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Improvijazzation Nation 

Issue # 49 REVIEWS:


Vinny Golia -  CLARIENT:  Solo clarinet pieces on this very interesting CD in from Meniscus Records.  Purely on B-flat, deep & intruiging throughout!  There seems to be a lot fuller "body" to these improvisations that some I've heard my friend Jeffrey Morgan do.  You must be a dedicated & true fan of the instrument to enjoy this much solo work, but Golia's joy of playing shines through & will (easily) carry you to meditative (though energetic) flights of fancy that will set your mind/soul at peace.  Those folks who demand rigid chord patterns & sequences will shy away from this (because they are who they are), but those with even the least lil' bit of adventurous spirit will find, as I did, that it is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.  Not for the weak of heart, though.  Contact via the label page at or email to   Rotcod Zzaj

rev.99 - TURN A DEAF EAR:  This is my first listen to rev.99, but I was "steered" in this sonic direction by my improvising friend Ernesto (Diaz-Infante), whose recommendation on "out" stuff I will always take over most others.  Surreal splatterings of spoken word (all spontaneous, it seems) that will have you lookin for Bobcat Goldwaithe, I expect!  Diaz-Infante & Chris Forsyth are in fine form, too, random as ever, exploring the range of sonic interplay that can come (easily & naturally) from improvised music with spoken word.  I am really reminded of a CD I performed on way back in the early '80's called the "Mad Metcalf Ensemble"... I don't mention that to "hype" my own stuph, either, it's just that the same sense of freedom & lack of rules is evident through this whole CD... there are even newspaper readings like the ones we were doing; just all KINDS of intricate & intriguing mysterious moments!  If you're a music critic with murder in yer' mind, who LOVES to "talk down" to players who don't respect trad-play, you'll have a field day with this recording.  On thee other digit, if your tastes run towards the adventurous, & you can't tolerate too MUCH form, you'll agree with my rating whole-heartedly - this gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!  Contact at PAX RECORDINGS, POB 591138, San Francisco, CA 94159-1138, via email to  or on the site at   Rotcod Zzaj

Quatuor Accorde - ANGEL GATE:  Tony Wren (who has played with our friend LaDonna Smith) sent this beautiful string quartet CD to us based on a rapid-fire email exchange.  Recorded in studio as well as at St. Michael and All Angels church, the music provides intimate and introspective moments throughout.  Those who haven't listened to this kind of music before will want to ensure that they are in a quiet space, where there will be no interruptions.  Headphones may help, but I find it much more rewarding to listen without them - at fairly loud volume.  Tony's double bass is complimented by Charlotte Hug on viola, Mark Wastell on cello and Phil Durrant on violin.  None of the "normal" descriptors (passionate, heated, noisy) can be applied to a review of this recording... because the intrigue is in the "turn" of the musical moment... about 80% of my enjoyment in this type of music comes from the knowledge that the players are hearing/envisioning scenes that I've never imagined before!  Wren & the rest of the group are, quite simply, MASTERS at defining the moment on the fly.  If you're searching for "answers" in your music, in other words... defined patterns - you will have to look elsewhere.  A challenging & invigorating musical experience - this gets my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating!   Contact the label at MARTIN DAVIDSON, 3 Bittacy Rise, London NW7 2HH, England or via email to Tony can (also) be contacted via email to    Rotcod Zzaj

Satoko Fujii - APRIL SHOWER:  It's been a bit since we've listened to new music from Satoko - & it's just like "coming home"... you know, sweet memories & childhood dreams!  Her beautiful piano compositions have always been among our favorite listenings... & that is richly enhanced when she is joined by Mark Feldman on violin; there are "piano duet" pieces, too, as well as some solos.  The title track is one of the best examples of a musical "conversation" occurring between players I've ever heard!  It's just like they are relating the story of a slow (but damp) & rainy spring afternoon for you.  No "hidden agendas" here, because the music is as pure & sweet as you can get.  Do NOT expect "pop rawk", this IS improvised/composed & demands that you actually HEAR what's being said - or you'll never understand the context.  If you're willing to devote an hour (or so) to a thoroughly relaxing & enjoyable musical experience, though... you'll be rewarded for years to come.  This is a WONDERFUL album & is MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED to anyone who appreciates beauty in their sonic landscapes.  Contact at Ewe Records, 3-4-7, #301, Minami Aoyama, Tokyo, JAPAN 107-0062, via email to or on the site at    Rotcod Zzaj

