piano lines at about 5:01 on the opener (an original by Greene), "Good Riddance!" - this one just smokes, volkz!  ...and the silky, almost lazy, feel of "You'll Thank Me Later" shows talent that just won't quit through every note, every line.  The tune that captures my ears as favorite, though, is the strident "L.F.E.I. (Let's Get it Started)"... Chris's reeds on this one tug at your heartstrings and rearrange your emotions very nicely... each player has his own part on this 8:07 masterpiece!  I'm highly impressed... "Merge" gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from me, with an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.97.  Get more information at     Rotcod Zzaj

Clifford Lamb - ONE:  Every player has their own unique "signature", and Clifford's is clearly his masterful use of timing to make each of the 6 high-energy tunes on this CD stand out and apart from "regular" piano jazz.  I can't explain it in words as exactly as your ears will when you listen to his playing, but suffice it to say that his approach to the keyboards leaves you breathlessly listening for where the next chord will hit.  Lots of players try and pull this off, but seldom as effectively as Clifford does... you'll clearly hear what I'm writing about when you listen to "Red And Blue", one of my favorites on the CD - he knows how to tell this sonic story in a most pleasant way, and you'll love the tune as much as I did.  It's his 6:13 rendition of "All Blues" that gets my vote for favorite on the album, though... you have never heard a version as intricate and revealing as this one... especially true on the intro, but when they move into the main piece at 1:24, you'll see the blue-cellar smoke rising and get your "instant education" in what the blues & jazz is really all about.  The overtones on the piano he's playing would make any player envious - simply beautiful!  Clifford is joined by Darrell Green on drums, Ron Belcher on bass and a guest flutist, Kenny Hawkins, and their playing is superbly together on all tracks... they really "hear" each other, and that makes this effort all the more pleasant.  Each of these players have their own outstanding musical resumes as well.  You can watch some excellent YOU TUBE stuff, but your key to aural success is to get this CD as soon as it's officially released.  I rate this as MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED and give it an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.98 (very difficult for a piano-based album to get here)... if you love soulful jazz piano, you won't be able to do without this one.  Get more information at (you can also purchase the tracks in advance of release here).    Rotcod Zzaj

Dave Sharp's Secret Seven - 7:  There are some absolutely tasty musical morsels on this CD... groove, Latin, & plenty o' phunk in a jazz vein... Dave's bass is right on target on all nine tracks and the rest of the band (ton of players, too long to itemize here) play with spirit and energy seldom heard these days.  Some splendid music that will have you up shakin' your hips & movin' 'round the floor, to be sure.  The CD won't be released until April, 2010, so you may want to purchase the music online, perhaps at AMAZON.  Tunes like "Chrispy Underground" are prime examples of what make these guys so aurally attractive... beat that takes you back to an age when music was fun, with no pretense of intellectualism, just pure fun!  It's the oddly-named (for me, anyway) "Boop Bwee Ahh" that captures the favorite spot for my ears, though, most likely because of that churning Hammond organ.  8 of the 9 pieces are original compositions, which is probably another reason I fell in love with their music right away - these folks are definitely in to what they're playing and easily communicate their joy to you.  Since Dave was originally from Detroit, I'd like to hear what would result if his "Secret Seven" hooked up with "The AMP" folks, but Sharp's music stands on it's own and will thrill any listener who needs high-talent energy in what they listen to.  I give this one a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.96.  Get more information at     Rotcod Zzaj

Erica Lindsay-Sumi Tonooka - INITIATIONWe had the pleasure of reviewing Sumi's excellent piano works in issue # 82, though this is our first listen to Erica's talented tenor sax mastery. What comes across on the CD is their extra-sensory perception of the direction of the music... bassist Rufus Reid and the late drummer Bob Brays join them in a jazz epic you won't soon forget.  Each artist furnished 5 of their original compositions, and their skills just shine through for you to hear, especially on pieces like the 7:43 "South Street"... slow & easy mood, but with heavy soul that shines!  The title track is a scorcher, too, especially at about :055, when Erica's tenor kicks in... this tune will make you hear the group's abundant talent and energy for playing the music they love... I've no doubt you'll love it, too.  For pure "punch", though, I found my favorite track to be "Black Urgency"... the deceptive bass line as it opens leaves you totally unprepared for the jump-off into oblivion at about :056... you'll know as the tune progresses through it's 6-minute length that you're listening to one of the most penetrating jazz groups on the scene today.  No smoke & mirrors here, this is raw jazz energy with very clear focus and accessibility.  I give them a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.97.  Get more information at or    Rotcod Zzaj

