Search this site or the web powered by FreeFind

Site search Web search


Place YOUR OWN Classified Ads via our site!  CLICK below:





ALL artists!  I am very, VERY happy to announce that IMPROVIJAZZATION NATION is ACCEPTING SUBMISSIONS again.  I have been granted a (possibly long-term) stay of execution for my trip to Iraq.  I will still  be traveling all over the U.S., so new issues may be a little less timely, but (as always), we will review your materials as soon as possible after we receive them.  Look at the guidelines for submission below, please:


MUSIC:  All formats accepted.  Snail mail to:  Zzaj Productions, c/o Dick Metcalf, 5308 65th Avenue, Lacey, WA 98513  The only criteria for music you submit is that it MUST HAVE high performance energy... if you submit lacklustre material, it will be reviewed accordingly

POETRY:  Poems are accepted for publication ONLY via e-mail.  Poems submitted in any other fashion will NOT be published.  Poetry that includes some reference to music is granted first priority for publication.

BOOKS:  We will review some books; books about music are PREFERRED.  We will NOT return any books submitted for review.  Snail them to the address listed above for MUSIC.

DIY Announcements:  We will post your (e-mailed) ad about DIY projects, regardless of genre or medium... HOWEVER, this is ONLY for INDEPENDENTS... if you are a corporation, don't even BOTHER sending stuff... it will be marked and reported as SPAM!


Improvijazzation Nation

Issue # 65 1/2 REVIEWS

FEATURED Zzaj Productions album samples -

Bluer Than Blue (Ernesto Diaz-Infante; poetry,  Zzaj; keyboards)

Continuum - (John Alkins, solo piano)

Each Speech (John M. Bennett; wacked-out poetry, Zzaj; keyboards)

Check out th' "new" Zzaj "diary"


Kieron - I SEE THE SUNRISE:    Coincidence (whether you believe in them, or not) very often plays a big part in my life... this intriguing and inspiring keyboard & synthesizer music was handed to me by Kieron Morkin (of all places) during the middle of a war game.  Mr. Morkin plays spiritual music with heart & soul, so beautifully that even a hard-case free-jazzer like myself had little choice but to listen to each of the 10 tracks for repeated listens.  As you might glean from the title (or you might not, I suppose), there are many traditional hymns... but Kieron's playing (even on the slower tracks) gives you a clear vision of one who believes in the music he plays, and he reaches right out & touches you; he calls it the "music of hope" - & if you can't hear some of that coming through, your heart is dead!   His synth patches are skillfully woven in, under & through crystal-clear piano expressions... this isn't "just another" keyboard album with tired or repetitive phrases - he expresses emotions (through his fingers) that those raggedy snake charmers I grew up under had no inkling of (in their fire & brimstone rants).  Listeners with no interest in that which inspires will probably pass "I See The Sunrise", but I give it a hale & hearty HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!  Contact via his site, at      Rotcod Zzaj


Colin Stranahan Quintet - DREAMS UNTOLD:   Volkz', this kid (th' drummer) is only 17, but he makes it sound as though he's been playin' with th big boyz for about 50 years. His drumming shows maturity far beyond his calendar years... totally sensitive to th' players around him (Kenny Warren on trumpet, tenor by Mike Bailey, keyboards by Jeff Jenkins, Ken Walker on drums, & guest shots (on soprano sax) by Colin's dad Jim & Ron Miles (trumpet). There are no klunkers on this outing, at all... high energy (many of them originals) jazz that will have you groovin' & finger-poppin' from th' opening bar to th' last note. Tho' Colin's from Colorado, I've little doubt you'll be able to listen to him in downtown NYC before long... this boy just KICKS! This CD has been rotating in my car for several weeks now... no matter how many times you listen to it, you'll always find something refreshing & new. Ah, to be 17 again, eh? Since that ain't gonna' happen, though, get acquainted with a drummer who is gonna' be a GIANT in th' next few years! An absolutely GREAT album that gets th' PICK of this issue for "best jazz this year". Simply superb. Contact on th' site at  or via e-mail to  Rotcod Zzaj


