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Improvijazzation Nation 

Issue # 51 REVIEWS:

Ray Lema - TYOUR GNAOUA:  Ray was born in Zaire, & that country's energy comes shining through clearly in the music he plays on this wonderful CD!  This offers far more (in the way of HIGH energy) than it's "worldbeat" oriented liner notes might imply.  Around 7 players listed, with all manner of intriguing instruments whirling 'round in your ears!  There's a heavy undercurrent of bass going on here, but keyboards, guitars & many other instruments can be heard, too.  Sections of Lema's keyboards remind me strongly of another jazz favorite (of mine), Joe Zawinul.  Ray's music has been described as "avant garde", in the sense of his traditional playing, anyway... & that bears itself out (quite nicely) in the listening.  He plays against more traditional African rhythmic structures, weaving his own novel vocals & rhythmic counter-punches, with tremendously successful results.  If you've never heard African music before, MAKE this your first listen.  A totally enchanting trip that gets a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from us!  Contact at Musik International, 154 Botasso Rd., Boulder, CO 80302 (e-mail is    ) Rotcod Zzaj

Dave Storrs - ANOTHER THING:  It's been quite a while since I heard a CD that had nothing but percussion on it!  Storrs' pulls it off quite nicely, never a dull moment (e'en tho' you might think there would be times when you'd get tired of drums, since there are 18 cuts on here... you'd be mistaken).  Dave sort of "paints" with his percussives, illustrating different moods, letting your mind fill in what the music would/could be... this makes it a highly imaginative terrain!  All the way from deepest & darkest jungle(s) (title track), to strangely creative ("All Hours") - it's all in there!  The other thing that's aurally quite evident is that this guy can play it ALL... all th' rhythms inna' WORLD are at th' tipz' of his fingers!  This is a very well recorded album that will spin many times in th' players of folks who enjoy music for it's own sake... gets our MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating!  You should GET this one, folks!  Contact at Louie Records (which has Mr. Storrs at the helm, actually), 644 SW 5th St.,  Corvalis, OR 97333, on their WWW pages, at  or via email to   Rotcod Zzaj

Rob Blakeslee Quartet - LAST MINUTE GIFT:  Here's some heavy jazz from Oregon's "Louie Records".  Rob plays trumpet/flugelhorn, with MIchael Vlatkovich on trombone, Clyde Reed on bass & Dave Storrs on drums.  This is great jazz improvisation, in which all players are "equal", if you will... very open-ended, with total freedom of expression.  You won't feel any "rushes" to "get somewhere", the quartet has a very relaxed approach, even on the high energy pieces.  My favorite, of course, was "Advice From A Pufferfish", if only 'coz o' th' title... actually, tho', it's a strong jazz piece that I fell in love with almost immediately!  With all that brass, you can obviously expect some interplays, & they don't let you down for a moment on that score.  Reed's bass sets some solid underpinnings throughout the compositions, & Storrs's drums are right there too!  In fact, the bass seemed to have a "voice" of it's own that formed a really nice conversation with the horns... quite often, a jazz quartet that's based in "conversational" mode tends to have some stretches where it just sounds like "chatter" - there was NONE of that here!  A very impressive jazz outing that gets our MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, without a moment's hesitation.  Contact at Louie Records, 644 SW 5th St.,  Corvalis, OR 97333, on their WWW pages, at  or via email to   Rotcod Zzaj

Bret Hart/Mark Kissinger - DUETS, VOLUME 2:  Many of us who have followed developments in the "Home Recording" (as Bryan Baker terms it) crowd are as familiar with these two as we are with our mother's maiden names.  I've recorded with both of them over the years, of course, & often wondered how they would sound together.  Well, I can tell you, even with th' dose o' salt tossed in (for knowing them so well already), this is some fantastic improvised music.  The tone throughout is relaxed... Kissinger's slide guitar adds an element of floating space that (at times) makes it feel like yer' listening to robots (somehow) having intimate conversations.  It's an EP of 25 minutes, so those who love it will be searching for more.  As often happens, Bret pulled this from a "stack" of material that had gotten buried & digitized it.  Bret does dobro (sounds sorta' like Debbie & Dallas, eh?) to form a very strange duet scene with Mark's slide works.  My favorite trak was "cuttin' haidz"... at 3:38, itz' th' longest cut... why do I like it?  Because it's indescribable... you haven't HEARD music like this before!  If you haven't heard any of the DUET series coming out of Hart's INSTRUMENTALES label - this is THE album to start with!  Gets our MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for "best creative"!  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

