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Improvijazzation Nation

Issue # 60 REVIEWS




Milagro acu Stico - L STORIE O CAFE DI LU FURESTIERO:    If you enjoy sittin' 'round a fine coffeehouse staring at th' in/out wanderers & making up stories in your imagination about them... the music on this CD will make th' PERFECT accompaniement!  World-music artists from (where else) the world over have joined forces to perform exciting pieces that will help you (easily) become caught up in a tangled web of gypsy dances, acoustic folk tunes & dreams that couldn't be topped by th' finest/richest Lebanese red.  Shades of the mid-east influence the musical style(s), as you might expect.  This would make a genuinely nice gift for someone wanting to re-enact Ali Baba's adventures.   There are some great sections on trak 3 that sound (something) like an Egyptian version of Orson Welles... It gets a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from us.  Contact at Tinder Records, 4380 Redmond Way, Suite 810, San Rafael, CA 94903, via e-mail to or on the site at    Rotcod Zzaj

Painful/Fuglewicz - LOST CITY MUSIC, VOLUME II:    It's been a bit since we've had anything on CD from this fantastic experimental team, but this volume made it worth th' wait!  The sonic mysteries they explore on this outing will, as long as you use yer' headphones, make you wade thru th' phroggin' wormholes!  Dense synthesizers, layered over&over&over; absolutely some of the best quality synthesizer work you'll ever hear!  It's a "crossover" in a certain sense, too... definitely makes it as an "ambient" album, but contains enuff strange to keep it interesting!   There's no doubt that if these guys opt for a career in "encounters of the three hundred and thirty third kind", they'll be WINNERS!  Painful mixed this one, & he captured ev'ry nook&cranny of ev'ry lil' knob onna' synth... I think he musta' ingested some o' that TCP-IP 'fore he started mixin' & gone INside th' mixer!   If you like music that can transport you to other galaxies, without being pretentious or using noise to it's disadvantage, you will LOVE this... it gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from us! Contact at 360 Sheringham Ct., Roswell, GA 30076, via email to , or on the site at     Rotcod Zzaj

Carter/Cook/Kowald/LaMaster (with Keith Fullerton Whitman) - PRINCIPLE HOPE:    We are always pleased when receive something from "Sublingual Records", but were ecstatic when we opened th' package & listened through these tunes!  It's straight-ahead freestyle from th' opening bar of "Awakening" (my favorite cut on the album); the kind that starts off with Carter's reeds rippin' & LaMaster's strings jammin'!  An amazing quartet that will capture more than just your ears... before the album's over, you'll have given your MIND over to th' hope they advocate with their strange, swirling energy.  Track 3, "Tracks On Dirty Snow", is an absolute winner, featuring spoken-word that will warp yo' ears!  Listeners who want something depressive (i.e., form driven) to accompany th' tears in their beers won't appreciate the artistry on this album, but we give it our MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating!  The improv/jazz here is presented with a different spirit that challenges you to believe in dignity (rather than dope).  GREAT album to explore the possibilities of the New Year with!   Contact at Sublingual Records, POB 391516, Cambridge, MA 02139, via e-mail to  or on the site at  Rotcod Zzaj

Hal McGee - DEEP SPACE SEARCH ENGINE:    Pleasure is always the word when reviewing solo works by one of the synth masters of the home production networks.  Hal was one of my first contacts in the (then) "home taper" network, & published one of the earliest (tape) review 'zines, "Electronic Cottage".  He sent a whole phroggin' box of CD's, which I am taking my time to review... "D.S.S.E" is solo space synth in the classic mode... layer after layer of exploration that reaches deep into our past, enlightening the listener with sonic visuals of the struggle that "search" sometimes is.   You can't classify this as "ambient", as it "protrudes" into the consciousness too much... you can't call it "experimental", because there are too many hints of orchestrals heard from birth... in fact, you can't "classify" it with any one "name".  It is exploratory, refreshing and seems to draw energy from sources unrealized by many of us in today's sound byte environs.  Your mind/spirit must be primed for discovery in order to enjoy this wonderful CD... if you enjoy stellar sonic surrealism, you won't be able to take the headphones off until th' fat lady sings!  For all aficionados of out, this gets our MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating.  Contact Hal at     Rotcod Zzaj