John Butcher & Dylan van der Schyff - POINTS SNAGS AND WINDINGS:  Though it does sound like the inside of those lil' "generator kits" I used to build when I was a kid... this sax & percussion session will capture your aural attention & quickly weave you into it's web.  Butcher's technique on the 'phones (tenor & soprano) is strong, but not at all abrasive.  Even in the most frenetic passages, he expresses himself clearly & without overbearance (a real problem, I believe, for many reed players in improv).  van der Schyff does more than just "ride herd", he is an intimate part of the stampede... truly "winding" in, out, under & (like, totally MAN) through the etherspace the two create for your ears.  Don't get me wrong... this is NOT "smooth jazz", or "easy listening"... those who read this 'zine with any regularity know that if the music represented THOSE "qualities", it (probably) wouldn't get reviewed here.  The novice improv listener will find a challenging listen with high energy throughout... not a "slow passage" on the whole CD!  This gets a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, without qualification.  GREAT improvised music!  Contact via the label page at or email to  

MJB - C'MON, SLACKER:  So, you wanna' kick back, re-lax & reminisce 'bout all th' best rawk-ers yer' listened to back in thee "good ol' daze"?  Michael J. Bowman is (somehow) able to blend his song-craft into such a dazzling array of styles, you'll think yer' listening to th' "best of" CSNY, Beatles, even a lil' early Dylan thrown in fer' good measure... & th' KICKER?  This is PURE MJB... tho' it reminds you of strands of toonz' you've heard, you can TASTE th' original lyrics, th' high energy & th' compositional skill just SHININ', people!  Th' guitar work (acoustic & electric) is thoroughly enjoyable, what music OTTA' be - FUN!!!  As many readers of our 'zine know, we believe indie music is FAR more important than most of the trash you can buy out of stores these days... & MJB is a perfect example of the BEST in indie spirit & talent.  You who love rock that "reaches out" & RAWKS ya' won't have any trouble (at all) agreeing with me when I declare this MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.  Talent & skill that surpass most players in th' underground scene these days!  Contact at 42 Kalina Dr., Rhineback, NY 12572, or online at   Rotcod Zzaj

Sally Oldfield - FLAMING STAR:  Yeah, I know... you've heard all you can take of this "world-music rhythm" thang, eh?  Well, I'm telling you... S-TO-P!!!  Sally has an ear for taking phrases she hears (in other languages) & turning them in to full-scale musical epics.  Exceptionally well composed, using sound samples woven artfully in/through the spiritually pleasing rhythmic passages.  Her work is (according to the liners, anyway) highly acclaimed in Europe, & it's easy to discern why.  This is that "music of the universe" that our blood flows to... it doesn't have to employ trickery to get you to feel it's message.  Her lyrical skills are plentiful, & she's able to craft lyrics that use simple (sounding) words to draw images of higher purpose for your ears (& your heart... I especially enjoyed "Samurai of the Sun").  This is not "world music" in my judgement - it is "universal and timeless" music... gets our MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!  This is a KEEPER, folks!   Contact at Musik International, 154 Botasso Rd., Boulder, CO 80302 (e-mail is    ) Rotcod Zzaj

