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Issue # 106 REVIEWS

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James Moody - "4B":  I reviewed James' "4A" in issue # 98, most favorably, I might add... this is the kind of jazz that "sticks to your ribs", & won't soon be pushed to the bottom of your playlists. Just scope out his superb tenor sax on "Hot House"; reeds right from the git, very comfortably balanced with Kenny Barron's piano, bass by Todd Coolman and drums from Lewis Nash - if you've never listened to much jazz before, this is a perfect tune to start with!  The drum intro on "Speak Low" moves the track right on into "Coolville", the place to be for jazz lovers of every stripe. The piece that exemplified the best in jazz for my ears (my favorite on the CD) was "Nikara's Song"; a strange mix of sadness and hope that lets you know right away that your ears are in the presence of high talent and pure jazz energy.  "4B" is one of the coolest jazz efforts I've listened to this year, & certainly rates my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, as well as an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.98 (right up near the top of the scale).  In fact, if you don't get another CD this year - get this one.  Get more information at    Rotcod Zzaj 

Chris Greene Quartet - SOUL & SCIENCE, VOL 1:  From the heart of the nation, up where the wind prowls the alleyways all night long (Chi-town, volkz), Chris keeps it kickin' with his quartets' version of Stevie Wonders' "Boogie On Reggae Woman" (10:33) as the opener... his high-energy saxophone work will have you bumpin' the night away, to be sure. He's got Damian Espinosa with him on piano, acoustic bass by Marc Piane & Tyrone Blair's drums and percussion to round it all out.  I reviewed his "Merge" CD in issue # 101 & fell in love with the quartet's energy right then & there... he sent a couple more of his efforts my way, & this is the first of them.  The most killer track on this outing (for my ears, anyway) was "King of Pain", a tune originally written by Sting... full of emotion, it swirls around your heart and makes you feel it, to be sure... all four players are right "on time", no dropped notes & no competition getting in the way of a great listen.  If you haven't listened to Mr. Greene & krew yet, you owe it to your ears... I give them a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED on this one, as well as an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.96.  Get more information at   Rotcod Zzaj  

El's Mystery - INERTIAL CONFUSION:  CD's that have me playing on them don't often get reviewed here, but when multi-instrumentalist Tony Belcastro latched on to a few of the tunes I had up on my "Track Madness" project (27 solo compositions by me (still) available for download & remix), it was an instant conclusion that his final product would get reviewed here.  Tony's masterful & energetic guitar work on "Lava Flow West" just can't be easily dismissed... excellent!  Of course, my ears were jaundiced toward pieces like my comprovisation, "In Harm's Way"... Tony added percussion & drum tracks, as well as some superb (& fluent) guitar that will blow your ears away!  We both had a lot of fun with "Harpsichord Swirl" (another one of mine), too; but it was the strong-rock-oriented "Once Over the Edge" that "took it to the limit" for me... my absolute favorite track on the CD.  If you haven't listened to Tony's work before - you'll want to NOW, folks; though it's not "pure jazz", it has elements of the ebb/flow that transcend labels.  I give this one a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED & an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.96.  Get more information at    Rotcod Zzaj 

Jacam Manricks - TRIGONOMETRY:  Jacam was reviewed here in issue # 95 (most favorably, I might add)... his alto sax work is astounding & very pleasant to listen to... especially when he hooks up with players like pianist Gary Versace, bassist Joe Martin & drummer Obed Calvaire (with guest artists Alan Ferber on trombone and trumpet from Scott Wendholt).  Just scope out the opening (title) track, "Trigonometry" to get an aural feel for how talented and precise these players are.  If it's something a little more "slinky" you want to hear, check the excellent "Cluster Funk"... excellent timing & the spirit is moving you (as well as the players) on this one!  This June, 2010 release is Jacam's first on the Posi-Tone Records label, featuring 10 superb tracks that will get even the non-jazz listener enthused.  The introspective and intriguing "Nucleus" slows down the mood a bit, but it also shows how strong these players are together... not a note dropped, yet "open space" for each of them... a very cool song.  It was "Mood Swing", though, that got my vote for favorite track... a beautiful and suspenseful build for the entire 8:52 length of the tune.  This one gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from me, as well as an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Get more information at   Rotcod Zzaj

