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Issue # 102 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!

 

 

  

Scott Heustis Group - USHANTE:  A new DDR (digital download review) from Scott & his folks (Scott Heustis (guitar); Breeze Smith (drums, percussion); Robert Leng (alto sax, tenor sax, keyboards); Jeff Schwartz (upright bass) & Paul Spence (bass (on Grey buffet)) reminds me in many ways of improv sessions I used to play on back in the early days of the Olympia music scene, but "Ushante" has a much better recording quality than we had in those years, & Scott's guitar is ultimately engaging, particularly on tunes like the opener, "Enter the Bagman"!  They switch moods a great deal, too, always healthy when it's improvised... I know from those earlier experiences that it's often easy to get "rutted" in a groove you can't escape from... when you listen to tracks like "Grey Buffet", however, you will hear exactly what I'm talking about... great pacing and full-tilt absorption in what they are playing.  My favorite piece on this adventurous album, though, was "Ranch Dressing Deluge", which spills over your ears with tangy and delicious tangents that you won't soon forget.  If you're not used to improvised music(s), let me advise that it would be best to block out the full hour, so you can ensure nothing interrupts the listening session - & be sure you listen to this with headphones - you will want to catch every nuance!  I was extremely pleased to get this one in and look forward to many more from Scott's group of exceptionally talented players (I believe he has another CD in the oven as I write this).  This splendid collection of 11 improvised marvels gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from my ears and an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.96!  Get more information at www.myspace.com/heustis , or purchase the CD at www.redlinepark.com/release/24/    Rotcod Zzaj

Nux Vomica & Voice of Eye - THE FIRE OF THE UNITIVE PATH:  THE THREE RIVERS:  Another great DDR (digital download release) from my (longtime) online friend Alan Herrick... I first "met" Alan, I believe, through Eric Hausmann's "Spilling Audio" label & reviewed some of his music from Alan's own "Auricular Records" label.  The music on this CD is deep and full of the mystery of the cosmos... that's not any "cosmic mystic krap" (as defined by Frank Zappa back in the day) - this is music that will raise your consciousness and help you to live better.  Though this isn't my first listen to Alan's music, it is the first time I've reviewed an entire CD from him... & it was my loss, I'll tell you... this music NEEDS to be heard in today's chaotic environs... if you meditate to this, you will achieve your goal of ascendance!  You can hear samples of all 7 tracks at Alan's NVOE page!  What's most impressive to these ripe old ears is the level of energy being conveyed... this is no amateur effort at meditative music, it required total involvement on the part of the players, and what they wind up communicating is a little slice of the "Generative Force" that the liners talk about (you'll have to visit the NVOE page mentioned above to find out more about that).  The composition that took me farthest out into the ether of eons was "Original Awareness"... you'll find yourself soaring over, under, around (& even) through the gates to other universes as you absorb the power being projected here.  This is one of my favorite albums for 2010... it gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from me, as well as an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Get more information at www.auricular.com   ...and be sure to tell Alan that you read about this fantastic CD here!    Rotcod Zzaj

Eric Hausmann - SLOW AMBIENT DUB:  Yet another DDR (digital download review) from an old playing friend of mine.  Eric is one of the first guitarists I collaborated with back in the old tape days... you can hear snatches of that on various sites (just Google "Hausmann"+"Zzaj"). He's an absolute genius when it comes to the crafting of compositions, and his guitar ranges all the way from silk-smooth to raspy-grunge... if you don't believe that, just check out "Dub Raid" - every sound you could imagine during such an invasive moment is woven into his portrait of it.  As in the old days, voices weave in, 'round & through his compositions, often voices that make you question your sanity, or ask yourself whether sanity is indeed "worth it"... Hausmann's "worlds" are attractive through their subtlety!  It's been a good while since I reviewed his music (issue #16), and both quality and skill shine through on this CD.  I'm especially fond of "A Sad Dub"... though it leads in with "Indian-sounding" chops, the entire 9:42 is filled with rich tones and haunting vocal snatches!  If you've never heard Eric before, this is THE CD to start with... laid-back psychedelic ambience that will aid you on your trip through galaxies never before imagined; but all with the kind of skill and love of playing that will endear your ears to his strings forever!  I give this a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, as well as the "PICK" of this issue for "best ambient guitar".  The "EQ" (energy quotient) is a very high 4.99!  To learn more about this most impressive journey, visit his site at http://spillingaudio.com    Rotcod Zzaj