Milagra Acustico - THE RUBAIYYAT OF OMAR KHAYYAM:    Music that transcends cultures (effectively) is rare.  A simple, yet beautiful, mix of musical stylings from Italy, the Middle East, Indonesian & Magrebin musical heritage, this comes as close to "world music" as possible, without getting rutted in rhythms that are dead & over-used.  While the purist improv listener will hesitate, if the album is given a fair listen, your ears will be rewarded with the magic of ancient/timeless quatrains from Omar Khayyam (translated to Sicilian dialects, except for two of them).  A very relaxing, yet inspirational journey through music that reaches out across the ages & grasps the soul ever so gently - a definite keeper!  I would recommend headphones, at least for the first round, but no matter how you choose to listen to it, be sure to establish an environment that provides no interruptions.  This gets a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, & we hope to hear more from the group in the near future.  Contact at Valley Entertainment, 333 West 52nd St., New York, NY 10019, or via the site at    Rotcod Zzaj


Taliesin Orchestra - THREAD OF TIME:    We have enjoyed this group's splendid world music for quite some time... somehow, this CD got buried at the bottom (or near it) of the CD review box.  A treasure that is timeless, with stellar energy orchestrals, and Enya-like vocal arrangements, T.O. takes you on a pleasant journey through galaxies of sound designed to overwhelm your spirit.  Actually, everything (of theirs) I've listened to tends to be that way, but "Thread Of Time" is truly majestic, far beyond the ordinary in inspiration and power.  This kind of high-end orchestral work with angelic vocals is considered (by many) to be passť  - and there's a good reason for that... because it is often performed without a passion from the heart; the Taliesin Orchestra fuses fire with fresh & gives new life to the form.  This will not be a hit amongst those enraptured with the edges - but it merits a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from us for listeners who hear the "new" in "New Age".  Contact at    Rotcod Zzaj


Spooky Actions - SONGS OF THE NATIONS:    "Spooky" indeed... our friend Bruce Arnold's jazz guitar(s) & windmeister John Gunther weave in, around & about with their own contributions to pieces from various Native American tribes (Sioux, Arapaho, Zuni - just to name a few).  I've listened to (& reviewed) albums like this before, & they often tend to over-emphasize the non-native aspects (whether that be jazz, world or new age) on the recordings.  "Spooky Actions" made sure that their additions stayed far enough back in the mix that the listener still is wrapped in the Native American experience, & that knocks the peg up a lot for me!  Thomas Buckner performs the baritone vocals and readings masterfully, & it wouldn't be hard for you to imagine yourself 'round a tribal campfire, listening to the stars tell ancient stories... nice drums & percussion by Kirk Driscoll round it all out.  The energy for the music being played is significant, & keeps the pace moving along very pleasantly - BUT, without overplaying the modern instrumentation.  A vibrant CD that gets a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for listeners of all persuasions.  Contact via e-mail to  or on the site at     Rotcod Zzaj


John Hines - IN THE POCKET:    Rawk-in' 'bone from John Hines, with keyboards by Michael Pagan, drums by Rob Ward, Mike Williams on bass & special guest Hugh Ragin on flugelhorn & trumpet (as well as a couple of very fine vocals by Angela Holley).  The set leads off with the title tune (a Hines original), which jumps into high gear right away... I haven't heard excitement like that on a trombone in a long, long time.  Though the pace slows down (just a bit) as th' tracks move on through the album, the energy doesn't degenerate (even a lil' bit).  The second cut ("I Could Write A Book"), features all the players, & some very intricate horn work by Ragin.  My favorite cut on the album (besides the opener) is Pagan's original, "More Than A Friend"... a really hip tune that will make you feel like Mr. or Ms. Cool.   Hines other original track, "Kickin' Back" will get yer' feet movin' ('less yer' inna' ground already)... jazz hip-hop, I presume.  Heh! Heh!  If you dig deep & throaty female jazz vocals, you'll probably find Angela Holley's rendition of "A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square" among your favorites, too.  A great CD that merits a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from our ears.  Contact at or through the publicity agent, at    Rotcod Zzaj