Chris Massey - VIBRAINIUM:  Some of the excitement I feel as I listen (for the 4000th time) to the 10:00 opener, "Galactus", comes from the totally syncopated rush of Chris's drum works... other parts of it are because I recognize Donald Malloy (trumpet), or simply because 5 of the 7 performances on this self-release are all-original compositions.  Any way you slice it, though, these smokin' players (David Ostrem on bass, piano from Evgeny Lebedev & alto/soprano sax by Benjamin Drazen) are truly in to the music they are playing!  7 tracks that will have jazz listeners (& players alike) looking forward to more from Chris & krew... just check out "Smooth" (a Malloy composition) to see what "sweet" sounds like; absolutely piercing (yet pleasant) notage from Donald.  It was the title track, Chris's "Vibrainium" (next to last on the album) that will put your ears in a spin - I can guarantee you'll listen to this 11:13 odyssey over and over again... it's my absolute favorite on the CD.  I've little doubt that we will all be hearing lots more from Chris, & I'll be first in line!  "Vibrainium" gets my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, as well as an "EQ" rating of 4.98 - ain't no "slick" here, this is REAL jazz.  Get more information at   Rotcod Zzaj

Jackson Garrett - SPEECHLESS:  That's just the condition you'll find your head in after listening to the first couple of compositions from Jackson... words will fail you... the krew he has playing these dozen tunes are rigged up to look like (either) Mafioso or the Blues Brothers, but it's not a hype... they've clearly been out in the "street", & know whereof they play.  Just check out one of the "horniest" tunes around today, "Cool and Easy"; then switch over to a totally different mood on "Kisses All Around" to hear their diversity and skill in different musical situations.  Now switch to the heavy R&B with killer guitar of "Slow Down, Boy!"... when you toss in the heavy horns, you'll be in musical bliss!  I could (& have done) listen to this band for hours in a row... my favorite track, though, turned out to be the bluesy "Downtown With You"... make ya' think you're right in N'aw'leans - right NOW, people.  I give these folks a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, particularly for those who love a bit of honkin' horn in their jazz.  "EQ" (energy quotient) rating is 4.96.  Get more information at    Rotcod Zzaj

Jennifer Zarine- FRESH MADE CUPPA TEA:  Words like "vibrant", "sweet" & "zingy" come to mind as I listen to the opening track on Jennifer's too-cool CD "Fresh Made Cuppa Tea", "Orange Colored Sky"... then other words pour in as she segues into "The Way You Do The Things You Do"... "fun" & "frolicking", f'r'instance.  The tunes are, for the most part, fairly short in length, almost at "radio length"... I think that makes the CD more enjoyable in a way, & certainly gives you a strong sense of her performance range.  If you're in a rockin' mood, for instance, you'll definitely dig her rendition of Jagger/Richards' "Paint It Black" - Jennifer is definitely a siren on this one!  It was the mighty mellow "Smile/I'm All Smiles" that captured my ear for favorite track... she's right out in front with a rich vocal that will make you feel the emotion she's singing!  I give her a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.95.  I expect we'll all be hearing much more from this highly talented jazz vocalist.  Get more information on her FB PAGERotcod Zzaj

Davis & Dow- LOVERLY:  When I was growing up, there were a ton of "married musical duos"... Eddie & Debbie, Steve & Edie & a whole lot of others that prolly inspired "valley girl slang" like "gag me with a spoon"... the dynamic difference between that kinda' '50's schlock and this elegant jazz CD from Julie Davis & Kelly Dow is that it's all high-energy & absolutely on-time!  No clichés here and you'll find your ears totally absorbed by Julies' vocal qualities, as well as Kelly's killer jazz guitar licks. That's especially true on tracks like "Stairway To The Stars" where there's only one word that can describe the guitar intro - SUPERB... when Julie chimes in, it's a match made in heaven.  The laid-back strains of "Azure" made this one my favorite tune on the album, though... part of that may be because their whole cast of players joins them through the whole 8:08 adventure.  Again, I'm seldom impressed by married folks trying to jazz it up, but in this case, I'm very much impressed... they get a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from me, with an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.97.  Get more information at   Rotcod Zzaj  