Barry Cleveland - HOLOGRAMATRON:  I seriously doubt you've heard a CD as powerful as this one of late... the lead-in track, "Lake Of Fire" takes you (literally) to hell & back, all in the space of 4:21 minutes)!  To check the list of players, visit HERE... far too many to itemize here.  His guitar work will both soothe and astound your ears, in particulate on compositions like "Stars Of Sayulta".  I was most impressed with "Suicide Train", my favorite track on the album... you will easily be able to visualize the wreck that's coming  by the end of the tune!  What will hold your ears in suspense for the entire 1:04:44 is the high-end sound and energy Barry & krew generate, sort of pole-vaulting you (willingly or not) into the miasma this 21st Century is bound to become in the near term.  Another favorite track for me was "Dateless Oblivion and Divine Repose" which escorts you on a brief (2:18) tour of the mind of ancient gods... dense and rich with sonic innuendo, to be sure.  Since this was my first listen to Cleveland's compositional and playing style, I found myself trying (as all of us do) to other players - what you'll find as you listen to all 13 tracks (3 of them are bonus remixes) is that he is totally unique and doesn't "conform" (in any way shape or form) to what your aural vision is for "what a guitarist should sound like".  I'm most impressed and certainly looking forward to many more musical journeys from Barry to come wending my way... "Hologramatron" gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from me, with an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.97.  Get more information at www.barrycleveland.com    Rotcod Zzaj

Booyaka - LET THE MOTHERSHIP LAND IN YOUR PANTS:  These folk from Midlands, UK, came to us from a solicitation I made on REVERBNATION... there are no mirrors associated with the excellent funk'n'rock they perform, & the band is tight as a drum-head, no doubt!  Members listed are Jim Streets: Guitar * Matt The Ox Wright: Vocals and Trumpet * Drums: Tom Vallings * Bass: Paul (Mr P) Wright, & the kind of music they're playing hearkens back to the late '70's & early '80's, albeit with a solid dose of 21st century as a component.  It's the "EQ" (my measurement for ENERGY, or "energy quotient) that first caught my ears in their sonic web... they get a 5.00 - the highest on the scale!  Their self-described aura is "rockingly, filthy dirty", & I can guarantee you won't find any band more on the "jaded" side o' 'da phunk than this one!  What it's like is kinda' "Parliament revived"... & I'm not talkin' 'bout that stolid body on Downing... these guys just RAWK - hail, they MUST, they got a top EQ rating from my ears!  My favorite track on the CD was "Funk A Little More", in many ways because of the strong horns on the tune... each & every tune on this fantastic CD will get you outta' your phonk-ee state, though, & get you up & MOVIN' about!  This is truly one of the best discoveries I've made yet this year - absolutely killer talent with spirit you won't find anywhere else - they get a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from these funk-i-fied ol' aural appendages, as well as the "PICK" of this issue for "best funk band"!  Get more information at www.reverbnation.com/booyaka#   & be sure you tell them that Zzaj sent you their way! 

Mean Streak Blues - BLUES BARS & BEER JOINTS:  This kat named Nitro (at REVERBNATION) passed these tracks on to me in DDR (digital download review) format (actually, this is just one of 3 CD's he passed on to me)... I was first attracted during a "fan scan" there, due to the excellent blues guitars I heard from them, but as I listened through the rest of the tracks, it was apparent that this group is far more than "just another jug band" - with a real passion for the playing!  Player list is pretty long, but I'm running it here so you'll have a good idea - Nitro (guitar, drums, vocals, bass), Ruth Johnson( vocals), Tommy Gardner (bass), Billie Adams/Misty Van Arsdale (BU Vocals), Kavin Allenson (Guitar), Rick Welch (guitar), Bull Durham (keys), Alex Sault (guitar) and Charlie Goodsoul (harmonica).  Durham's keyboard on "Wyneeta (Voodoo Queen" just smokes, & if you didn't know what "the blues" was before the track started rollin', you'll be SWAMPED in them by the end of it's 4:02 length.  The angst from the guitar on "More Specific" just blew my mind, & you'll find yourself entranced by the gravelly-voiced vocal, I've no doubt... once again, the organ just KRANKZ on this one!  If you're lookin' for "road music" to tool on down with yer' Harley, look no further than this red-hot Houston band!  I give them a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.95.  Get more information at www.myspace.com/nitroblues1954    Rotcod Zzaj