Matt Turner/John Harmon - OUTSIDE IN:  As you might imagine, this is a very "reflective" album.  Some very, very pretty duet arrangements featuring Turner's wonderful & vibrant cello playing and John's fantastic fingers on keys.  This outing is much more in a "jazz" vein than some CD's we've reviewed with Matt on them.  Don't let that lull you in to thinking that this is without energy/challenge, though... it's one of those classic jazz experiences that features a grand mix of standard tunes as well as all-originals.  The piano seemed (in spots) to be down a little lower in the mix than I might have recorded it at, but since I play keyboards myself, I probably always mix down with the keyboards at a higher level than they (necessarily) need to be.  Track 10, "Ground Zero", is one of my favorite cuts on the album... sneak-ee jazz & blooz, th' kind o' stuff that alley-katz in dark suits slip/slide thru th' dark corners of the deepest early mornin' streets with!  There's a uniqueness in playing style that will catch your ear & make you wonder how they "got" that particular sound (nearly boogie in stretches).  I declare this (unquestionably) MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED... totally accessible for music fans everywhere.  Contact at Stellar Sound on the site at   Rotcod Zzaj

Fez Tone - ELECTROAUTODANCE:  If our friend Jim Konen don't get yer' digitz' movin' on this highly percussive outing - you're destined for a mortuary - or already IN th' drawer!  As faithful readers of this 'zine, you know we've been reviewing (as well as performing & playing with) Mr. Konen in his various form(ats)... as "VisionEar", as part of the "Detroit Improv Duo" & on this hot lil' CD - as Fez Tone.  No matter what the act, this guy is a MASTER at sucking you in to the vortex of his stealthy percussion & gettin' you so absorbed you feel like you're in a wormhole.  "Electroautodance" is (as you would think from the title) a little more electronic than his first CD's.  That doesn't mean unmusical, however... Jim is one fantastic guitar player, & you will hear some of that ability here - tho' in a more subdued fashion... not nearly as much "lead".  What comes through (when you reflect back on the listening) is a musician who is comfortable with being an artist... no pretense, no fear... just pure playing with no hidden agenda.  As most of you know, that's what I think music ought to be anyway... natural... the fact that he has a great deal of talent moves this CD into the realm of "classic", too.  Wait'll you hear th' cuts where he plays TRUMPET on his guitar... you'll BE a believer.  Any way you slice it, this is MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for those with an ear for percussive beauty & frenzy.  Contact him via email at   Rotcod Zzaj

Ernesto Diaz-Infante/Chris Forsyth - WIRES AND WOODEN BOXES:  There IS "never a moment that's not razor-sharp" in a musical work with this duo on it!  You'll also find that there is always some combination of sounds you never "quite thought of" before.... 'coz that's THEIR job - coming up with the strange and beautiful from the ether.  Ernesto's introspective piano is featured on the opening cut... very open spaces, plenty of room for you (the listener) to dream dreams and explore new horizons.  Though the title might make you believe the improvisations were going to be somehow abrasive, there's none of that here... throughout the CD, you'll find the intricate sounds are rendered without whistle/pop & clearly.  Chris has a playing style that feels quite "bloozy", which makes for some very odd interplays with Ernesto's acoustic.  It's like a sorta' "accessible" improv style, but it holds FIRMLY to the idea that improvisation(s) should continue to nove - there's not ONE stagnant moment on the album.  Live studio recording, as opposed to their last one ("left & right"), which was a remote recording put together betwixt NYC & SF.  If you are looking for something that is both challenging & accessible (in a strange sort of way) - this is IT, folks.  Not only gets our MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, it's also the "PICK" of this issue for "best live improv"!   Contact at PAX RECORDINGS, POB 591138, San Francisco, CA 94159-1138, via email to  or on the site at   Rotcod Zzaj

