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Issue # 69 REVIEWS
FEATURED Zzaj Productions album samples -
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Gill Whitehurst - GREEN AND LIVING CROWN: This is another of the fantastic indie CD's I've been getting in from places like MIXPOSURE & INDIE HANGOUT (among other places). Whether you know it or not, there is some serious talent out there on the nets, & Gill's music is a prime example of what that means. This is her first CD, but don't let that make you think she is a "newcomer", or without substance. Her lyrics alone will hold you spellbound, revealing little nuances of life you (probably) haven't thought about in many moons. The songs are arranged perfectly, with focus on the vocals, as well as a strong variety of musical styles that you just wouldn't necessarily expect.. and it is that element of surprise and wonder that shine clearly through in your listening experience. I am reminded of other lady singers that I've enjoyed for so many years.. Joni Mitchell, Carole King... even Amy Denio - one of the strongest tunes (I thought) was "Changes", track 10... a very rhythmic trip through the ever-turning wheel that life can be, with some grand saxophone work (by Chris Gumbley) - unique & beautiful music that will have you dancing, crying & laughing, without doubt! This one gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from my ears, as well as the "PICK" of this issue for "best female vocalist"... you should definitely consider this one! Contact at www.gillwhitehurst.com or firstname.lastname@example.org Rotcod Zzaj
spoonPhase - MESSY MESSY MESSY: Actually, this (true) INDIE CD isn't at all "messy". spoonPhase, aka Sam Hodge, submitted this after I asked him to send whatever he had. This takes me (immediately) back to the old "hometaper" days (back in the '80's, kiddies), when new ideas & high creative energy was in abundance. The difference between those early days & now, of course, is that production quality is amazingly better than when we started that. Now, I don't want a bunch of letters about how Zzaj is "knocking" tape.. 'coz that's not what I mean at all. Sam has put together several tracks here that take in "space" territory, as well as some "industrial", with nice wordweave (on occasion) .throughout; & because (I assume) of digital technology, even his pre-production CD is of excellent quality. There are several compositions that reach into ambient territory, too... in particular was "Sitting Together", which kind of aurally describes that experience (in a very non-boring way). Another really nice track (that he first debuted on SOUNDCLICK (I think that's where it was, anyway) is "HUGS"... a really sweet tune that you'll fall in love with very quickly. MY favorite track, though, was "Choking on Air - Moving on Air"... sort of makes me think of what th' first anti-grav machine will sound/feel like (though I understand that may not be exactly what Sam had in mind... sorry, Sam, that's just how it felt). Very nice electronic sounds, with fine percussives highlighting the track, it's a tune with guts! "Sinelink" comes in a close second. This gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from any & all listeners who are craving a taste of "different" in their creative listening experience. Contact at Sam Hodge, 636 Shaw St., Barboursville, WV 25504, ph: 304-633-1611 Rotcod Zzaj
Grachan Moncur III octet - EXPLORATION: There is no doubt but what this is a nicely exploratory jazz CD. Moncur's trombone jazz has more kick than many other giants of jazz ever thought of... he's a big fan of Monk's compositional style, & that certainly comes through in his pieces. There's a true "big band" sound on most of the tracks, & the energy is fantastic! Probably when Grachan was doin' free jazz in th' '60's, the form (or lack of it) wasn't as widespread (& thus more accessible) as it is today... I believe many artists from that era are surging back on th' scene, simply because listeners are better able to deal with it. The title track is my favorite along those lines... constant movement, great interplay between brass, reeds & drums, & all with a totally clear sense of the direction they're taking the listener(s) in. Cut 4, "New Africa", is another favorite... takes me back to that sense of "exploration" many of us (as listeners and players) felt in the '60's & '70's. Some great rhythms boiling & surging down under, & solid voices (from the horns, in particular) singing sad & joyful together. This is an album that will be welcomed by jazz listeners across the generations, & gets our MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED! A beautiful album that is a guaranteed keeper! Contact through the Capri label site, at www.caprirecords.com Rotcod Zzaj