Bickel Marks Group - FINDING YOUR WAY:  This is the genuine article, folks!  The recording features the following players:  Dave Liebman on soprano/tenor sax, Matt Vashlishan on alto sax, Doug Bickel's piano, Dennis Marks on acoustic bass and Marco Marcinko doing drums...  8 tracks that hearken back to my earliest listening days in jazz... all originals that spark memories of the kind of music that got me so excited about this kind of music in the first place!  It's not that the tunes are earth-shattering in their intensity, or hyped-jam stuff that can/will never be replicated... rather, this is the kind of composition that aurally demonstrates the beauty and freedom inherent in jazz - and whose soothing (yet energetic) spirit will last the listener for years (if not decades).  As you can tell, I'm highly impressed, & surely hope we will be hearing more recordings from these gents.  This CD release is in May 2010, so you should (still) be able to get your copy by the time you read this.  Those who aspire to play keyboards will immediately fall in love with Doug's splendid piano, & Dennis' bass is strong yet somehow subtle in approach.  Though the duo has been playing for many years (around 20, I think), this is their debut... what a pleasant way to start... among the best jazz albums I've listened to this year (& the year's almost half-over, so that's saying something, without question).  The opener, "Sparrows and Sidewinders" (you may have to click "Launch Standalone Player") exemplifies what I'm writing about here... the instruments are perfectly balanced, and the quintet is totally tight - the feeling on this tune is pure joy!  The piano intro on "The Jazz Behemoth" made it my favorite tune on the album & when the horns kick in, you'll be (as was I) in pure jazz oblivion!  This is among the best jazz CD's I've heard in the last 5 years & gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from me, without doubt.  "EQ" (energy quotient) rating is 4.97.  Get more information at the Zoho label site.    Rotcod Zzaj

John Fedchock NY Sextet - LIVE AT THE RED SEA JAZZ FESTIVAL:  John's energetic & vibrant trombone work with his sextet will amaze your ears, & this live recording from the festival in the title will make you feel like the whole group is right in front of your couch performing their musical magic for you alone.  Great recording that avoids some of the clichés we sometimes associate with live recordings... there is nothing glitzy or mystical about talent like this - it just shines right through, especially on tunes like the opener, "This Just In"... when you experience the levels of intensity they are playing with on this YOUTUBE sample, then listen to it on the CD, you'll know you're in the presence of jazz royalty, no doubt!  What I love most about Fedchock's style here is how svelte his tone is - killer jazz!  Though this is my first listen to his CD's, I expect to hear much more from John in the coming years... there are only 6 tracks, so you might wonder if you're getting your buckzworth, but the pieces range all the way from 5 minutes to 13, clocking in just over an hour's worth of quality time for you to enjoy over many moons.  The best way to listen is with your headphones, so you lose none of the experience... he also knows how to choose players that truly compliment and enhance his arrangements... including trumpeter Scott Wendholt, tgeno sax by Walt Weiskopf, pianist Allen Farnham, bassist David Finck (whose own "Future Day" we reviewed in issue # 79) & drummer Dave Ratajczak!  A dynamite jazz jam all the way around that gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from me, with an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.96.  Get more information at www.johnfedchock.com    Rotcod Zzaj

Whitney James - THE NATURE OF LOVE:  There's only one word that comes to mind when I listen to Whitney's opening vocal - "Tenderly" (which also happens to be the name of the track, but it's because of her ability to graft her spirit onto yours in that fashion, not just because of the title).  The style is laid back on this number, with a great assist from the muted trumpet of guest trumpet Ingrid Jensen, which makes you feel as mellow as a lazy Sunday morning does.  It was also easy to fall in love with "Whisper Not", especially once the brass kicks in right after Whitney's intro to the tune.  For jazz lovers like me, though, the prime track will be "How Deep Is The Ocean"... all the players are right ON it, supporting all the vocal magic Ms. James channels to our ears, & the tune absolutely SHINES with the love that's the CD's claim to fame.  I'm more than just impressed, I believe we've been given a glimpse at a winner in the jazz world.  "The Nature Of Love" is one of the best female-vocal fronted groups I've heard this year, & gets my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating.  The "EQ" rating is 4.96.  Get more information at www.whitneyjames.com  Rotcod Zzaj

