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Columbia House Music Club

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Guideline for artists:  We do NOT generally review .mp3 files/sites.  Being an active artist myself, though, I understand the need for the use of Internet sites as a "staging ground" for reviews!  You are encouraged to email us your .mp3 links... we will visit the site/link, & if we like your energies, we will contact YOU!  (We will NOT respond to followup inquiries about .mp3 files, though!!!)

ON that note, please go & sample some of OUR .mp3 files... just CLICK on the BAND NAME to listen to our FULL-SONG   samples - we NEED your HITS to RAMP these toons on up th' CHARTS, so please BANG thee KRAP-OLA out of 'em...:

BAND OF CHIP THIEVES ("The Yakkers" are th' band... some W-I-L-D stuff)

FRACTURED FAIRYTALES (Robert Winson's words mesh perfectly with Zzaj's

EACH SPEECH (Ohio State University's own poet, John M Bennett, joins Zzaj
for an hour or so of zany fun; spooky parallels with th' "Gulf War" - th' 2
"Bushes", you know?)

ACCESSORY AFTER THE TRACTION (99 Hooker, Ernesto Diaz-Infante & Rotcod Zzaj
take you on a RIDE!!!)

DETROIT IMPROV DUO (Pontiac Michigan guitarist extraordinaire joins Rotcod
Zzaj fer' one PHUNK-philled adventure)

INTO THE OUT (S.O.A.R. (Stages Of Alternate Reality skirts th' "edges" on
this fine epic-rock CD)

IN AN ELECTIVE YEAR ("Emotional Circus" features some fine vocals by Zzaj,
against spacy rock compositions by Harlan Mark Vale)

ENTELECHY (Harlan Mark Vale solo synthesizer compositions take you to
distant galaxies; you'll be lucky if you make it back to Terra Firma)

SLIGHT REINCARNATION ("The Slights" are Dan Susnara and Rotcod Zzaj...
avant-rock at it's best)

MIDGET HILL MASTERY TOUR ("Midget Hill" features HIGH energy rock guitar by
Russ Stedman, with keyboard stylings by Rotcod Zzaj)

THE SCARAB POLEMIC ("The Scarbies" features grand keyboards (and vocals) by
Doctor Joe Hardin, with Rotcod Zzaj compin' right alongside)

NECESSARY ILLUSIONS (Belinda Subraman performs biting/sad/humorous poetry
for Zzaj to do synth-paintings against)

CRITICAL AS L COALITIONS (Pennsylvania-based psych/rock guitarist Mark
Kissinger joins Zzaj in some straight-ahead rockers)

DOUBLE U DOUBLE U .CALM (Ken Fletcher plays some mighty strange thangs with
Zzaj on this experimental CD)

BLUER THAN BLUE (The very first CD featuring San Francisco-based
multi-instrumentalist Ernesto Diaz-Infante and "odd-ist" Rotcod Zzaj... talk
about "strange"....)

IN THE LIFEBOAT (Harlan Mark Vale leads this trio in a live show setting you won't soon forget! He is joined by Remus Glaude (trumpet, keyboards) and Dick Metcalf (keyboards, vox)

Improvijazzation Nation 

Issue # 57 REVIEWS


Zdenek Valecko - CHART OF YORE:  Deep organ fugue on th' opening trak for this very interesting CD in from th' Czech Republic... rapidly moves to some beautiful flute solo pieces over-th-top & heavy drumbeats to support & sustain it.  Vocal narratives (not really singing) compliment th' piece, & it's not hard (at all) to imagine a movie with Bela Lugosi or Vincent Price with music like this!  As I recall it, Zdenek sent me links to .mp3 files, & th' sound quality on them (while impressive) was not nearly at th' level this is!  By th' 3rd trak, it has moved into (definitely) HIGH gear, with some grand metal/prog (electric) guitar work that is VERY impressive!  Th' CD inserts are very well done, in ?Czech? language, as well as in English.  Th' overall listening experience comes across with GREAT energy, & is certainly worthy of our HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating!  I was especially impressed with Valecko's guitar work!  Contact at Plzenska 103, 36001 Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic, Europe, via email to or on th' site at   Rotcod Zzaj

Frank Anthony - DOWN GULLAH:  This most interesting book of poetry by (Dr.) Frank Anthony arrived several moves ago (way back in Y2k, I believe).  The book contains his impressions during travel/visit(s) to the harbor islands of South Carolina.  As sometimes happens, it got buried in the stack... what makes that interesting to me (& to the reader, I'm sure) is that the things he writes of & about are just as appropriate 2 years later (or 100, I suspect) as they were when he penned them.  Frank has invented a form for his poems, which he calls a "Brik"... thirteen-lines long by 22 spaces-characters wide.  The form alone keeps your eyes/thoughts focused clearly on what his dreams reveal to the reader (& more importantly, I expect, to HIM).  Each writing is followed (in this booklet, anyway) by his "observations"... you wouldn't term them explanations, exactly, but they help to clarify "where he was at" when he put them to paper.  A favorite of mine that (I believe) will illustrate the technique better than a whole host of words from me is reprinted below:


