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Improvijazzation Nation - Issue # 40




Dan Susnara - SWEDISH LOVE KIT:    This is one of the kewlest  lil' tapes I've ever heard from Dan (& I've heard nearly all of his tapes).  Title trak features him with only piano & vox… very interesting, very different from much of the music I've heard him do before.  Susnara is multi-talented and prolific.  There are also some heavy synth/guitar oriented cuts here,
true to form for this artist… but, this is some of the most highly creative work I've heard him do.  If you haven't heard Mr. Susnara before, you OWE it to yourself to get WITH IT!  Some of you may know that I've collaborated on several pieces with him, too… all intriguing, all encompassing music that's always "out" there somewhere beyond the
boring.  Kinda' music that transports one to areas they didn't know existed.   Comes MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from me!  Contact at 7806 S. KILPATRICK, CHICAGO, IL 60652   Rotcod Zzaj

Jim Cifelli/New York NONET - SO YOU SAY:   This year's newest CD (I expect) from Jim is the FINEST jazz I've listened to (yet) this year!  Jim plays flugelhorn & trumpet in a GRAND solo on the title track, as well as on others; I particularly enjoyed this cut, though... bouncy & FULL OF LIFE.   The guitar solos by Pete Mccann are outstanding, too.  There are only a couple of covers on this album, letting us get an even better taste of Jim's original pieces than last year.  Track 5, by trombonist Pete McGuinness, creates some nice "groove" moods, too.  This is a large group (9 folks pictured, 10 listed in the liners), but their sound is really a bit deceptive... they're so tight that if you didn't know there were that many folks playing, you could easily feel like you were in a small jazz club listening to a quartet or a quintet.  There just ISN'T any "rivalry", or "stepping" on top of one another.  That's particularly notable, I believe, because it means (I think) they are really communicating with each other, probably on a level that most musicians never will.  Just a GREAT way to start off Y2K, even if you've never been a jazz fan.  Highly enjoyable for all listeners, no "tired jazz" anywhere.  Gets our MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, along with a "PICK" of this issue for "best jazz"!  To order, contact via e-mail to or for booking info, e-mail   Rotcod Zzaj


Don Campau – HEARTBEAT & LOOPY: I hadn’t heard a lot of music from Don in the last coupla’ years. Whether y’all realize it or not, Don’s been one of th’ champions of D.I.Y. & HOMEMADE for some many years now… know he doesn’t like labels like hero, but stalwart certainly comes to mind! This 1998 tape is certainly among the best I’ve heard him do… but, maybe that’s ‘coz I just LUV those guitar lickz’ (think I almost heard sum FUNK-A-DELICS in there). H&L seems to have a more "techno", almost acidic quality to th’ guitar playing this time ‘round, & it was almost like a "nEW dIRECTION" I thought. Very STRONG rhythmic pulses set up a very listenable & enjoyable set of pieces you could do a "Maidenform" in,
verzure (you know, like "the night away"). Now, THIS is th’ kinda’ stuph we could/should be collaborating on together, Don! Assuredly the most comprehensive & rhythmically enchanting tape I’ve (ever) heard from Campau! CHEERS, & a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED go to Mees-ter Campau (wonder how much of this music was influenced by th’
relocation, eh?). Just GREAT music! Contact at Lonely Whistle Music, POB 9162, Santa Rosa, CA 95405, or via e-mail to  Rotcod Zzaj

Joyce Yarrow and Jovino Santos Neto - TOTAL REFLEX: We have been privileged to hear quite a lot of Jovino's music over the last couple of years.   This outing with Ms. Yarrow is among the most pleasurable yet!   Though focus is primarily on the Latin, there are also tinges of very "blue" material on the title track... Jovino's flute work is superb - simply STUNNING!  I'm assuming it was improvised on the fly - it just doesn't get any BETTER than this for your ears! Track 9, "Within Your Shadow" is a poem (by Joyce) turned to song... only complaint is that it was a bit too short (2:46) - this piece could carry you through a whole DAY!  My favorite on the album is "Spring Moon", a bouncy winner that features Joyce in scat mode.  This CD is very accessible, yet highly original... not ONE dull moment!   Gets our MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED (as has been true for every musical adventure Jovino has sent our way).   GET THIS one!  Contact at POB 7165, Santa Clara, CA 95061, or visit   Rotcod Zzaj