Harlan Mark Vale - HOUSE OF MANY MANSIONS:  Readers who have been with me for these whole 20 (or so) years will realize that Harlan Mark Vale has been with me much longer than that... what a pleasure this CD is to listen to... not just because I know his music with more familiarity than many, but because I can hear his spirit flowering... blooming... and evolving!  I reviewed his most recent piano CD ("Bright Angel") in issue # 83... this one is (somewhat) an extension of that series, yet it is at another layer of the stratosphere, taking both player and listener to new and exciting realms of sonic and inner discovery!  Our early days of playing together (from the early '80's through the early 2000's) were often filled with high-energy, almost frenetic energies, and while the energy levels are still high, Mark's keyboards are full of a peace many of us can only wish for... unbelievably, it is the opening track, "Doors Of Surrender", that seemed to capture that calm most poignantly... it's my favorite on the album.  Another polished gem is "Crystal Moments"... again, the unrushed approach has much to do with my totally favorable impression of the music on this adventure.  If you can't do without creativity in your music, you'll agree with me when I declare this MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED... the "EQ" (energy quotient) rating (even though it's not at "power rock" album) is 4.98.  Get more information at http://harlanmarkvale.com/ManyMansions.aspx     Rotcod Zzaj

Jake Hertzog - PATTERNS:  I reviewed a fantastic CD from Jake in issue # 93... this one is even better (& that's hard to believe, because the first one was miles above all the other jazz guitarists)... the opener, "Mcjazz", is killer!  Pumping & full of life-giving energy, it will propel you through the outer edges of the galaxy at near light-speed... Jake's guitar leads the exploration, of course!  You'll fall in love with "Joining Hands" from the opening bar... mighty mellow strings here, with solid bass lines and a pattern that will stick in your ears (& your head) for years to come.  It was track #5, though, "Not Blues", that gets my pick as favorite... particularly poignant snatches of what it's "not" slide in & around your ears, but the jazz influence is heavy & totally original!  His pace here & throughout the album, is totally gentle, yet filled with groove!  I'm once again highly impressed - and knowing I have an album my ears will listen to over & over & over again, as will yours (unless you're totally a traditionalist, with no sense of adventure in your ears).  I give this one a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, as well as my "PICK" of the issue for "best guitar jazz".  "EQ" (energy quotient) rating is a smashing 4.98.  Get more information at www.jakehertzog.com   Rotcod Zzaj

Dave LeMieux & House of Soul - JAZZ SHAPED - LIVE AT THE SOILED DOVE:  The genre tag puts Dave's group up as playing "neo-soul", but his excellent tenor sax work & the grand & soulful crew he has with him (far too extensive to list here) seems more like "roots soul" to my ears.  No matter what label you attach, though, jazz aficionados will quickly recognize that they are using Coltrane's "A Love Supreme" as their starting point.  As you might imagine, the name of the band is a tell... they are at the core a Christian group, but then, where did most "roots jazz" come from, anyway?  Don't let any jaundice you may have about groups associated with gospel get in the way of enjoying Dave's music... these folks have the spirit moving through their music on this great CD!   Their rendition of "Acknowledgement" is among the best I've ever heard (or, in this case, watched - it's on YOUTUBE).  I was also especially impressed by the beautiful vocal on "Strange Fruit"... these folks will capture your ears & not let go, but they do it in such a mellow & human way that you'll not even realize they've got you hooked.  My favorite piece, though, was "The Creator Has A Master Plan", where you get to hear the power they project!  In the overall, this is one of the most moving CD's I've heard in some years, but without a hint of the condescension that often comes across in such albums.  I give this great music a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, as well as an "EQ" (energy quotient) of 4.97.  Get more information at www.davelemieuxandhouseofsoul.com    Rotcod Zzaj

