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Issue # 103 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!




Ben Dowling - WORLD RISING:  As you've heard me say (many times) before, there are some musical collections that just merit  going to the head of the stack, & Ben's superb piano and keyboard work (along with all the other players - check the PERSONNEL LIST, as it's far too long to itemize here) on this high-energy CD is clearly one of those!  Truth be told, I haven't heard this much energy and life in an album since the glory days of some of his heroes - Zawinul, Hancock, even Miles Davis... there's a clear and identifiable jazz feeling about the 10 tracks Ben offers up here, & though there are elements of "World", Dowling's music integrates the future in each tune without sacrificing that soulful feeling.  I fell in love immediately with tracks like "The Calling", my favorite on the CD... the percussion just simmers with life & will have you up on your feet & dancin' 'round th' room only 2 or 3 bars after the intro... superb keyboards from Ben keep it driving all the way through, & the brass sounds COOK, to be sure!   I'm sure you've heard lots of groups who proclaim themselves to be "fusion" oriented, but after listening to the 10 tracks on this CD (about 10 times already), it's clear that they are just pretenders to the throne.  There's one way I can especially relate to Ben's background, too, having been 'round the globe ever since I was 17, but he puts it into words most eloquently - "so I'm this Southern white boy who knows how to shovel snow, design synthesizers and play funk.  Go figure..." it's just that kind of musician who (if they've learned their "people lessons" well) can absorb their environment & put it back out for listeners to groove to - & groove these folks DO!  I give this album my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating, as well as the "PICK" of this issue for "most forward looking jazz".  The "EQ" (energy quotient) rating is a staggering 4.99!  Get more information at  (& be sure to tell Ben that I sent you - I can guarantee you will be hearing great music from Mr. Dowling for years to come)   Rotcod Zzaj

Joe Nickerson (aka Rapster) - RAPSTER GUITARS IT 2:  I reviewed the first of these CD's from Joe (way back in issue # 88)... I've been listening to him ever since the original MIXPOSURE site, and he caught up with me on FB, I think... anyway, the adventure continues (with his bandmate Margo).  Joe and Margo are indeed prolific, with an even dozen tracks available on this CD (there were 15 on the first one)... & it's not just the "count", it's the groove they lay on your ears that will make you keep comin' back, no doubt!  Just listen to "Nothing Is Easy" to see how much laid-back (yet energetic) Joe's jazz is... great beats & even better guitar lead lines that will transport you way up in the stratosphere!  You might think from his performance nickname (Rapster) that this would just be thumpa thumpa drum machine boring stuff, but everything melds together into a nicely composed jazz set that clearly says "original" & "independent".  I'm as impressed with this second volume of Joe's guitars as I was with the first, & give this one a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED - particularly for those who love high-talent guitar as a part of their jazz adventure.  Get more information at his MYSPACE page. (One last note... you'll also find a very solid INTERVIEW with Rapster in this issue!)   Rotcod Zzaj

Melina Kastle - MELINA KASTLE:  I received this CD one afternoon when Melina was playing at the hotel we stayed in just before flying over here to Korea... handed her a card for the site & she opened the trunk & passed this wonderful collection of 15 highly energetic tracks (one bonus track).  The keyword for her great vocal and keyboard work is "comfortable"... that's just how she makes you feel as she cruises through the (mostly) original pieces on this album.  Lots of players can play, but just "try" to sing, or vice-versa, but Ms. Kastle conveys the same spirit-filled exuberance for life through her lyrics that folks like Joni Mitchell or Ricki Lee Jones do.  There's nothing "tired" or "cliché" about her playing or her vocals, either; this is just the kind of music I grew up with in the '60's & '70's, but with all the cool tools that the after-2000 era has to offer.  Just listen to "I Want You To Stay" to get a feel for how down-home her jazz is!  My favorite track, though, was "Lovely Afternoon"... beautiful flute, a nicely lilting "slinky" feel & some vocal harmonics that will have you back time after time to listen again (that guitar lead is SUPERB, too).  I'm highly impressed & hope to get any future releases Melina puts out... I give this one a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for jazz listeners who love the kind of vocal groove and high-spirit Ms. Kastle is so great at.  Get more information at    Rotcod Zzaj