John T. Baker - ROUGH SKELETON: How wonderful it is to have been part of the "DIY" movement that surged (on tape) in th' 1980's & early 1990's... something I like to term the "Gajoob era", because one of the strongest proponents of that "hometaper" scene & all the genius it exposed was Bryan Baker's 'zine, Gajoob. & (if I remember correctly), that's where I first "met" John T. Well, he's clearly entered th' digital age (& actually, I think, he's been digital for quite some time now). Anyway, th' real point is that he's got legends (from th' "Gajoob era") like Michael J. Bowman on this CD, & th' production is SUPERB... through & through, if you dig rockin' with an "edge", you'll be captivated from th' moment you turn th' CD on. Heavy guitars, great fun songs that show talent in all it's natural glory! Baker's compositions sometimes remind me of the legendary home-taper Don Campau (KKUP radio), but the production on this album takes "homemade" to a brand-new label. Very accessible, some lovely tunes, & th' same high energy that all of us fed on (& grew from) during those earlier years. This is like meeting an "old friend" in th' mailbox... very, very cool tunes... this gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from my ears, & th' "PICK" of this issue for "best DIY CD" of 2004. Contact through his site, at www.disgraceland.com Rotcod Zzaj
Kakalla - THE SEEDS OF ANALOG REBELLION: This group has been a favorite of ours for a long time now, & it's leader, bassist Thomson Kneeland, has been reviewed with several other groups (here in our magazine) as well. This Kakalla CD is a bit different, in that it weaves some dense/sweet electronics into many of th' pieces. The album notes don't really say much more than "electronics" on th' credit lists, & it would have been nice to know a little more detail about what gear was being used (& in the tradition of this magazine, whereby we often dialog directly with the artists, this response, from Thomson himself, clarifies things just a bit - "to answer your semi rhetorical question, most of the electronics you hear on the album is me: acoustic bass running through rackmount delay modelers, filter modelers, and sometimes sampled live and put at half speed or doublespeed, etc... Essentially, everything you hear on the album electronically is an acoustical sound that is manipulated in real time).... that's only a very minor complaint, though, because it is the pleasantly exploratory nature of the music that will count (for more than anything) to the listener. don't let the word "electronics" throw you off buying the album, either... this is jazz, pure & simple, & beautifully put together. The electronics aren't a "sideline", they are woven right in with the piece, but they're easy to comprehend as a part of the "whole" experience... in other words, they're not intrusive at all, & only contribute to grasping what was going through Thomson's mind (or fingers) as the tracks were being put together. My favorite track on the CD is "Caustic Raptures Of The Cloven Hoof", which features some of those integrated sounds. This group has been together for 4 or 5 years now, & it shows! The compositions are extremely tight, & they are totally conscious & aware of each other all the way through the album. This gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from us, especially for those listeners who want to move on into the new century, but not leave their jazz roots behind them. A really fine album that will be a "keeper"! Contact at www.thomsonkneeland.com or www.kakalla.com Rotcod Zzaj
Rick Ray - CHAINSAW MANICURE: We're always happy to get new material in from this rockin' player... he's been making some real scorchers over the last few years... & this CD is no different... just BETTER! Rick's guitars will melt th' electric pulses right into your spirit... that's especially true since he (says) he draws much of his own inspiration from the Holy Spirit. Under normal circumstances, I might argue against that, because I've seen a whole lot of "pretenders to the throne" in my time, & often mistrust them as soon as words like "Christian", or "believer" come out of their mouths, or in their correspondence. Th' reason it can't be disputed in Mr. Ray's case, though, is because his musical energy is 'beyond human"... this kind of verve doesn't come from players who have let themselves get sucked in by th' false pleasures & promises of th' world around us (& believe me, I know more than I'd like to admit about those attractions). Th' title of th' album doesn't particularly fit th' "mood" of what he's doing here - as many of his other albums have done. In other words, th' CD title & track names don't necessarily blend into a theme. What DOES happen, though, is that you become entranced with this guy's raw talent & message. His guitar is a constant reminder that inspiration can be sorta' driven by those electrified strings. I just love his playing, & any listener with any kind of background in music that takes you to new heights will agree... this is MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. Contact through th' site at http://groups.msn.com/guitaristrickray or via e-mail to email@example.com Rotcod Zzaj
Al Ashley - THESE ARE THEM: Some downright wicked organ by Oliver Von Essen floatin' behind that fine sax from David Liebman, & of course, th' leader's drums (Mr. Ashley himself) are a driving force in/of themselves on his debut album. Put that together with some high energy stratospheric guitar by Rick Stone, & you've got one sweet CD. This is especially true for folks who've been enchanted by solid jazz licks for their whole lives... jazz folks will dig big on this session. The CD doesn't hit the streets until 1 February, 2005 - so get your order in now! These are all original tracks, from all the artists, & (as per usua), it's evident in the playing that any time it's the artists' own track, energy will be higher! This is the first time we've heard David playing in a while, & his style here seems a bit different than when we've reviewed him previously. Al makes a strong case for