My Generation Thinking


The time has arisen to

become a new millennia

person for electronics

which means that I can

develop the new method

of contacting my world

with new communication

in the form of my BRIK

formatted in a new web

which will gain for me

my kind of an audience

welcoming my brand new

kind of literary forms


It is not only the form that matters, however, as with any great book of poetry.  There is a strong sense of dreams and their direct influences in life that really spoke to me (& will to you as well).  Dr. Anthony does this without "preaching", reminding me (very) much of many of my relatives up New England way (Vermont, in specific).  We don't review poetry books (all) that often, since we seldom get them in... & the few that do make it here don't have the depth that "Down Gullah" does.  Entertaining & insightful, it gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from us!  Contact at POB 5, Windsor, VT 05089 or via email to   Rotcod Zzaj


Nikkos - ANGELS FLYING:  Nikkos is no stranger to our ol' ears.  We reviewed his "Angels Dreaming" CD in issue # 47  He plays very sensitive and relaxing flute on this outing (similar to the earlier album), with a full compliment of band members (6, to be exact).  Though the feature is (obviously) his flute works, there is a nice blend.  This is the kind of music you have to be "in the mood" for... no wild rampages here; his compositions are designed to relax & calm you down.  That does not mean that it is music that should be ignored, though... I found Dan Kelton's bass particularly attractive on track 2, "Midori", and there are other gems as well.  It is clear from the listening that Nikkos understands the magick of his instrument; he never "overstates", or "overblows"... very nicely woven in to the fabric of the tunes, all the way through.  If you're inclined to "rough" music, th' kind you listen to with yer' moto-cycle boots on... go elsewhere!  OTOH, "Angels Flying" is the kind of music that will inspire and elevate your state of being.. gets a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from this reviewer.   Contact at Musik International, 154 Botasso Rd., Boulder, CO 80302 (e-mail is    ) Rotcod Zzaj


Electro-Magnetic Trans-Personal Orchestra - ELECTRO-MAGNETIC TRANS-PERSONAL ORCHESTRA:  This (very) interesting CD, in from Pax Recordings, features compositions by Aaron Bennett, performed by a nine-piece ensemble from San Francisco.  There is much more string involvement than many recordings from Pax; 2 violins (Mark Chung, Jeff Hobbs), 2 cellos (Merlin Coleman, Adam Lane), & guitar (John Finkbeiner).  Aaron plays woodwinds and drinking straw, joined by George Cremaschi on bass, Joe Sabella on tuba & Dan Cantrell on accordion.   Bennett's compositions are texturally rich; we reviewed him in issue #47, & are still impressed with the high quality recording!   The pieces are not strictly "improv", as evidenced by track 2, which features a pretty straight-ahead jazz bass line, though th' players certainly don't restrict themselves, playing all around that line... it gives th' tune a nice, almost danceable feel, while retaining a clear sense of (playing) freedom.  Listeners who dig on the new, the unexperienced will be most inclined to agree with me when I declare this to be MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.  I found this to be highly intricate & a definite KEEPER!  Contact through Aaron's website, at , via email to or through PAX Recordings, at POB 591138, San Francisco, CA 94159-1138   Rotcod Zzaj


Ancient Future - PLANET PASSION:   A true "world music" album, featuring (no less than) 19 masterful players, "Planet Passion" will turn your ears on from th' first bar.   It conveys a sense of joy (so rare these days) unbounded, and mixes musical styles all the way from east to west.  Due to the large number of musicians involved, the album features a different band on each track... don't let that dissuade you from purchasing/listening to it, though; this is some of the best music you'll ever hear!   There is a heavy emphasis on acoustic instruments and strings in the crafting of each of their songs, with strong rhythmic elements on each... I was most impressed with track 9, "El Zaffa"... whirling dervish with definite middle eastern flavor/energies.  For something that leans more toward ballad/blues (even though instrumental), try the last cut, "Sacho Socho".  This is truly music with (and from the) spirit, & gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from us, especially for those listeners who want something they can treasure for years to come.  Contact/purchase through their site at    Rotcod Zzaj


Gary Hassay/Anne LeBaron - BLACKWATER BRIDGE:  We've reviewed a couple of Gary's CD's before (issues #45 and #37); this one with Anne's harp, sound sculpture & percussion takes it to the next level.  Gary's alto interacts most intimately with LeBaron's sound paintings & sketches; the harp sounds against the saxophone make it an almost mystical experience.  They are both to be complimented on their sensitivity to the sounds - it takes a great deal of skill and talent to play without playing over the other player in this kiind of improvisation.  The "bridge" theme is clear, even without reading the liners... this isn't a traditional pairing (harp/saxophone) for improvisation, you can hear (immediately) that this duo are out to do more than splash sounds on the canvas... they clearly intend to engage themselves and the listener in an adventure of exploration... go where others have not been before.  This is not "easy" listening... doubtful you'll hear it anytime soon (probably never) on your "smooth jazz" station... but it is worth the concentration.  One of the most intriguing parts (in the overall) of "Blackwater" is that neither artist uses their instrument to blot out the other's excursion into uncharted territory; they listen to each other, & to the universe, if you will.  If you have never listened to difficult music before, this IS the album to start with... by the time you finish listening, you will have definitely "crossed over" into new awareness (of the possibilities).  This gets our MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, as well as the "PICK" of this issue for "best exploratory improvisation"!   Contact at Drimala Records, POB 69044, Hampton, VA 23669-9344, or via their website at   Rotcod Zzaj