Marie Sinclair - 1992 & FIELDS OF GOLD (2010):  Equally enchanting blues from Marie & crewk on this DDR (digital download review)... the 1992 songs feature Marie's stunning blues vocals, bass from Alan Sinclair, drums by Billy Kettle, sax by Bill Patrick, Lawrence Thompson on guitars and Barry Archibald - & the whole band is a SOLID blues unit, takin' me down some superb blues mem'ry lanes, 'specially cuts like "Easy Money"; Marie's voice cuts deep into your soul, and from a blues perspective, my total favorite tune was "I Thank You" - gut blooz that just won't quit!  The band is definitely together, & will have you goin' out to BUY moto-cycle boots if ya' don't already have 'em.  "Fields of Gold", from 2010, quite successfully demonstrates that true talent never stops... that same punch is there, only amplified by more modern gear! In the overall, this is one of the best blues bands I've heard (yet) this year, & I'll be looking forward to whatever they record in the future!  I give them a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.96.  Get more information at www.reverbnation.com/mariesinclair    Rotcod Zzaj

Beppe Crovella - WHAT'S RATTLIN' ON THE MOON:  No matter how much of an "expert" one thinks they are (in music, or probably any other area), there are always surprises that will rare up & knock th' wind out of their overinflated sails!  Beppe's fantastic CD is a great example of that... I'm sure I've heard him before, but never in "official" review mode.  This album is total adventure from the opening note all the way down to the closing one (nearly) an hour & 20 minutes later... just KILLER keyboards (Mellotron, Wurlitzer E200 electric piano, Fender Rhodes Stage 73 electric piano, Hammond Organ M102, Hohner electric piano, Hohner Clavinet D6, Rosler Grand piano and Farfisa Professional).by Crovella, in a quite twisted rendering of progressive rock tinted very nicely by jazzy sounds that will (either) transport you to another galaxy or give you creative nightmares that you will never escape from.  These are more or less Beppe's interpretations of tunes by Mike Ratledge of Soft Machine... those pieces can also be classified in the "space-rock-jazz" territory that is unfamiliar to many (of us) jazz listeners.  Any way you listen to it (though headphones are, in my mind, a REQUIREMENT), this CD is a KEEPER, especially if you are the kind of listener who wants something new and different in your experience.  I give this my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED and the "PICK" of this issue for "most exciting music"!  "EQ" (energy quotient) rating is 4.97.  Get more information at www.beppecrovella.com    Rotcod Zzaj

Wen Mew & Friends - SUNDAY MORNING SANTA MONICA:  I've never actually been to Santa Monica, but if it's as sweet as Wen paints it with his reeds & wind (SAXELLO, Soprano & Alto saxes & C & alto flutes), it's clearly my loss!  When I "really retire", I'll have to visit, but in the meantime, this simple yet beautiful CD will suffice.  The title track is enhanced (for me, anyway) by the grand electric keyboard, but it's clearly Wen's reeds that give you the insight you need.  The best way (I've found) is to watch the artist in action, which you can do on a very nicely recorded YOUTUBE vid... actually, this video gave me inspiration for really "feeling" the beauty in Wen's playing... it's all about the life we live & actually LIVING it - & whether you're watching this vid/slide show, or just listening to the CD (with your headphones on), you will also be inspired to get up from the stupid computer & get OUT where the folks are at!  What you will hear is absolutely high talent and love of playing!  Genuinely unifying music that embraces the best in our natures, then amplifies it to levels that will let you put "living" into practice.  I'm strongly impressed, and will be looking forward to much more "mewsic" (as Wen calls it) in the future.  I give this one a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, and an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.95.  Get more information at www.myspace.com/wenmew1    Rotcod Zzaj   

rob bakker - NEON BLUES (& OTHERS):  This DDR (digital download review) is from Rob's site on REVERBNATION... & I'll tell you right now, it made it to the top of the review stak simply because it's just the kind of high-energy original work that this 'zine has been lookin' for all the way through our 20 year history!  If you want laid-back, just listen to "the neon blues", one of the coolest little pieces I've heard in a while.  If sweet roiling synth with heavy groove is what you're after, you'll definitely dig on "for lee carlos" - & that guitar on this one is to die for!  Bakker is an all-around kind of guy & (I'll bet) can play in any style you want to hear, with just as much verve & energy as the high-rollers on the scene today.  My favorite track, though, turned out to be "jazzmans blueloop" - I suspect that has to do with the great keyboards, as well as the guitar groove goin' on here.  His page makes note of the fact that he plays "in all genres"... many lay claim to such, but Rob's skills & energy for the playing of his music is totally evident on this set of tunes... he gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from me, as well as an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.96. I really DIG this music! Get more information at www.reverbnation.com/robbakker    Rotcod Zzaj