Anubis Spire - CHILDREN OF A FOREIGN FAITH:  When the screaming commences on the intro to the opening track "Lies", the jazzers in our readership may cringe a bit, wondering if I've led you into the edge of the gates of "L"... & while it's true that this isn't "pure jazz", remember that the criteria here for getting a review in the first place is the ENERGY level of the players & the all-original music they compose & play.  As you listen to the players (Bill MacKechnie on lead guitar & vocals, David James Sweet on keyboards, Tim Costley on bass and Mick Loher doing drums & percussion), you'll see that the meet (& totally exceed) that criteria!  Their rockin' is more along the lines of progressive, which certainly has the kind of exploratory elements that any good improvisor will demand in their listening... but it's far more than that, folks.  Just listen to (my favorite track) "I Have Been Waiting" and you'll "get it" right away... this band is a purveyor of some of the RAWEST energy you'll ever hear; I can guarantee you that (unless you're truly a "stick in the mud") you'll be crawlin' all over the net to find their tunes.  They are also masters at blending forms into epics you won't soon forget... if you don't believe me, just scope out the 8:17 "Not Even A Day"... cosmic soaring spirits that only the zombies among us could, or would, dismiss.  Though this is my first serious listen to their works, I can guarantee you that we will be seeking out evermore from this fantastic band - they get a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from me, especially for those adventurous listeners in our readership,  The "EQ" (energy quotient) rating for their work is 4.97.  Get more information at    Rotcod Zzaj

Abel Ashes - EAT PLASTIC AND OTHER ELEMENTS:  If it's been a bit since you listened to players like Mothers of Invention or Beefheart, & you want to hear what they would sound like in the 21st Century, this 24 tune opus will be Nirvana for you, no doubt!  A fine example of just how "out" this cat gets, check out "AMTRACK out of Orange County"... you have never heard a "train song" like this one, but it WILL keep your ears on paranoia alert!  For some superb guitar antics, you'll HAVE to listen to "Plunder the Garden" - this is exactly the kind of free-form playing we were looking for back in the early days of the "Olympia Experimental Music Festival"... raw and very real.  Nothing can top the madcap rants you'll hear on my favorite composition on this outing, though, "Stop and Go Traffic [Stop the 9/11 Cover-Up Mix]"; it's like Alvin The Chipmunk on heavy steroids.  Wack, but in a totally talented zone.  Is it jazz?  No, not quite, but it surely is entertaining.  For the listeners in our audience who love experimental and twisted tones, this gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED - "EQ" (energy quotient) rating is 4.95.  Get more information at    Rotcod Zzaj

alvari lume - ALVARI LUME:  It is quite a treat for these old ears to behold some of the sonic wonders (totally) available for your aural pleasure these days - just listen to one of my favorite pieces from Alvari, "liquid violet"... beautiful languid guitar over a "wash" background that will put you in the outer zone in a matter of only a few notes.  Yet on "about midnight", I'm reminded of some of the antics my friend Ernesto Diaz-Infante pulled off with me back in the late '90's, especially the acoustic guitar stretches.  If you love well-played and highly talented guitar with strong improvised roots, you'll have to have this gent's music, especially those like (my favorite out of these 35 or so songs) "sign of C"... some excellent tonal contrasts.  This isn't music for the uninitiated, though... if your ears are only looking for 4-4 timing, with no adventure, this probably won't be your cup of tea... my ears are so attuned to what Alvari is doing that I feel like sitting right down at my keyboard (whoops, it hasn't arrived in Korea yet) to improvise my own opus.  I give him a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.96.  Get more information by visiting him (& his music, many of them downloadable) at    Rotcod Zzaj