Bill Nehl - HAUNTING SIRIUS: A quite interesting CD of guitar  works that Bill recorded (during performance) at the 1998 Olympia Experimental Music Festival. I was there for the  performance, & somehow the recording seems to have enhanced the experience. Very original guitar pieces, most of them over looping rhythm patterns he set up on the spot. I’m assuming they were compositions he had practiced beforehand, but there’s a clearly improvised feel to all the overlays, particularly (I thought) on track 5, "Dance At The Crater’s Edge". Despite the title, there wasn’t anything
particularly dangerous, more like mysterious, I felt (which is actually a good commentary). It’s been quite some time since he sent this CD in for review (my own music somehow got in the way of several reviews), but this has that timeless quality (for those who enjoy well-played guitar music) that make it STILL a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED! Contact at Rusty Records, POB 4166, Kent, WA 98032, or via e-mail to  Rotcod Zzaj

Phil Thornton - SOLSTICE: Not being of the pagan persuasion myself (I am, rather, th’ Rotcod of the Church of Zzaj… J ), I can’t relate that closely to the rituals that Phil’s music has such firm roots in. What DOES come through (as though I’d grown up in the thick of the ceremonies) is the intricate relationship that rhythm (must have) had with the living of a
day (or the parties by the fire after the sun had gone down). Not the frenetic rhythm of methedrine, but the natural kind that comes from moving about unfettered and with clear communion in the glories of events that happen in a life LIVED (rather than rushed to death). Thornton’s fluteworks are inspirational & make me wonder if those who worshipped trees weren’t directly related to Native Americans (I’m talking thousands of years past)! There are spots where this comes close (almost too close) to "new age", but it’s rescued by the fact that you KNOW this artist’s intent is to convey something through his music that most folks (here, anyway) have no concept of! It gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for those who enjoy LISTENING to music (if you don’t you won’t find much for you in it). A truly wonderful album! Contact at Musik International, 154 Botasso Rd., Boulder, CO 80302 (e-mail is    ) Rotcod Zzaj

Naoyuki Onda - DREAM: The first 2 cuts on this album were very pretty, but came across as somewhat bland and not nearly as inspiring as "Silver Moon", the 3rd track. From that point on, the energy levels got better. Mr. Onda’s piano is highly accomplished on all the pieces, but I didn’t feel the sense of spirit on those first 2 tracks. All the music uses ancient themes as the underpinning for painting sonic pictures that will quickly carry you away from your troubles. Unfortunately, there were too many elements of American smooth jazz integrated to make it stand out as highly notable (for me). Don’t read my criticism incorrectly… if you want music that is played skillfully and with high expression, the title track will fill the bill; it’s just that there seemed to be too much of an attempt in the mix to make it something palatable (probably for American listeners). It still deserves a RECOMMENDED, though some readers of this magazine may rate it at a higher level, for it’s soothing qualities. Contact at 4360 Emerald Dr., Colorado Springs, CO 80918 (e-mail to ) Rotcod Zzaj

Day & Taxi – LESS AND MORE: Christoph Gallo’s group has been reviewed many times in this ‘zine, which is our good fortune. This CD is (again) highly creative & intriguing jazz, heavily leaning on Dominique Girod’s double bass playing, but still keeping a focus on Christoph’s wonderful saxophone (soprano/alto) artistry. Dieter Ulrich’s drums are TOTALLY solid, holding the loose threads (when they appear) together & at the same time a part of the intricate web they weave. If you’re
expecting smooth and syrupy "old hat" jazz, you’ll have to look elsewhere. This isn’t power improv, but it’s free enough to mean you must have a desire to "hear between the lines". Very cleanly recorded and most enjoyable, those who love solid improvised jazz will agree with me when I declare this to be MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED… in fact, it’s the PICK of this issue for "best improvised jazz work". Contact at Unit Records, POB 53, CH-1789, Lugnorre/Switzerland, at their site
(   ) or via e-mail to   Rotcod Zzaj

Ken Clinger - KC-48/49: From the opening track of this CD (yeah, Ken’s moved into CD’s now, too, even re-releasing some of his older tapes that way), "Bees Ahoy", features both Ken & Lawrence Salvatore in one of the cutest (& funniest) flights of fancy you’ll ever hear! There are a total of 20 cuts on 48/49, featuring a whle host of those we in the HOMEMADEMUSIC scene will recognize immediately… Olson, Fioretti & Carmen, just to name a few. Another favorite was, of course, "I Wasn’t
Brain Dead", sweet seething verzure! In his tradition, these are all quite composed tunes, so if you’re looking for improvised music, you’ll move on… but as much of a non-conformist as I am (musically), there are times when you just HAVE to listen to music that follows a pattern - & there’s no better music than Clinger’s in that realm! Gets our MOST HIGHLY
RECOMMENDED for those who enjoy GOOD music! Contact at Bovine Productions, 311 Stratford Ave., # 2, Pittsburgh, PA 15232-1108, or via e-mail to   Rotcod Zzaj

