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Improvijazzation Nation

Issue # 76 REVIEWS

I'm BACK, volkz!! Yes, it was a GRUELING 6 months in the desert heat, but I'm back to reviews (for a lil' while, anyway... I may have to return to those Hellish sands, not sure yet).!!!

FEATURED Zzaj Productions album samples -

New! New! New!  Zzaj PODCAST!

We now have 3 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!


Ilgenfritz/Khoury/Michalowski/Weaver - BABARDAH:  I had a few occasions to witness violinist Mike Khoury playing live when we lived out in Michigan.  He & the other players on this CD of fantastic improvised music, don't disappoint ears hungry for music "of, for & by" the moment.  The compositions are less aggressive than string/reed/brass combinations often are... I'm not speaking of "approach", or "energy", because the call & response are clearly evident, & abound in energy... what I mean is that the pieces have a "gentleness" to them that makes them very attractive to listen to.  Plan on an hour to listen & another to reflect on what you've heard.  BABARDAH is the kind of musical experience that needs to be absorbed afterwards.  In addition to Mike's violin, you've got great bass by Ilgenfritz, reeds by Michalowski & 'bone by Weaver.  This recording seems to be much "clearer" (somehow) than earlier recordings I heard Khoury on (from Entropy).  You can't be a "non-involved" listener to hear the message being presented here, but it your ears are constantly seeking new sonic adventures, they will agree with mine... MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!  Contact at Abzu Records via their website, at , or via e-mail to     Rotcod Zzaj

Judi Silvano - LET YOURSELF GO:  Think bubbly, think "uptown", think "well written", & you'll have (at least a part) of how you describe the musical experience Ms. Silvano creates for you on the title track (by Irving Berlin).  She has great jazz players backing her highly energized vocals, & they're mixed together to compliment each other!  If you can picture yourself cruisin' downtown NYC, flitting in/out of jazz venues just before & after midnight, you'll also (easily) be able to find yourself using one of your three wishes to ensure you've got a front row seat for a show by Judi.  She has some wonderful scat techniques, but what she really has going for her is delivery that projects fire!  Her voice will wrap your mind in the experience the tune speaks of... the only drawback is that I didn't hear any originals... I've no doubt that (with the energy she pours into covers), she would kick tail on a song she had written.  Maybe on the next album?  (I found out, after reviewing this album, that she's written and recorded plenty of her own tunes; this was her first CD of standards, written for her mom's 80th B-Day"  ...Editor)   The bottom line is that "Let Yourself Go" is one of the most listenable jazz CD's I've heard this year, & gets a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from us!  Contact at or at Judi's site, at     (there's an e-mail button on Judi's page)     Rotcod Zzaj

Rick Stone: - SAMBA DE NOVEMBRO  I find myself transported back to days (& nites) of listening to jazz guitar by guys like Wes Montgomery & Kenny Burrell... but make no mistake, Rick Stone has his own distinctive style, a sound you'll recognize for years to come.  It's actually a quartet, with Yosuke Inoue on bass, piano by Tardo Hammer & Matt Wilson on drums, but from the opening bar, it's clear that Stone's guitar is the highlight.  There are plenty of originals, & (as I fully expected), that's what keeps your ears "on edge".  Rick's fingers slide like silk across the strings, enticing you to dig evermore deeply into the mystery that well-played jazz often is. This isn't "car music" - in other words, it's more enjoyable in the comfort of your living room... but it can't be pigeonholed into the (dreaded) "smooth jazz" category, either.  You don't have to be a hardcore jazzhead to  groove to this Samba, either - more conventional listeners will find hidden meanings between the notes as easily as I did.  This gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from us, as well as the "PICK" of this issue for "best jazz guitar".  Contact at or at Rick's pages, at      Rotcod Zzaj

Nicholas Gunn - THROUGH THE GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS  Though Mr. Gunn's feature instrument is the flute, he also does keyboards & percussion on this wonderfully crafted fantasy about a trek through the Great Smoky mountains.  Captivating & intense, the compositions on this CD will transport you to times past, as would the terrain itself.  Many of the rhythms lean towards Native American, & there are many sounds of nature (birds, water, etc.) woven in to help put your ears in the right frame of mind.  I believe this is the most "relaxing" album I've heard this year... definitely use your headphones, to get the full benefit of all the textures Nicholas has integrated into the pieces.  A great album for an afternoon of pleasant meditation & reflection.  This gets a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, for listeners of all types around the world.  A true musical experience that I enjoyed thoroughly, plus, it comes with a DVD, so you can enjoy it visually, as well.  Contact at     Rotcod Zzaj

