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Improvijazzation Nation

Issue # 72 REVIEWS

FEATURED Zzaj Productions album samples -

We now have 2 TOTALLY FREE CD's (with free cover art) available for download at our NETLABEL site!  The only thing we ask is that you scroll to the bottom of the page(s) & give us a REVIEW!  Please ADVERTISE this to ALL your friends... tell them we are GIVING AWAY music!



Dave Liebman & Phil Markowitz - MANHATTAN DIALOGUES:  Any dedicated jazz fan who hasn't heard Dave's wonderful saxophone compositions has likely had their heads buried somewhere in sand... the keyboards by Phil are superb as well, & these two fit each other like hand-in-glove. I've been listening to Liebman for some many years now, & his style is always "sweet & low"... a gentle approach, but with "the fire" in sections, & Markowitz (who I don't believe I've heard before) does nothing to "intrude" on that flow.  This is some of the most intriguing duo work you'll ever hear, & you're doing your ears a disservice if you don't get this CD.  Some of the amazing keyboard changes & chords made track # 6, "Jung", my absolute favorite on "Manhattan Dialogues".  The sessions really do sound like a conversation between musical masters, & are very comfortable to listen to.  GREAT music with great spirit.  MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, to be sure.  Get more information at  or     Rotcod Zzaj

SoulFood and Billy McGlaughlin - GUITAR MEDITATIONS:  This CD features some of the prettiest guitar music we've heard in quite sometime.  The style is (definitely) "world", & comes (at times) closer to "New Age" than I might prefer... on the other hand, though most of the songs are at a slower pace than many of the CD's we listen to & review, there is no doubt that the album is full of great energy for the music they are doing, & will enchant any listener who isn't kranked out on some form of meth!   The guitar(s) ride over synth washes that are simple, yet beautiful...  I'm reminded of some the highly creative musics I heard in the early 1980's, right here in Olympia.  Sweet times, no worries & a morning sky full of seagulls and music that took away all cares and worries.  This one gets an immediate HIGHLY RECOMMENDED  from me for anyone who needs to find solace in chords and music full of joy for life and the living of it.  A truly nice album for all. Check out more about this album (& lots of others) on th' label site at  or e-mail to   Rotcod Zzaj

Cadwallader, Asetta & Dixson - QUICKER THAN THE EYE:  Rex Cadwallader's keyboards are joined by bass from Mike Asetta & drums from Arti Dixson on this sleek little jazz CD... tasty music with th' kind of verve I grew up on in the '60's & '70's.  Now, I'm not callin' 'em "retro", or any such kind of thing... they've definitely got their own style & it stays firmly rooted in the energies of the 21st century!  What carries me back to earlier years, though, is the fact that they're expressing heavy-duty creativity that just won't quit.  I'm diggin' those keys more & more, fluid as can be & rooted in th' phunk that jazz is all about.  Asetta's bass is well recorded, & th' drums that Arti plays are steady & true from start to finish.  I expect that this one will be loved by fans of solid jazz everywhere, & give it a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, especially for those who are fond of great keyboard works.  You can get more information via snail to Stanza USA Music, 52 Clark Hill Rd., Milford, CT 06460    Rotcod Zzaj

Cady Finlayson - SHINES LIKE SILVER:  This wonderful little CD will take you back thousands of years... to a time when (both) joy and sorrow were somehow more poignant.  Cady's spirit does indeed shine, & your ears will serve as portals for her emotionally charged playing, to be sure!  Sure, we've all heard "American-Irish" tunes before, but I'll venture to say that you've not heard anything with quite this much verve & insight lately.  There are 15 tracks that span a range of feelings as old as the human race... something today's musical scene needs far more of.  I enjoyed this a great deal, & give it an immediate HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for listeners who want more than packaged pop glitz.  A very solid musical experience.  Get more information at     Rotcod Zzaj

The Tango Group - AMOR POR EL TANGO:  I used to sit in streetside cafes all over Europe, listening to music like you'll hear on this CD as I sipped espresso & read Jung or Nietzsche.  This isn't the kind of music one would hear on the sidewalks these days - but it SHOULD be!  The album expresses high passion as it attempts to revive the "tango" spirit, & I (for one) would welcome such a resurgence.  Producer Roger Davidson's piano is right "on" all the way through each track, & Pablo Aslan's bass does a great job of "steering" the energy on each of the tunes.  One really wouldn't be surprised to see Poirot sipping along with them in the dreamscape this most pleasant music creates.  Great fun for listeners in all age ranges!  I give this one a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!  Find out more about the CD at    Rotcod Zzaj