Peggy Duquesnel - SUMMERTIME LULLABY:  If Spring affects you like it does me, you'll welcome this April 2010 CD release from jazz vocalist Peggy... sultry standards woven into her own unique performance style.  An AMAZON search shows that she is a Christian artist, too, and some of that optimistic attitude (that I imagine she has) shines through on her jazz performances, to be sure.  An even dozen tracks, with favorites (of mine) like "In the Quiet Hours", "On Green Dolphin Street" and Peggy's original "Drivin' Blues", which "made" the album for me... this one really moves, & shows a true talent for getting the listener's attention... the guitar solo at 2:04 absolutely rocked my world!  Duquesnel's keyboards are right on time all the way through the album and clearly show her love of playing, especially on another original, "Promised Land"... my only "complaint" (though not a serious one) is that there were no deep-linked samples on AMAZON... that may simply be because the CD isn't due for release until April, not sure.  Ms. Duquesnel has put together a splendid CD that jazz listeners everywhere will dig on year-round, not just Spring or Summer... I give it a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.94.  Get more information at    Rotcod Zzaj

Barb Jungr - THE MEN I LOVE:  Barb's doing all covers on the dozen tracks on this May 11, 2010 release, but she packs each & every one of the tunes with a fresh and vibrant spirit that will make a believer out of you!  Just listen to her on Neil Diamond's "I'm A Believer" to hear what I'm raving about... her pacing is excellent, and she leaves you hanging on each phrase for the next.  On Springsteen's "The River", she meanders her way into your heart and takes you on the long/winding journey to unknown vistas.  The vocal style is rich and full of textures you haven't heard in many, many years.  The track I fell in love with immediately was her rendition of Bob Dylan's "You Ain't Going Nowhere"... totally upbeat and full of robust energy that's clean, pure & natural!  Barb's accompanied by some excellent players that fully understand how to highlight her superb vocal talent... Simon Wallace on piano, hammond & synth; Steve Watts' double bass; Frank Schaefer's cello; Clive Bell on flute & shakuhachi & Paul Clarvis on percussion all help to make this album one of the best vocal sets I've listened to (yet) this year.  I give this one a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.96.  Get more information at    Rotcod Zzaj

James Zollar - ZOLLAR SYSTEMS:  One of the things I think about every day as I listen to the wonderful and spirited music that comes our way for review is just how fortunate I am... many guys my age (63, goin' on 19) kinda' "drop off" at around 50 or 55, & consider their lives over & done with.  As long as there's creative spirit for me to listen to, I'll never do that... & James and crew exemplify that spirit on this grand CD.  The press sheet kind of pitches Zollar's music as "something for everyone"... as long as "everyone" means those inclined to nod & weave to the jazz muse, I would agree... but those remarks should never imply that this is easy listening music for the mass audiences! If you listen to the vibrant pace of the opener, "Chicago Preferred", you'll fall in love with James' brand of jazz immediately... he's joined by Stacy Dillard on tenor & soprano sax, Rick Germanson on piano & keyboards, Uganna Okegwo & Andy McCloud on bass, Bruce Cox on drums and vocals on 2 tracks by Nabuko Kiryu in one of the tightest groupings I've heard yet this year.  Stacy & James seem to be "talking" with each other & that's a sure sign that you're listening to quality, no doubt.  My favorite tune on the CD, though, was "Spasmodic Movement"... punctuation is perfect from the opening note, and every instrument has it's voice in full-throttle mode.  Zollar's trumpet is more than just "good jazz", or "good art"... it exemplifies a life lived to full extent, full of energy for life, and this CD easily imparts that joy to your ears and your heart.  I give this a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, as well as the "PICK" of this issue for "best trumpet-based jazz".  "EQ" (energy quotient) rating is 4.97, very high!  Get more information at James' FB page.    Rotcod Zzaj