Phil Wilson-Makoto Ozone- LIVE AT THE BERKLEE PERFORMANCE CENTER:  Phil's trombone work will astound any & all listeners who are addicted to that instrument, & when he's joined by (then) the 21-year-old Makoto Ozone's piano antics, you'll feel like your ears are in jazz heaven!  The opening track, "Stella By Starlight", is so energetic you'll think Stella's been out riding comets again... the totally spontaneous interaction between Phil's horn & Makoto's keyboards are among the best I've heard this year.  The original release was in 1982, and you can hear some of the "over-digitization" that happened on digital recordings in those years, but only if you're listening at low levels... the recording is superb, actually... especially on tracks like (my favorite) "Blues My Naughty Sweetie Gave To Me".  This 25 year old recording is already a "jazz classic" by virtue of the length of time since it was recorded, but more importantly, it conveys the spirit of jazz that is so essential to keeping freedom alive in the world today.  I give this CD my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Get more information at ANSWERSRotcod Zzaj

Lisa Downing- A DELICATE BALANCE:  I don't care what the most ravenous jazz fan says... a change of pace ev'ry once in a while is part of keeping the "balance", and Lisa's beautiful solo keyboards, though not jazz, are as intimate a part of my own musical lifestyle as the ravingest free jazz on the globe.  I'd imagine that's because I'm also a keyboardist, and know just how much yin/yang can be experienced in the joyous moments of realization.  In Lisa's most capable hands, you'll be guided through (nearly) 50 minutes of pure pleasure and universal harmony; lest you think that's me "hyping", take a (headphone) listen to "The Bedtime Song"... not so much like a lullaby as it is a gate to astral travels during your rest period.  There are 12 beautiful pieces here, but I found the short-titled "Lost" to be my absolute favorite on the CD... Lisa's playing on this one expresses the full range of emotions you might attribute to being "off the path" for a bit, but also brings you full circle back to the path.  I'm enjoying this one immensely, as will you... I give it my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.96.  Get more information at    Rotcod Zzaj

Dave Anderson Quartet- CLARITY:  If you're thirsting for some jazz that hearkens back to where jazz "came from", yet with solid 21st Century timing and verve - you'll want to get this superb effort from Seattle saxophonist (soprano/alto) Dave Anderson... John Hansen's piano, bass by Chuck Kistler, drums from Adam Kessler and flugelhorn from Thomas Marriott combine to give you one of the clearest jazz CD's you'll hear in 2010.  I've no doubt you'll enjoy this music for many years to come; it's just the kind of performance that gets "hooks" in your ears and won't let go. Just listen to the high-energy "Stalemate", or the haunting "Beautiful Love" to hear why this is such an instant attraction for jazzers everywhere!  My money is on the monster track "Free", though... you will hear reed talent like you've never heard before, and the rest of the group is tighter than most any quartet you'll hear on the scene today!  This debut CD is only the first experience you'll have with this vibrant player... I predict you will be hearing much, MUCH more from him in the next few years!  I give this a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.98... "Clarity" also gets the "PICK" of this issue for "best emerging jazz talent".  This one is HOT, folks - get it!  Get more information at   Rotcod Zzaj 

Rita Edmond- A GLANCE AT DESTINY:  When you're in the mood for vocal tales of love found, lost or continuing, Rita's CD will be your perfect choice... 14 wonderful jazzed-up songs that will take you through the whole panorama in (slightly over) an hour.  Her voice is rich-toned and full of energy on these vibrantly performed tunes... I'm impressed, and with the amount of jazz singers I listen to over the course of a year, that's definitely saying something.  Just check out the laid-back atmosphere Rita creates on "Gentle Rain" - +, she sounds totally comfortable with the players she's chosen to join her (too many to itemize here).  This is her second album, and though I didn't have the opportunity to review the earlier one, I've no doubt we'll be hearing much more from her in the coming years.  Her totally upbeat style on "This Can't Be Love" made it my favorite on the CD... truly inspiring, people!  I give her a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for all who love jazz vocal works that are full of punch and vigor.  She gets an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.97.  Get more information at    Rotcod Zzaj

David Borgo and Jeff Kaiser- HARVESTING METADATA:  By the sonics that guide my ears, there is little more exciting than music like David and Jeff perform here as "KaiBorg"; of course, my aural appendages are ever-so-slightly jaded, twisted & bent, so some of you reading this will wonder why I'm reviewing it.  All you have to do to find out the answer to that question is listen to the marvelous/intriguing "Flow Control"... make sure you do it with 'phones on, and you'll hear the attraction right away (unless you're such a sonic sludgemudgeon that you can't stand "different").  I've been listening to Jeff's work for many years now, & reviewed one of David's CD's way back in issue # 69; these gents are veterans, & musically well-educated vets, at that.  Great music for adventurous listeners... for me, it was the mysterious "Postural Schema" that got the vote for favorite track... bottom line is that if you love aural adventure, you'll have to have this superbly constructed CD in your collection.  It certainly merits my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED and gets an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Get more information at     Rotcod Zzaj