Kitty Margolis - LEFT COAST LIFE:  This lady can BELT those jazz vox all OVER th' place.  One of th' strongest jazz singers I've heard in quite some years!  High spirits through & through, & Ms. Margolis conveys th' (true) message of jazz clearly - 100% pure j-o-y!!!  There are times when you listen to only a few bars of an album & know that th' artist you're listening to has that "*" quality... Kitty is TOP-notch (tho' I listened through the whole album twice before putting these thoughts down)!  No matter what th' mood of th' song she's singing (bright, bloozy or sad ballad), you can hear the whole range of feeling coming through in her singing.  This CD has (without any doubt) the BEST female jazz vocal work I've heard this year, & gets the "PICK" of this issue for "best vocal jazz".  It doesn't hurt that she is fronting for a group of EXCELLENT players, either... far too many to itemize here, just let's say that th' energy is crystal clear from start to finish.  This album is a KEEPER, people... gets our MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED... if you're looking for a gift for a friend who loves jazz - GET THIS!  Contact at Mad-Kat Records, POB 330425, San Francisco, CA 94133-0425, on the site at or via email to   Rotcod Zzaj

Markus James - NIGHTBIRD:  Strangest "blues" album I've ever heard... recorded in Mali, West Africa, with Hassi Sare, Hamma Sankare, Solo Sidibe, Massamba Diop & (many) others, it features James' on some attractively haunting vocals & original compositions.  Markus is listed as the "producer", & I didn't see any credits for his acoustic, tho' there are pictures of him with it.  Comparisons may be made to folks like Ry Cooder or Taj Mahal... but they'd all be off-mark - Markus has a unique vocal style of his own!  Some wonderfully intricate percussion is happening here (as you might expect), & some sweet backing vocals, too.  We feel (as we often do) honored to have received an advance copy... the CD won't be out until February 2002.  This might be filed under "world" music in some bins, but hunt it down... it's among the best I've listened to this year, & is guaranteed to enchant for years to come.  Those who love vocals that convince gently, with rhythm pulsing throughout will agree with my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating.  A superb musical experience!  Contact at Musik International, 154 Botasso Rd., Boulder, CO 80302 (e-mail is    ) Rotcod Zzaj

East October - CAMERA OBSCURA:  "East" is th' keyboardist for "Automatic Music" (who have been reviewed in our pages way more'n once...).  This CD features th' innocuous October in some rhythm/beat driven thangs that could be construed as dance traks, as well as some orchestral sequences that use the dynamics to their fullest extent.  There's far more going on than that, though... I strongly recommend you use headphones to catch the undercurrents.  There are some similarities (rhythmically) to my friend Jim Konen... I'd love to see/hear "East" & Jim (& ME, for that matter) playing together.  Just LUV those "stilted" beats on "Radio Free Utopia".  A full range of sounds & styles are used, & you will find that the sonic landscapes become more enchanting as you venture in to the depths... "After The Rain" was a particularly pretty piece, with sweeping panoramas painted for your imagination.  Highly original and well crafted, "CAMERA OBSCURA" gets a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from us!  Contact at 504 Liberty Place, Archdale, NC 27263    Rotcod Zzaj

Mary Louise Defender Wilson - MY RELATIVES SAY:  The cover on the CD pretty much says it all "traditional Dakotah stories".  It has been a while since we received music/stories from the Makoche label.  This served as a wonderful (re)introduction to the wisdom & beauty of the simple reality that can be.  I've no doubt that my joy in hearing these stories was enhanced by our return to the Great Northwest.  Most of the narration is backed by beautiful flute (Bryan Akipa).  The CD is also enhanced, with relaxing images of elk, herons, deer & other animals.  This would be a wonderful album for children in schools across the country to hear... but it also would benefit (so) many of us caught up in the hustle/bustle of today's world.  Very enjoyable, well-recorded & a highly pleasant listen... it gets a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from us!  Contact at 208 N. 4th St., Bismarck, ND 58502, on the Makoche WWW site,  or via e-mail to   Rotcod Zzaj