percussion being the "force" in jazz (or any other music, I reckon)... the album is recorded superbly, and there are no players "stepping" on others... but you can tell from the first bar, all the way to the last track, that Ashley is driving this train! Another thing that comes across very clearly is that these folks are totally comfortable playing with each other... this is one of the most spontaneous jazz albums you'll listen to this year! I think the organ adds a lot to that spontaneous feel, but it can't be "zoned" in on any one player - they're all very nicely woven together, & th' listener feels like they're right there in the living/stereo room, playing just for them. This CD gets our MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating, & totally deserves it! Contact via the site, at www.jazzand.com or via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org Rotcod Zzaj
mJane - PRAYERS FROM THE UNDERBELLY: This very interesting recording was captured during 2nd Annual High Mayhem Festival, in Santa Fe, NM, in November of 2003. It is quite well recorded, after the intro. During the introduction, composer Molly Sturges leads in with sort of "low-key" vocals (what I mean by that is that you really have to listen to grasp what she is doing), but as the players get settled in a bit, and the piece begins to take shape, it is clear that the voice is being explored as the key instrument. It's not "spoken word", or some drab/screaming speaker flogging you about with phrases that don't make sense. On the other hand, as it goes into the second movement, there are some strong vocal stretches that might be "frightening" to some. & no wonder, according to the liners, this was based on a Near Death Experience (NDE) that Ms. Sturges had during the birth of her daughter. I can tell you (having been through an NDE myself) that there are parts of this that remind me of the ghostly "snatches" you see/hear when passing through the tunnel. From a listener's standpoint, this will require headphones and some level of intensity... you can not grasp what the performers are trying to communicate if you try to do this as "background" for your cocktail party. Adventurous listeners the world over will agree when I declare this to be MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED... those without any sense of adventure will probably fare better listening to the theme from Mary Poppins! Contact through the site at www.mollysturges.com or via e-mail to email@example.com Rotcod Zzaj
The Jay Leonhart Trio, with Ted Rosenthal and Joe Cohn - COOL: This jazz CD is really very "uptown", featuring Jay's superb bass & vocal skills, along with some super smooth piano by Rosenthal & guitar from Joe. The liners refer to Leonhart as the "Fred Astaire of jazz"... & that's about as accurate as it gets... I mean, you can see his fingers dancing/flitting over those bass strings... it's just like the title says - COOL! Jay's vocals are about as "hep-cat" as you'll hear these days... it's th' title track where his vocal talents shine so brightly... a bouncy back-alley cut that sounds uniquely Leonhart, no doubt. The players are fused together as though they are Siamese triplets... I mean, this group is tight! In fact, the compositions are SO well integrated that you often don't realize it's a trio... sounds kind of like ONE player is doin' it all. Cohn's guitar is some of the best jazz you'll hear this year, or next, or... well, you get the picture, eh? The thing that's so "cool" about Mr. Leonhart's music, best reflected on his original, "For Real" (my favorite cut on the album) is that they recall an era where jazz was light-hearted, yet spirit filled... & help the listener to reclaim a little bit of that wonderful time. This CD gets our MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating, with a strong urging that you rush right out & buy this one... it "hit the streets" on 16 November, 2004, so if you want your C-mas copy - better get it NOW! Contact through the label site, at http://sonsofsound.com Rotcod Zzaj
Ellen Weller - SPIRITS, LITTLE DREAMS and IMPROVISATIONS: Always a pleasure to get a new CD in from our friends at CIRCUMVENTION MUSIC - Ms. Weller's improvisations are a most welcome addition to our review pool. I spent (about) an hour "getting familiar" with what she is doing on this CD... she has a "cast of characters" far too large to itemize here... suffice it to say that with folks like Marco Fernandes, Nathan Hubbard & Charlie/Bob Weller joining her (& many others), she couldn't go wrong. Her clarinet opens the set, on "Elemental 1-1", a favorite of mine, because of the fluid interactions between the clarinet & the crisp/precise percussion movements. This is Ellen's debut CD, & she knows how to start somethin' off RIGHT, I'll tell you. The compositions vary grandly, all the way from the "expected" point&shoot kinds of things to fully atmospheric journeys on "Grandma Rose's Dreml" (my favorite track on the album, by the way). Headphones are definitely a requirement, at least on the first couple of listens... you'll miss far too much if you don't let yourself get absorbed into Weller's magicks. Another track (12 minutes long) that will enchant you is "Celebration, Transfiguration and Release Into The Ether"; great intensity, without being overbearing. This musical journey/experience is MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for listeners whose ears crave adventure and fresh sounds. Contact at www.circumventionmusic.com Rotcod Zzaj