The Lawn Jockeys - AMAZING SOUNDS OF SHOCK THEATRE:  Andy Valeri & his "Big Beef Records" ain't stopped YET, volkz!  Now, it HAS been a while since we reviewed anything by this group, but they're back in full force.  If you go aquiver at th' thot' of Dracula drippin', this CD will drag u outta' yer' PHUNK, peeple.  Moves from th' heavy organ onna' first 'round right into some daring disco-oriented monster mash kinda' stuph.  That featured performer, "Dr. Creep" iz just thee kinda' dood who appears in yer' nightmares - just when u thot u were gonna' WAKE UP - he dragz yer' back IN to th' miasma (with his maniacal laffin' ).  Tonz' o' radio voiceovers, which got a bit tedious, but the energy in them git-arz keeps it moving well enough that you won't be (at all) bored.  Don't think I'd play this fer' momma (unless my name was Dr. Strangelove, maybe...).  In the overall, a rawkin' lil' romp that's fun to listen to.  Gets a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, especially for those who dig sum heavy motivational zoundz to MOVE to!  Contact at POB 303 WBB, Dayton, OH 45409-0303, via email to  or on the site at   Rotcod Zzaj

Jim Nolet - ARES VOZ:  Some of the sweetest Brazilian jazz you'll ever hear!  Very laid-back, with touches of Nolet's beautiful jazz violin stylings that will make you reach back in to the deepest recesses of your emotional heritage & remember former incarnations (you didn't even know you were a part of).  The acoustic jazz guitars will have you wanting to swing&sway with that mysterious Latin lover that comes to you in your dreams.  Some beautiful vocals, too... unobtrusive, reminds me strongly of Astrud Gilberto's initial outings with Stan Getz (so many years ago).  Pretty... pretty... pretty!  There are some vibe passages that will (almost) bring a tear to your eye, too.  I'm not only highly impressed by this wonderful CD, I believe it merits our MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for lovers of Latin jazz the world over.  Contact at Musik International, 154 Botasso Rd., Boulder, CO 80302 (e-mail is    ) Rotcod Zzaj

Various Artists -  GYPSY SWING:  This one languished in the review box for far too long.... our apologies to the folks at Musik International.  That's especially true since this is a classic example of swing guitar that just KICKZ!  I remember spinning it when we originally received it, & it didn't "strike a chord" at the time, apparently.  Several players are featured, among them "The Robin Nolan Trio" (recently reviewed very favorably in our pages), "Moreno" & Jimmy Rosenberg!  Red-hot & scorching guitar passages played with aplomb & a high-spirited sense of joy that is immediately infectious!  If you can't get up off your buns & kick up yer' heels to this, they'll have to apply mouth-to-mouth shortly... the whirling guitars spin you off into a majick-land reminiscent of the '30's (as I imagine them to have been, anyway).  Flappers & alla' that, yer' know!  Gets a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from us!   Contact at Refined Records, 298 4th Avenue #481, San Francisco, CA 94118 or via email to     Rotcod Zzaj

Christine Hart - PLANTING THAT SEED IN THEIR HEADS:  If yer' think you recognize th' last name o' this wailin' little lady... yer' RIGHT... it IS Bret's wife!  Some TUFF sound here... Christine has th' vocal chops to pull off, & does some pretty mean acoustic as well.  Since this was recorded in '98, I'm assuming it's before they moved down North Carolina way.  There's more of a folk orientation than on a Jefferson Airplane session (some memories of early Grace Slick do come to mind, though), but Ms. Hart clearly has her own feelings to express & a style all her own!  The beauty in this listening is that (knowing Bret as I do), there's no doubt that their musical moves together make it feel like they're sorta' "makin' love" through the sounds.  If you're lookin' for hardcore strange & "out", you'll have to go elsewhere, but listeners who appreciate a lil' bit o' "real" in their music will agree (totally) with me when I declare this hot lil' number as HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!  Contact through the WWW pages at (where you can purchase the CD with your credit card) or at InstrumenTales Records, 609 Morehead St., Eden, NC 27288, USA   Rotcod Zzaj