Bill Horist - LYRIC/SUITE:  A CD from Horist is always a treat... never a stagnant moment, new horizons being explored in ways your ears could never (without his help) imagine.  Some of his solo guitar compositions will tease you into thinking that he's playing "normal" (for a change)... but as the initial idea expands (and flowers), he shows you (aurally) what creativity looks like - & it is not what you (necessarily) want it to be.  "Lyric/Suite" is full of gentler points & angles than I'm used to hearing (on Soylent Radio, f'r'instance) from Bill, but that makes it (after 3 listens) even stranger than you thought it was (when you were listening to it).  This is where the album has the most value for any listener interested in exploring the creative process, actually... though you don't realize it until (at least) a couple days (or months, depending on how well your left brain functions) later.  Another total winner from Mr. Horist - I enjoyed it thoroughly, & have no doubt that those with any level of creative flow will support me in giving it a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for listeners who want to expand their understanding of how music happens!  Contact at Accretions, P.O. Box 81973, San Diego, CA 92138, via e-mail to or on the site at   Rotcod Zzaj

Wayne Wesley Johnson - CANCIONES DEL ALMA (SONGS FROM THE SOUL):  Several guest artists on this round with Wayne's fantastic guitars.  Th' title tells it all... these are definitely SONGS (not chicken-scratch noise sculptures), & they (all) reach right in & grab your spirit - make it sing!  Shades of Santana's most recent efforts, but distinctly Mr. Johnson's fingers.  The compositions are allowed to s-t-r-e-t-c-h out and take their own sweet time; no one-hit wonders on the album.  We've reviewed Johnson's works before, & always found them attractive (especially if you love th' fire inherent in Latin-based musics).  Patterns are similar to songs you've heard (all these years), but Wayne Wesley infuses the performances with high-end energy that will have you clackin' yer' castanets from the opener to the end-run.  I don't (really) feature this as "road music", but a coupla' margaritas on your patio with Wayne's songs will have you whippin' out your Zorro sword to make yer' mark on th' lawn... heh! heh!  Thoroughly enjoyable, this gets a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from us!  Contact at Wayne Wesley Johnson / Freda Ruiz (aka Wannadu, LLC)
7 Avenida Vista Grande #-260, Santa Fe, N.M. 87508, on the site at  or via email to  Rotcod Zzaj

Jugalbandi - NIGHT CRAZY:  Well, th' latest CD offering from this group (who we've reviewed many times before) is much like our friend Greg Segal described it to be - ""goes in much stranger places than anything else we've put out."  Slow-burn (& beautiful) dulcimer/table piece ("Ants Ate My Silkworms") starts the action, moving you gently into the fusion/improv opera that follows. Th' title track is next, & it is a WINNER!  You must listen carefully to best enjoy all th' little nooks & crannies of "Night Crazy", but I can guarantee that you'll find much to appreciate on this tune... Greg's guitar/effects masterfully lead you into black holes & Hyam Sosnow's drum/cymbal/gong painting is the most sensitive portrait of the inside of the miasma of darkest night I've heard in (quite) a while.  There is no rush to go into hyper-drive, but before you realize it, your dream(s) are far out past our galaxy, discovering novas of sound exploding through th' headphones... an absolute must album for sonic explorers.  I can say (without qualification) that this is the best CD I've heard from Jugalbandi yet!  "The Lost Transit Center" is another favorite track, meandering from way station to way station across the eons.  Segal expresses sensitivities to his instrument that I had heard before, but never realized so fully as on this recording.  All in all, a perfect way to glide into a Sunday morning... this CD gets our MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for lovers of aural adventure the world around!  Contact via Greg's PAGES, , or via e-mail to    Rotcod Zzaj