Fremont John- GUITAR SONGS:  Some absolutely superb string work from Fremont John & friends... 10 great tracks featuring his guitar and keyboard work.  If it's laid-back with a truly "continental" vibe you're lookin' for, try out "Europa"... a bit longer than many at 7:36, but it's a genuinely vibrant tune that displays a love for life & the living of it!  For those listeners who want nothin' but instrumental bliss, this is absolutely the ticket.  Many of the tunes take me back to an earlier & gentler time in our history, when many of us wanted to do little but sit 'round & make music... nothing like the hectic pace of life today, and John's talent shines through in his ability to inspire you to kick back with him & the other players joining him on the CD.  My favorite piece was "Slippery When Wet", probably 'coz of th' bluesy ride to oblivion it takes you on... a truly "sweet" tune!  I give this one a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for listeners across all spectrums, with an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.97.  Get more information at    Rotcod Zzaj

Bob Szajner Triad II- LIVE AT THE MONTREUX DETROIT INTERNATIONAL JAZZ FESTIVAL:  This 1981 performance was digitized & released by Cadence Jazz Records in July 2009... though I'd not heard Bob's piano work before (or Ed Pickens bass & Frank Isola's drums), it's clear through all 11 tracks that these guys were having the time of their lives.  High energy jazz in live mode - the energy, in fact, just won't quit.  The recording itself has some of that "high digit" sound that was typical in those days, but considering the technology back then, they pretty much captured the real thing.  It's the kind of jazz that makes you wish you could have been there with the hundreds (maybe thousands) you can see on the album cover, swillin' down cokes (maybe with somethin' mixed in 'em) & gettin' loose with the players.  Unfortunately, I couldn't find any sample files (maybe they're out there somewhere, & if you know where they are, please send me links - Editor:  Bob sent me the ITUNES link, though I don't use ITUNES, since they don't allow deep linking), so you'll just have to take my word that "Prayer Meetin'" will take you right back to your roots.  I give this one a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, especially for those who collect memorable jazz performances.  "EQ" (energy quotient) rating is 4.97.  Get more information at WIKIPEDIA.    Rotcod Zzaj

Dave Wilson Quartet- SPIRAL:  Surprise is the word I find on my mind as I write this... I'm surprised that I didn't hear Dave's superb tenor & soprano during my 18-month (or so) sojourn in the Lancaster/Philadelphia area, as he's been a stalwart on the jazz scene for many years.  The 11 cuts on this fantastic high-energy CD prove his musical genius beyond doubt, especially on tracks like "Summer Breezes", one of the most beautiful pieces of music I've heard this year.  It's full-tilt jazz from the title track on the opener, "Spiral", to my absolute favorite piece, "Movin' On"... Phil Markowitz' piano, bass by Tony Marino and drums from Adam Nussbaum all work together with Dave's probing reed work to make this a most memorable tune.  This CD is more than just a "keeper", it's an instant classic in my collection... just kick back and scope out "Elm" to get a real taste for what jazz is truly all about!  I can't say enough about Dave's splendid June 2010 release - it gets my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating, as well as the "PICK" of 2010 for "best jazz quartet".  The "EQ" (energy quotient) rating is 4.99.  Get more information at    Rotcod Zzaj

William Parker, Jason Kao Hwang, Will Connell, Jr., Zen Matsuura - COMMITMENT, THE COMPLETE RECORDINGS 1981/1983:  A marvelous 2-CD set that captured Will on flute, bass clarinet, alto sax and wood flutes, as well as string bass from William Parker, violin, viola & bird calls from Jason Kao Hwang and drums from Zen Matsurra.  These are some amazing works, as fresh as the time they were recorded... it's some of the liveliest and most important work you'll hear for the early roots of Asian-American jazz!  The music here will remind you of where free-jazz started from, albeit with some tasty east-west flavorings and cultural blending like you've never heard before.  I was unable to find samples to link in, though I'm sure they are out there somewhere (if you know where they are, please send me the links at ).  The track I found the most intense and in the best traditions of jazz that's already in orbit was "The Web of Forces"; all the players are "on" during the entire 6:36 length.  The fact that some of the tunes are live recordings also lends some excitement one might not otherwise hear.  Excellent recording, excellent jazz, excellent players that get a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from me, with an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.97.  Get more information at    Rotcod Zzaj