Chad Beall - DEDICATIONS:    Chad's piano is majestic, well-played and full of life... his debut album (to be released in January 2003) is impressive, showcasing his well-honed abilities, to be sure.  There is an element of nostalgia that his playing inspires, just on the other side of sad... it is clear that he enjoys playing, & that he has great talent for "telling the stories".  There are some beautiful vocal pieces by Adrian Payne, Alisha Howard and Lanny Anderson... I felt the fire in Beall's fingers light up (even) more on these interactive pieces; he does a wonderful job of emphasizing the emotions involved through his keyboards... excellent!  This CD gets a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from us, especially for those listeners who love contemporary piano ballads.   Contact at Contact at Musik International, 154 Botasso Rd., Boulder, CO 80302 (e-mail is   )

David Cortopassi - EMBRACE DESTINY:    We first heard David's (very) unique (& oft-twisted) jazz stylings way back in issue # 41, ("The Silicon Jungle) & fell in love with it immediately (in fact, it's one of the few that stays in my car player).  This new album is even better, volkz!   Cortopassi has played together with bands as (stylistically) far-ranging as th' Doobie Brothers to Santana to Tower of Power to... well, ya' know, th' list goes on & on!  What's so unique about his music(s) (& this album especially) is best described in his own words, from the liner notes - that his favorite part of the recording is "hearing back something that came from nowhere".. if you're an improvising musician, you'd better understand what that statement is all about (what I want you to imagine is Unkle Frank comin' back to th' "Coast of Ghristmas", & imposing some of his strangest thoughts through David's fingers/brainwaves)!  He also plays nearly everything on the album, except for some wonderful sections where he's joined by his son (electric & acoustic guitars) Joshua... what a kick, eh?  (My son Art & I played together on a few occasions, & I can vouch for th' rush that creates), as well as some superb saxophone by Steve Mann!  If you're recovering from any kind of substances, you know you need somethin' to fill th' gaps (that's personal experience speakin' there), & the hope & joy that shines through on this album will give you a contact high at first note!!!  I'm continually amazed by David's excellent compositions/chops, & you will be as well.  The album will be for sale on all major sites (Amazon, CDBaby, TheOrchard, CDNow, etc...), & if you are looking for something different in an accessible mode - this is it!  "Embrace Destiny" gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from us, as well as the "PICK" of 2002 for "best all-round album)!  Contact (as quickly as you can) at POB 3953, Napa, CA 94558, or read more about the upcoming release (& some neat radio promotions for DJ's)  at  or via e-mail to  Rotcod Zzaj

Jeff Kaiser - THEMES FOR OCKODEKTET:    A symphony of "strange" attacks your ears, blasting away any semblance of order you (ever) thought you had imposed on your universe... horns, reeds, strings & a very healthy dose of electronics join together to twist&bend your wierdnesses into shapes you have never imagined.  "Conventional" listeners will suffer through nightmares for years to come after one listen, but those among you who are poised on the brink of chaos will find much to examine & rejoice in!  This CD, after the cacophonous intro, comes very close to "jazz", with all the elements of a "big band", with a heavy dose of trumpet (as you might imagine, since Jeff can blow some mean & snaky pieces).  He also serves as a "conductor" for the large group, and (amazing as it may seem), is able to mold it & shape it into something totally different than you have ever heard improvised before; Kaiser is especially effective at making use of high/low moments to emphasize the musical message!  If you thirst for high energy in an exploratory large ensemble format, this will strike your fancy.. it gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from us... it is one of the best improvised albums I've heard in 2002!  Contact at POB 1653, Ventura, CA 93002, or on the site at     Rotcod Zzaj

Joe Giardullo/Chris Sullivan/Michael Thompson - LANGUAGE OF SWANS:    "M.O.R." isn't something that new releases from (one of our favorite labels) Drimala Records do... they always explore somethin' new, something different... & "Language Of Swans" is a near-perfect example of how rewarding a new musical experience can be.  Joe's reeds (alto/soprano sax & bass clarinet) & flutes are superbly complimented by Chris's bass & Michael's beautiful percussive & sensitive keyboard work.  The trio is always "on", no dragging of the momentum on any of the trax.  The recording on these avant-jazzy compositions is excellent, especially when you don th' 'phones!   The beauty of these improvised pieces is (obviously) in the spontaneity (and especially the sophisticated and laid-back interplay of the percussives with Giardullo's horns), but the other element that will (just) capture your attention for the entire 53-something minutes is how subtle the marriage is... we've all heard improvisors, but they often sound like they are reaching for something - this trio doesn't have to reach, 'coz they're already there!  Accessible to any jazz-oriented listener, this CD (not only) gets our MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating - they are also the PICK of this issue for "best improvised jazz in 2002"!   Contact at POB 69044, Hampton, VA 23669, via email to   or on the site at  Rotcod Zzaj