Hesperus – CELTIC ROOTS: This CD explores ancient rhythms and instruments, but not only in the traditions of ancient Eire (tho’ that is the focus on this particular CD)… they are very talented at weaving you into their spell! I enjoyed this thoroughly! That may be due to some strain of that land in my doggerel blood, I don’t know, but these gentle tunes ply the heartstrings just as effectively as the most beautiful symphony, or the sweetest soul Aretha ever sang! This comes HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for folks who enjoy music for it’s simple pleasures! Contact at Musik
International, 154 Botasso Rd., Boulder, CO 80302 (e-mail is  ) Rotcod Zzaj

Jack Jezzro – BRAZILIAN NIGHTS: This CD (in from Creative Service Company) features the enchanting acoustic guitar that Jack plays ever so skillfully. He wrote all the tunes on here (except one, "Ladron De
Corazon"), & it’s clear that he’s just as talented at composition as he is at playing. Even the most hardcore acidhead or metalrawk speedster would enjoy these beautiful latin-influenced pieces. Superbly crafted and
played with conviction. This is the most relaxing album I’ve listened to all year, but it doesn’t (for a moment) lack the fire! The last track, "Midnight In Rio", seemed to have the most spirit & energy… my favorite on the
whole album. What makes this stand out is the guitar, no question about it, & the clear love of playing that Jezzro makes so evident guarantees it our MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating! Contact at 4360 Emerald
Dr., Colorado Springs, CO 80918 (e-mail to ) Rotcod Zzaj

Kelley Love and the Pandemonium Orchestra – FOOLIN’: No foolin’ ‘round here. This is B-I-G BAND that just won’t STOP (not that you’d want it to). A 32 piece orchestra that’s been playing serious swing since 1992 is featured under Loves’ clear direction! His arrangements of swing REALLY swing… there are little twists & turns he puts in there that make it taste like ya’ were in a lil’ ‘30’s dive sippin’ champagne & watchin’ thee strutters strut! I found "Promontory" (track 8) to be MOST enjoyable (nice polyrhythmic stuff, with a sneaky bass)! This is UNIQUE swing music, not just th’ ordinary material you hear backing old movies! Very much ALIVE! Gets a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from us & the PICK of the year for "most unique swing arrangements we’ve heard"! Contact at 4360
Emerald Dr., Colorado Springs, CO 80918 (e-mail to ) Rotcod Zzaj

Count Basie Orchestra - SWING SHIFT: Now, here’s a contrast! MAMA Records released this & (with the help of our good friends at B&K, I’m sure) sent it here for review. How interesting that it came out of th’ stack right after the Kelley Love CD. Much more "traditional" swing, more in a straight-up jazz vein! Their horns are emphasized much more strongly, & there’s that ever present bass way down under. Grover Mitchell directed this & stylistically stays with th’ "roots" of swing… Basie would be proud, for SURE! The jazz emphasis is most apparent (& enJOYable) on
cuts like track 3, "Four For Basie", with some PUNCHY horn section counterpoints to solid trumpet that’ll have yer’ toes TAPPIN’! For any swing jazz lover, this CD is a MUST HAVE… gets our MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, without hesitation. A true CLASSIC! Contact at Mama Records, 12358 Ventura Blvd., Studio City, CA 91604,
or through the publicity agent, at B&K Communications, 411A Highland Ave., Suite 353, Somerville, MA 02144, or via e-mail to  Rotcod Zzaj

