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Improvijazzation Nation 

Issue # 53 REVIEWS


The Puma-Sutras -  YOU FIND LIGHT IN ME:  We reviewed this group (quite) sometime back (Issue # 41, actually).  Here comes another 3-track EP from Britain.  Again, it's nice, lilting balladry, with strong focus on (near) slide guitar work.  Spots where one might think they were listening to a Bonnie Raitt blues, even.  Th' rub (if there really is one) is that I want to hear a FULL CD, gentz'!  The 3rd cut is my favorite (perhaps 'coz it sounds like it was a live recording) -  really a rawker, lotz' o' 'lektrick guitars & an uptempo lyrical style that will make ya' (either) wanna' get yer' Harley betwixt yer' legs or pull yer' '57 Mercury out o' th' mothball closet!  The recording is superb, clean & well produced!  Just a great lil' EP - but, NEXT TIME, let's have thee WHOLE ball o' candlewax, Meest-er Sutra!  This gets a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for all fans of well performed rock ensemble work.  Contact at POB 132, Lancaster La1 5gw, or via e-mail to   Rotcod Zzaj

Garrett Sawyer - ANTHEM:  We've had the privilege of listening to & reviewing Garrett's works before (way back in '95).  His new release is a clear ascension to new heights.  The music is folk lyrical with higher energy than (many in) this genre usually produce.  The title track is totally inspiring, with chord structures (obviously) that support a higher view.  Th' beauty of his lyrics, though, is that they return the listener to an environment where one must actually listen to the words to grasp his (often poignant) meanings!  That's exemplified in my favorite cut (track 2) "The Rain Of An Insane Sky"!  Sawyer's 6 & 12 string guitars are punched full of energy, as is his approach to each of the songs; he's able to express a full range of emotions with his vocals, from sad/sweet to outright rage.  If you can't be inspired by his music, you're due for a headstone!  A thoroughly enjoyable CD that gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from us.  Contact at POB 5075, Irvine, CA 92616-5075, via email to  or on his site,   Rotcod Zzaj

Paradise Camp 23 - Bar-BQ Dungeon:  Out of a cool-ection of CD's in from Mandragora Records (yeah, th' guy at Weirdsville Radio), this is th' first I chose to listen to (in keeping with our tradition of improv - it fell outta' th' envelope first).  Odd & noisy, purely psychedelic... if you listen to this on (even) mild acid influence, you'll be lost&gone for th' next 50 years!  Only 4 cuts, but one of 'em is 47 minutes long.  I've no doubt that each of these tracks could have served as th' intro to some of Timothy's (as in Leary) adventures.  There is a lot of feedback-type stuff, plenty of loopy guitars & insanity galore - just th' kind of stuff to get this reviewer off!  As lo-fi as it is, th' recording still comes across well, not too much masked under NR.  If you're more inclined towards structure, though, you'll probably shy away from this.  You will have to enjoy "noise-art" to make a full feast of this, but as long as you do, you'll agree with me - HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!   Contact at POB 936, Northampton, MA 01061-0936 or on th' website -   Rotcod Zzaj

cesium:137 - ADVANCED/dECAY:  What a difference a year (& another CD) can make!  We reviewed them 3 issues back (# 50) & liked th' music, but weren't otherwise greatly favorable.  Well, this new album has CHANGED our impression.  Why?  Because they don't just "mix it up" on this round, they play different styles in a very effective way.  Gourd-a-might-ee, Jim (Konen), if we could hook these gents up with ya' - it'd be ALL over!  Ten trax that literally throb with bass excitement!!!  Would momma' dance to it?  Only if she had some o' that KRYSTAL they mix in th' bathtubs out here... but she's GET steppin' one way or another.  Another thing I enjoyed is that tho' it's HARD-beat, it doesn't feel (too) terribly dark... seems to be a real sense of life conveyed by th' players!  If you don't like dance/beat music, you may shy away a bit, but you'll be missing a fun listen.  For those who have ta' have their BEATZ' - this is th' kat's meow... gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from us (& that's a first for dance-trax albums in this 'zine)!  Contact at POB 1736, Philadelphia, PA 19105-1736, or via email to   Rotcod Zzaj