Matt Turner - CRUSHED SMOKE:  Those not familiar with Matt's wonderful improvised cello playing have (either) a true treat, if they are lovers of free music, or a visit to the PITS, if they are steeped in traditional musics.  This outing is much more "noise" based than many of the CD's we've reviewed with Mr. Turner on them... & that (for this listener) is NOT a BAD thing!  Intricate listening, all the way from sawed strings on "Space Station", to phan-tastic percussives (on the cello, of course) during the opener, "Contraption".  I keep thinking of what it would sound like if Matt, myself & Ernesto Diaz-Infante turned up on an album together somewhere (& that's NOT an impossible scenario).  If you have listened to Ernesto's improvised guitar works, you'll find some similarities.  The cello seems to give it a deeper sound, somehow offering more "range" than acoustic guitar.  Those in love with the apparent lunacy of sound unbound will find this album one of Matt's BEST works.  For the listener who is in search of sonic details that are beyond the range of "normal" human hearing, this comes MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED (for those who are "almost" there, this is a PERFECT starting point for your descent into the depths).  Contact at 834 E. Minor St., Appleton, WI 54911, via email to  or on the WWW pages at     Rotcod Zzaj

Frank O Pollizi Band - THE MOLASSES TAPES:  For those musical aficionados who have "heard it all" - you ain't heard NUTHIN' until you lissen ter' THIS!  We reviewed this guy's "BASEMENT TAPES" a couple of issues back, & he won't let yer' (ever so jaded) ears down this time 'round, either.  This is quite simply - NUTS!  Pace is slightly slower than the last one, but maybe that's why it's titled the way it is.  Somewhat "lick-based", but that's no detractor... you folks who have been around the "underground scene" will recognize shadings of Bret Hart on here, but the Beefheart influences jus' SHINE through!  This is a thoroughly enjoyable CD with high-energy rawk-in sounds that will KICK yer' TAIL!  Those unflaggable fanz o' Unkle Frank (Zappa, that is) won't be ABLE to do WITHOUT this CD... it gets our MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, without qualification!  GET this one TODAY!  Contact at 3649 W. Pony Trail, Tucson, AZ 85742, or via email to   Rotcod Zzaj

Matt Turner - SHADES OF WIGGETT:   Ha! Ha! Ha!  Now I've heard it ALL!  Truth be told, I hadn't heard Matt do keyboards before... kee-rimony, what a duo WE would make on pianos (now, THERE is a thought, Matt... yer' in Wisconson, I'm a (temporary) Michigander....???).  I simply LUV this stuph!  Opening cut & title track is a mad-dash ramble/rove, played with (both) fingers & elbows, a sorta' "improvised" version of Jerry Lee Lewis on speed or steroids.  Some nice gentle compositions as well, but still full-bodied & clearly styled.  "House on the Hill", Track 3, is a wonderful piece that will draw you in & wrap you up (ever so carefully).  There were a couple of pieces (I noted 2 & 5) that were recorded a bit low, so you'll have to turn it UP to hear it.  Turner has a unique playing style that (I suspect) witnesses an even clearer vision of his real personality (basic schizoid?) than do his cello forays (only kidding, Matt).  I can tell you one thing - if you're intense enough in your listening, you'll find yourself (in spots) just laughing yourself to pieces.  In the overall, this is one of the most refreshing improvised piano albums I've heard (& you know I've heard a lot of them); it gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from this reviewer.  If you're at all interested in "real" improvisation on keyboards  -  GET THIS CD!  Contact through Penumbra Music, POB 282, Grafton WI 53024, or on the site at    Rotcod Zzaj

Degenerate Art Ensemble - RINKO:  This Seattle-based group used to be called the "Young Composer's Collective".  While we didn't have the good fortune of reviewing their music while they were in that incarnation - we are happy to hear them now; 'specially with a name like this!  Take some (very solid) classically-trained players (about 7 of 'em, looks like) who maintain a real sense of being composers (in an improvised sense), & their skill(s) will either shine through or make them sound startlingly amateur... & there's not ONE "amateur" lick here.  They've been together for around 4 years, & I've no doubt that has a lot to do with the levels of (group) maturity & sensitivity they display - in SPADES, mon'.... while there is clear unbounded ENERGY evident, there is no rush to judgement.  Their comfort level in the explorations comes through on each cut!  Heavy oriental influences, as you might expect if you'd spent any time on the western side of the state... but in a sorta' "shocking" way.  There ARE no dull moments, & the spontaneous state of (musical) events will keep you (literally) on the edge!  This is some of the most enjoyable classical improv composition I've heard in the last couple of years.  Funk-based-classical-improv with a taste o' funny!  Gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from us, for any listener who wants some adventure for their ears!   Contact at Unit Circle Rekkids, POB 20352, Seattle, WA 98102, or via email to    Rotcod Zzaj