Joe Gande - BUT FIRST.... THIS SONG:  Every once in a while I run across a rocker that I just can't take my ears off of... Joe's finely crafted high-energy CD tunes, vocal and guitar skills far exceed the "average band" these days - in fact, cuts like "Can't See My Life" take me back to my earliest experiences with bands that made the heart soar.  It's really nice to hear such strong talent in today's (often) diluted energy field... none of that on Gande's efforts, to be sure!  There is a superb taste of the unique on tunes like "Lost Her Head", though I would have preferred it be a bit longer than 3:44 (especially that funky/dow-un bass line that's drivin' it).  The tune that gets my vote as favorite on this set of songs, though, is the 6:08 "Godsend"... artist names runnin' through my head like Joe Cocker (for the vocals) & Robin Trower as I listen to the swirlingly cosmic guitar lines at about 3:00; absolute KILLER rock with the kind of punch that will drive you straight into the edges of the oblivion you've been seeking all these many years!  This is more than just being "impressed" - I'm inspired by Joe's excellent music, & give him my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, especially for listeners whose roots reach out of the "normal jazz mode" into the kind of stellar energies that drive the universe.  He gets an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.98, too.  Get more information & listen to the streams at     Rotcod Zzaj

Five Play Jazz Quintet - FIVE PLAY JAZZ QUINTET:  Excellent all-around jazz from this Bay Area band... 10 all-original compositions played with just the kind of vibrancy that will attract the ears of jazz veterans as well as newbies.  Crisp recording and high-energy talent from Tony Corman's guitar, Laura Klein's piano (I first reviewed her wonderful keyboards in issue # 100), Paul Smith's bass, Alan Hall's drums & Dave Tidball's sax/clarinet on tunes like the opener, "Off the Ground" will make this CD a must-have for your collection!  If you haven't heard them before, you'll be mightily impressed (as was I), and will make sure you follow their release schedule to get everything they play.  Having my own playing roots in boogie, it only took 2 or 3 bars for me to fall (like, totally, man) in love (it's my absolute favorite on the album) with "He'e's Boogie", a Klein composition that simply COOKS!  When Tidball's reeds chime in (at about 1:45), you'll know what that ol' boogie spirit is all about... certainly more sophisticated & suave than some of my own boogies - ha! ha!  The alleycat bass lead-in & undercurrent on the 6:54 "Fever Dream" will transport you to the other side of dreamland for a long time to come.  This is one of the best quintets I've listened to this year, and they get an unequivocal MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.97.  They also get the "PICK" of this issue for "best new jazz sound"!  Get more information at      Rotcod Zzaj

Andy Benz - FLOWING IN CIRCLES:  It is truly amazing to find so many high-talent artists lurking in places like REVERBNATION... I've been listening to improvised music of various flavors and shades ever since about 1975, and Andy's electric bass (with live looping) stands at the top of the heap over all these many years!  This was a DDR (digital download review), an excellent way for artists to get reviewed... they just open up their tunes, or provide a key for the digital files, and no extra costs are involved.  If you think listening quality suffers, just check out one of my favorite tracks, "Wamps Dance" - full of mystery and deep tones, it may make you think you are moving into the "dark underside", but I can tell you that after repeated listens to this 6:26 track, the main quality that Andy conveys is a deep touch of humanity, albeit shared through his hands.  Excellent work... I also thoroughly enjoyed "Like A Machine", which sounded a lot like industrial on acid to my ears.  For something more in a jazz vein, you'll enjoy "Step on it" as much as I did... in fact, it was my favorite track of the 9 I was provided.  I'm looking forward to hearing much more from this Copenhagen, Denmark talent; he gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from me, with an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.95.  Get more information at    Rotcod Zzaj

The Reclamators- SING IT, WHITE BOY:  I can't tell you why, but I just never had an image of "true blues" boilin' up in th' mega-burbs of New Jersey, but I musta' missed somethin', 'coz Jerome & his "many great friends" got a real "handle" on how to rock it while diggin' down into the depths of where this ol' thing called blues comes from!  Just check out their rendition of "Redhouse", & you'll think you're hearin' someone with the kind of vocal style that can only rise right on up out of that sweet ol' Mississippi mud, mixed in with a bit of gravel.  Jerome's guitar smokes all the way through all eleven tracks, but my favorite out of them all was "Hothouse Blues"... man, this cat can crank out the kind of music that will GIVE you those blues (if you didn't already have 'em... ha! ha!).  My next favorite was "Man In The Box" - a real "walkin' blues" type tune that puts you right in th' groove.  If you love stellar energy and raw blues talent, you'll have to have this great album... it's a keeper, for sure!  I give it a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.96.  Get more information at    Rotcod Zzaj