Sue Matthews - ONE AT A TIME:  We have received quite a few CD's with female jazz vocalists over the last couple of months... our friends at B&K Communications have picked another winner to promote.   Sue's style is about as "jazz" as you'll hear anytime soon; lilting lyrics, surely enough to put you in th' mood.  Basically a quartet backing her, & th' balance of vocals to instruments is perfect; crystal-clear recording!  She really kicks out on "Down With Love" (track 4) & gets down in th' blues turf on "Wild Women Don't Get The Blues".  Matthews seems equally at ease with down & funky blues or laid-back ballads... just th' kind of act you'd want (or expect) to see in one o' those "uptown" clubs.  There are times, in fact, when she makes it sound too easy... she's doesn't restrict her singing to any one style, & doesn't have to, since she's got vocal talent in spades, & th' ability to convey the emotions of a song clearly.  "One At A Time" is a winner, especially for those listeners who want jazz with some sophistication.  A very pleasant jazz recording that gets a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from us!  Contact through her site, at  Rotcod Zzaj


Buzzsaw - I'D SHOVE BUZZY:  Hoss Cartwright (on th' ol' Ponderosa ranch, with dad-ee Ben) never heard it so good!  Speaker puts words into high gear (here) on this live recording (with lyrics by "Buzzsaw") from March-April this year.  Absolute insanity in th' splicing of TV themes with maddeningly odd script/poem(s) that are recorded clearly enough to keep your ear.  "Turn that s__t ORF" comes from th' living room, where my wife is trying to listen to her "Home & Garden" shows (just like mom used ta' do...).  Well, if my mom had heard this piped in behind her viewing of th' Cartwheel family, her stomach woulda' been ulcerated (lacerated, mebbe') long before my own sonic antics began to make her pull her hair out.  IOW, this is purr-fect fer' all you "twisted kittys" out there in listener-land... but be sure you don't sip too much catnip 'fore you feast on this sonic array!  Gets a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for those who thrive on th' works of today's "odd-ists" (normals better stick wit' th' "straight" versions of theme music from "Ozzie & Harriet").   Contact at Turkey Makes Me Sleepy, POB 146, Lawrence, KS 66044, on the site at  or via email to   Rotcod Zzaj

Brian Agro - POEMS AND PRELUDES:  There are some awesome solo piano improvised compositions on this CD, in from our (long-time) friends at Percaso Productions.  The keyboards interpretations of Brian's compositions are played masterfully (with full body) by Thomas Bachli, with high energy and skill!  I am reminded of several solo piano albums I've heard over the years as I listen through this... "Tepeu", by Ernesto Diaz-Infante, "Continuum", by John Alkins, & many others... strong, yet not "invasive" playing.  The tunes are the kind you hear in your most pleasant dreams, timeless in scope and strangely haunting, in the sense that you hear them over and over.  The recording is top-of-the-line (as are most all Percaso productions efforts), with crystal clear overtones coming through to your ears as though you were right in the room.  The moods on the pieces range from quiet/reflective to stormy/preturbing.  For any listener who loves solo piano with style and greatness, this is MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!  Contact at Haldenstr. 131, CH-8055, Zurich, Switzerland, or via the PERCASO site at    Rotcod Zzaj

Dennis Warren's Full Metal Revolutionary Jazz Ensemble - HORIZON EVENT:  Our friends at Drimala are definitely "upping the ante" with some of the albums they've been releasing lately (ed:  of course, we knew they'd gone over some serious edge when they signed us).  FMRJE is 21st century fusion before it's time... this is what they'll be listening to in the 22nd, no doubt!  There are only 3 cuts, but 2 of them are over 25 minutes long... they call their tracks "events", & you'll understand that immediately upon listening (in th' old days, we called 'em jams, methinks).  This goes much further/deeper than just a jam session, however... think Mahavishnu, then perhaps Weather Report, maybe even Sharrock; or any other group with opera length jazz fusion laced with heavy percussion.   On first listen, you'll want to reserve the full 74 minutes with no interruptions to the flow.  Tension/release & build/ebb are a natural part of this kind of music, & you won't want to miss any of the excitement they generate.  They did an amazing job with the mix, you can hear each & every nuance, without any stepping on each other.  I'm highly impressed... this is one of those classic albums that will stay in the collection for eons!  Just GREAT jazz, with unbounded energies... gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from us!    Contact at Drimala Records, POB 69044, Hampton, VA 23669-9344, or via their website at    Rotcod Zzaj

Pair a' Dice - NEAR VHANA:  & yes, o' course, Jeffrey (as in Morgan), I DO wanna' know... izzat' "Vhana White"?  'coz this album is much like "Wheel Of Fortune", spinning, spinning, no control - th' damn wheels fallin' off!  Heh! Heh!  Joker Nies synthesizers give Morgan a pallette near th' color of anarchy to paint on, as they did on "Snake Eyes", reviewed (way) back in issue # 24  This outing is far more "spatial", somehow, though.  Jeffrey has experimented with music(s) that explore the outer reaches ever since I've known him (late '70's, early '80's), & since I'm inclined to be jaundiced towards music that uses synthesizers to spur improvisors on in their quests, "Near Vhana" really strikes a chord for my ears.  Rolling, roiling mindscapes, sounding much like I imagine those worms in Dune would (track 2, "Scary Night"), & Morgan's insistent alto tones marching (as ever) to a very different "dune".  Cut 5, "All Age Fun" is (what else) a lot of fun to listen to... both synth & sax intertwining in some amazing loops.  I doubt that good Bhuddists (anywhere) would recommend this as theraputic or religously enhancing, but those who love cutting edge improvisation will love this one... MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED by us!  A GREAT album for dedicated improv fans - a genuine KEEPER!   Contact at Lubecker Str., 15, 50668 Koln Germany, on the site at or via email to     Rotcod Zzaj