Roger Davidson Trio - RODGERS IN RIO: Obviously, this is a celebration of Richard Rogers's music, & what better style to do it than Brazilian? Roger plays piano, & is joined by David Finck on bass & fantastic Paulo Braga on drums... & they kick on this great little CD. If you're looking for strange & "out there" jazz, you'll have to move on to another rack, please... this is jazz with a "fun" spirit, & though light at heart, all th' players convey a wealth of knowledge of how to play jazz that has "meat on it's bones". The recording is sleek, & there's a great foldout jacket in the tray liner that gives you even more insight to the recording. Davidson's keyboard touch on track 3, "Some Enchanted Evening" will make you fall in love with his playing right away... it's my favorite cut on the album, with very tight integration between all members of the trio, but appropriate focus on Roger's smooth keyboard style. Didn't hear any originals on this one, & I imagine that's just because it's a tribute... would LOVE to hear some on the next CD, though, Roger. This is a jazz recording that will bring the "carnival" spirit into your heart... it gets a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from our ears. Contact through the label site, at www.soundbrush.com Rotcod Zzaj
David Borgo - REVERENCE FOR UNCERTAINTY: No doubt about the degree of "reverence" that David holds for things not certain... his reeds (soprano, alto & tenor sax, pennywhistle, chalumeau & chromatic low whistle go in many directions, none (in the least) predictable. That's not to say that this is a "blowing in the wind" set... these folks (far too many to itemize here, about 10 of them) are solid, & you won't find a "wandering" moment here. This is another Circumvention Music CD, & we've come to trust them a great deal for recording artists with extreme talent. This is Borgo's second CD on the label, & this totally improvised set shows his considerable (over 20 years worth of) experience. The tracks are all filled with robust energy, & display the attitude that it takes to foster creativity in such random settings. Listeners who have never heard music that is composed on the fly may be overwhelmed at first, because the players are so well in touch with each other that the flow never slows down (even on the slower pieces). I'm very highly impressed, & give this a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for anyone who wants to experience the unknown. Contact/order the CD via the website, at www.circumventionmusic.com Rotcod Zzaj
Judi Silvano - SONGS I WROTE, OR WISH I DID: Around September, 2004, I reviewed the first Silvano CD we had heard... made some commentary about not hearing a lot of "originals". Judi promptly sent a package with several of her CD's, all featuring original tracks. This one is the last of the stack, & fully half of the 12 cuts were penned by Ms. Silvano. Those who have read this 'zine for some years now know that I believe originals usually carry more "weight", in the sense that the performer usually will belt it out more when they wrote the tune... you know, th' energies are easier to "project"! That certainly holds true on this one... jazz lovers th' world over will be (like totally, man) caught UP in Judi's crystal-clear delivery & exuberance. I was strongly impressed on my first listen to Judi's "brand" of jazz, & she comes across with even more uniqueness on "Songs I Wrote". Her scat style (once again) on track 7, "Listen To This", just blew me away.. & when you put Larry Goldings' on organ, Essiet Essiet's bass, Vic Juris' H-O-T guitar & Victor Lewis' drums behind it, you wind up with what this is - my FAVORITE TRACK on the album; cut 9, "Hey Boy", is another romper, too! If you're looking for "the same old jazz" - go elsewhere... but if you want tunes & energies that will stick in your mind for years & years - GET THIS album. It gets our MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating! Contact at Judi's site, at www.judisilvano.com (there's an e-mail button on Judi's page) Rotcod Zzaj
Lloyd Gregory - FREE FALLING: This CD had gotten "buried" in the staks, probably from when we were moving from place to place in '03. Though it (sometimes) takes me a while, I keep EVERYTHING I've received, so that's why this is being reviewed now (my apologies to Lloyd & Creative Services Company). It would have been our loss if we hadn't kept it for later review. Gregory's jazz guitar immediately takes the listener back to an era when there were lots of really cool players... Wes Montgomery, of course, or George Benson or Earl Klugh. & though Lloyd clearly comes from that style/era, he's got a 21st century energy that is timeless... my second favorite track, "Kermudgen", has a (seemingly) boundless energy. It's the title track that gets my top vote, feeling like "smooth jazz", but keeping it out of that (dreaded) category with an infusion of soul & R&B style that sets it apart from all the other "jazz elevator music" wannabes. I'm sure that th' heavy R&B influence in his style comes from having played with very soulful folks like Martha Reeves, Sly & The Family Stone & Tower Of Power's Lenny Williams (to name just a few). This is one of the best CD's we've heard this year, & it gets my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, as well as (a belated) "PICK" for best "not smooth" jazz! This one is a real keeper! One place you can purchase this CD is at www.yourmusicnetwork.net/CD.aspx?ID=827645020329 or the publicist, at firstname.lastname@example.org Rotcod Zzaj