Bryan Akipa - EAGLE DREAMS:  This CD (from the Makoche label) was included in the package with "My Relatives Say".  It didn't have much of a press kit, but was a perfect compliment to Ms. Wilson's stories.  Bryan played behind Mary on that CD, & his "Eagle Dreams" gives the listener a chance to become more familiar with his beautiful music(s).  Somehow, Akipa's flute (red cedar) seems to have a deeper, more "throaty" body to it than other players we've listened to (& we've listened to/reviewed many!).  There are backing nature sounds (wind, trees, crickets, etc.), as you might expect, but they are woven seamlessly into the album.  Very calming, & with a degree of joy sometimes not present on solo flute excursions.  I'm highly impressed with this CD & give it a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for any/all in need of music that will heal the spirit!  We will (certainly) look forward to the next Akipa release.  Contact at 208 N. 4th St., Bismarck, ND 58502, on the Makoche WWW site,  or via e-mail to   Rotcod Zzaj

Tales - THE SESKIAN WARS:  Jean-Luc H. Berthelot is no stranger to our reviews section... as "Tales", he has produced several totally engaging and enchanting CD's, many of which have been reviewed in our pages.  This latest effort is the best to date, with a sci-fi theme that will have you dreaming dreams of galactic proportions.  Robots talking in strange voices behind the music, intrigues galore!  Jean-Luc uses his synths to paint new vistas... no "status quo" here, this is all new & fresh!  I am hearing much more piano work on this effort, some very sensitive and well crafted passages.  These compositions are full bodied and full of pizazz!  Another monumental sonic adventure that all should hear!  Gets a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from our ears... especially for those who like to listen to space opera!  Contact on the WWW at or via e-mail to   Rotcod Zzaj

Sylvia Hallett - WHITE FOG:  No matter what color "fog" you live in, this experiment with bicycle spokes (bowed), digital delays & vox will make clear that the sonic cycle around us is often unknown and deeper than we anticipated.  VERY intricate improvisations that should be listened to with thee phones on!  Lots of "metal" here, vocals intertwined in a fashion that will either wrap you up in the seance or drive you back to the arms of your favorite troll.  This is in from the "Emanem" label in the UK, along with a whole batch of improvised works that we will be reviewing in the coming months... this particular CD is a musical experience you won't soon forget, I can tell you.  Elements of trance, histories you never read about in school peeping through on "Violet".  Moments of beauty in some of the (almost) dirge-like wanderings, but don't get the wrong impression... this is (all) carefully crafted & well thought out.  "White Fog" gets more than a "thumbs up" from us, it is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for those with adventure in their aural appendages.  Contact through Martin Davidson, 3 Bittacy Rise, London NW7 2HH England, on the site at  or via email to   Rotcod Zzaj

Spontaneous Music Ensemble - CHALLENGE:  Remastered free jazz from "Emanem" label in the UK.  Apparently taken from original analog tapes, they've done a marvelous job of restoring all the high energy & freedom that was in these 1966-1967 sets.  Features Kenny Wheeler (Flugelhorn), Paul Rutherford (trombone), Trevor Watts (alto/soprano sax), Bruce Cale (double bass), Jeff Clyne (double bass) & John Stevens (drums/cymbals).  There are several previously released tracks, as well as 2 new cuts.  You must enjoy horn-based jazz... if you're looking for keyboards, you'll have to move on to something else.  There is a "full body" sound on all the cuts, so much so that you'll feel like you're right in th' studio or club they were jammin' in!  SUPER energy through the whole album, perhaps enhanced by the fact that these appear to be all original compz.  Jazz fans everywhere will love the sense of freedom... we give this a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!  This would make an excellent C-mas present for yer' "jazzhead" friends!  Contact through Martin Davidson, 3 Bittacy Rise, London NW7 2HH England, on the site at  or via email to   Rotcod Zzaj

John Russell & Roger Turner - THE SECOND SKY:  John's acoustic guitar intricacies remind me of some of the sets/recording Ernesto Diaz-Infante & I have done together.  Roger's percz are clear as a blue sky on a sunny day, crisp but full bodied.  Some listeners won't be able to (easily) identify with this type of music, as it requires a close listening... anything less will make it unintelligible for the "average" fan.  Those who are attracted to adventuresome sonic experiences will find their ears unwilling to break away, however!  The playing is all "of the moment", something our friends Davey Williams & LaDonna Smith (Transmuseq) are well familiar with... there are some amazing stretches on track 6, "Slowly Burning Word"... simply LOVED it!  Listeners who demand something "new" & "different" in their listening will agree when I declare this to be HIGHLY RECOMMENDED... those of the more "straight-laced" persuasions will shy away, I'm sure.  Contact through Martin Davidson, 3 Bittacy Rise, London NW7 2HH England, on the site at  or via email to   Rotcod Zzaj