The Britton Brothers Band - UNCERTAIN LIVING:  This brother duo (John on trumpet, Ben on tenor sax) are joined by Chris Potter (tenor sax), Jeremy Siskind on piano, Taylor Waugh on bass and Austin Walker on drums in a great jazz session that is anything but "uncertain".  Very positive vibes on their all original comps, & full of the kind of creative energy that makes jazz my favorite music, no doubt!  When you scope the opener, "Extra Fuzz", all your extremities will be tappin' in unison to the oddly syncopated rhythms they establish... the horn intros on "Molo" will make you feel like you're in one of those dark/smoke-filled cellars I used to escape to in the early '70's, where groove is the only language spoken.  If this is the way into the 22nd century of jazz, I'll gladly follow, & I've no doubt many 'round the globe will be going their way as well!  For it's absolutely vibrant reed work, though, it was their 8:40 "Ducks In A Row" that captured my vote for favorite on this 8 track gala excursion into jazzland.  I give this debut a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.96.  I expect we will be hearing a lot more from these young players.  Get more information at www.thebrittonbrothers.com   Rotcod Zzaj

Steve Swell's Slammin' The Infinite - 5000 POEMS:  I haven't received free jazz like this for many months... Steve's assemblage here will warm the cockles of any jazz rebels' heart (or at least their ears), to be sure.  His trombone leads seven excellent excursions into the "edges" of what jazz is, or has the potential to become... Sabir Mateen's reeds, piano from John Blum bass by Matthew Heyner and drums from Klaus Kugel all follow his lead to total oblivion!  The opening track, "Not Their Kind"  honors the free tradition of just "slamming" your ears, grabbing them & not letting go... I loved it!  Heyner's sawing bass on the intro to "My Myth of Perfection", and the extension to over 14 minutes will hold you spellbound for the entire track.  For raw jazz energy and high-end creativity from each & every one of the players, though, it was the fantastic "Where Are The Heartfelt" that captured my vote for favorite track!  This is the group's 4th release, & though I hadn't heard them before, I've no doubt I will be hearing much more from them in the future.  This kind of music takes me back many years, but the composition and style are definitely up-to-date and not (at all) dated... I give the CD a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.96.  Get more information at www.steveswell.com    Rotcod Zzaj

Russ Stedman - ALERT BUT WITHOUT ACUTE DISTRESS:  Every once in a while I have to take my "jazz ears" off & delve feet first into the kinda' RAWK my ears can CHEW & GNAW down upon... listeners who haven't heard Russ's extreme-talent guitar works before will be pleasantly surprised if they are as in to ENERGY as I am, & in terms of how far "out" he can go - this is STELLAR, I'll tell ya'!  No matter what you thought you were gonna' hear, the next tune will take you in a totally different direction... twists & turns everywhere, by a guitar MONSTAH' that just can't quit makin' your mind move.  There are always comparisons to FZ, but Russ can take an idea and forge it into something totally different that you might think it should be - a true master of zany, but solid, tune composition.  I have a bit of personal experience with his playing, from our work together on "Midget Hill Mastery Tour", but "Acute" escalates his power platform to the edges of our galaxy & beyond.  The opening track "Prowler", was killer, but it was actually "Beer & Setups" that caught my ear as favorite track, mostly 'coz of the smokin' guitar solos!  Stedman has been "on the scene" for (literally) decades now, but he never rests on his laurels, just keeps on krankin' out some of the best guitar music on the globe.  I give this a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, as well as the "PICK" of this issue for "best energy on a CD".  "EQ" (energy quotient) rating is a phenomenal 4.99.  Get more information at www.russstedman.com/  (& tell 'im Zzaj sent you)!   Rotcod Zzaj