Jim Wilson - MY FIRST CHRISTMAS WITH YOU:    As the (silly) season approaches, it is (always) good to receive the new C-mas albums.  Jim's orchestrally accompanied piano makes for perfect listening, with the 'phones, or in a party setting.  I really like his playing, because he uses bold (tho' sensitive) strokes to paint his interpretations of some beautiful holiday standards; there are some some guest vocalists you will (probably) recognize, too.. Dan Fogelberg & Stephen Bishop are among the names (Bishop's singing is just splendid, too, my favorite cut on the album).  This is just the kind of music that will make perfect background for the family gathering, as they join around the table in celebration!  I'm highly impressed with the recording, as well as with Mr. Wilson's passion for the season/music... impressed enough to rate it MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!   Contact at Willow Bay Music, 5152 Sepulveda Blvd, Ste. 123, Sherman Oaks, CA 91403, on the site at or via e-mail to    Rotcod Zzaj

Jeff Reilly/Jerry Granelli - IRON SKY:    One of the joys I garner from writing this magazine is that I get to hear music(s) that many folks (out there) have never heard before.  Some writers/reviewers would view that as a "chore"... "o-mi-gourd, not 'nother "wacked" album"... not THIS writer!  The music on this CD will be a challenge for many listeners... but those willing to tread on ground that is not necessarily "solid" will find their rewards.  Jeff plays some forging clarinet and bass clarinet against sound sculptures formed by Jerry's electronic percussives.   & this all happens (believe it or not, jus' like Ripley's) in a blacksmith shop - ergo the title.  It's not as klang-y as you might imagine it to be, either.  The percussion elements are (far) more than just a backdrop, they form and shape the composition of the entire CD.  Unfortunately, this one is only 40 minutes long, so it left us wanting to hear more... but it is still one of the most unique and interesting CD's we have heard this year.  It won't be for all listeners, to be sure, but many readers of this 'zine will agree when I declare it to be HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!  What would be MOST interesting (for me) is to hear these gents incorporate our friend Bret Hart in the mix!  Contact through the site at or via e-mail to    Rotcod Zzaj

William Roper - ROPER'S DARN YARNS:    We reviewed William's debut CD (issue # 52), "JUNE TEENTH", & dug it quite a bit (got our MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED) - but these "darn yarns" incorporate an element we'd not known about his recordings... he is a top-notch spoken-word artist... his delivery on the opener, "Em(M)", is flawless, & his voice is full of magick.  There aren't any earth shattering "revelations" in his spoken-word pieces, but he comes across as "Mr. Performance", methinks.  William plays tuba against a whole host of freestyle instruments/artists, & it's a strange orchestral/jazz mix that you won't hear from any other artist.  Of course, if yer' lookin' fer' high-flyin' Cannonball Adderly-type big-jazz, you'll have to go to another rack... but if your ears thirst for sonic adventure - this is THE TICKET!  Th' last track "Once Upon A Time", is my favorite... playful but absorbing is how I would describe it... & it features (the late) Glenn Horiuchi's keyboards on an improvisation that just WILL NOT quit - I love this track; in great part because it features some grand spontaneous spoken-word by Roper that reminds me (after some fashion) of albums we cut here in Olympia in th' late '70's... especially a group named the "Mad Metcalf Ensemble"!  This is a fine & high-spirited album that gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from our ears!  Contact at 1002 Marcheta St., Altadena, CA 91001, or via email to   The album is available for purchase at     Rotcod Zzaj