Rivka Simmons - CREATING CALM IN YOUR LIFE:  I've listened to many "relaxation" tapes/CD's... as many of you know, they generally use voice and music integrations to help you reach your holy place.  This CD was unique, in that it only used spoken word.  There may be plenty of folks who will like this approach, but it didn't really work for me.  Ms. Simmons is crystal clear in her narratives, & can (indeed) help guide you to a calmer spot... but, I would have liked to have heard some musical passages woven in through the tracks.  I think I'd pass on this one.  If you're interested in exploring a very well-performed spoken word track for meditation, though, you can find out more at    Rotcod Zzaj

Bob Rodriguez - CORRIDOR:  This CD won't hit th' stores until August of 2005, but you'll want to place your order now... to be sure you get this one before all the other jazz fans beat you to the punch.  Our first listen to Bob's gentle keyboards tells us we will want to hear (much, much) more of his works.  He's joined by Mike Richmond on bass, & Eliot Zigmund on drums.  The recording is excellent, though the drums & the piano seem to have better clarity in the mix than the bass... not sure why, since I'm really not an engineer.  It's nothing serious, though, the recording is still bright & full of creative energy that will enchant jazz fans the world over.  My only "complaint" is that there were only 8 tracks... maybe there will be more on Bob's next album.  My favorite track, besides the title cut, was cut 3, "Inside"... the players/instruments mesh seamlessly on this one, & create an entirely mellow environment for the listener... sweet!   If you're a jazz fan, you'll agree with me when I declare "Corridor" to be MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.  Great jazz!  Get more information at Bob's site,     Rotcod Zzaj

Eric Comstock - NO ONE KNOWS:  I'm not always attracted to male jazz vocalists.. guess they remind me too much of '50's era lounge stuff.  In Mr. Comstock's case, though, I'm diggin' it a lot!  A lot of that has to do with his skill at making th' lyrics stay "alive", as well as superb recording of the vocals.  The fact that he's a pianist whose energies are totally focused also helps a great deal, I think.  Comstock definitely raises the bar, & takes the form into the 21st Century... I'm highly impressed, without doubt.  This impression is easy to have, though, since Eric is backed by an All Star cast... sax by Frank Wess, trombone by Wycliffe Gordon, shared piano by Eric Reed, guitar by Peter Bernstein, bass by Peter Washington & drums by Matt Wilson.  If you're looking for jazz that swings, & will make you gain a new appreciation for jazz vocals - GET THIS ONE!  I give it a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.  It just hit th' street on May 1st, so get on down to your local store!  You can get more information at     Rotcod Zzaj

Ken Kaufman - SEASONS OF TRANQUILITY:  Ken's works are new to my ears, & it's a joy to hear them.  The CD is part of Swann's ambient "Relax With Swann" series, & meets the need, to be sure.  Synth/percussion lines are woven together very skillfully to draw the listener into a zone where the cares of the world can be put aside.  You will hear a lot of Native American influences here, & I think that's got much to do with how relaxing/inspiring the music is for the listener.  This isn't one of those albums where only one form is explored, though... there are four separate moods/seasons explored, & Ken's talent shows through brightly.  It's often difficult for a "meditation" CD to make it to the "active" stack in my collection, but "Seasons Of Tranquility" is a true keeper, & will be there through many seasons to come.  This one gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for listeners of all persuasions.  You can learn more about Ken's CD, & others in the series, at      Rotcod Zzaj

Seay - 1 VOICE:  There are CD's... & then there are CD's with full life, & moments that inspire the listener to achieve goals at higher and higher plateaus... Seay's "1 Voice" clearly falls in the inspirational category.  That's the only "category" it can be placed in, because her compositions don't "fit" into neat little pigeonholes... she has an elegant vocal style that blends (clearly) musical experiences from all 'round the world into a grand whole that will serve the listener for years & years to come.  We have all heard music(s) like this before, but Seay is able to shape and mold her aural visions into sonic sculptures that will carry the beholder through a celebration of spirit seldom done so well.  She does all the instrumentation, vocals & keyboards, with guest assists from Scott Hallgren (strings), Jerry Watts (5 string fretless bass) and Jonathan Smith (Digeridoo).  VERY impressive work... "1 Voice" gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from us!  Get more information at      Rotcod Zzaj