Eric Leonardson - RADIO REVERIE IN THE WAITING PLACE:  If you are looking for something experimental, this CD will do it for you.  More non-musical than not, & very much oriented towards the kind(s) of thing(s) John Cage loved to do, Eric manipulates sounds and waveforms in various strange ways, all with oddly familiar results.  His instruments are often self-made (as in the Springboard, which produces some wonderful percussives); he weaves these together with live percussion instruments, various & sundry synthesized sounds & field recordings, all to good effect!  I particularly enjoyed "The Vulture's Midwife", spooky & haunting, as you might imagine it would be... he said (in the liners) that it came from a dream, but I suspect it was more like a nightmare, based on the sounds we heard.  The album is filled with highly creative sounds, like nothing you've ever heard before; you'll find yourself (often) wondering how he accomplished some of those sonic events.  I especially liked the pieces that featured his "Springboard".  Listeners who are tired of the "same ol' thang" will agree with me when I declare this to be MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for adventurous ears - but be sure & reserve at least 2 hours of "private time" - you'll want to listen to several of these pieces many times.   Contact through his site, at or via email to   Rotcod Zzaj

Dan Blunck/Mike Bisio - CONCERTED:  I must admit that having watched these gents play live allows me to visualize what I'm hearing on this grand improv CD better than someone who hasn't had that good fortune... but any serious improv listener will recognize the extreme talent right away!  It helps, I believe, that this was recorded by Doug Haire at Jackstraw (who does an excellent job with capturing the nuances); Dan invited Mike to join him on this grant project from Jackstraw Studios.  My favorite track is "Ayler's Lament", an excursion into Blunck's soul (at th' deepest levels).  Bisio is "down under" on this tune, but he's definitely not "background"... in fact, he's sorta' "steering" the excursion.  The other thing that's very notable (on nearly all the tunes) is that the music is very accessible... almost as tho' "free jazz" had (somehow) reached a point where it was "acceptable".  That is NOT a "death knell" for this album, tho'... the players stick to their guns throughout the concert, & it communicates with a sense of freedom (near abandon) & jazz (wild & loose) at the highest levels!  I don't think I've ever heard a more fluid bass player in my life (& I have heard 100's of them).  This is, without question, the best album I've ever heard from Mr. Blunck... it gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, & is the "PICK" of this issue for "best duo improvised jazz"!   Contact at or on the site at   Rotcod Zzaj

Family Groove Company - REACHIN':  Kick yer' heelz' up onna' chair, settle back with a '70's/'80's phunk set-o-mind & a coupla' brews... you'll be (pretty much) inna' groove with this one!  Janis Wallin's bass is in thump mode, under well coordinated rawk-in pieces that don't get "stuck in th' mud".  Listenin' to this puts me (mentally, anyway) right back in th' go-go clubs on th' Kaiserstrasse, with James Brown as th' engine fer' all those hips-a-krankin' (late '60's & early '70's)!  Git' on DOWN ("Lickin Stick"), baby, ya'll know th' drill.  Jordan Wilkow's vocals don't sound (exactly) like "th' Godfather", but that may be (in part) 'coz his keyboards aren't totally in funk-mode; his Hammond B3 kranks out th' blooz, but when he's on piano sounds, it comes (much) closer to "Tower Of Power" (in my ears, anyway).  The band did a West Coast tour in late 2001, & I can see where audiences would be steppin' on OUT to a lot of these tunes.  Would make a GREAT road album, fer' yer' finger-poppin' pleasure (between th' curves).  A (definitely) independent release, good production & an engaging listen... gets a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for all listeners who wanna' git' down ON IT!  Contact at 135 Vine Ave., Highland Park, IL 60035, via email to  or on their site at    Rotcod Zzaj

Kevin Kendle - FLOWERS:  Another beautiful (ambient) album from Kevin (we reviewed a CD titled "Clouds" in issue # 41), & were most favorably impressed.  His synth-work is flawless, and the compositions are quietly inspiring.  Many listeners (who are lookin' for somethin' with a taste o' row-dee) won't dig too deeply, and that will be their loss!  He (literally) paints aural images of lush gardens for your soul to relish.  There is no question (in my mind) that this world would be a less violent place if children were introduced to music like this at the earliest age possible... I don't mean force-fed as a steady diet - just exposed!  He uses string sounds a lot, which is very attractive, I think, and adds a great deal to the overall experience.   This would be best experienced with (either) headphones or in a quiet entertainment room with no interruptions.  Those listeners who want to escape the ugliness around them will surely agree with me when I declare "FLOWERS" to be MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, and the "PICK" of this issue for "best ambient experience of 2002".   Contact/purchase through the site at    Rotcod Zzaj