Audio Cultures - BREAKING THE SOUND BARRIER:  This CD features some fine bass work by Albert Hobson and superb guitar sounds by Clyde Childress from the Bay area... they're joined by trumpet/trombone from Joel Behrman, drums by Dre Johnson and keyboards from William Beatty.  There will be some reviewers who want to pigeonhole this under "smooth jazz", but I can tell you after 3 or 4 listens through all 10 files that it's far more than that... more like 21st Century calm wrapped up in high soul sweet.  Both these gents are from my home turf, up 'round Seattle, & I can hear the sounds of Puget having influenced them into something much more mellow than "just smooth".  I was especially impressed with the track titled "Heavy Traffic", one of their originals... it's got that "true FONK", great rhythm undercurrents & some killer guitar licks from Albert.  My only "complaint" on this one is that I'd rather it last longer than 3:13.  The strings on "Method" are superbly woven into & through guitar & bass lines that sound a lot like Wes (Montgomery, that is).  I definitely expect I'll be hearing much more from these folks; they get a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from me for jazz listeners who dig on groove & soulful sounds.  Their "EQ" (energy quotient) rating is 4.94.  Get more information at   Rotcod Zzaj

Gerry Pearson - GERRY PEARSON:  Seems like we've been livin' in BLUESville over the last couple of months (on REVERBNATION).  Gerry is a killer harp player from up Canada way, & he's joined by a whole host of excellent blues masters on the 42 tunes he gave us for download (he actually has about 200 on REVERBNATION)!  It doesn't matter if you're looking for high-end show blues or down/dirty "in the street" rockin' blues, Mr. Pearson & his smokin' cohorts have it all on tap for you.  Just listen to one of my favorites, "Beulah ( Feat Hank Lionhart & Fist Full Of Blues)" - 5:18 minutes & seconds full of high talent that will have you cryin' in your beer & up hittin' th' floor at the same time!  The players Gerry is with have it krankin' out at PRO level on ol' standards, too, like "Crosscut Saw Feat Hank Lionhart & Fistfull of Blues"... some straight-ahead GR8 blues!  My PICK for "red-hot smoker"  from all the tunes I pulled down, though, was "Suzy Q (Live @ the EBS)", partly because it's a live performance, & partly because the tune puts Pearson's harp mastery right up there in yer' face!  This is one of the best blues sets I've heard, & you won't be losing one cent, 'coz these tunes are all downloadable, so GET THERE soon, before Gerry makes them STREAM only again!  I give this a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for any & all who have to have some blues to get their motor runnin'!  They get an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.96, too!  Get more information at    Rotcod Zzaj

Ian McArthur - IAN McARTHUR:  I consider myself very fortunate to be getting all the "now" music that's out there these days... when I first hear Ian doing "Latin Dancer", I knew I'd hit another WINNER!  This cat makes it evident that he loves what he's doing, and his accomplished guitar style will make you fall in love with his work on only the first few bars... when he launches into his guitar part (right from the start), you'll know what I mean.  Out of the 10 lively tracks Ian opened up for me, the most successful (for these ol' ears, anyway) was "Messin' Round", though it wouldn't hurt my feelings if the tune winds up being mixed at about double it's current link on REVERBNATION (it was 2:14 on the version I got).  For something a bit more soothing, you'll love "A Prayer"... very persuasive & powerful vocal from the lady guesting.  Another rocker that I dug down into deeply was "I'm In Trouble Again"; I imagine that's because it's sorta' like a theme song for so many of us guys.  Any way you slice it, you'll find Mr. McArthur's music full of life and vigor... bit o' blues, tons o' rockin' & even a nice jazz influence along the way.  I give this a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for those who want music that's got high-energy - & on that note, this one gets an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.97.  Get more information at - be sure to tell Ian that I sent you!     Rotcod Zzaj