Joshua Breakstone - A JAMAIS:  Breakstone's jazz guitar (on th' opening title track sounds (very much) like some of th' best horn soloists you've ever listened to... when he takes hold of that solo, it takes off (non=chordally) & is one continuous (& beautifully smooth) RUN!  He's got total mastery of those strings, to th' degree that you won't even realize it until a couple of days after listening through it the first couple of times.... what I mean is that his approach is so subtle that you won't even know that his original tune (which most of the tracks are) has stuck in your head - & you'll be walkin' down th' street, whistlin' it in your head.  That was particularly true of "Taken For Granted", one of my favorite cuts on th' album (& isn't that an interesting title for a song that won't go away?).  Heh! Heh!  This was recorded in France, with bassist Louis Petrucciani & drummer Joel Allouche... great players all, totally on top of the directions they're going in.  If it's laid-back & "dow-un" you want, check out track 4, "Tomorrow's Hours", or "1802", on cut 6.  There is such soul & fire here, I'm really impressed, & any devoted fan of great jazz will get right on out to th' store & buy this one (it went on sale April 26th)!  This gets our MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED... a total jazz experience that will stay in your collection for years & years to come!  Contact at  or via snail to Capri Records Ltd., P.O. Box 892, 60615 U.S. Highway 285, Bailey, CO 80421-0892   Rotcod Zzaj

Burton Greene - LIVE AT GRASLANDFor those who have never listened to Greene's amazing solo keyboard work before, this will be a novel experience.  Stylistically, he is definitely jazz, free-form, & o-u-t... by the same token, though, he sounds like Mozart in (many) places.  Masterful touch & playful spirit combine to express joy for the player as well as the listener.   This is "not" jazz, & it's "not" classical, per se... it is BURTON GREENE's piano, & there is no "in between".  If you're looking for be-bop, or lounge jazz, forget it... this is purely solo piano, & the purity is refreshing, to say the least.  I strongly recommend headphones, at least on the first couple of listens, so you can concentrate on the wonderful little nuances of expression that come through Burton's fingers.  He has an "educated" structure in his improvisations, not a matter of wild abandon, or free-style in the sense of total abandon... but in his case, it is clear to the listener that his free-expression comes from his heart, & the music comes out as a totally enjoyable listen... gets a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from us!  Contact through Drimala, at   Rotcod Zzaj

Kieron - STAINED GLASS:    About a week (or so) after I reviewed Kieron's "I See The Sunrise" CD, I got a call from him that led to a visit/layover in Tacoma (after a trip he made to Alaska).  It was wonderful to see him & get to know him a little better... but even more interesting was the package of (5) CD's he dropped off for me to review.  I chose this one to review for this issue, because of my penchant for originals.  What can I say?  I mean, the pieces are of stunning quality!  The opener, "Tomorrow's Son" has deep/strong hints of Irish Catholic upbringing... his synth mixes on this track are magical, because tho' simple in construct, the layers behind it (under and through his great piano keyboards) evoke aural images of huge pipes in a gigantic cathedral.  Though some of his style has strong roots in the music of religion, he demonstrates an ability to move beyond the "religious", into something (I believe) is far more important - the spirit!   There are some great textural shifts between the tunes as well, with harps, horns & even shades of Native American rhythms that will put you in the "enchanted zone".  This is one of the best piano/synth albums I've heard this year... it clearly merits our MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating, especially for lovers of music that inspires gentleness and greatness.  Contact via his site, at      Rotcod Zzaj