John Stein - RAISING THE ROOF:  To the extent that reviewers can be "fans" of a particular jazzist, I surely am for John's fantastic jazz guitar... we've reviewed his works extensively, most recently in issue # 85.  It gets more enjoyable each time we receive an album from him, and this CD is no exception.  His quartet again features the keyboards of Koichi Sato, acoustic bass by John Lockwood & drums/percussion by Ze Eduardo Nazario in an extremely tight assemblage of 9 tunes that will set your soul on fire as you listen (over & over again, I might add).  Koichi's keyboards on one of my favorite tracks of the set, "Moanin", and each player solos masterfully... you'll know right away your ears are in the presence of monster talent!  The clear winner for my pick as favorite, though, is "Elvin!", a silk-smooth and suave Stein original... John's guitar lines will pick you up out of whatever funk you may have been in and raise you to the top of the roof, and the band's global sensitivity comes shining right on through in every bar.  I can tell you that you won't hear a fresher, more poignant, jazz energy anywhere else on the planet today.  This one gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from me, as well as the "PICK" of this issue for "best guitar jazz" album.  "EQ" (energy quotient) is rated at 4.98.  Get more information at   Rotcod Zzaj

John Vanore & Abstract Truth - CURIOSITY:  John is a vet of large bands (Woody Herman, for instance) who integrates that "big band sound" into the compositions his Abstract Truth ensemble jumps into on this fantastic little CD.  The player list is huge, far too long to itemize here, but I'm sure you'll be able to read it at (once that site is completed).  The album isn't due for final release until early April, 2010, which may be why there were no track downloads available for it yet... you can watch some good live performance stuff at YOUTUBE, though (& I do recommend that, as it gives you a good feel for the vibrant energy of this monster group).  One of my favorite tunes was "Rude", a really upbeat number... only complaint was that it was a bit shorter (4:55) than I would have liked... those horns just KICK on this one, folks, and there is total interaction between all instruments!  I also dug "Misdemeanor", which had a lot more sax than brass... the thing this group projects for your aural enjoyment is total involvement, a true lust for living that will capture your ears & not let go until the last note.  It's the leadout track that captures my vote for favorite, though, "Motion Potion"... I haven't heard a track this year that has this much energy & verve, especially George Barnett's piano!  I give them a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with a phenomenal "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.98, almost the top rating... volcanic!  Get more information at    Rotcod Zzaj

Johnathan Badger - UNSUNG STORIES FROM LILLY'S DAYS AS A SOLAR ASTRONAUT:  Our first aural exposure to this artist gives us a feel from something decidedly not jazz, but totally engaging, nevertheless!  Dense, beat-driven electric guitar voyage through the outer reaches opens the album on "The Vessel Magalo", then segues quite nicely into a gentle keyboard composition (that I liked a lot) called "His Face Like Glass To The Touch".  Badger sculpts sonic statues that will stay in your ears (and your mem'ry) for days, months, even years to come... there is nothing on this CD that's not interesting, though pure jazzheads will probably not enjoy it as much as I did (just for it's uniqueness).  The composition I enjoyed the most was "The First Time I Dreamt of the Surface There Was No One To Hold", especially the layering that Johnathan uses to invade your consciousness... I also enjoyed the idea that he doesn't seem to be in "attack" mode, rather he uses his significant talent to plant his images subliminally.  This is a very interesting CD that gets a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from my ears, with an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.95.  Aural advisory - you WILL be hearing more from this artist over the next couple of years - you heard it here first!  Get more information at his MYSPACE site (& others, just Google him).    Rotcod Zzaj