Blues Emporium- BLUES EMPORIUM:  Some hard-rockin' blues from this splendid DDR (digital download review) these gents provide me.  Just scope out the first track in the 30 minutes (or so) of music they opened up for me to write on... "Cheap Sunglasses" - that harp DO smoke, volk!  Of course, you'll also wanna' listen to their uniquely played rendition of the old standard, "Crosscut Saw".  The quality these guys truly excel in is their ENERGY level for the playing of tunes that often sound hackneyed in the hands of other players... they are definitely UP for what they're doin', & will have you scootin' 'round th' floor in a matter of only a few notes.  My favorite song from this round, though, is "Travelin South" - surely reminds me of th' roadhouse kinda' atmosphere I remember from the Bishop boys way back when.  I'm greatly impressed & hopin' they send us a CD with tons more releases in the future... I give this effort a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for those blues lovers in our readership.  Their "EQ" (energy quotient) rating is a stellar 4.99.  Get more information at   (& be sure & tell 'em I sent ya').   Rotcod Zzaj

Adam Schroeder - A HANDFUL OF STARS:  It's not very often that I hear baritone sax at the front of a jazz group, but Adam's debut recording (with guitarist Graham Dechter, bassist John Clayton & drummer Jeff Hamilton) puts him right out in front of it, to be sure.  Other baritone players I've heard often come across with a voice too "strident", for lack of a better term, but as you listen to the opener, "I Don't Wanna Be Kissed (By Anyone But You)", you'll hear reeds that kinda' "melt" right in with the other instruments... great track!  A Quincy Jones tune, "Jessica's Birthday", will have you dancin' 'round the room with joy, no doubt, & it shows just the kind of superb talent your ears are in the presence of.  It was Adam's original track, "Midwest Mash", that got my vote as favorite tune, though... strident playing without any hesitation or shyness on his part, it took me back to the kind of "roots jazz" I grew up on in the mid-to-late '60's, but with a solid 21st Century outlook.  11 completely solid tracks that will have you wanting to hear more, & I predict that's just what will happen... you'll be listening to Schroeder & crew in lots of future recordings.  I give him my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.97.  Get more information at    Rotcod Zzaj

Chris Colangelo - ELAINE'S SONG:  Fans of jazz bass will find their ears totally captured by Chris's (mostly) all-original (7 of the 9) tunes on this September 2010 release... no doubt in my mind about that!  He's joined by some stellar players (John Beasley on piano, Steve Hass on drums, Bob Sheppard doing tenor & soprano sax, Benn Clatworthy on tenor sax & flute and Zane Musa's on alto sax), and their collective talent just shines right through on all the tracks.  The "keyword" for all of these tunes is "power", & you won't find a better example than the 6:33 "Like Kenny"... each instrument has their own place to project the power of their spirit, and they all do so with the kind of confident approach you'll never hear from amateurs.... & Chris's bass is just KILLER on this one. I also found "Watts Important" a completely pleasurable listen... my favorite piece, though, was the beautiful closer, "From Dark To Light", which takes you through an entire range of emotions & back again to solid ground.  Any way you listen to it, "Elaine's Song" clearly merits my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating, with an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.96.  Get more information at    Rotcod Zzaj 

Benny Sharoni - ETERNAL ELIXIR:  Totally good reason why this is the first time I've heard Benny's splendid tenor sax work... this is his debut CD (July 2010 release).  Ten ultimately cool jazz tracks that will turn your ears on & chill you out no matter what state you were in when you started listening... just check out the 8:10 "French Spice" to hear the magical spell Benny weaves (be sure you're listening with your headphones on, at least for the first round; you'll want to catch every note on this tune).  What's so absolutely attractive about his reed work is that his spontaneous joy in the living of life shines right through for you to latch on to & raise your spirits... an excellent piece for that is the gospel-riff "Pentecostal Feelin'"... totally soulful and inspiring jazz that shares the stage with each & every instrument.  My favorite piece on the album, though, was "To Life", which paints a pretty portrait of the tones (and emotions) of the privilege we have in being here.  If this excellent music doesn't inspire you to relish every moment you have on this plane, you're not "living" anyway.  I give Benny & crew a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.96.  Get more information at  Rotcod Zzaj   