Xaxis Wye - SAXIFRAGA KLIMIT:    You will quickly realize that there are no limits on this CD... wonderfully driving beats, electronic swirls, sample-madnesses and all th' trappings of today's futuristic jazz!  Those listeners who have allowed their minds to become trapped in (thee dreaded) regularity will make a mad dash for their bowl of O-Bran... but those of us who reach for the outer limits will find pure sonic enjoyment here.  Voices are intertwined in the mix to great effect.  The album is the brainchild of Seattle artist/native Jeff Mueller... his music reflects sonic depth that few (in the electronic medium) can achieve.  While many would pigeonhole this in the "electronic jazz" category, I say it goes (far, far) beyond categorization... it contains (some) elements of industrial, but more than anything else, it reflects true originality.  It will take you on a journey all the way from urban madness to the deepest and darkest jungles!  The clean recording makes it a much better experience than some similar albums, but it is more the energy quotient (than anything else) that attracts my ears to it.  If you're looking for something to treat yer' ears to -GET THIS!  It gets a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from us!  Contact at  or listen to .mp3's at or   You can also contact Jeff directly at    Rotcod Zzaj

Ensemble Galilei - A WINTER'S NIGHT:    If you're in the mood for some holiday music played in the great Irish tradition(s), with fiddles, pipes & harps - you'll HAVE to get this one!  Spirits that don't rise when listeneing to this joyously played music are probably zombies anyway.   "Christmas Day", track 3, is one of my favorites... it lets me (easily) drift back to pleasant snow-covered mornings in the hills of Pennsylvania, under the brightly lit tree, with all the family gathered 'round in celebration.  There will be (more than) a few listeners who become so infected by the playful spirits generated by this ensemble that they kick off their shoes & jump up to dance arm-in-arm around the tree.  This is a beautiful album, beautifully recorded and played.  It gets a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from us!  "A WINTER'S NIGHT" would make a fine gift for a traditional music lover.  Contact at Contact at 10 Fiske Place, Suite 530, Mt. Vernon, NY 10550, via e-mail to or on the site at   Rotcod Zzaj

Kabul Workshop - TRIGANA:    So, you want to "get a feel" for what those poor, bombed out neighbors of ours in Afghanistan are like culturally?  This album/CD (in from TINDER RECORDS)  is one of the best ways to do that!  Francesco Russo & Khaled Arman are the leaders of this (essentially) quintet... they have fused together some wonderful electronic musics, based on their respective homelands of Afghanistan & Neopolitia.  The energy is high-end, but they pay due homage to the culture(s) of their countries, & that saves it from becoming "just another world" album.   Those of you who have viewed the middle East as "stodgy", or "clerical", are really missing something if you don't expose your ears to this wonderful blend of electronically enhanced music and cultural roots!  It gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from us!  Contact at Tinder Records, 4380 Redwood Highway, Suite B-10, San Rafael, CA 94903, via e-mail to or on the site at    Rotcod Zzaj

Darlene Koldenhoven - HEAVENLY PEACE:    Listeners who crave something beautiful and inspiring for the coming C-mas season will find this album pure delight for their ears!  Darlene has a vocal execution that is flawless, and energy that seems boundless on these traditional Christmas songs.  The orchestration is simple, but wonderful... the compositions hold clearly to the form that was intended by the composers, but there are elements of jazz, world & (just about) every other style of music on the globe.  If you aren't inspired by her singing, you're dead already, so forget it.  There are sections where the bass lines really remind me of Jaco Pastorius, though I couldn't see him listed in the credits (who was that bass man, anyway?).  Koldenhoven is one of the most talented vocalists I've ever heard, and any listener who enjoys great music will fall in love with this in short order.  The CD gets a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from us!   Contact the label via e-mail to, or get in touch with Darlene at     Rotcod Zzaj

Barrio Chino - MEDITERRA NOSTRA:    This TINDER RECORDS label has a hallmark... every album we've reviewed has energy quotients that push the limits of the EQ scale... it doesn't matter the genre, their CD's get you moving!  As you've probably guessed from the title, this 'round is based on fine Latino/jazz traditions, but each cut appears to have been selected to force the listener to shake, rattle & roll!  The group is from Spain, though their members come from many other countries, including France, Cuba & Algeria.  Many of the songs are actually stories of people who escaped unfavorable conditions in one way or another, so (even though I don't understand Spanish) it's easy to feel the jubilation in their tales.  If you want to overcome shadow & break into the light of spiritual freedom - GET THIS ONE; it gets our MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating... a definite KEEPER!   Contact at Tinder Records, 4380 Redmond Way, Suite 810, San Rafael, CA 94903, via e-mail to or on the site at    Rotcod Zzaj