Painful/Fuglewicz - LOST CITY MUSIC, Volume 1:  Painful is an old guitar-bending friend of ours from up Seattle way who got sucked in to thee "evil Bill" vortex, we thot... but, no... he bin BIZ-ee with Dave (a true southern synthmeister), creating a whole new style (for them, ennyway).  Th' CD has much stronger ambient flavors than anything I've heard Dave or Pete do before.  Th' windz' on th' deserts o' Mars?  Some images of those gigantic WORMZ' in "Dune" come to mind, too.  You will want to scope this with th' headphones on; cuts are long & intricate, lots of auras being painted/reflected here.  This is extremely creative, too... incorporating (some) mechanicals with 'lecktro-trance, to form new sonic vistas.  If you're the type of listener who won't settle for anything less than "fresh/new", you won't be able to do without this adventure.  These 2 have always "pushed the edges" a bit, but they've outdone themselves on this one.  This gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from us - & also gets th' "PICK" of this issue for "best experimental"!  Contact at Unnatural Reality Audio, 360 Sheringham Ct., Roswell, GA 30076, via email to or on Dave's pages, at   Rotcod Zzaj

Boundary Issues - BEGINNINGS & ENDINGS:  Dave (Storrs, th' drummer with/for th' TONE SHARKS) has been asking me if I listened to/reviewed this one yet... & now that I dug through th' envelope box(es), I can see why!  Some of th' most spontaneous (yet powerful) playing we've heard Dave's groupings do yet!  Steve Willis' guitar keeps th' jazz flavor floating through & through, & Page Hundemer provides a contrasting bass that stays fluid, not static or "ker-plunk", "ker-plunk".  I (really) wonder how they get all th' instruments to come out so crisply, too.  This sounds as though you were RIGHT THERE (in th' klub or in their living room) listening.  Don't let th' title mislead you, though... these are full-blown pieces, packed full of very interesting spontaneity!  Highly energetic jazz/rock/off-th-top music that will groove you!  I wouldn't recommend this one fer' road music, as you'd be profiled fer' skittish DUI (or somethin' equally awful).  Lots of "angles" in here, but th' turns are smooth, no jagged edges.  Steve's guitar (track 3) assumes lead nicely, taking us up to th' edge of rock territory, but still stayin' on th' jazz side of th' boundary.  This gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for jazz listeners who are in th' "jade zone" & also gets th' PICK of this issue for "best exploratory jazz"!   Zappa would have had to retract his statements about "th' death o' jazz" after listening through this one.  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

Howard Riley/Barry Guy/Tony Oxley - OVERGROUND:  It's amazing what wonderful music has come out of the digital age.  This CD is a remaster of 1974-5 sessions between these improvisational masters, by Emanem Records.  Though it's sometime back, this is like brand-new, since it was never issued before.  Guy's bass is somewhat surreptitious, with Oxley's percussives & Riley's piano more noticeable.  Five (very) long trax that will have improv-heads foaming (at th' earz').  Some traditional pop/scratch work, but the real attraction (for this listener) was the 16:06 long "Pages", which has real depth & approaches that make it very "space" oriented.  Listeners addicted to form may not enjoy this terribly, but any fan of random will fall in love with this album... it is a KEEPER, & will stay in your collection for years to come!  Gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from us!  Contact through Martin Davidson, 3 Bittacy Rise, London NW7 2HH England, on the site at  or via email to   Rotcod Zzaj

Jack Wright/Bob Falesch - CLANG:  I have been corresponding with Bob for some years now (can't remember xactly when), & listening to/writing about Jack Wright's works for many more.  Imagine my surprise when this CD showed up, then!  I (honestly) didn't know how masterful a player Mr. Falesch is (keyboards).  It is (simply) MARVELOUS improvised work!  Difficult to describe why it's so (much more) impressive - it may be the fact that Jack & Bob spent some (significant amounts of) time together on it... letting it flow, but actually discussing their work & the works of (many) other artists.  Wright's horn work on here is superbly recorded, as are the keyboards (Jack plays keyboards, too, something I wasn't aware of - or had forgotten over these many long years).  This is an improv work with staying power... real sustenance that will "stick to yer' bones".  8 wonderful compositions, great work from two masters.  If you're a hardcore improvised fan, you'll agree when I declare this to be MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.  An absolutely great CD!  Contact at/through James Stevens Promotions, 7318 Gladys Ave., El Cerrito, CA 94530, or via email to   You can purchase the CD from   Rotcod Zzaj