Uttara-Kuru - EAST WIND: Strictly eastern culture, but with a unique and most pleasant surprise on this CD… the integration of high-tech synthesizers with the ancient melodies (particularly found the shakuhachi flutes enchanting) made this a most unique musical experience. There are many who would approach this as a religious experience, I suppose… but I believe this (kind of) music hearkens back to the stars somewhere! A natural yearning of the heartstrings for something cleaner and more meaningful than (much of) today’s music. There are no frenetically paced
flights here, very calm and peaceful instrumentation that will set your mind (and your soul) at ease. That’s not to say that there’s no energy, though… very dynamic and majestic throughout the album. As I listened to it, one striking thing came through… many of these melodies resemble music from other parts of the world (like Ireland and Scotland). VERY high marks for recording, as you might expect, and thoroughly competent playing! I’ve listened to many of these "oriental" albums over the years… this is my FAVORITE one to date! Gets our MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, and our PICK of this issue for "best eastern musics". Simply SUPERB!!! Contact at 4360 Emerald Dr., Colorado Springs, CO 80918 (e-mail to ) Rotcod Zzaj

Eversound Artists – TIDINGS OF JOY: At this time of year, it’s pretty common to get a few CD’s that contain some seasonal music. While that’s not the forte of this ‘zine (& never has been), my own musical background has very strong roots in these traditions (yeah, Zzaj used ta’ "sing in th’ choir"), so it’s not difficult to come up with an opinion! Absolutely BEAUTIFUL! String arrangements on several of the pieces are wonderful, whether you’re using it as background, or using it for aural pleasure. My wife listened to (most of) it, & SHE gave it a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED… I concur! A great album for the holidays that everyone can enjoy! Contact at Musik International, 154 Botasso Rd., Boulder, CO 80302 (e-mail is   ) Rotcod Zzaj

Electroshock - I WOKE UP BRAIN DEAD: This grand improvisational quintet features our long-time gypsy friend Jeffrey Morgan & four other players… it is not for the timid… jazz for the juiced, I'd say. As you might expect, it features some crystal-clear passages from Jeffrey's alto, but Dr. Borg's guitar maintains a strong presence - as do the drums (Der President), synths (Joker Nies & Konrad Doppert). You may guess from the title (Administer Adrenaline) what my favorite track would be, but that doesn't detract from the other cuts in the least. There are only 4 tracks, the longest clocking in at almost 26 minutes. Tempos vary, some KICK (like the Adrenaline piece mentioned above), & some are quite excursionary (track 4, "Mongo's Toe-jam) ); tho' to be fair to be Jeffrey, this manages to build to what could only be called an INTERSTELLAR CLIMAX. Either way, Morgan has managed (yet again) to paint sonic images of strange
that can't be compared with anything else… TOTAL originality, this CD comes MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED! Contact at  or on his website, This CD is (also) available exclusively (in the U.S.A.) at   Rotcod Zzaj

Bruce Arnold - A FEW DOZEN: Very hard to believe that Mr. Arnold grew up in South Dakota… tho' I don't know (quite) why I'd think that way… great jazz doesn't come from a location, it comes from the heart, eh? Well, Bruce's trio has more than (just) heart, they've got soul! Drums (by Tony Moreno) are precision personified, & Ratzo B. Harris' acoustic bass lines are silky as you could imagine throughout. The title track (which leads the album off) is my favorite, energy personified from the FIRST bar… not just ram-jam (there are some real CHANGES here), but pure & unadulterated F-U-N! Ratzo's bass seems to hold the trio firmly in jazz-land throughout, as Arnold's guitar shows tinges of his ability in the rock arena on several cuts. I also enjoyed "Broadway Y2K" - simply filled with (rhythmic) surprises. This is our first listen to Bruce Arnold… we're sure it WON'T be the last… for the fan of jazz that takes things a step or two beyond "smooth"
(but doesn't freak out the finicky, either), this gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED! Contact at Muse-Eek Recording Company, 550 Broadway #2, New York, NY 10012, via e-mail to  or view the catalog at  Rotcod Zzaj

Ken Fletcher - PROJECT SHORT.WAV: Ken is one of my favorite underground composers… his percussives (a main feature of these 18 short tracks) are always fresh and challenging, & he's ALWAYS "on time"! He's
also been a BIZ-ee boy, posting up a web-zine, radio show & producing this CD over the last few months… you can start your adventure at   Be SURE & check out   -
where the entire ALBUM is available. I thought track 16, "We AreTheTears" was pure genius, but those who can't
focus on more than one rhythm at one time will be driven stark RAVERS! Gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from this reviewer, but be warned… you must want something DIFFERENT! Contact (tonight) at 1171 W. 5th Ave., Eugene, OR 97402, or via e-mail to   Rotcod Zzaj