Camera Obtusa - TURTLE:  It seems (only) natural that after "Beating the Devil's Fiddle", "Whistlin' Rufus" & "Pillar o' Salt", C.O. would follow-on with this title.  Arte Biglips is joined on these field recordings by InstrumenTales stalwarts Alonzo Phillips (tape manipulation & percussives) & Studio Alchemy on guitar(s).  In event you dinna' know it, "InstrumenTales" is Bret Hart's label, & he has a tendency (from some kind o' warped mushroom inhaled years ago, I suspect) to produce music/album(s) that tend toward the outer edges!  This one is definitely in thee strange zones, but with it's solid percussion base (& that dam grandfather clock inna' background), it has much to offer listeners who are able to immerse themselves in th' energies generated.  The sense of tortoise is pervasive, "plod" leaking thru into your imagination & "heavy" th' keyword for the experience.  That does NOT mean it is "slow", or "lacking" in energy... the nuances (if you listen carefully) are clearly framed & enunciated.  This is, in fact, one of the best releases (ever, methinks) to come out of the InstrumenTales studio(s); gets our MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for listeners who want to know how'n'hell th' hare lost!  Contact through the 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

Awkward Star - BLUE STRAGGLER:  Here's another winner in from Rik Wright, up in Seattle.  Improv-rock is what he calls it, & that pretty well describes what you'll hear.  Players were Randy Doak (drums), Mische Eddins (bass and vocals), Greta Nintzel (spoken word) & Rik Wright (guitars, loops and samplers)... th' "fifth wheel" was producer Simon Grant.  Starts off with a pretty standard bass-riff thang... "10 of Diamonds" was a nice guitar floating kinda' thang (great vox, too).  There's more rawk than improv, but that doesn't mean that there's no random energy, either... track 9 (number 9, get it?) is particularly nice in th' sense of improvisation, tho' it moves quickly to a pattern.  For those inclined to trip a bit, you'll dig on # 7, "Dreamy Red Leatherette".  If yer' looking for something different, but don't want to completely cut yer' ties to rockin' music(s), this will do th' trik verzure.  I dug it enough to give it a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.  Great production, great recording, great listening (this one will ride in th' car with me)!  Contact at  HipSync Records, 1426 Harvard Ave #496, Seattle, WA 98122, via email to or on the site at   Rotcod Zzaj

Robert Jacobson - COLDWATER:  Upscale, hip, nearly feels like hop, too... & that ain't a bad thang, dear reader!  This is our first listen to Robert's playing, & (in th' sense of jazz that kickz butt) this does it!  He has some major assemblage of players 'long with him (Jeff Eliasen's trumpet jus' JUMPS on th' opening track), far too long a list to itemize here, & I think that probably has something to do with th' amount of energy that comes jammin' out to meet&greet yer' ears.  There are some nice laid back comps, too... I especially enjoyed listening to Robert's guitar on cut 2, "Placenta Canyon", where he shows an intimacy with his instrument that many desire but few achieve.  Jacobson's able to range all th' way from cool to gut-funk, too... his blues style on "Captain Crucial" is greatly complimented by Wayne Peet's B3 work... pretty impressive when th' guitar man can make you think Hendrix & Johnny Guitar in th' same track, I'll tell you!  This player is one to keep yer' ears on... he'll be movin' on up FAST!  I dug it aplenty - it's enough of a KEEPER to rate a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for any listener who git' on down to where th' SOUNDS are at!  GET THIS one!  Contact at  or on th' site at    Rotcod Zzaj

Andrew Rathbun - SCULPTURES:  We first reviewed Andrews' work in issue # 48 ("True Stories"), & were very favorably impressed with that effort.  "Sculptures" is primarily instrumental, & features his tenor/soprano, as well as some wonderful brass (trumpet/flugelhorn) by Kenny Wheeler, keyboards by Frank Carlberg, John Helbert doing bass & Jeff Hirshfield's drum work.  Th' quintet features high energy jazz that just kicks all th' way thru th' album.  Artists who do sculptures are often steeped in (some kinds of) traditions... Rathbun's compositions come across with a sense of (both) the traditional & the new (due to th' clear energies & love of music he's able to convey).  It is this deep passion for expression & craft well-honed that makes th' album such a winner.  I enjoyed this outing much more than "True Stories" (& if you check back in issue # 48, you'll see that I really enjoyed that one, too)... it has pieces that will stand the weather of time... I was especially fond of "Architect", "Fitzgerald" & "Sculpture" as "keepers"!  Just a GREAT jazz album that gets our MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!  Contact at 315 St. John's Place # 1B, Brooklyn, NY 11238, or via email to  You can also contact the PR agent, Braithwaite & Katz Communications by sending email to  Rotcod Zzaj

Martin Lass - SONNET:  Th' CD title may give you some idea of the kind of music you will hear... OTOH, it's not all "as you think".  Lass plays all original compositions here (violin, piano and keyboards, with a strong emphasis on the violin) with verve and full concentration that communicates clearly to all listeners.  The pieces can not be called jazz, & they don't fit (very) well in the New Age pigeonhole, either.  He is a player that hears beauty in life & is able to express it with precision and passion!  Martin's violin is simply sweet... not syrupy-sweet, or sugar-rush in any fashion... just pleasant and relaxing for the spirit.  Lovers of classical will be able to relate immediately to his textures and phrasings... those more inspired by spur-of-the-moment improvisation may shy away, but I enjoyed it enough to give it an immediate HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.  Fine music to reflect on life with.  Contact via the web pages at or via email to   Rotcod Zzaj