Friends of Mescalito - NAGUAL MUSIC FOR TONAL PEOPLE:   W.O.O.'s bassist, Scott Prato, has been putting out CD's for some time now, I guess, under this group name (this is the 3rd one, according to the liners).  The opening cut, "Deviations From The Master Plan", (somehow) reminds me of Zappa stylings... can't pin down why that is - but IT IS!  HEAV-ee rock orientations, much more form-based than the W.O.O. stuff.  Scott's bass work is featured more prominently on other trax; my favorite piece is "Seek & You'll Find It", cut 7.  which brings the basslines out rather clearly.  "Nagual People" is high energy rawkin', guitar-centric & pulsing.  Quite a mix of styles, so you'll want to listen to this at home with th' phones on, not as "road music".  Gets a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from these earz'!  Contact at 49 First Ave., #5-0, NYC, NY 10003, on the site at  or via email to   Rotcod Zzaj

MC Potbelly - MY FAVORITES:  Well, a couple of th' rap lyrics on here are kinda' funny ('specially th' one about th' hooker who doesn't wanna' stop "Th' Horizontal Hip Hop").  This is a 41 year old (white) insurance agent from Marin County, doing these cuts.  Like I said, some of th' trax are funny... BUT, they're kinda' hard to listen to, since they "skip & slide" in spots.  MC likes to apply th' K.I.S.S. principle to his raps - no overcomplicated rhymes... just th' beat, ya' know?  You can check him out (a bit) on th' site at  His email is   He would get a higher rating if th' CD didn't skip... as it is, for those who like music to poke fun at itself, it gets a RECOMMENDED!   Rotcod Zzaj

David Berriman - SUNBURST OF SOUND:  Solo piano on this pleasant and relaxing CD in from Livonia, Michigan.  David plays the keys like he loves them - very sensitive and expressive playing.  This is his second recording (we'll review the earlier one in a later issue).  He's "enhanced" this recording with some string/orchestral sound, very effectively, I might add.  Ten of the (14) tracks are originals; to his credit, even the covers are played with an appropriate passion for the quality of the listening experience.  This is NOT "out there" jazz - it's straight-ahead piano playing with zest for life & the living of it through music!  I enjoyed his compositions & style enough to rate it as HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, especially for those folks who "just want th' music, ma'am".  Very capable, very nice listen.  Contact at 27605 Lyndon, Livonia, MI 48154, or via email to   Rotcod Zzaj

The Synthetic Dream Foundation - QUENCH:  Heavy beats, narcotic induced trance/dance music on this CD in from artist TSDF (out of Norman, Oklahoma).  I'm not sure where/how/why th' CD came to us, unless it's something I happened to comment on in a newsgroup.  Doesn't really matter about that, though... this is pretty good... surprisingly so, actually!  Th' highest levels of energy seem to be in th' "dark/under" side of things... you know, down where th' "throb" is at.  This is kinda' like what th' shrooms "felt like" back in th' '60's, & would have served as a nice backdrop for th' trip.  There are sections that explore th' caves of th' players' minds, back there where you scrape th' moss&mold off & discover ancient identities... right?  Actually, no... the players have just realized th' power of "the rhythm" over th' human psyche.  My favorite track was cut 2, "Scaring The Flowers"... very subliminal, very deep-down (as you might imagine from th' title).  I'd like to hear a little crisper recording next time around, but th' .MP3 DAM CD still conveys th' impression strongly enough to merit this as HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!  Contact them through their .MP3 site, I guess, at   Rotcod Zzaj

James Kennedy - BITS N' PIECES:  We first reviewed James' masterful guitar work back in issue # 32, on a CD titled "Across The Borders".  Well, there's even MORE to rave about on this album!  It may be (in part) because many of the tracks are live, but this is one HIGH energy album.  James plays both electric & acoustic guitars on these all original compositions - & he RAWKS!  Matt Alles bass supports nicely, & the drummers (Masahiro Iwasaki on 1, 2 & 6, & Stickman on 3, 4 & 5) keep it all moving nicely, but there's no way you can (or would want to) miss th' feature, which is Kennedy jammin' on th' strings!  The recording is flawless on every cut, crisp & full of the joy of playing.  My personal favorite was "Ancient Warriors" (track 3), because I really liked th' mesh of the drums & th' guitar - intense rhythms!  There is great variety & simplicity in James' compositional style... the listener who enjoys well crafted fusion jazz will agree with me - this is MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!  One of the better albums I've listened to this year... & I've listened to a lot already!  Contact at 410 First St. West, Mr. Vernon, Iowa 52314, via email to  or on the pages at   Rotcod Zzaj