Riot Act - MANIACAL DISASTROPHE TOUR:    I always enjoy th' chance to listen to anything with Rick Ray on it... soaring rock guitar that just won't stop th' flight of fancy & interstellar frolic.  How fitting to pull this lil' gem CD out of th' stak tonite..."Bonnie The Clyde" is a prime example of how raw energy can transport you to thee outer (mental) limits!  High-end power-rockin' guitars that take you far far & away in only 3 short minutes.  Ray doesn't manhandle th' strings - he rides herd on 'em like an interstellar pilot.  This outing seemed far less thematic, & more oriented towards just havin'  fun with the music... still plenty of lyrical high spots, but (without question), it's those magick strings that will serve as your transport into th' wormhole (& still survive).  This particular recording is a little "older" than some we've reviewed with Rick playing on them... 2000 was when it was released... but, for rock fans everywhere (particularly those into rock that ROCKS), this it timeless.  Strong drums by John Cck & bass that moves by Jack Ambrose.  This gets a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from our ears, & if you dig guitar-based rock trio, you'll agree!  Superb road music.  Contact him on his site via email to  or snail to Neurosis Records, 20301 Ball Ave. Euclid, OH 44123!! & do it TODAY!!!!      Rotcod Zzaj

World Of Tomorrow - INTERSTELLAR IMMIGRANT:    It's been (quite) a while since we have listened to hot stuff from Bonnie Kane & krew... 'course, it's been a while (almost a year now) since we were focusing heavily on reviews, anyway.  What a treat for these ever-so-slightly jaded aural appendages.  We've reviewed these folks many times before, but this is th' first time we've heard them so closely approaching the turf of th' master - Sun Ra.  I'm also reminded of live sets I've listened to with Olympia's own improv heroes, Bert Wilson & Jeffrey Morgan.  The opener ("Above The Bird Line") is nicely cosmic, but th' pace moves immediately towards (a bit of)  frenetic as th' CD moves on.  Those listeners who are terrorized by oddity, & unprepared for th' age of chaos will not be able to cope, but those of us who have moved past simple 3 & 4 chord licks will realize that this transports you into a zone where you can have a "close encounter of the 4th dimension" - or somethin' along those lines.  Seems to be more "fuzz" on th' guitars this time around, but the "pacing" is much more spacy & relaxed than some of W.O.T's earlier efforts.  Listeners enchanted with improv that stays in touch with th' BLOOD pumpin' through th' veins (instead of "dry hump" stuff that's got no soul) will agree with me when I say that this comes MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.  Contact at W.O.O. DIRECT, c/o Ray Sage, P.O. 249 Knickerbocker Sta., NYC, NY 10002, via e-mail to  or on their site at    Rotcod Zzaj

Flight 09 - REFLECTION:    We reviewed this group in issue # 65; actually, "REFLECTION" is their first release... grind-rock that reminds me (ever so slightly) of Bachman-Turner Overdrive (BTO).  Listeners who have pistons & cylinders crankin' in their brain every minute of every waking day will LUV this music... if yer' in th' mood fer' gentle/soothing, or somethin' silk smooth, you prob'ly won't find too many "reflective" moments in here.  OTOH, if yer' boots & leathers scream out ev'ry morning for somethin' to kick-start 'em, you'll GET THIS!  Our pals at (Rick Ray's) Neurosis Records sent this one in for review... AND, 'coz they know I dig on music that gets th' BLOOD movin' - which "FLIGHT 09" is certainly quite capable at.  There's enough (actual) musicianship involved in their 3-piece (from Uzbekistan) that this can't be arbitrarily tossed/lumped into th' "tired metal" racks to languish for all parts of ever.  End run?  It gets a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from me for fans of guitars that reach right out & grab yer' aural appendages!      Contact via email to , snail to Neurosis Records, 20301 Ball Ave. Euclid, OH 44123, or visit the band's pages at    Rotcod Zzaj