Jon Gold - BRAZIL CONFIDENTIAL:  Jon's piano style is totally engaging on this magnificent CD... he's joined by a huge cast of players, which you can check out on the label site for the CD, ZoHo.  His fingers literally "bounce" you through "Funky Jabour", one of my favorite cuts on the album... as the album title implies, this is definitely in the "Brazilian jazz" arena, but there's no tired or clichéd material in any of the dozen tracks he presents for your aural enjoyment.  Gold's arrangements seem to be designed to invade you with good spirit and get your heart moving in the right direction... decidedly high energy all the way through on these all-original compositions!  One of the most intriguing pieces for this listener was "Vitamin B"; the percussion leaves nothing to be desired and the sax work is exemplary... those who are in love with life and the living of it could easily make this one their theme song for the rest of their days... it just communicates joy!  My absolute favorite, though, was "Rapadura", which will have you up and dancing 'round the room for all of it's 7:46 length - superb music that displays the kind of energy and talent you seldom hear these days.  I'm highly impressed, and that takes some doing these days... I give this wonderful CD a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.96.  Get more information at Jon's temporary site... it promises to be updated in early April (the CD won't be officially released until mid-April, 2010).   Rotcod Zzaj 

Marius Nordal - BOOMER JAZZ:  "Shock & Awe" is a catch-phrase the generation Marius is addressing here is well familiar with... and, all political shenanigans aside, it's an apt one for this solo piano extravaganza!  I first "met" him on FB, through his piano instruction videos & some commentaries he made on some music I had posted.  When you listen to the opening cut, "School Days" (Chuck Berry), you won't believe your ears (talk about awe) as you hear the full-bodied boogie/blues keyboard shocker Nordal explodes for your aural enjoyment.  "Boomers" will recognize all 11 tracks, including stuff from Beatles, Beach Boys, Simon & Garfunkel and even Roberta Flack.  Marius crisp piano style will have you reliving those early years, especially on tunes like "Good Vibrations", one of my favorites... there can't possibly be that many notes on a keyboard, can there?  The piano recording is unequivocally one of the best I've ever heard and captures every note in Nordal's 88,000-key range... if you don't believe me, just check out my favorite track on the album, "Eleanor Rigby"... he does much more than just "play notes", too... in his hands, the keyboard is an "emotional bomb" that brings back every lonely tear you've ever experienced (& a few of the contact highs, too... ha! ha!).  "Boomer Jazz" gets my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating, as well as the "PICK" of 2010 for "best solo piano ever".  "EQ" (energy quotient) rating is an unbelievable 4.99!  Get more information at the Origin Records site.  Rotcod Zzaj

The Van Wageningen Brothers - MUZIEK:  You haven't heard music this full of original energy and life in a while, I can tell you... brothers Paul and Mark have put together 10 tracks for your listening pleasure, 8 of which are original compositions.  This is tomorrow's jazz, here slightly ahead of time... every note is right on time, nothing left to chance... the brothers play drums and bass, but are joined by luminaries like (one of our favorite players) Wayne Wallace, Dave K. Mathews, Ray Obiedo & lots of others in one of the most inspiring sessions I've heard in the last 5 years.  There's strong Brazilian jazz influence here, but I'm taken back to the kind of superb expanses that Weather Report used to paint for my ears... especially on tunes like "Moon Over Gate 24" - probably because of the superb keyboard work by David... Mark's bass is like velvet sliding over your ears & the piece takes you into "the zone" for the entire 7:50 minutes.  If it's zooming Latin energy you're thirsting for, you'll love "Zapatos de Madera" with the same passion I did!  It's the exuberantly funky "You Guys Done Yet" that captures my ears for favorite track, though... make ya' think you're back in the '60's, fro & all... this little 4:20 tune just cooks!  Every single moment of this CD will have you totally engaged, & when it's done, you'll spin it again (& again & again).  "Muziek" is among the best musical experiences you'll have in 2010 and gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from me... "EQ" (energy quotient) rating is a very high 4.97.  Get more information at    Rotcod Zzaj