Tim Bivens- FREE RIDE:  Tim's band, "Krush", bill themselves as "Rock, Classic Rock, Blues & Funk from the Past" on their REVERBNATION site (which is where I got these tunes for review)... yup, yet another DDR (digital download review), & they're pretty much on the money with that description, albeit with a 21st Century energy ramp-up; in fact, I fell in love with them right away!  On this CD, though, it's Tim (that's him with the fine graybeard) playing ALL the instruments, sorta' "pre-Krush".  There's a real kind of "Al Kooper" vibe on "FEELIN ALRIGHT"... feels very much like "Season of the Witch", to be sure, & it's an excellent recording on both the vocal & instrument level.  When they said "funk from the past", I'm assuming they were referring to tunes like "Funk Bus", a very high-energy & rawk'in tune that really shows off Tim's total talent  - he shows just how high he can soar on this one, I'll tell ya', volkz!  He goes on out into the edge of the stratosphere with my favorite piece in this collection, "Pick Up The Pieces", though I suppose I'm biased because there's also some great organ going on in this tune... definitely full of soul & spirit!  I'm likin' Tim's solo efforts in a big way, & will look forward to getting his or Krush's next CD in for review soon.  I give this a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.96.  Get more information at    Rotcod Zzaj 

Project Trio - PROJECT TRIO:  This Brooklyn-based group's third CD, due for a 1 June 2010 release, is a "smash hit" here at the Zzaj "Morning Calm Studio"... just check out one of my favorite tracks, "Fast", to get a feel for how refreshing their sound is... solid classical background will be aurally apparent, but they infuse this energy with rhythm and spirit that's full of life!  Greg Patillo's flute work is stunning and very pleasing; Eric Stephenson's cello will saw right into your braincase & Peter Seymour's double bass keeps that rhythm moving right along.  I loved their version of "Blue Rondo a la Turk" - no hesitation, no dropped notes & the recording is crystal clear.  The key element that shines through for the listener is a joy of playing that is quite infectious; I can guarantee, you'll listen to this one over & over again.  The tune I found most enjoyable was "Visual Machine" - it will create an image of total peace & harmony that you can carry with you through the day, & you'll find yourself coming back frequently.  I'm greatly impressed & looking forward to receiving all future releases from this excellent group - they get a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED and an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.95.  Get more information at     Rotcod Zzaj

Queen Esther - WHAT IS LOVE:  It is absolutely cool to hear Esther's strong vocal talent on this 10-song jazz adventure... her style takes me back decades (about 3) to my brief escapades on the streets of NYC; cool with a solid (& very soulful) mix of suave, just the kind of music we listened to in those little jazz joints into the wee hours of the morning.  You'll fall in love (right away) with her rendition of "What Is Love?"... it won't take but a couple of bars for you to imagine yourself sitting right there in front of that smoky stage at about 2:00 in the morning, with all the other hep cats diggin' this Queen's high-energy groove.  You can tell that she loves singing, especially when you scope out "Everything Is Going To Be Alright", my absolute favorite on the album.  One of the key things I noted while listening (both the 3rd and 4th times) to the CD is just how unique her vocals are... everything is totally natural, yet Queen Esther is clearly "above the pack", 'coz she makes the tunes go her way (without a hint that that's what's going on).  I'll certainly be looking forward to reviewing her future releases - I give this fantastic performance a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, especially for those jazzheads who must have jazz that comes right from the heart.  She gets an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.95.  Get more information at  Rotcod Zzaj