Qadesh - EXPERIMENT IN PSYCHODRAMA - Hearkens back to th' daze of "Touch", methinks.  This CD, in directly from the band (in the UK) is more than just enjoyable... it's pure pleasure!  Basically a quintet, they play highly stylized originals that trod out of rock territory, but have enough of an edge to (also) hear them bordering on jazz as well!  This (unfortunately) was just a "demo" CD.  We WANT th' first full-length, Bill (that's th' "pure English-mongrel keyboardist, Willyam-Daevid Harbottle, who sent this to us)!!!  Th' band conveys an air of confidence through their playing that is very attractive... enough so that they can poke fun at themselves (in the liner notes)... that spirit is infectious... even thee first-time listener can tell that this music is FOR FUN!  These are some talented players, indeed.... they're clearly havin' a great time, & you the listener will, too!  They surely rate a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for listeners who want to hear something fresh/crisp... & I've no doubt that their first full-length production will rate even higher!  Contact via email to or on their site, at   Rotcod Zzaj

Richard Paske Trio - LIVE ON KFAI:  I first listened to Richard's trio work on a live broadcast he was doing on KFAI (for some very far out musics... his show is called Fresh Ears).  It wasn't long after that I sent him several CD's (of ours), which he aired promptly.  I (also) asked him to send me something with more of his wonderful keyboard work... this CD from a live broadcast in 1998 is the result.  It starts off with ultra-high energy straight-ahead "chops" kind of work, but about midway thru th' first cut (Moroccan Blue), there's a very nice little interlude that makes several things clear... Paske's piano, Brock Thorson's bass & Dave Stanoch's drums all "talk" to each other - & "hear" each other - clear communication throughout the whole album; the players (at least on this session) aren't afraid to "go out" - & that's a BIG credit to them; Richard's piano/comp style is very majestic - you'll fall in love with his vision of "large jazz on the edge" right away.  This trio creates a totally enjoyable listening experience, & gets our MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED right away.  There's another attraction for many folks out there, as well... Paske describes his music with "just the right" words - "Multiples - an ironic slap at conformity".  Great playing, great recording, great attitude... contact at 894 St. Clair Ave, Apt. 302, St. Paul, MN 55105, or via email to    Rotcod Zzaj

Milo Fine Free Jazz Ensemble - KOI/KLOPS 2000/1:  Very recent recording in from the Emanem label!  As you might garner from the title, this CD/music features Milo Fine, a multi-instrumentalist with minimalist tendencies.  For a good part of the 24:40 track 1, Milo plays the "m-drums II" (his own invention), an electronic drum kit that's quite interesting to hear.  Steve Gnitka plays amplified guitar, Jason Shapiro does piano/synth (on tracks 3 & 4), Nathan Smith does acoustic bass/buitar & bass clarinet (also only on cuts 3 & 4), & Scott Newell does tenor saxophone/vocal on track 5.  Very intricate playing, best listened to with headphones.  Crisp recording, very nicely mixed.  If you are inclined towards format & non-adventure (mental laziness), you will go elsewhere to get your thrills.  OTOH, if you thrive on pandemonium & intricately carved sonic sculptures, this will get you greatly excited!  You must be a dedicated improv-freek, though... if you're not prepared to sit down & listen - don't bother.  From our perspective, this is wonderful & tasteful improvised music that rates a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!  Contact through Martin Davidson, 3 Bittacy Rise, London NW7 2HH England, on the site at  or via email to   Rotcod Zzaj