Marc Wagnon - EARTH IS A CRUEL MASTER:  If you feel like "floating" for awhile, this superbly talented multi-instrumentalist can help, to be sure... he does drums, vibraphone, marimba, keyboard and percussion... he's joined by guitarist Van Manakas, electric bassist Leo Traversa and acoustic bassist Danny Stone in one of the most texturally rich music weaves I've heard this year.  All original composition lends a certain weight to the energy quotient they generate, but it's clearly talent that distinguishes the music they play... yes, you've heard this "kind of" music before, as in exploratory and full of intrigue; but there's nothing "tired" or clichéd in any of their excursions.  I'll be the first to admit that the CD title threw me for a loop... certainly didn't expect this level of intrigue from that title, and it would have been nice to have something more explained about where they came up with that title on the CD jacket... but you'll discover just how misleading title can be when you catch your first listen to the beautiful and totally engaging "embarquement".  Solid rhythms and excellent changes all through this 6:33 masterpiece... there's a section about 2 minutes from the end where Marc is doing vibes that remind me a lot of Ruth Underwood's classic stuff on Zappa's old albums.  For pure and raw energy, though, my favorite piece on the CD was "Eye Of The Skies: A Farewell"... Marc and crew will hold your attention on every tune on this album - it gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from me, to be sure... "EQ" (energy quotient) rating is 4.96.  Get more information at the Buckyball label.    Rotcod Zzaj

Charles Evans/Neil Shah - LIVE AT ST. STEPHENS:  We last heard and reviewed Charles baritone sax work in issue # 93, but this duo work with pianist Neil Shah is much more introspective and (can I use such a word anymore?) - cosmic!  6 performance pieces that range in length from 15:59 to 4:34 & display the full talents of both artists.  Though not in the same venue, you can watch a good quality video as these gents perform on YOUTUBE.  Your best bet to feel the full impact of their masterful work together, though, is to purchase this CD.  They have played together since 8th grade, and that clearly comes through in what they offer up for your aural enjoyment... both are totally relaxed... not fighting each other for your attention and contributing their absolute best sonic ideas to put together an often haunting set of music that you won't soon put down or relegate to digital oblivion.  I didn't find any direct-link samples of this CD (maybe I was looking in the wrong places, not sure), but Charles has a site up at REVERBNATION.  Flash samples ARE of this one ARE at CD BABY, though.  I found my favorite piece in "Mono Monk" (the shortest piece on the CD, by the way).  Any way you slice it, if you are a fan of this unique instrument, you will NEED this album in your collection.  I give it a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.94.  Get more information, or purchase the CD, at the label site, HOT CUP Records.   Rotcod Zzaj

Paul Meyers Quartet - PAUL MEYERS QUARTET WITH SPECIAL GUEST ANDY BEY, FEATURING FRANK WESS:  Our last pleasant listen from Paul's wonderful guitar works was in issue # 93... this 'round features another favorite of mine, Frank Wess, on tenor sax and flute.  As you listen to Wess's flute on "Blue Lantern" (a Meyers original), the second track in, you'll realize just how much talent you've picked up with this music.... in fact, it will infect you with the joy it passes on.  The recording quality is top-flight, and this one will soar to the top of your playlists in only a matter of minutes, particularly when you check out tracks like the Gershwin tune "Who Cares?", my absolute favorite on the CD... Frank's reeds are full-bodied & sultry from the opening note to the closing bar on this track, & Paul's nylon strings reach right out & touch your heart!  Andy Bey's vocal on track 5, "Lazy Afternoon", will have you kickin' back with your heels up for many afternoons, no doubt.  Again, my ears recognize this as one of the best CD's we've heard this year... it gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, as well as an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.96.  Get more information at the AMAZON site.    Rotcod Zzaj