Eric Wallack - GRENDEL:    We reviewed some of Eric's works in issue # 59, and enjoyed them very muchly!  This outing is named after his 1940's model Silvertone flattop... it was recorded "virgin", on an ancient reel-to-reel.  He indicated that the sound quality might have suffered a bit because of that... & while that is true, to a degree, Wallack's musical intentions/inventions are crystal clear!   The music is laid-back & inspiring (all) at the same time!  His album art is fantastic this time around, with credit listings, an "inside" jacket & a definite sense of "telling his story" (something I think is greatly important for a home recording artist).  His improvisations move along at rapid pace, & I am reminded (in many ways) of some of the earlier guitar works I've heard (my friend) Ernesto Diaz-Infante doing (EDI, you need to get in touch with this guy; ed).  The percussives are rampant, & bring on lucid images of th' guy disciplining his guitar (heh! heh!).  There is a lot to be absorbed here, so you need to do it with yer' 'phones on!  I am more & more impressed each time I listen to Eric's improvisations... free & loose, a spirit that will fan th' flames!  This CD gets our MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for all fans of music with high creativity!  Contact via e-mail to  Eric will also have it posted on his page at HOMEMADE MUSIC soon!   Rotcod Zzaj

Ian Smith - DAYBREAK:    You'll soon recognise that that ain't no rooster crowin' at 5:00am... it's Ian's flugelhorn and/or trumpet heralding another day of improv on yer' horizon(s).  This recording is part of a huge stack I received from Martin Davidson, of Emanem Recordings, & features (some) appearance by improv luminary Derek Bailey, as well as Gail Brand on trombone, Oren Marshall on tuba & Veryan Weston on chamber organ.  It was recorded in August 2000, & came out perfectly (recording-wise).  You will need to be a fan of improvised/random music(s), else you'll get lost after the first two or three bars... this is not "pop" music... it requires active listening (& imagination, to fill in the gaps).  One of my favorite tracks (which features all the players) is "Windsurfing", track 13... there are some intricate moments, especially on the interplays between Bailey's guitar & the organ by Weston... strange, but intricate.  If you need something improvised to wake up your senses to the newness available in life... this comes MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!   Contact through Martin Davidson, 3 Bittacy Rise, London NW7 2HH England, on the site at  or via email to  Rotcod Zzaj

Bret Hart/Jeff Mcleod - DYNAMIC NEGATIVISM:    Readers/listeners who have been exposed to Bret's "Duets" series will know already what the prime dynamic is with the CD's he's produced of late... a total flurry of activity pourin' out of his brain & through his fingers... what you won't be prepared for is the flawless purity of the new sounds he & Jeff (who is one crackerjack player) create on this GREAT CD!  The opener, "Crisis Hammers", has some superb guitar wizardry against some of the oddest hammers you'll ever hear (it is, without question, my favorite track on the album).  There is relentless rockin' goin' on here, with tons o' strange mixed in... simple, yet boo-ful!  I've been pals with Bret ever since we met (was it really almost 15 years ago) in Korea; more importantly, I've had the pleasure of listening to the growth & maturity blossom - & on "DYNAMIC NEGATIVISM", he's reached some kind o' zenith!  Another favorite track is # 9, "Worry About Meat" (don't let th' titles throw ya', Bret's always doin' that)... an arpeggiated hunk of ke-go-gi on Mexican jumping beans, to be sure.  The overall effect of this experience is that you will (days down th' road) find yourself in a body you didn't know was yours, tappin' out a rhythm that belongs to some electronic shaman in another univers - if you make it back, that is!  EXCELLENT.... gets our MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for listeners who want something to listen to!  Contact at Instrumentales, 428 Patrick Street, Eden, NC, 27288, or via e-mail to   Rotcod Zzaj





Guideline for artists SUBMITTING to us:  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 (we can USE SOME HITS, PLEASE)... 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...:

PLEASE VISIT our SAMPLES page to listen to FULL-SONG samples... then tell ALL your friends about our fantastic variety of improvised and spontaneous music(s)!!!!!!!!

NOTE:  You can also purchase any of these CD's (use your credit card) by going to our catalog page!



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