Ernesto Diaz-Infante and Chris Forsyth - LEFT & RIGHT: If it's guitar-based improvisation you're in love with - you have GOT to get this one! Those who read this 'zine frequently (especially in the last year or so) know that I've been doing a lot of experimental music with Ernesto… but his prepared acoustic work just SHINES when matched with the electric guitars that Chris plays on this round! There are some cuts where the harmonics are so extensive you'll hear orchestras! Relatively short compositions (longest cut is only 6:08), but they will reach out & WRAP
you in them… so many forces at work here, you'll think you stepped right in the middle of a hornet's nest. Those who can't live without form in their music will find this difficult to absorb, but if you enjoy music that is at the
very edges of sonic creativity - this is IT! Gets our MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED and the PICK of this issue for "best guitar improvisations". Contact at Pax Recordings, POB 697, Pacific Grove, CA 93950 or e-mail to Ernesto at  You can also contact Chris Forsyth at Bottomfeeder, 326 St. Johns Pl., # D1, Brooklyn, NY 11238 or via e-mail to Rotcod Zzaj

Brooke Sofferman -  MODESTY'S ODYSSEY:  Brooke's got one H-O-T little jazz quartet on this CD.  Some sumptuous musical treats that display very high energy and talent.  Brooke does drums, Norm Zocher is featured on some smooth guitars, Thompson Kneeland on bass, & some scorching sax solo work by guest Jerry Bergonzi.  This is all rounded out by some silky vocal work by Abby Aronson.  I enjoyed her scat work a great deal on track 2, "Dry Season", which has the text printed on the inside of the jewel case.  Bergzoni's sax is featured throughout the album, & does a great deal to enhance the overall energy level of the experience!  The 4th cut in, "I Hear Music", is my favorite track, as it seemed to emphasize the seamlessness of the group's playing style more than (some) others.  This group has little to be "modest" about - they've rendered a totally listenable musical odyssey here that spans many moods & will bring joy to the ears of many.  Gets a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from me.  Contact at  or via e-mail to   Rotcod Zzaj

Robin Spielberg - BEAUTIFUL DREAMER:  We have (many times now) reviewed Robin's beautiful piano creations.  This CD is a bit of a departure, as it focuses on lullabies played for her daughter, Valerie.  The liners explain that the baby was born (very) premature, using a Caesarian operation.  Unfortunately, her twin sister didn't make it through the ordeal.  This is some of the calmest and most personal solo piano you'll ever hear.  It certainly brought some waves of nostalgia for me (getting WAY too "sedimental" in my old age)... I can still remember my mom singing some of these traditionals for me.  If you're looking for music on the "edge", this probably won't fill the bill... but there ARE moments when stunning simplicity is the best prescription for stress, &  Robin's skillful touch will soothe and heal whatever's ailing you!  This CD is MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!  Contact through Mixed Media, 28 Lockmere Road, Cranston, RI 02910, or via e-mail to  I'm sure this CD will be available in major record & CD outlets, too!  Rotcod Zzaj

HipBone - DECOUPAGE:  This is the first CD I picked up out of the latest stack Bret Hart sent my way... it is, without DOUBT, the BEST music I've heard Mee-ster Hart do in many years.  Bret's guitars are a feature (of course), but his vocals, arrangements & songs are SUPERB!  He also has Rev. Keith Prescott on drums & percz, along with some great bass/guitar(s) from Peter Zolli.  One of the big attractors to Hart's music (for me) has always been that he isn't afraid (one lil' BIT) to challenge the trad forms (his early improv guitar tapes were, & still ARE, classics, in that sense) - but, at the same time, he's able to compose, arrange & play music that's TOTALLY in touch with what the everyday (wo)/man would be able to relate to, in a B-I-G way!  The second cut in, "Big Head", starts off with one H-O-T bass riff (th' kind that sneaks UP on ya'), & moves (not so gently) into a song that you could've heard on th' radio anyday, anywhere (except you have NOT, 'coz th' "machine" doesn't LIKE those of us who are able to create our own).  Some rockin', little bit of sweet acoustic, tastes of C & W woven in, but never so blatantly that it'd make you move on... this is th' kind o' music that gets down UNDER yer' brain & won't go away!  "Punching Clown" is another favorite track... lotza' fade-in/out that will keep yer' ears onna' edge!  Gets our MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED - in fact, it gets the "PICK" of this issue for best "rock influenced folk"!  Another WINNER from Bret's new InstrumenTales Records, 609 Morehead ST., Eden, NC 27288, or e-mail to Rotcod Zzaj


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