Dave Tofani - AN AMERICAN GARDEN:  Don't think I've ever been to a garden party with this kind of high-falutin' big city jazz at it (come to think of it, don't think I've ever been to a garden party).  It is immediately apparent (to any person with ears) that Tofani is a master of woodwinds and composition.  The CD features him on all kinds of reed instruments, most notably (I thought) on tenor & alto sax; you will hear (very quickly) why he is sought after as a session player, & also why he's played with such musicians as Herbie Hancock, Earl Klugh, David Sanborn, & Bill Evans!  He is able to reach way down to his soul & paint jazz like you've never heard it before.  The arrangements (which he was also responsible for) go all th' way from quintet to big band & full string orchestra.  Th' music(s) will have any of those damned terrorists quaking in their boots, because Dave's music is all about life & liberty (glad to see that portrait of th' Statue of Liberty).  Th' messages on this wonderful CD will go farther than any political diatribes/sound bytes to convince those who don't understand happiness that they can have some happiness in their lives, too - just GET this CD!  This gets an immediate MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, as well as the "PICK" of this issue for "best all around jazz"!  Contact at SoloWinds Records, Inc, POB 303, Washington NJ 07882, via email to  or on the site at   Rotcod Zzaj

Milktooth - MILKTOOTH:  Grunge reincarnate populates this EP in from L.A.  (th' band relocated there in March this year, from San Francisco).  Ain't no doubt they can RAWK-ON!  Starts off with a scorcher called "Waterproof"!  Heav-EE guitars thru & thru (as yer' might imagine).  Rebecca Hill's lead vocals come across in th' recording with a haunting ghost-like quality... tho' th' ghost HADDA' have been smokin' unfiltered Pall Malls fer' th' last 20 years!  There is a real sense of communication between th' players, no "overstepping", drums, guitars AND vox are very tightly integrated & highly listenable (prob'ly wouldn't hurt if yer' wuz' ever-so-slightly stoned when yer' scopin' their sound, either).  Th' cover letter recommended cut 3, "Nowhere"... shows that th' promoter/manager KNOWS his band... definitely radio quality trak that reaches in & grabs yer' heartstrings (that bass is a KILLER).  GREAT indie energy, GREAT rhythm & GREAT style that gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from us.  Contact at 2658 Griffith Park Boulevard, Number 352, L.A., CA 90039 or via email to or on their site at   Rotcod Zzaj

C Goff III - UNDER THE INFLUENCES:  If you've ever been arrested for D.U.I.C.G., you'll know how ridiminous it feels... I mean (on this outing, anyway), yer' listenin' to covers.... so, why didn't they arrest all those doods (I grew up with in th' '50's) who were diggin' on Wolfman Jack?  Th' work Goff duz' on "Glass Onion" woulda' made that maharishi think it wuz' some kind o' grass (as in cannabis) onion this boy had smoked!  Ol' Tennessee Ernie (Ford) is rollin' over in his grave when he hears th' "IIId's" rendition of "Sixteen Tons"... har! har!  I nearly fell outta' my chair when I heard "It's A Family Affair" (Sly Stone?  Any significance, mee-ster Goff?).  This is like a "best of" album for Mr. Goff, methinks, & it will thrill those bent on bending oldies-but-goodies into shapes that are totally foreign & (prob'ly) filled with various viral thangs!  We like it so much we're giving it our MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating, but if your ears aren't able to deal with adventures in listening, go sort thru th' vinyl racks!   Contact at Turkey Makes Me Sleepy, POB 146, Lawrence, KS 66044, on the site at  or via email to   Rotcod Zzaj

Dave Storrs - WAXING THE SLIDE:  Heavy sequencing on this one from Dave's "Louie Records".  A digital version of somethin' akin to our earliest 4-trak efforts... Storrs laid sequence/traks down for musicians/playing friends that he felt "fit their personalities"... since Dave is a percussionist, this (I think) made PERFECT sense... where better to start (on music that's to be overdubbed) than with th' percussion?  I was particularly impressed with track 4, possibly because it has such a relaxing effect... simply beautiful piece!  As with (nearly) ALL "Louie Records" efforts, th' sound quality is exceptional.  I think this album achieves th' goals set for it (in SPADES), because of all th' different musical personalities who contributed.  13 compositions, all high energy, all wonderfully crafted for a great listen!  Gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from us, particularly for those listeners who can appreciate diversity in their music(s).  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

Intonarumori - MATERIAL:  Kevin (Goldsmith), of "Unit Circle Rekkids", had to remind me about this one (we've been getting a lot of music this year; but I can see why Kevin was wonderin'... this has been lazing inna' bin since mid-April).  We have enjoyed this group since the late '80's (hard to believe it's been that long), but this album of 13 compositions is th' densest & richest yet!  Lots of vocals layered in (sneaky little things) that will have you scratching yer' noggin for daze!  Definitely avant-garde, with industrial overtones... what makes it stand out for these ears are the symphonic shadings Goldsmith is able to achieve; that is particularly true on track 9, ""Home Base Variation 2", and 10, "Constant Bit Select of A Vector Net".  You should listen to this with headphones, to get maximum effect... & don't even think about putting this on as background... it deserves your full attention.  This is "Unit Circle Rekkids'" first release for 2002, & ALL listeners who thrive on the new and unique will want to have this one - it gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from us (the weak-kneed need not apply).   Contact at POB 20352, Seattle, WA 98102, on the site at  or via email to    Rotcod Zzaj