Ellen Rowe Quartet - WISHING WELL:  2 giant players on one splendid CD... Ellen's exceedingly enjoyable keyboards are joined by Ingrid Jensen's brass in a great 10-song (+, 9 of them are all-original) jazz excursion that you won't soon put in the "back stack"... we've reviewed a lot of work by Ingrid, most recently in issue # 102, though this is our first listen to Ellen's piano jazz mastery.  I've no doubt that this won't be our last listen... the thing that's most impressive about her works is that she is comfortable in just about any style and range... just listen to one of my favorite pieces on the CD, "Night Sounds"... her piano is right where it belongs; at the forefront, but the other players (String bassist Kurt Krahnke, drummer Pete Siers and tenor saxophonist Andrew Bishop, & guest tenor sax player Andy Haefner, as well as Ingrid's guest shots on two of the tracks).  The tune that captured my heart (and ears) for top favorite, though, was the opener, "For That Which Was Living, Lost"... when Ingrid's flugelhorn fades in at about 2:00 to join Haefner, you'll know why... the spirit is moving in this one, and will carry you right on through to the other side!  This is some of the most engaging jazz I've listened to in 2010 - they get a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from me, with an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  That's in addition to the "PICK" of this issue for "best piano-jazz quartet".  Get more information at    Rotcod Zzaj

The Stryker Slagle Band - KEEPER:  I've been reviewing music from this great band for a long time now, most recently in issue # 87... this excellent 10-tack CD is their latest and greatest... Dave's great guitar and Steve's amazing alto/soprano sax (as well as flute) work is joined by Jay Anderson on bass and Victor Lewis on drums for a most memorable and exciting album that exemplifies the album title without doubt. This is their 5th CD, and if I'm not mistaken, the promoter has made sure to include me on all but one of them, since he knows that no music rates a good review here more than the kind of raw jazz energy these gents project upon your ears. One of the best tracks on the CD (for my ears, anyway) was "Came To Believe" - you can hear Dave & Steve kind of "talking together" on this one; I mean, the rhythm is that tight - they are right together all the way through this fantastic tune. I'm sure I've heard them do blues tunes before, but "Blue State" is one of the best blues-oriented compositions I've heard this year, and my favorite on this CD. Absolutely some of the best jazz energy on the planet today, & it gets my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, as well as an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.96.  Get more information at or   Rotcod Zzaj

Jack Edery & Ultrasuede - FRIED CHICKEN & WHISKEYThere's some things that can't be "faked", & high energy quotient is one of them... this kind of rawkin' blues is one of those things... Jack's band is just KICKIN' out those jamz on this CD, & I'm lovin' it!  The opener, "Blues Outside My Window" is clear evidence of high talent, but when they roll on into the title track, Jack's lead guitar will scorch your ears, whether they're blues-seasoned, or not.  There are moments when I'm thinkin' "Elvin Bishop" & others when I hear shades of Leon Russell in their jam-sphere, but in the overall, what shines through for the listener is that this band knows how to have a good TIME, & ain't afraid to show it. The organ (Sue Pierce) ain't slouchin' in th' least bit, either; this band is TIGHT!  This old phart grew up listenin' to & playin' boogie, so it's a natural that I'd fall in love with Ultrasuede's "Throw a Boogie Woogie"; hail, this kinda' stuff will make you TOSS yer' meth in the toilet (where it belongs), 'coz their pace is about 14 times what th' best krank in th' land can generate for you!  I'm, like, SEVERELY impressed with this CD & give it a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, as well as an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Not only that, but they get the "PICK" of this issue for "best all-round blues band".  Get more information & listen to the streams at    Rotcod Zzaj

Ellen Honert - HUMMINGVILLEA miracle vocal style that can only be described as "breathless", & even that's not quite right, because it implies that Ellen is short of something - & that she IS NOT!  13 highly spirited tracks that will elevate your spirits to the outer edges of joy, & you'll find yourself very unwilling to turn the CD off - in fact, I'll be you spin this album all the way through at least 3 times (as did I), 'coz you won't want to go away from her infectious spirit.  The crew of players is far too long to list here, but they are splendific, without doubt... I've no doubt that's because they, too, are caught up in the supernova energy she projects with her singing.  Just click on the title track above, & you'll hear what I mean...  isn't that stellar level?  The flute on the intro of "Life Talks" is a perfect intro to the tale Ms. Honert tells - which (in her own words) is that she wants "to convey the essence of what it's like to be fully alive"... & no storyteller can do this as vibrantly as her vocals can.  My favorite track on this great musical adventure is "Two Steps" - if you don't hang onto that dream after listening to Ellen on this fine tune, you're a zombie already anyway.  I give this a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, as well as an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.99 (nearly impossible for a jazz vocalist to get in my 'zine).  Her grand CD also gets the "PICK" of this issue for "best jazz vocal CD"!  Get more information at    Rotcod Zzaj