Ken Elkinson - LINK:  Folks who know me also know that I think "change of pace" is terribly important, whether it be in routine things, or the music one listens to... helps to avoid stagnation, something that many of our fellow humans seem to become mired in before their '30's.  Ken's excellent solo piano work makes for an excellent transition between post-bop, free jazz & shades of R&R.  An even dozen compositions that reflect a clear talent and love of the keyboards.  Tunes like "Juniper" will take you into emotional zones you've forgotten about - it was very easy for me to picture a walk through the woods on this one, and remember where I've come from on this long journey.  Ken's shimmering piano makes "Sunlight Through Trees" extend that journey down mem'ry lane... simple, yet beautiful.  The haunting tones on "House at Dusk" made it my favorite track, one that will stay at the top of my piano playlists for a long time to come. A very pretty CD that gets a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from me, especially for those who love solo piano joy.  "EQ" (energy quotient) rating is 4.95.  Get more information at  Rotcod Zzaj  

Joyce Cobb - JOYCE COBB WITH THE MICHAEL JEFRY STEVENS TRIO:  Wakin' up to Joyce's splendid performance of "Moanin'" with Michael's piano & trio members Jonathan Wires' bass and Renardo Ward's drums takes me right back to 30 years ago when EVERY morning was filled with shades o' blue.  This is a totally different style than what I've heard Michael & his crews doing before; definitely soulful & Joyce makes that happen, especially on tunes like "Jitterbug Waltz", one of the bounciest versions I've ever heard - the keyword for her vocal on this one is "sultry".  It was "Blue Skies/In Walked Bud" that turned my ears on, though... Joyce has a "cute" quality to her vocal on this one that brings images of playful nymphs cavorting through smoke-filled rooms on late night sessions, & Stevens piano just KICKS here... this is TOTAL ENERGY, and won't soon fall off your playlists.  This is one of the most pleasant sonic surprises I've had this year, & certainly merits my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating, especially for those who love female jazz vocals with high-talent players.  "EQ" (energy quotient) rating is 4.97.  Get more information at    Rotcod Zzaj

Takao Iwaki, Tadataka Unno, David Wong, Quincy Davis - INTRODUCING TAKAO IWAKI:  Man, can this cat play some tenor saxophone, & that piano player Tadataka is beyond belief - when you toss in vibrant acoustic bass from David Wong and dynamite drums from Quincy Davis, you know you're in for a long (& most pleasant) jazz ride!  This may have something to do with the fact that all 10 of the tracks are Iwaki originals, since I believe the energy levels are always pumped up higher when playing one's own material.  Just check out the opener, "Fallin' Chestnuts" to hear how sweet this quartet sounds... some of the freshest tuneage I've listened to (yet) this year!  One of the tracks I liked best was "Iguana", pure & forthright aural evidence that there IS "power jazz"... very cool, Takao.  The piece that captured my ear as favorite, though, was "Iwakistan", with Takao's wonderful reed work carving a road through (somewhere in) middle eastern turf.  This entire album is a keeper, start to finish... I give it my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Get more information at  (+, keep your ears on this great young player; I predict you'll be hearing much more from him in the coming years).   Rotcod Zzaj

Fingerprints - DREAM LIFE:  Those in our readership who grew up during the same years I did will easily remember names like "Spyro Gyra" and "The Crusaders"... while it's easy to just "drop names", this massive (& massively talented) band brings fond memories of those styles... on the other hand, they do it with a definite 21st Century outlook, so it's not "just another cover band".  The third track in, "Acoustic Soul" is among the best "hip jazz" tunes I've heard in 2010.  There's no doubt that you'll be hearing much (MUCH) more from this band in the coming months & years... just scope out the totally svelte keys on "Lonesome Rhodes" to be convinced of my conviction in that regard!  Of the even dozen tunes, it was the super funky "Anything for You" that made them soar to the top of the charts - absolutely my favorite track... full of life & the rhythm of soul that moves hearts to do great things.  "Dream Life" is a clear winner, & gets my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating, as well as the "PICK" of this issue for "funkiest band around".  "EQ" (energy quotient) rating is right up near the top at 4.99.  Get more information at   Rotcod Zzaj