Ian C. Stewart - SAMARKAND : PITCH WHEEL:  Far more to this lil' CD (in from MJB's than th' picture of synth on th' cover might lead you to believe.  Plenty o' Casio, plenty o' canned rhythm - but, some nice bass/guitar thingies woven in.  Tunes aren't all "the same", which makes it much more pleasant to hear out.  Ian (as you may remember) edited autoreverse, which (I believe) is now defunct!  Th' music was recorded 'round '99, which (if i remember) is about th' time th' 'zine went off th' net... if that's what it was (a transitory device), it worked quite effectively.  As a lo-fi recording, it's up there, bright & full of energy & lots of different styles.  Doubt it'll make th' "Top 40" at yer' local AM station, but I don't imagine that's what Ian had in mind when he was playing/recording it, anyway.  There was (just) a bit too much "drum machine" in there, but I get that crit on my own music quite often... only minor, as Stewart expresses himself well here!  Gets a RECOMMENDED from us for lo-fi fans everywhere!  Contact at 42 Kalina Dr., Rhinebeck, NY, 12572, via email to or on the site at   Rotcod Zzaj

Jeffrey Ethan Lee - IDENTITY PAPERS:  Our friends at Drimala Records always come up with exciting & challenging recordings.  Jeffrey's CD is no exception to that expectation!  Lee is a poet of strong substance... this particular outing serves to chronicle his impressions of experiences after he was assaulted in New York City.  He is joined (vocally) by Lori-Nan Engler & (percussively) by internationally renowned percussionist Toshi Makihara.  As you might imagine, this isn't "party music"... you must listen to the sensitive & gripping interaction between the vocals & Makihara's cymbals/drums.  The stories Jeffrey tells are not "60 Minutes" style... it is recommended that you block out an hour (or so) to sit down with headphones when you listen to this; if you do it that way, you'll find yourself immersed in Lee's experience.  I enjoyed this CD immensely - enough so to give it a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for any listener who can/will take the time to absorb it.  A great music/poetry experience!  Contact at POB 69044, Hampton, VA 23669, via email to  or on the site at   Rotcod Zzaj

Bud Tristano/Connie Crothers - PRIMAL ELEGANCE:  After the first couple of runs from Bud's guitar (title track), you'll hear why the title is so apt!  Crothers' keyboard explores the kind(s) of rhythm(s) you might have heard 'round earliest man's campfires.  & Tristano's strings scream & soar as I imagine primal man did when gathered together.  It doesn't stay that way through the whole album, though... lots of style(s) here, & this duo listen carefully to the directions they are moving in/toward.  It is clear that they enjoy playing & exploring together, & their energy level for conveying this to the listener are at peak!  Lots of improvisation, beautiful interplays & some different combinations I wouldn't mind jamming together on (sometime, maybe).  Bud's playing frequently reminds me of a couple of guitarists I've played with, Mr. Painful and Peter Tomshany... full-blown, straight-ahead & (at times) screamin'!  Connie's keyboards are (simply) beautiful... no pretentiousness, joy & sadness combined all in one or three chords.  Very interesting... enough so that (for any listener who wants to hear improvised music with a different sound, quite unique) this gets our MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating!  Contact through the site at, email to  or snail to POB 549, New York, NY 10018-0549  Rotcod Zzaj

Brilliant Coroners - BRILLIANT CORONERS:  I'm sure th' reason we received this CD is because it has one of our favorite jazz guitarists on it, Ed Littman.  This sextet plays some h-o-t jazz... Andy Pritikin's keyboards include some scorchin' organ(isms) (that if left to their own devices, would probably take over thee world...) throughout!  Some wicked alto sax by Jody Espina, kickbutt drums courtesy of Rob Garcia... some rawkin' guitars (as we expected) from Littman, as well as great bass compin' by Tom Shad... & then there's John McDonough's bigband soundin' trumpet.  Th' title trak sounds more like jazz/rock opera than smoky-room sextet, but it KICKZ... in fact, after listening (back) through a couple of times, it's my favorite cut on th' album.  Why?  The movements & shifts... not just tempo changes, there are complete evolutions going on here that allow Ed to rock out, but at th' same time allow for the jazz to be a distinct (& highly original) component of th' overall!  You'll have to get it to hear what I'm talking about.  There are some great improvised sections to listen to, as well... what I love about their freestyle stuff is that they don't rush it... very solid, but definitely in their own style/pace.  A very cool album that gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from us for jazz fans everywhere.  Contact at the site at, or via email to or   Rotcod Zzaj



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