Ernesto Diaz-Infante, Manuel Moya, Gino Robair, Ernesto Rodriguez - OUR FACELESS EMPIRE:  I've had many occasions to improvise (both live & in studio) with Mr. Diaz-Infante, so I can surely appreciate what I'm hearing on this grand excursion into the depths of moment!  If you're a "pure jazzhead", with no room for adventure in your heart (or your ears), you'll probably pass on this CD, but that's not a good way to hear what's REALLY happening in the 21st Century.  These folks are masters at the sonic arts, extracting sounds from the ether that are then gently formed into artistic protest (of a sort), albeit with clear recording (Scott Looney did the initial recording, then Gino edited, mixed and mastered it) seldom found on such albums.  What they are doing will be exceedingly pleasing to those of you who understand that music doesn't have to be "of a certain pattern" to have that element of discovery that's so sorely needed in these times of empirical idiocy and (perhaps) biblical significance.  The key to total enjoyment of O.F.E. is (just as I know the players are doing) allowing yourself to become totally absorbed in what they are creating for you... for starters, make sure you are wearing headphones, turn that durned cellphone & computer OFF, & settle back with your favorite brew... this is sonically epic, and merits your full attention.  My personal favorite was the richly dense "Um Lilburn Em Flovilla" for it's gently haunting aura of electronical alchemy... you, of course, will find your own favored composition.  This comes MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.99 (very near the top)... it also gets my "PICK" of this issue for "best improvised mystery".  Get more information at    Rotcod Zzaj

Auriemma - AURIEMMA:  Richie Auriemma & his lady-friend Liz Elton (violin) take your ears on a folk & roots musical tour from my home state (Washington, in the Great Northwest) that will make your heart cry & sing in equal degrees, particularly on tunes like (one of my faves), "Blue Eyes Cryin".  When I first moved to Olympia in the late '70's, the town was (& to some degree it still is) a Mecca for long-haired hippie types that sang music much like this, often fueled by tons of espresso & other stimulants.  So listening to Richie's vocals & lyrics takes me back to much friendlier times; times full of energy & light, as well as "message".  My favorite track for that kind of nostalgia, actually, is "Okay (So Stoned)"... Stratocaster effects, with his vocal somewhat submerged, like if you were in a submarine, you know, will give you that good ol' "contact high" you've been lookin'  for ever since the early '90's, when "PC" took over the world & chased all those great street musicians off the street corners.  Any way you play it, Richie's music is inspiring and certainly merits my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for those listeners who want a bit of variety (& maybe a few mem'ries) in their listening experience.  I give it an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.95.  Get more information at    Rotcod Zzaj

Trichotomy - VARIATIONS:  This July 13, 2010 CD release will thrill all of you (listeners and players alike) who thirst for something "different" when it comes to well-executed jazz with beautiful improvisations.  The trio is from "down under" - Australia, to be specific, but as you listen to their fantastic 10-song adventure, you will think more along the lines of jazzers like Herbie Hancock & some of the great EMI groups.  Just listen to Sean Foran's beautiful keyboard sculptures on the beginning of "At The Right Moment"... wonderful overtones, and then when Patrick Marchisella's acoustic bass & John Parker's percussion join in, you know where they got the title for this tune - simply superb!  It's actually the (very) short piece titled "Chunk" that grabs my pick for favorite track, though... not "exactly" jazz, it shows their mastery of creativity and energy!  A close second was "Branching Out", on which the opening measures made me visualize a tree growing in fast forward, for some reason (whether that was their intention or not).  I expect we will be hearing much more from this splendid trio, in fact I predict that they will ROCKET to the top of the charts & stay there for a few years if they keep putting out great jazz like this!  I give them a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Get more information at    Rotcod Zzaj