Thollem/Rivera - I'LL MEET YOU HALFWAY OUT IN THE MIDDLE OF IT ALL :    If you're looking for something truly "fresh" (not "punk-oid", but brash with class), you'll enjoy this excursion/incursion by (our friend) Thollem McDonas (piano & vocals) & Rick Rivera (trapset).  I fell in love with Thollem's brand of musical insanity th' first time I listened to him at the OLYMPIA EXPERIMENTAL MUSIC FESTIVAL.  He handed me this CD (along with another, which I'll be reviewing later) during this year's fest (in which he gave a splendid performance), & I was immediately attracted to it, because of the drums... & it makes for a TOTALLY NEW dimension for McDonas.  His vocal antics are a most pleasant experience, serving (in many ways) as a rhythmic counterpoint to Rivera's drums... imagine a sorta' jazzy Jim Croce & apply that "Junkyard Dog" atmosphere in a form of classical hip-hop, if your mind is that free.  As with (all) other albums of his we've reviewed, it is impossible to lump this playing into any pigeonhole... just when you think you've got his classical roots identified & you're about to classify his as neo-magnon, he jumps orf into some Mississippi mud boogie(track 8) that would make (either) Jelly Roll OR Doctor John might-ee proud  Absolute talent and creative energy unbounded here, but if you're "expecting" some (particular) "thang" - move ON!  From our odd ears, this gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, & the "PICK" of this issue for "most creative piano & rhythm".  Contact at   or via e-mail to   Rotcod Zzaj

Phillip Greenlief - STALKING ANDREI:    We have listened to and reviewed Phillip's work before, but never in the solo mode.  He plays clarinet & (all manner of) saxophones for listeners who understand that th' brass ring is no further than their (gourd-given) ears - if only they will shut th' damned TV off & sit down & focus!  Greenlief uses techniques similar to those he employed during his live performance at the 10th Annual Olympia Experimental Music Festival (which was sheer joy to witness), but (of course), you can zoom in on the little nuances more easily (with headphones).  In both the live performance and studio mode, what shines through (for me, anyway) is his sense of humor about the art.  You & I both have encountered those players who focus inward so deeply that they lose touch with their humanity - not this guy!  The one word of caution here is that you really need to make sure there are no phones ringing, pots boiling over, or TV blaring in the background when you listen to this album... some listeners won't do that, of course, & they'll miss the whole experience.  You must be free to focus on th' bright pictures Phillip paints with his reeds, and to join him in his exuberance for the magic that focused listening can bring.  My favorite track is the title, probably because it has a deep/dark shade that reminds me (somehow) of walks through downtown Frankfurt at 3:30am after a full complement of Jack Daniels & hashish... something like that... but, if you give Mr. Greenlief the full 41:43 minutes, you'll hear your own vision, I can assure you.  This gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for listeners who want to explore the intricacies!  Contact at , via e-mail to  or by snail to POB 22158, Oakland, CA 94623-9991    Rotcod Zzaj

The Jeff Kaiser Ockodektet - 13 THEMES FOR A TRISKAIDEKAPHOBIC:    I think Jeff must have pulled in every Left Coast improvisor he could find for this extraordinary outing.  Th' introductions to most of th' cuts will make you think you're going to hear a "straight" chamber music set, but about 16/32 bars in, the whole (humongous) group jumps on several (absolutely brassy) trains at once, goin' to ev'ry corner of th' globe to explore sounds & combinations of sound(s) that will inspire you to revel in random.  Crisp, clear recording add a lot to the overall listening experience, & th' improvisationally inclined will adopt this as a mantra for th' next couple of decades.  If you're a "conventional" fan, or lookin' for music to lull you to sleep at nite, you'll avoid this at all costs... but if you dig th' cool of chaos, this is the ticket!  Headphones required - this gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for listeners who want something in an orchestral vein that isn't "just chamber music" - there are some really nice jazz rhythm sections, too!  Contact at    Rotcod Zzaj

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 HOMEMADEMUSIC catalog page!



RETURN to Zzaj Productions MAIN page!

  Columbia House Music Club  

Click here to become a LinkShare Affiliate!

'k, alla' you hardcore D.I.Y'er's!  We've added a D.I.Y. forum board!  Simply click on the lil' button below to TELL US wot' you think...


Search this site or the web powered by FreeFind

Site search Web search