Cesli Vane - CESLI VANE:  Some very tasty keyboards on this DDR (digital download review) from Cesli on REVERBNATION... if piano is your forte (listening or playing), you'll want to check out "sanctums {piano solo}"... +, it's not just "ordinary" work, the playing is most unique and delicious to listen to.  They only gave me 25 minutes of material, but it's rich in variety, not just stuck in a rut... I was strongly impressed with the percussion on "brainsweeper"... hypnotic is the word for what they're doing on this one.  The hands-down winner, though, was "Tala"; even though it only clocks in at about 3:43, it aids you in the journey to the outer regions of your inner self.  Thoroughly enjoyable independent music that certainly merits my HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating, particularly for those listeners who want to hear something different.  "EQ" (energy quotient) rating is 4.95.  Get more information at   (& be sure to tell them Zzaj sent you).   Rotcod Zzaj

The Joel Yennior Trio - BIG CITY CIRCUS:  When it comes to jazz trios, it doesn't get much sweeter than this... Joel's trombone is joined by Eric Hofbauer's guitar and drums by Gary Fieldman in one tasty session... 9 tracks at just under 50 minutes that you'll find yourself playing over & over again!  As I listen (for the 100th time) to the opener, "Dancing Dave", I'm doing a bit of chair dancing myself... perfect balance in the recording, with each player sharing the tune for a most pleasant listen.  If it's high energy your ears are yearning for, though, it will be "Estrellita" you will fall in love with... again, the recording is crystal clear, and the talent shines through as brightly as any supernova you've witnessed lately.  It was the 5:44 "Postcard to Dorothy" that got my vote as favorite track, though... Joel's trombone will talk you through the journey he's taking the trio (and you) on, & it's a marvelously mellow meander, I'll tell you.  I give this one my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating, with an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Get more information at    Rotcod Zzaj

Chris Graham Trio - AFTER-BIRTH OF COOL:  There aren't a lot of vibe players these days that can capture your ears as quickly as Chris, & when you combine that with the sensitive bass by Alex Austin and crisp drums from Oliver Hunt, you'll hear (right away) that you're in the presence of superb talent!  The playing is all "one-take", no overdubs, so you're getting the raw & natural performance any jazz listener yearns for.  Just listen to one of my favorite pieces, "Punchin' Trout" to hear Chris's unique 5-mallet technique in all it's pure glory... you will find this one stays right at the top of your playlists for a long time to come.  There are no illusions in this trio's cool performance - it's all natural, straight-forward jazz that you'll love... they play very well together, as you (& your ears) will agree when you listen to my absolute favorite on the CD, "Salt 'N Ice" (which also closes the set).  My only complaint is that the CD should have been just a tad longer... it clocks in at 28:49... nevertheless, it still gets a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from me, with an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.96.  Get more information at    Rotcod Zzaj

Michael C Lewis - REFLECTION:  Michael's trumpet and flugelhorn playing (along with strong and solid vocals from him) is an experience in purely soulful pleasure, I can tell you... & that's especially pertinent, since I kind of "grew up" on soul like what he's doing here.  He has a full compliment of talented players with him... for instance, being a keyboard player myself, I found William Heagy's keyboards to be absolutely spellbinding as I listened to the opener, "Reflection" - absolutely perfect balance on the recording for all instruments.  "I Need Your Love" will make you FEEL the rhythm & blues power this gent projects with his music... hints of '70's smooth are in there somewhere, but the singers & players have the talent to transport this to something more than "just another love song".  One of the funkiest tracks (for this reviewer, anyway) was "Cloud Parade"... feels just like you're out on a warm riverbank somewhere watching 'em float on by... again, Michael's horn, in conjunction with the beautiful bass lines, will win over your ears, to be sure.  The tune that got my vote for favorite track, though, was the gospel-like "Miles To Go"... solid rhythm and a great call/response vocal will get yer' soul thumpin' that beat out.  This CD is an all-around winner, full of spirit and heavy vibrations - not to mention the cool echoes they've got programmed in there!  I give it my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.96.  Get more information at    Rotcod Zzaj