Lesley Spencer (& the Latin Chamber Pop Ensemble, featuring guitarist Fareed Haque) - POSTCARDS FROM SPAIN:  Freelance composer Spencer has put together a very pleasant listening experience... great blends of Latino-styled orchestral arrangements that will make you glad to be alive.  Lesley's piano is featured, though Fareed's guitar magic is closer to the front of the mix than the keyboards (as you might imagine for this style of music).  The playing is all "straight-ahead", no synths or samples... & that does make a difference, believe me!  This is our first listen (that I know of) to production from this label (Gabriella Music), & it's clear that they are out to ensure that the music they produce can't be "rubber stamped" as "just another....".  If you're looking for wild-eyed improv, you'll go elsewhere, but if you want a musical experience that can be enjoyed over & over again, you'll fall in love with "Postcards".  I'm impressed enough with the energy levels displayed here to give it a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!  Learn more at the label website -      Rotcod Zzaj

Clark Terry (with Jeff Lindberg and the Chicago Jazz Orchestra) - PORGY & BESS:  My ears are often disinclined to visit "classics" like Gershwin's fantastic musical suite... and, as is so often true, they would have missed a lot!  This CD is a true keeper for any jazz lover, and will inspire you for many years to come.  I'd heard Clark's playing way back in the mid-'60's, when I was first getting into jazz, along with hundreds of other players of that era... but this album displays his talent in all it's shining glory!  His notes are "solid" throughout, no gaps or gaffes.  He's able to reach down into th' listeners' heart & tug at those strings with his soulful phrases... some GREAT music!  I believe it's difficult to "make it" with an album that focuses on themes from a production, or a movie, but if you give it half a shake, you'll find that this rendition is (like mine) one of your favorite musical adventures!  I give it a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, in the immediate!  Learn more at the site, at     Rotcod Zzaj

David Elias & Xing - WEBCAST ARCHIVE FEBRUARY 2005:  A new recording format (DSD), which the liners say is "the highest resolution media available anywhere today", is featured on this great little CD in from David!  I was first introduced to David's wonderful acoustic guitar & vocals over at MIXPOSURE ( ), by Guy Michetti (who is a fantastic player in his own right).  Elias' music takes me back nearly 30 years, to an era where the singers were able to reach right out & touch your soul with their lyrics (think James Taylor, maybe).  David's voice is a natural for this kind of music, & his lyric-writing skills are top-o'-th'-line.  There's a tinge of country & a flash of John Denver, but I'd say his singing & lyrical style reminds me (more) of one of my all-time favorite singers, Bruce Cockburn.  Simple messages wrapped in intelligent & meaningful words.  If you like this type of music, I'd suggest you keep your ear on Mr. Elias... he's got fame & glory coming soon.  Be sure you're there to enjoy it with him... I will be, for sure!  This CD gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from my ears!  Learn more about David & his music at or purchase the CD at    Rotcod Zzaj

Barbara Montgomery - TRINITY:  I'm seldom inclined to listen to music with "religious" overtones or influences... what sets Ms. Montgomery's latest effort apart, though, is that there's no "preaching" involved.  It does have a deep "spiritual" pull, primarily because of Barbara's clear skill at wrapping the listener in a cocoon that allows them to escape the mundane & paltry, & let them feel the power (we all have) of the music she sings.  Solid jazz influences, but th' "roots" of the music composed and played here extends across musical borders to make it less "jazz" than "accessible to all".  Barbara has a most haunting quality in her vocals... deep & resonant, exactly the quality I'd imagine those "sirens" of old using to draw listeners (inescapably) to them.  Her rendition of Stevie Wonder's "If It's Magic" is the best (besides Stevie, of course) I've ever heard.  The album features a cast of musical characters far too long to itemize here... you'll have to purchase the album, or learn more at    This CD is among the best jazz vocal CD's I've heard this year, & gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from me!  You can purchase the CD soon, as it hits the streets on 1 June, 2005.  Contact via e-mail to    Rotcod Zzaj

Barbara Markay - SHAMBHALA DANCE:  There are some wonderful moments on this 3rd CD from Barbara.  Rhythms on a universal scale are woven very tightly into a neat package that will inspire hour after hour of listening.  This would make excellent background music for a drive through the Sonoran desert, or across the hills & valleys of our moon.  Intriguing sounds rush at you that have been culled from cultures all across the globe... I especially loved the little "bell" sounds that enhance (& sometimes break up) the rhythms.  She has a very "full" sound in her compositions that will be attractive to any listener.  Though the liners describe it as "New Age", it extends to larger realms than that, & will be enjoyed by any listener who loves sonic dreaming that inspires.  I'm impressed enough to give this one a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!  Very, very mysterious music that will keep you on the edge. This one goes on the "keeper" list.   Get more information at    Rotcod Zzaj