Russell Carl Kline - DEMO:  I hooked up with Russell via his REVERBNATION site (using digital downloads) - and am exceedingly glad I did... just listen to the gentle waves of pleasure coming through his guitar strings on "The Magic Hour"... it's clear that he loves playing for you and that he's honed his talent to precision level.  You can't label his style of composition as "jazz"... in fact, you can't label it in any one specific genre.  He does allude to "instrumental, healing", and I think that's a more apt description of the full-bodied approach to playing he uses.  He's definitely able to get you wrapped up in the spirit of what he's doing and hold on to your ears.  If you're looking for wangle-jangle "set yer' nerves on fire" road-rock, you won't find it here, but if you truly enjoy well-crafted music that will last your ears for years, you'll agree when I declare this as HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.  Be sure to visit his page and click BECOME A FAN.  The "EQ" (energy quotient) rating I give it is a healthy 4.95.  Get more information at www.reverbnation.com/page_object/page_object_bio/artist_410750     Rotcod Zzaj 

Higgs Band - PEACHY SKIES:  If your ears don't fall in love with the opener on this one, "Peach Sky", I'd say you're either a rock, or what crawls out from under one... this music (& in particulate the bass line that leads into it) is full of live & vigor; my only complaint on this tune is that it was only a bit over 3 minutes long.  't'would've been nice to have it clock in a minute or so longer.  "gipsy jam" is nice & laid-back, definitely in the "alternative" zone Pete HIggs proclaims it to be.  The piece that captured my heart, soul & ears right away, though, was "the city"... a really strong balance between haunting synth line, guitar and rhythm that pushes you into the zone - especially once the vocal kicks in!  This music will appeal to lots of new listeners, 'specially those not given to extremes... high talent and a clear love of playing shine through.  I give this band's music a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, and an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.96.  A fine example of the great music you can find on the web these days.  Get more information at www.reverbnation.com/higgsband     Rotcod Zzaj

Jeff Seehafer - JEFF SEEHAFER:  As you might expect, it was the opening track that really grabbed my ears & shook them 'round... "Curve of Descent" was only just under 3 minutes long, but it's the kind of composition & high-energy vocal performance that lets ya' know these players are HERE!  Though it's a fairly small band (Jeff Seehaver on vocals, guitars, synth and bass; Nichole Seehafer on backing vocals for "Under The Radar" & David Burtzos on drums & percussion), they know how to project power that rapidly envelops your head & sucks you into their vortex.  Is it jazz?  Most decidedly not... they label themselves as "Rock/Classic Rock/Blues", & the classic part sticks.  The great blues influence on "(Leigh-Cheri) Blues" made it my clear favorite on the album... in great part because of Jeff's superb guitar work, but the drums are right out there where you can hear them, too... man, the LEAD stretch at 2:29 is KILLER (wish it was just a tad longer, though).  In the overall, this is one of the best DDR's (digital download reviews) I've gotten this month.  Strong talent & clear passion for the playing.  Jeff's music on this 'round gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from my ears, with an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.97.  I expect you'll be hearing more from these great players in future issues.  Get more information at www.reverbnation.com/jeffseehafer  & be sure to tell him I sent you his way.   Rotcod Zzaj

mspiano - MSPIANO:  My ears are in love... this "mspiano" has (almost) inspired me to drag out my Kurzweill PC 88 and lay down some improvised music (oh, wait, my Kurzweill is still on the ocean - be here soon).  Only half kidding, though, because the kind of experimental music she plays here is just exactly what inspires creative people to create... just listen to "Duo mspiano & Bert Stephan 2010" - Bert's brass is a perfect complement to a gentle yet mysterious tune that sets the stage for far more to come (since she's from Deutschland, I'd love to hear her improvise with one of my favorite improvisers, Jeffrey Morgan, since he's based in Koln)!  The wind/synth intro on "extremental" is absolutely fantastic, and her wandering keyboard behind, under & through it made it my favorite piece on the album.  I am surely hoping she will produce more in the way of CD's, because this is exactly the kind of music (improvisational wonderment) that inspired me to start writing this magazine so many years ago.  If you're looking for a tune that's a little more "piano-centric", you'll find "Absacker" very memorable, too.  This music is the best improvised piano I've heard (yet) this year... totally engaging and full of the muse... I give it a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, as well as making it the "PICK" of this issue for "best improvised piano work".  Get more information at www.reverbnation.com/mspiano    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!!!)

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