Chie Imaizumi - A TIME OF NEW BEGINNINGS:  This is my first listen to Chie's highly exuberant compositional style, and it certainly won't be the last... she expresses concepts far better than any "little combo" would be able to, and that probably has much to do with the fact that she has players like Randy Brecker, Jeff Hamilton and Steve Wilson on the CD.  The horn work alone on "Information Overload" makes it worth the price of purchase.  The aptly named "Fear of the Unknown" will make you feel the apprehension and emotion pours through the instruments all the way through.  I found the light-hearted approach on "Today" totally attractive and full of the spirit of life that music is meant (in my judgment, anyway) to convey!  The strident "Run for Your Life" got my vote for favorite track... though it may not make me get up and put my jogging shoes on, it certainly had me tappin' toes in a large way.  A very enjoyable jazz experience that you will be quite happy to have in your collection.  I give it a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.95.  Get more information at    Rotcod Zzaj

Acoustic Ocean - REFLECTIONS ON STILL WATER:  I first listened to and reviewed the wonderful music of these folks in issue # 95; I was mightily impressed on that one and have even more of a connection to the theme of this CD, as I just a couple of years back moved from Hawaii... they proclaim the tunes on this album to be a celebration of the beauty of the islands, and they hit it right on the mark.  Many years back, in Olympia, Washington, I used to listen to groups who featured harp and guitar, as well as plenty of other instruments (like hammered dulcimer and mandolin), and this certainly takes me back to those post-hippie gentle days along the pier of the Puget Sound - kind of fitting, with the water theme and all, eh?  One of the most attractive tunes on this outing is "Rainbow Falls"; as their sounds cascade over your ears, you will hear hints of vocals in the background that could be fairy princesses or nymphs floating 'round your head.  I also greatly enjoyed "Devas in the Garden", with the tasteful interplay of the harp strings and acoustic guitar & I've no doubt you'll love this one too.  It was the haunting "Voyager" that made it right to the top of my current playlist - where it will stay for a long time to come.  True beauty shines through for you to behold and marvel at... I give it a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.6.  Get more information at    Rotcod Zzaj

Kuwahara - HONEYCULT:  Some splendid indie music in from one of the "founders" of the home-taping underground, Mike Honeycutt.  If you've never heard bees swarming, you may not relate well to this sonic assault... with headphones on, you'll believe you've been caught on the inside of the hive, & that you'll never be able to get back to "normal" (whatever that is, heh! heh!).  This is synth-driven, and it's one of the most excellent excursions I've been on lately - while there are a few invasive moments, this is unusually harmonic and totally perceptive of what will drive you up the proverbial wall, but let you down gently enough to escape without commitment to the "D" ward.  There wasn't a lot of information available on the web, though you can find the tracklist here... Mike is joined by M. Peck, and they've created a wealth of sonic adventures that any active listener will find irresistible... some of this stuff takes you right out to the very EDGE of the universe, and doesn't necessarily bring you back (or at least not in one piece).  One of the most intriguing compositions was "Whose Children Are We?", with blunt-trauma sonic hammers ready to blow you ALL THE WAY AWAY... the other piece I just loved (my favorite track, without doubt) was the swirling opener, "A Basket For Elliot"... just beautiful!  I'm impressed, and you will be, too... I give this aural adventure a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Get more information at  (& be sure to tell them that Zzaj sent you)!    Rotcod Zzaj

Sol - FREEDOM:  You won't believe this cat's talent, folks... I first ran across his magnificent & soulful playing at his REVERBNATION page where you can hear many of the tunes on this fantastic CD... one of my favorite tunes was "Rough Catfish", a bass-driven low crawler that takes you right down to the deepest parts of your soul & kicks your tail right back out into the real world when it's over (you'll definitely be thinkin' Hendrix on this one).  If it's somethin' with a more world-like reggae feel you're lookin' for, try on "Hellhound" for size.  For pure spirit-driven funky LIFE, though, it was "Let's Get Down" that captured my vote as favorite track... some excellent organ/keyboard licks, & the guitar work on this one just shines so bright!  Another favorite for me was "Girl" - just about as mellow as mellow GETS, people, & the lead guitar just soars.  These guys (Sol on guitar/vocals, Mike Tony Echols on bass & vocals, with Scott Rabino on drums) are one of the tightest bands I've heard this year (and that's saying somethin', since I've listened to more than 400 this year alone) & they certainly merit the MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating I'm giving them, as well as the "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.97.  Get more information at (be sure to tell Sol I sent you).  Rotcod Zzaj



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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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