Satoko Fujii Quartet - VULCAN:  Some odd departures for Satoko... movin' in on th' turf of th' rawk-sters, a beautiful marraige between prog-rock & freestyle jazz!  All who read this 'zine regularly will know that I fell in love with Fujii's wonderfully creative compositions many issues ago, & this latest excursion doesn't detract from that appreciation in the least.  What I really do appreciate is the fact that every album she's put out in the last couple of years goes in new directions, not getting in any ruts.  Takeharu Hayakawa's bass is featured throughout the album, in a very "punctuational" role... sets the tone for many of the pieces & (sorta') guides th' listener through the high energy pieces.  Satoko's keys are there, of course, but more subtly in this framework.  The compz' move from alien-sounding twisted vox through high-end rockers, with strong shades of jazz woven in & through.  Natsuki Tamura's trumpet provides some really pleasant duet sections with the bass, but jumps right in there on th' jamz!  Percussives/drums by Tatsuya Yoshida (of "Ruins") go much farther than just "the beat", painting percussive pictures for your ears.  My favorite cut was "Junction" (the last track), probably for it's ultra-pounding energy.  This is a GREAT CD, among the best I've ever heard Ms. Fujii on... gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from us, especially for those who want something more than "standards" in their jazz/rock/fusion listening.  Contact Libra Records, via email at or on the site at   Rotcod Zzaj

Marilynn Seits - THREADS OF VIOLET LIGHT:  Every time we listen to a (new) CD by Marilynn, we are highly impressed at the variety of music(s) she creates/plays.  "Threads" has a healing music on it, reaching deep in to your mind to stir memories of how pleasant life has been (at times).  Many of us have listened to these (kinds of) albums before, no doubt, but Ms. Seits grasp of the concepts is far & above most players of this type of music.  I've no doubt that the therapists who worked with me (many, many moons ago) would have chosen this to help in the rebuilding process.  My thought is that it is MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, even if only for those moments when you want to see what the quiet will say to you!  I especially enjoyed the little "bell" sounds she was able to weave in to the synth washes.  Clearly a winner!  This would be a wonderful gift for someone you felt needed a little calming.  Contact at  or via e-mail to  ) Rotcod Zzaj

The Mike Longo Trio - STILL SWINGIN':  Mike Longo's keyboards are the highlight on this (most) appropriately titled CD.  It really does swing, tho' that doesn't necessarily have any direct relationship with "swing" music.  The trio (Ben Brown on bass & Ray Mosca on drums) captures a spirit, an energy, if you will that is the essence of swinging.  Definitely straight-ahead jazz, but it's not that "dead" or "smooth" kind that Frank Zappa alluded to... & it smells H-O-T!  Only a couple of originals, but one of them ("Bones", a Longo comp) is my favorite cut on the album; of course, readers here will know that I prefer originals anyway.  The trio is seamless, aware at every note of each other, where they've been & where they're going... which always makes it much more interesting for the listener.  Their rendition of a Wayne Shorter tune, "Wildflower", is total enjoyment for these ears, & will be for yours as well - it's a real jazz "keeper".  I give this a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED & the "PICK" of this issue for "best jazz trio"!  Contact through Creative Service Company, 4360 Emerald Dr., Colorado Springs, CO 80918... also via e-mail to    Rotcod Zzaj

Tony Perez - FULL FORCE JAZZ:  Lovely Latin jazz, apropo for sure, as Mr. Perez comes from Cuba.  There are far too many players to list them all, but (as you might expect), the percussion & the horns (along with Tony's keyboards) stand out clearly.  I just LOVED track 7, "La Diferencia"... it really moved & was most representative of the title of the album!  Track 10, "A Puerto Padre Me Voy", wasn't far behind it, either.  There are an assortment of rhythmic styles, all the way from ballad to latin boogie, if you will.  Perez' stylings are full-fingered & all over the keyboards... a very accomplished player.  Very pleasant listening, especially for those who love raw energy in their jazz.  This gets a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from us... it will spin many times here, & anyone who digs rhythmic enchantment will play it over & over.  Contact at Primienta Records Corp., POB 164833, Miami, FL 33166--4839  You may also be able to reach Tony via email at  (not sure, trying it now).    Rotcod Zzaj


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