Mark Dunn - RETURN TO PEACE:  This was a "strange" listen for me... Mark is a pianist who trekked through Central America, doing Irish pennywhistle tunes.  The CD features Celtic tunes, yet the cover has a picture of a jungle/forest bird sitting on a wind instrument.  That's not saying anything negative about the music, however... his compositions, including keyboards, as well as the pennywhistle & violin, make for some very inspiring listening, & will hold the listener spellbound.  What (I think) is most impressive about the album is that this must have been almost like "improvisation", since he carried the pennywhistle with him on the jungle excursions, & then recorded the piano & other parts in Costa Rica.  Mark is clearly a talent to be watched, with a wide range of skills.  If you're looking for something to listen to that has excellent recording & interesting contrasts, this is the ticket.  I give this one a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for listeners of all persuasions, but particularly those who love Celtic music.  Get more information at     Rotcod Zzaj

C. Goff III - BYTING THE RAM ON THE BIG DIGIT:  Anyone who has had their brains dented by our pal Charles Goff before will now find themselves in need of complete air bag replacement... he has moved into the "video" realm, & tho' it ain't "Holly-gloss", it's very clearly a competitor for other "vid-iests" we know, like 99 Hooker!  The music "behind" the graphics is seamless, woven totally into the production, & just as "odd" as we've come to expect from CRG III.  Don't get me wrong... this is not "Saturday matinee" fare.... this is definitely 21st Century art, to be watched & listened to without preconception, & open to the total image he is painting for your eyes & ears.  If Charles were given the resources of a big studio, he would make something stranger than "Strangelove", I've no doubt... this CD/DVD is absolute proof of his grasp of the craft, & we're really looking forward to more productions like this from him.  I give this a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, but with the caution that you must view this totally sober (at least the first time 'round), or you may find yourself so absorbed in the fantastic scenarios he's weaving that you'll wind up in the same abode that Tim Leary currently stays in (you know, the "negative image" ward).  DO NOT pass this opportunity for insanity up!  Contact through CRG's website, at     Rotcod Zzaj

James Finn Trio - PLAZA DE TOROS:  Just released on the 12th of May, 2005, this smokin' jazz CD will transport those in our readership who are (as Dick Stein, of KPLU radio, would say) "true Jazz-oids" to the heights!  Finn's tenor work just shines in this trio setting... he's joined by Dominic Uval (double bass) & Warren Smith (drums).  The recording is one of the cleanest I've heard lately, a perfect sonic experience... you'll really feel like you're right there with th' players, & will be wrapped in the rich, full-bodied, tones of James' tenor!  As you might imagine from the title, these compositions describe the essence of the bullfight... filled with passion, some degree of fear & skill.  Listeners who don't enjoy "red cape" musical experiences, wherein their pre-conceived notions of what music "is", or "is supposed to be", will find this listen a bit daunting, perhaps... but I can tell you that Finn's trio will guide you through your fear of the unknown & help you emerge into this "new day" of music that rides the edge.  Simply superb compositions; the album draws immediate MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from this reviewer!  GET this one!  Learn more at the following site -    or via e-mail to     Rotcod Zzaj

Daria - FEEL THE RHYTHM:  A truly funky jazz CD that hearkens back to an earlier age, when that good ol' bass line drove th' tune... that's certainly the description that comes to mind on the opening track, "All Or Nothing At All".  & tho' this is our first listen to Daria's stunning jazz vocals, we've no doubt that we'll be listening a lot more - she's ON IT!  It helps (a great deal) that she's got folks like Alex Acuna (Percussion), Jose Neto (Guitar), William Kennedy (Drums) & Marc Russo's smokin' sax!  Many of the cuts have heavy Latino influence, & you'll find your feet tempted to get up & dance a few rounds, but (if you're like me), you'll be listening with headphones, so you can catch all the lovely little nuances & sweet turns.  I was particularly enchanted with Daria's rendition of Stevie Wonder's "Sunshine Of Your Love", but it was surely the title track that was my absolute favorite!  I'm impressed enough with her high talent & star quality to declare this album the "PICK" of this issue for "best Latino jazz"... it gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, to be sure!  Learn more by going to     Rotcod Zzaj