Jens Wendelboe's Big Crazy Energy New York Band - INSPIRATIONS:  There's only one expression you'll use when you pop this CD in the player - WOW!  Some monster arrangements here by jazz trombonist Jens that serve as a perfect introduction to what large-band jazz is all about... just listen to Wendelbloe's treatment of the opening track, "Pleasant Pheasant", by Billy Cobham to hear what kind of hot energy these guys generate!  For something with a bit more romantic atmosphere, you'll love "Seasons Wander"; you'll think you're in one of those ol' 1930's speakeasies with the sweet vocal by Deb Lyons.  5 of the 9 tracks are originals by Jens and his cohorts, which enhances that "crazy energy" they advertise in the title... in fact, the piece that captures my ears most invitingly, and garners "favorite track" status, is the down & funky "Boone Dog Cafe"... the horns are just killer on this one & will have you up steppin' from the first note to the last bar.  This one gets a lot of play in my .mp3 player and will stay at the top of my playlists for years to come... I'm sure you'll concur & will agree when I give this my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating, as well as an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.98 (only 2 points away from volcano status).  It's entirely clear that the assemblage of players Wendelboe has put together here "gets" what the main ingredient in great jazz is - FUN!  Get more information at   Rotcod Zzaj

Lady K and the Kings of Swing featuring Dale Head - LIVE AT THE BLACKHAWK:  Get yer' dancin' shoes on people... Lady K & her krew will have you dancin' the night away without doubt on this live gig at The Blackhawk... Kaye's tenor sax and flute will keep you movin' till dawn breaks early!  The personnel list is far too long to put here, but you can check it out at her EPK page.  This is actually the kind of music I grew up with, albeit watching it on TV... you know, old black & white musicals with huge bands that played into oblivion... there are 17 excellent tunes for you to groove to & get acquainted with this marvelous style of music.  I doubt there will be a "revival" of this type of music in the near future, but if you've never heard swing before, Lady K's CD makes a perfect entry point.  High energy and a clear love of playing distinguish this band from "all the others" and this live recording gives you a real feel for where that kind of energy comes from.  I give this January 2010 release a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.93.  Get more information at   Rotcod Zzaj

Pablo Aslan - TANGO GRILL:  You will be imagining Casablanca, spies swirling in high-stepping dance moves and all the things the CD title conjures up... Pablo's bass work on here is high-energy, conveying a real sense of life and the living of it!  Though you might not think of tango as "improvised", it is very much so on this splendid album and will surely be a delight to those among us who want to hear music that's created on the fly.  It takes real talent and vision to do this, especially with a musical form as recognized as is tango; just listen to "Viejo Smocking" to feel the freedom these artist convey... the keyword for playing like this is "joy", no doubt.  For a more melancholy mood, check out "La Ultima Cita"... slower tempo, but chock-full of emotion-laden playing that will grab hold of your ears and refuse to let go.  It was the opener, though, "El Amanecer", which captured my vote for favorite track... it seemed (to me, anyway) to spirit me away to that lively grill somewhere in Argentina that this CD was recorded in and had me up and dancing 'round with my headphones on.  Those who want to hear something in the Latin arena that's "different" will agree with me when I declare this MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.  It gets an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.96.  Get more information on this most inspiring and enjoyable March, 2010 release at    Rotcod Zzaj

Michael Pagan Trio - THREE FOR THE AGES:  Michael's beautiful and satisfying piano works are greatly complimented by bass from Bob Bowman and drums from Ray Demarchi on this most enjoyable January 2010 CD release.  We've listened to and reviewed his work over the years, most recently in issue # 75... this excursion is much more in "traditional jazz trio" mode than some of those earlier CD's, but that doesn't make it any less exciting.  The only negative thing about this album was the fact that I couldn't find any samples on the web anywhere (that doesn't necessarily mean they aren't out there, but I couldn't find them).  The 9 tracks are all somewhat extended, giving the players lots of time to develop their ideas and that they do... I was especially impressed with the vibrant energy on "How Deep Is The Ocean"... each player "speaks his own piece" in this fine group effort.  The title track is a Pagan original that clocks in at 6:34, once again affording plenty of space for the listener to grasp what these three gents are speaking to them about. Bowman's bass "walks the walk" and Demarchi's drums subtly influence the direction your mind takes as you listen to this one.  I am (again) highly impressed with the vibrancy of Michael's playing - this gets a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from me (& would have gotten MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED if there had been easily locatable samples available), with an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.94.  Get more information at     Rotcod Zzaj