Symphony In Demeanor - THE FIRST ONE: We are very fortunate here at "I.N."... we always seem to stumble on the "new trends" in music... not just the music itself, but changes in the Internet marketing arena, & trends that are happening. This CD is a great representation of that... the group was just voted the 2005 "BEST ALBUM" in the 2nd annual "International On-Line Music Awards" (IOMA)... the entire album is available for free download at www.symphonyindemeanor.com with a printable/downloadable cover now, ain't THAT cool? & of course, they wouldn't be in this magazine unless they had something unique, musically, to offer! The CD they sent me has various & sundry styles, that they call "new music - retro sound", & not much else could describe it better.... it is NOT just "Beatles re-hash"... they've got some cuts on the album that come awfully close to the Fab Four in content & psychedelic style, but they've merged some very funky guitars, organ & drums that keep this (DECIDEDLY) "new music". I'm wondering, as I sit here listening, "is this a resurgence of the great musical energies that happened during the '60's?" The strings & symphonic sounds on "Another Birthday", track 4 (my favorite cut on the CD) show some wonderful capabilities at composing, then move into near-prog turf; I'm telling you, these guys kick the walls down, & write a "mean song"! It's clear that they love playing music, & I've no doubt (not even a little one) that listeners all over the world will love their music! We can't wait for "The Second One", guys! This one gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, & the "PICK" of this issue for "most creative approaches to music & 21st Century music"! As indicated above, visit their site above & get this whole album/cover for free... then, if you agree with my assessment, hit the PURCHASE button... support this band, they're doin' great things. You can also reach them for more information at 604-649-4904, or by e-mailing Rob at email@example.com Rotcod Zzaj
Matt Turner - DADA EAR INK: Cellist Matt Turner has been one of our favorite improvisors for many, MANY years now... we've listened to (& reviewed) his solo piano efforts before, & "DADA EAR INK" is no disappointment, either! This CD features some serious clanging & banging on the stringboard for the intro... some absolutely strange sounds , all recorded direct, no overdubs! Turner has the "inner ear" required of a true improvisor, & he will challenge your ears, to be sure. This isn't a "jangly" piano album, either... Matt is able to "milk" the harmonics out of the stringboard to the point where the listener can visualize their own symphony. Now, obviously, if you've never heard a piano player working the strings before (rather than just playing the keys), this will be "different"... "frightening", even. If you give your ears (and your mind) half a chance, though, you will very quickly become absorbed by what he is doing, & find yourself hearing these sounds in the most unlikely places... while you're driving down the freeway, shaving in the morning or paying your electric bill. The musical experience is a "date with enchantment", and you will find yourself highly impressed with Turner's piano improvisations. I'm impressed enough to give him a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED & the "PICK" of this issue for "most refreshing improv"! Contact via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or TurnMatt@aol.com Rotcod Zzaj
Mayumi Kaneyuki - THE BLUE YOU BREATHE: I requested whatever Mayumi had ready for CD, after hearing her over HERE, with her partner from Peru, Carlos Campos... she's originally from Japan, but hooked up with Carlos in Los Angeles. What a joyful jazz sound this is, too! As you might imagine, there are some strong Latino influences, but the blend of that with strong jazz piano from Carlos & slight tinges of Oriental, make this one of the hottest new albums I've listened to this year. The recording is crystal clear, & the talent shines through brilliantly. It's hard to "pigeonhole" Ms. Kaneyuki's vocal style... I mean, you'll hear sexy, soft, jazz (for sure) & lots of other nuances, but what comes across most clearly is that she has energy behind her performances; a star on the rise, for sure. The copy I received from Carlos is a pre-production copy, so the credit lists (though there) aren't totally done yet, I'm imagining... he said he'd send me a copy of the final release, though, & I'm surely hoping he DOES do that! The compositions go much further than just "lounge jazz", & have FAR better style than any of today's watered-down "smooth jazz" (which I totally abhor). If you're looking for some truly relaxing music that will soothe & (at the same time) nurture your spirit - GET THIS! Be sure to keep your EARS on this group - they are stellar! It comes MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from me! Contact at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org 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!!! p.s. If you EVER e-mail me .mp3 files, you will be BLACKLISTED on this site!!!)
NOTE: You can also purchase any of these CD's (use your credit card) by going to our HOMEMADEMUSIC catalog page!
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