The Alexandria Kleztet - PEACE, LOVE AND COFFEE:  Just what the Rotcod ordered, so to speak, this excellent Klezmer-based CD came dancin' through the mail slot after I touched base with Seth Kibel... 14 rollicking tunes that will have you up off your duff and dancin' 'round every room in the house only moments after their joyous intro on "Bei Mir Bist du Schein".  Actually, the tune starts off with that sad European "gypsy-round-the-campfire" that makes you think it's going to be "just another European C&W tune", then spins off into some of the most danceable stuff you've ever heard.  What really distinguishes this band is that they know (better than many other Klezmer groups I've heard in the last 5 years) to integrate their jazz leanings into the celebrations without sacrificing the roots of Klezmer.  My favorite track (besides my love for the title) was "Bad Coffee (Builds Character)", which demonstrates (yet again) their high-talent for morphing different forms of music into their roots... but be SURE to listen to it with the bluetooth headphones on, so you won't rip cords loose when you jump up out of your chair and begin spinning 'round & 'round to their fantastic rhythms.  I give this CD my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.97.  Get more information at    Rotcod Zzaj

Mark Sherman Quintet - LIVE @ SWEET RHYTHM NYC:  This fantastic DVD came our way via one of the promoters that Mark uses... we've been reviewing his music for years now, most recently in issue # 83 & have been excited about his vibraphone work ever since we first heard him.  The players on this session are Joe Magnarelli doing trumpet/flugelhorn, Allen Farnham on piano, Dean Johnson doing bass & rounding the quintet out is Tim Horner on drums - they've been playing together for some years now, and it shows!  High energy, unequalled passion for the playing and a clear display (the video quality is five-star, to be sure) of these most talented folks using their instruments as their voice to the listener.  9 of the 10 tracks are originals by members of the quintet, & they just SMOKE... one of Mark's compositions that I just loved was "Trust"... watching just how intimately they work together on this sweet & slow tune shows just how tight they are together, & you will mark this as a favorite right away, as did I... Joe's trumpet solo at about 2:30 is just killer!  To get a more personal view, be sure to watch the promo vid for the DVD that Mark has on YOUTUBE... then run right on out and GET this video.  I give this one my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED and give it an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.99.  It also gets the "PICK" of this issue for "best jazz DVD".  Get more information at    Rotcod Zzaj

Lynette Washington - KALEIDOSCOPE:  There are some lady jazz singers who are just "pretending" to have the soul that's the key ingredient in making a vocal performance vibrant & memorable - but there's nothing like that on Lynette's great vocals.  The player list is far too long to run down here, but one of her partners, pianist Dennis Bell (who produced this CD), is right there (as are all the other players) to help emphasize Lynette's high energy and talent.  Folks, just check out "Stolen Moments"... an amazing 6:51 rendition... Bell's keyboard intro leads right into Ms. Washington's deep & husky-toned vocal that wraps you right around her finger immediately.  I mean, you'll fall in love with her spirit from this tune alone - & there are 11 more powerful tunes to spin over & over & over.  If you're lookin' for something with a little more bluesy flavor (& heavy-duty PUNCH), you'll find "Get Back" much to your liking... if you didn't have any "soul" before this tune started, you WILL by the end of the 5 minutes... & that ORGAN is just KILLER, folks.  The other thing I especially enjoyed on Lynette's CD is that every tune she does is her own... it doesn't matter who wrote the piece, she just reaches out with her exquisite voice and TAKES IT ON!  In fact, my favorite track isn't "stock jazz" at all, it's "Colors of the Wind" (an Alan Menken composition) that grabbed that slot... she is just so expressive on this piece.  If you love female-fronted jazz vocals, you'll certainly agree with me - it's MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED & gets an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.97.  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)




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