Akiko Pavolka's House Of Illusion - BRIDGE:  Over "troubled waters", maybe?  Some jazz fans will feel that way after crossing over to th' territory inhabited by this band... but WE enjoyed th' trek, to be sure!  Akiko plays Wurlitzer electric piano with skill & familiarity.  Her vocals are energetic & full of passion; in fact, they are full of pleasure for th' listener.  Shades of many influences (Corea, Weather Report...) are heard - but when Pavolka's vocals blend in, it departs from th' fusion & takes a giant leap to a style that is uniquely her own... HIGHLY original!  The musicians that form her group are no slouches, either... Peter Hess (sax & clarinet), Pete Rende (piano, electric piano, accordion & pedal steel guitar), Matt Pavolka (acoustic & electric bass) & Blake Lindberg (drums & percussion) all have played with big names (a list far too long to itemize here).  My favorite cut is the opener, "Destination"... starting off with a beautiful lyrical interlude, it swiftly moves into upbeat fusion that features all th' players joining in th' joy of th' moment.  Though th' group is "tight", their main attraction (for my ears, anyway) is a really loose style that could go anywhere at any moment.  Jazz fans of all flavors will relish this sonic experience & join me in giving this one our MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating.  WAY cool music!  Contact via th' site at  or email to    Rotcod Zzaj

Various Artists - A WOMAN'S VOICE:  If you're attracted (even slightly) to the haunting allure of women's voices, this album is the ticket!  Most of the compositions are lilting, rather than raucous, but they are all filled with energy & clear love of life!  Featured vocalists are Juliana, Sally Oldfield (who we have reviewed at least a couple of times in the last 2 or 3 years)... Sally's vocal on "Flaming Star" is from her album of the same name, & it is (as we said when we initially reviewed it) "universal and timeless" music!  Another feature that is very much appreciated on this NEWWORLDMUSIC release is that each of the track titles shows up (automatically) in the track listing (using Windows Media player).  You'll probably find this album filed under "World Music", but you can also get it by visiting  It gets a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from us for listeners who crave music that touches the soul & opens it up to the wonders of the universe.   Rotcod Zzaj

Cheerful Baby - MUSIC FOR BABIES (birth - 36 months):  Classical chamber music designed to open the minds of babies to the world of beauty in music.  As you might imagine, when we opened this one, we were thinking... "What???"  Surprising as it may seem, it has turned out to be among our favorites this year.  All musics were performed by "The Arcangelos Chamber Ensemble"; beautifully, I might add!  If all of us had early exposure to music of this quality, the world would be a more peaceful place... I think (in my jaded fashion) that there would be a LOT LESS politics & much more sensitivity to each other.  Every parent owes it to their newborn to check out this CD... in addition to the potential benefits for children, the album also serves as a "great relaxer" for adults caught up in the frenetic style of life today, & will be a treasure for years to come.  Contact through Creative Service Company, 4360 Emerald Dr., Colorado Springs, CO 80918... also via e-mail to    Rotcod Zzaj

Los Baybar Boys - CIELITO AZUL:  The latest in a spate of improvised recordings from our friends at PAX RECORDINGS, this round features Ernesto Diaz-Infante, Bob Marsh & a newcomer (to our ears, anyway), "C.D." (Christopher Dergarabedian).  The vocals (alone) are worth the purchase price... Diaz-Infante & Marsh are geniuses at this type of experimental/improvised music anyway, & they have been exploring new vistas of late with their forays into the juxtaposition of voice with strings.  The album was recorded at a (somewhat) "low" level, so it is strongly recommended that you listen to this with headphones, in order to soak up every little nuance (of which there are thousands).  Each listen will reveal a new facet of their spontaneous composition... intense, with great attention to the (minute) details.  This comes HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for all listeners who want a taste of "the edge".  Contact at  or via email to   Rotcod Zzaj

Pedro Cortes - FLAMENCO SOUL:  Fairly nondescript cover on th' CD jacket, but once you open this package up & pop it in, you'll find some pleasant sonic surprises, for sure.  DJ Free produced this one, & it has more fervor & high spirit than most Latino albums we review.  Mr. Cortes is a third generation gypsy, & his bloodlines shine through his fingers.  The compositions approach jazz, but stay (very) true to the Latino roots... fiery, with a "Weather Report" type bass line under (most of) the cuts, this stuff moves you with passion and style!  Easy to visualise late-night campfires on gypsy caravans, & by the second cut you may find yourself up & dancing th' night away!  It plays very nicely with WMP, especially with th' graphic EQ set to "acoustic".  A rich recording and players in love with the music they play all contribute to a recording that gets a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from us.   Nicely done, nicely done!  Contact via their site at   Rotcod Zzaj

Kathy Zavada - JOURNEY HOME:  This is our first listen to Kathy's wonderful vocal work(s), though she has produced 7 CD's since 1989.  We are mightily impressed; deep and meditative world/chant that will reach deep down inside you (further than just your mind) & awaken whatever is there... which is a good thing, surely, unless you've been harboring horrors there!  This would be excellent music to meditate to, & is (in fact) advertised in the liner notes as great for Yoga exercises.  I am reminded, in some ways, of the chants I heard the monks do in temples in Korea, but the instrumentation (of course) is far more detailed, with full-blown synth programming and keyboard stylings that elevate it to the orchestral.  The pieces are a bit long for casual listening (clocking in at around 16 or 17 minutes per - only 3 cuts on the album), so it is recommended that you set aside a good hour to absorb this with headphones on - & NO interruptions.  If you're looking for music that has the power to inspire the good inside you to come out, this comes HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.  I enjoyed it a great deal, and it will stay in the Zzaj collection as a keeper!  Contact at POB 531, Mt. Shasta, CA 96067, or order online at    Rotcod Zzaj