Robin O'Brien - EYE AND STORM:  This highly energetic & lyrically talented music comes to us via Don Campau, whose wife Robin is the player here... we've reviewed her work before, most recently in issue # 71 - this CD has 14 spellbinding folk/rock tunes that seemed to have a higher energy quotient than the previous ones we've reviewed.  I've no doubt that a large part of that impression (on my part) is because it's true independent music she's doing... real music from real people... no corporate schlock here.  One of the most ear-catching tunes, both lyrically and guitar-wise, was "Body Run Down"... this one reminds me of a singer we reviewed a couple of issues back, Kari Newhouse.  Robin's voice is strong and full of gusto on each and every track, and will easily wrap you in the spell she's weaving... if you don't believe me, just check out the dual vocals she's doing on "When You're Talking".  Her lyrics speak to folks like me in a way that reminds me of who I really am & her guitar work is totally solid on this great little release.  Those listeners who are into jazz & nothing else may not "grok" this, but anyone who loves what the essence of a singer/player's spirit has to offer will agree when I declare this to be MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.  It gets an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.95.  Get more information at    Rotcod Zzaj

Bill Wren - ONE DAY IN A LIFE:  Some absolutely beautiful compositions from Bill on this very atmospheric CD.. he's woven in strings and background vocals that would make some symphonies jealous, too.  11 excellent tunes that will touch you inside and make you think about where you're at in life right now.  Is it "jazz"?  Well, not exactly, but it's got "soul", without doubt; hard to classify... "world" of a sort, maybe, but with more of a classical feel than most music in the world category.  Wren's short bio sheet in the package emphasized his love of John Lennon and the Beatles' music, but I found myself more inclined towards the feeling that this was more like chamber ensemble material.  One of the tunes that really grabbed my heart was "En Mai"... the cello by Nick Curry was especially engaging... only drawback on this one was that it was only 3:37 (would have been nice if it were just a bit longer).  It was the 5:08 "Old Friend" that got my vote as favorite tune, though... definitely full of energy and life, not to mention the beautiful flute and vocal sounds by Frank Ralls... very, very pretty!  I give this a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for listeners who want beauty in their music; "EQ" (energy quotient) rating is 4.94.  Get more information at    Rotcod Zzaj

Peppe Merolla - STICK WITH ME:  Peppe's drumming on this fine CD is high-energy and totally professional throughout... it's my first listen to his work & I'm impressed after only a few bars!  Though this isn't his first CD, it's his first as a band leader... he's joined by  pianist Mike LeDonne, John Farnsworth on tenor sax, trumpet from Jim Rotondi, bassist Lee Smith and Steve Turre on trombone and conch shells, and they show just how tightly knit they are as a group.  Peppe uses his drums as the canvas for jazz paintings that will stay in your mind for months (maybe even years) to come... particularly impressive were tunes like the 8:28 "Ferris Wheel" and the opener, "Naples" (where you get to hear Steve's conch shells) - the rhythms on this tune just smoke, people!  For the best demonstration of high energy, though, my vote for favaorite is in for Farnsworth's original composition "Mozzin'"... every note on this track is "on time" and full of verve and vigor... as you might imagine, once John's reeds kick in, the tune rockets right into warp speed.  Steve's trombone slides in right after the sax, then keys from Mike... all leading up to an unbelievable drum solo at about 4:33 on this 9:38 killer track.  Google will get you several vids of this group, but the best one I watched was this one on YOUTUBE, where you actually get to see John working the conch shells.  I'll tell you, folks, this group is gonna' reach right out and grab your ears - & they won't let go... the fact that they're using the net for all it's worth to promote their efforts is superb, as it makes it much easier for a listener to "see" what they want to "hear".  "Stick With Me" gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from me, as well as "PICK" of this issue for "best drum-fronted jazz group".  "EQ" (energy quotient) rating is 4.99 (only one point away from the top of my scale).  GET this CD, folks, & remember, you first read about this band here - keep your ears on this group, they'll stay at the TOP of charts for a long time to come!  More information is 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)




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