Julie Lavender - NEVER FELT THE SUN:  Nearly all original cuts on this fine sounding (& very pretty) CD from Julie.  She managed to snag (one of my favorites) flutist Hubert Laws, as well as pianist Hugh Martin, to compliment her wonderful songs.  Her vocals are light (tho' not "lightheaded"), but expressive across the full emotional range of the things we feel every day.  Hardcore improv jazzers probably will move on from this one rather quickly, but anyone with ears that want to taste tuneage with full body & enchantment will spin this one over & over again.  This is the kind of music you want playing when you want to recover lost love, or woo a newfound flame.  While it has plenty of sweetness, it's not (at all) "syrupy", & I love Ms. Lavender's compositions for that!  This one comes HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for listeners who want something less extreme with high talent & verve.  You can learn more on Julie's site, at     Rotcod Zzaj

Natsuki Tamura, Elliott Sharp, Takayuki Kato and Satoko Fujii - IN THE TANK:  It must have been one of those "sensory deprivation" tanks the players were thinking about when they played this fantastic improvised set of tunes.  The CD will be a genuine treat for listeners who thrive on the chaos of improv played without reservation... the recording is just top-dollar, something very difficult to do without losing the "essence" of the experience.  I know whereof I speak, because in my own improvised musics, I know just how challenging it can be to convey to the listener the sense of spontaneous pandemonium that's expressed here.  I've been a fan of Natsuki's & Satoko's for many many years now, & those of you who read this 'zine frequently will know that I've reviewed a lot of their CD's.  This is the first recording I've heard them dedicate to total improv, & it just shines!  You will not have any comparisons you can make... it's that unique... so, if you (like me) are into experiencing music that's never been heard before, this one will go in your "keeper" stack.  At times, I can imagine this as the background music for a neo-mystery movie, at others I hear little red demons running 'round a baseball field... but, you will have your own visions, totally different & separate from mine, I've no doubt.  VERY inspiring improvisations, this album gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from us, "in the immediate", so to speak.  GET this one!  Contact through their site, at    Rotcod Zzaj

Tom Erbe, Chris Mann, Larry Polansky, Douglas Repetto, Christian Wolff - TRIOS:  I'll have to apologize here to the artists, & the distributor (our friends from Pogus Productions), for not getting 'round to this one for so long.  Chris Mann's spoken word & text snippets are in the foreground, & they're odder than even I am used to.. & that's really "saying something"... this stuff is totally out & REFRESHING.  Be forewarned, though - if you think that means "nostalgia", or "heard before", you're headed down the wrong path.  The other players weave a very complicated web of sounds (mostly electronic) behind the sliced & diced texts that Chris performs, & your ears will have to be of the type that are rabid for adventure, or you will find yourself running from the room to be treated by your shrink.  Tom Erbe did the recording, & it's clear that he's a master at capturing the cacophony... this is one of the best recorded "out" albums I've heard (yet) this year.  VERY interesting, & it will never give your ears (or your mind) a rest... be prepared for the new!  I give this one a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, but only for listeners who aren't afraid of those sounds we hear in the dark.  Get more information at     Rotcod Zzaj

Entropic Advance - MAD COW B.B.Q.:  A group of our totally jaded neighbors (they live up in the Seattle area, we're down in Olympia) get together to turn your ears to total & unadulterated mush... if your brain survives this onslaught, you can survive anything!  Players were bios+a+ic, Noise Poet Nobody, inBOIL & Otis Fodder.  66 (& then some) minutes of total madness... I'm not sure what kinda' diet they're on, but if this is what "Mad Cow" does to you, invite me to th' next roundup.  Experimental in the extreme, "regular" listeners will not be able to "stomach" this, & will probably turn into vegans after the first cut, "Mustard".  It's an odd marriage, as the food-related titles actually parody some kinda' "relaxation" tape experience... but, I picture your body going into spasms & fits during the listen, if you're not acquainted with madness already.  This is some of the best "new" experimental I've heard in the last couple of years... there is some drone stuff, but there are excellent percussives woven around the drone, so that you (really) won't even notice the drone - until it's too late, & you're already infected.  This one gets the "PICK" of this issue for "best experimental music", as well as a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for listeners who have need of aural strangenesses.  Contact through the site, at        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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