Automatic Music - THE RETURN OF KING HARVEST:  It has been a while since we reviewed this group out of North Carolina.  Hard driving rock-improv, based on a seasonal theme, this CD explores fall, in myriad ways.  The opener, "Inside The Beehive", is a killer, as you might expect... heavy drumbeats & whirling/buzzing guitar riffs to get you as stirred up as possible.  Mood is a primary factor in the assemblage of this album, too... from the hornet's nest of "Beehive", they move to a bass driven meanderment piece (that I really liked), called "Consequently No Barriers" (lots of intricate detail, requiring active listening).  There are some real epic pieces on here, many that would fit in a "space-rock" scenario (methinks our pal Jerry Kranitz, at Aural Innovations, will be wanting to investigate/play 'em, if he hasn't already).  Track 7, "We Desire You Also", is a killah', my favorite track on th' album, prob'ly 'coz of th' driving rhythms against th' guitar riffs.  Very talented playing, high energy rock opera that make for a most engaging listen.  This gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from our ears.  (ed:   Though th' album doesn't list direct credits, their IUMA site, noted below, says that the following folks play(ed) on "Automatic Music" - Fred Hall, Brett Hart,Scotty Irving,Ed Shepherd,Jeff Mills,Gurney Brown, Ryan Harrison, Bart Brown,Terry Lonergen,Gwyn Young, Doug The Drum, Brent Brackett   Contact at or via their site, at  Rotcod Zzaj

David Wortman/Bret Hart - DUETS - VOLUME ONE:  We have listened to (even played on) many of the artists/combos that Bret has put together for his extensive "Duets" series.  This one is a perfect matchup, any way you listen to it, tho'... Wortman's horns weave in, under, around & through strange string soundscapes that Bret paints for Wortman to play against.  Much thicker & richer than any of the others in this series, to my ears.  I am assuming that David was the "initiator" on this particular recording, as his name is listed first... seemed (to me) that enhanced the process (it's always easier/more interesting for me when I'm playing against someone else's energy).  OTOH, Hart is a master at keeping the soundscape moving, so it may be a moot point.  What's important is that the energy doesn't stop... this CD is among th' movers & shakers in the wide pool of improvised musics available today.  If memory serves me right, Bret started out with horns (way back in HS, I think), so playing against Wortman's reeds is a natural!  Listeners who are looking for something different, with straight-ahead love of playing involved, this comes MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!  Contact through the WWW pages at    (where you can purchase the CD with your credit card), at InstrumenTales Records, 609 Morehead St., Eden, NC 27288, USA, or via email to Bret at   Rotcod Zzaj

Soneros De Verdad (presents) - PIO LEIVA:  This is our first listen to Pio's great Latino singing style!  He's (definitely) an older gentleman; the liner notes say that he's going through his "second coming of age".  The years have (apparently) done much for him, though... the energy never stops & you can almost see him dancing to th' swaying beat of th' great band behind him (I must admit, though, this is helped by th' extensive photos in th' accompanying booklet).  This isn't lightweight stuff to sip Cuba Libres by (though I suppose you could)... you're drinking in Leiva's soul as you listen to him spin tales (mostly non-English, but still emotionally clear) in both dance and ballad modes!  At the same time, his spirit comes thorugh with bouncy and bright resilience, some of the most joyful music you'll ever hear!  The credits for the backing players are far too long to list here; suffice it to say that they're in on the party!  Very enjoyable listen for those who love the Latin style, gets a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from us.  Contact at Musik International, 154 Botasso Rd., Boulder, CO 80302 (e-mail is    )     Rotcod Zzaj

Joel Futterman/Ike Levin/Kash Killion - LIFELINE:  We've reviewed Joel & Ike quite frequently of late (issue # 47 and # 52).  This CD (as you can see from the listing) features cello by Kash Killion.   Some of the most straight-ahead improvised music you'll ever have the pleasure of listening to.  Futterman's keyboards are all over the spectrum, both in lead & layback mode.  Levin's reeds/percussion weave pictures for your ears both manic and musing.  Killion's cello (& African whistles) are brilliant, vibrantly alive & not obscured in any way by the other players.  It is a total trio, in the sense of freedom as well as energy!  Listeners unaccustomed to freestyle will find a definite challenge in "Lifeline", but it's worth the investment.   Folks like me, who eat/sleep/breathe improv, will hear nuances never experienced.   Killion's African whistles are a new element, contrasting very nicely on "Choices", the 2nd cut, with the reeds!  The recording is excellent, capturing every nook/cranny of the sonics.  One thing that can (often) be said about improvised music(s) like this is that they often come across with no sense of beginning/ending... not true on "Lifeline"; though the rushes are still there, you will hear clear compositions that come back around!  Adventurists everywhere will WANT this one for their collection... it gets our MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED & the "PICK" of this issue for "most full-bodied improv"!   Contact at IML Records, 1062 Springfield Drive, Walnut Creek, CA 94598 or through the site at     Rotcod Zzaj


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