Kristi Stassinopoulou - ECHOTROPIA:  Ol' Tim Leary woulda' LUVVED this worldbeat/folk adventure!  Kristi sings in Greek, but you'd think you were at an "Airplane" concert (with slightly more emphasis on th' percussion than Grace Slick might've had).  This is NOT the (dreaded) sloppy techno-rawk it could have been... it doesn't sound (in the least) like low-end cut/paste electronics, & that's a LARGE plus for the listener.  There are some very clearly psychedelic influences that take me (in a FLASH, mon') back to some wild concert nights in th' '60's!  If yer' droppin' acid (which is NOT something WE recommend), you'll get LOST in the echoes, floatin' off on a Persian karpet into la-la land.  There are some (nice) folk guitars woven in the background, too.  The CD hit some high marks on the Euro-charts for World music, & it definitely rates a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from this reviewer.  Contact at Tinder Records, 4380 Redwood Hwy, Suite B-10, San Rafael, CA 94903, on their WWW pages at or via email to   Rotcod Zzaj

Sawt el Atlas - DONIA:  There seem to be some really interesting sounds coming out of this TINDERRECORDS outfit (by way of our friends at MusikIntl, I'm sure).  This round has strong Arabian rhythms, mixed (most pleasantly) in with funk'n'dancin' musik!  Very danceable, even tho' I understood not a word that was said (in Arabic & French)... that's a pretty strong statement for music to make, I believe.... if the players can convey the emotions without having to depend on the listener understanding the lyrics, they HAVE the power.  The compositions provide some very interesting contrasts in style (outright Marley mixed with ancient (& joyous) Arabic exuberance), but do an excellent job of communicating the spirit!  Improv fans will probably shun this to some degree, as it's pretty heavy on the reggae side, but I enjoyed it a great deal.  Gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from us.  Contact at Tinder Records, 4380 Redwood Hwy, Suite B-10, San Rafael, CA 94903, on their WWW pages at or via email to   Rotcod Zzaj

Gustavo Aguilar - LOOKING FOR AZTLAN: This CD features Gustavo's micro-focused percussion against composed pieces (by John Bergamo, for the most part).  If you want to know a bit more about the meaning of the word "Aztlan" (& you SHOULD), click HERE!  Aguilar is a master percussionist, & this album treats you to enchantment across several styles... some spoken word mixes, some "straight-ahead" percussives, some keyboards woven in.  The most exciting piece (I felt) was track 5, "Obra De La Tierra"... it is the longest cut (12:55), & had the captured the excitement of Gustavo's energy VERY effectively.  He uses the "deep" tones of his instruments to announce directional shifts & anchor the frenetic pace(s) that are often achieved.  It was interesting for me to note that he had worked in Korea... after listening through several times (especially to "Obra De La Tierra"), it made me wonder if he had worked (while there) with Sa-Mul-No-Ri (a traditional Korean percussion show group).  You will need to reserve an hour or so for yourself to listen to this wonderful album... do NOT anticipate it being the background trak for your next Tupperware party... you need to listen to the point of absorption in order to appreciate the search for "the place of whiteness"!  Gets our MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, especially for those who enjoy listening between the notes!  Contact at PAX RECORDINGS, POB 591138, San Francisco, CA 94159-1138, via email to  or on the site at  (or to ACOUSTIC LEVITATION, 2625 E. 13 St. 2K, Brooklyn, NY 11235... email is ) Rotcod Zzaj


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