Noertker's Moxie - SKETCHES OF CATALONIA, VOL 1:  SUITE FOR DALI:  As with any CD from "Edgetone Records", this ain't what you (might) think it is.  I mean, th' title makes it sound kinda' "regular", but after the first 24 bars, you'll realize you're along on a ride through helter-skelter like you ain't never been on!  Bill Noertker's bass drives th' horns from Dixieland on "around th' world in 80 minutes" (or somethin' like that), diggin' it all th' way!  Supreme jazz sounds, heavy on th' horns, but with rhythms that come from nearly ev'ry region of th' globe.  These are much more than random sketches, though, fully fleshed-out abstract paintings, that Dali would have been proud of (if he dug jazz, that is).  Little snatches of crowd noise make you realize that both the players & the audience were havin' FUN with this, journeying together, if you will.  Th' real beauty, though, is that while the music embraces the "out", there's enough of the "in" to make it a very accessible listen - so, it gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for jazz listeners of all persuasions.  Contact at  or via e-mail to     Rotcod Zzaj

c.j. Reaven Borosque - MACHINE:  If all your guitar albums are of th' "sweet, folked-up" variety, get yer' ears ready for some terror.  This CD features some of th' sonatas that must run through a terrorist's mind when he's steerin' th' liner into th' towers.  (& I've no doubt that Mee-ster Ashworth will have this on his desk tomorrow morning, or as soon as th' NSA 'pewters catch up with it).  Very bold assaults on your senses will have you (either) running away immediately, or takin' mescaline or krank to "get you in" to th' machine Ms. Reaven is driving through San Francisco.  There are definitely times when I can picture myself riding th' pistons up & down.... you will NOT find this music backing your favorite porno or Discovery channel documentary about nature.  This takes the acoustic experimental works done by other San Francisco artists like Diaz-Infante to levels never imagined, probably because of the electronics.  You will have to be a "fan of fringe" to scope this out in one sitting, but I found it meritorious enough to rate it as HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for all mechanics on  methedrine.   Contact at  or via e-mail to     Rotcod Zza

99 Hooker - GENERICA:  This is one of the "strangest" Hooker CD's I've ever heard (& believe me, I've heard a lot of 'em, as well as played on a few)... "strange" because the music sounds "normal".  What a novel thought... Hooker does great poems/rants over music that sounds like th' 1940's.  He's sorta' like th' "combined" version of William S. Burroughs & Cp'n Beefheart.  Great surfer/fphunk beats on "Voodoo U Love"... when he tells th' history of "Dumb Fuck", you'll KRACK UP!  My favorite is "Tom Waits For No One"... you'll have ta' figger it out when you recover from th' catatonic state th' song puts you in - but "Guys Are Useless" is a close runner-up!  if you've heard '99's vocal/musical antics before, you'll "grok" this, even appreciate it... but if you're part of th' generation/culture he's poking fun at, you'll be GREATLY OFFENDED - which is sorta' th' idea, methinks.  One of th' best recordings I've ever heard this guy perform on, this gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for connoisseurs of kra-zee.   Contact at or via e-mail to     Rotcod Zzaj

The Jack Gold Quartet - DAYLIGHT:  One of the (most) salient points the liner notes make on this great improvised CD is that the players (Jack on drums, Michael Bisio on bass, Michael Monhart on reeds & Jim Knodle on brass & percussion) have "forged their own way"... thet they don't "fit the mold, or let themselves (or their music) be defined by externals.  I have listened to & reviewed many albums these players have been on, or soloed on, & I couldn't agree more.  "DAYLIGHT" stands out as an example of music supremely inspired, but with the individual players' personality shining through brightly with the energy of the suns!  Doug Haire recorded this, which (I think) makes a big contribution (that's especially true, since he recorded the very first Zzaj Productions CD, too).  Every little nuance is captured in a fashion that lends balance to the overall album... even when th' horns are blasting, you can still hear th' little shakers down under.  If you want to educate your ears, & get "hip" to where th' new jazz sound is coming from (Seattle, of course, in a style I think I'm coining a new term for - "funge")!  This album (though it is jazz-based) just ROCKS, people!  It not only gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, I deem it to be the "PICK" of this issue for "best improv quartet"!  Contact at or via e-mail to     Rotcod Zzaj

Judi Silvano & Mal Waldron - RIDING A ZEPHYR:  An absolutely pleasant surprise arrived in the mailbox yesterday (9/29/2004)... after sending off th' review I'd written for Judi's "Let Yourself Go" album, she shot off a package of her 3 latest CD's.  &, wow, did she ever prove ME wrong (in my criticism that I'd rather hear "originals").  She is far more than just a jazz singer - she improvises her vocals (& those scats invoke memories of Ella, to be sure), in the light & airy manner the title (Zephyr - light & gentle wind) implies.  Waldron's keyboards are as intriguing as ever (I've been listening to his compositions since the late '60's), but this pairing makes for a much more personal listening experience than you'll hear for some time to come!  Several of the tracks feature original lyrics Judi wrote especially for these sessions, & the love shines (most) brilliantly through... the love for the music, the love for Mal's most enchanting style & the love of life that is the true hallmark of a "musician"!  The album was recorded in November, 2000, but it's not old in any sense... more like "timeless"!  Th' reality is that this didn't sound like a "studio" album at all... more like two friends getting together to speak (through voice & keyboards, I mean) of joy, sorrow, toil & triumph.  That intimacy (alone) will make your purchase of this grand album worth it... no "dime store" glitz here - this is SOUL, & that, my friends, is something th' world needs more of!  This comes MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED - it's also my "PICK" of the year for "friendliest jazz duo".  GET this one!  Contact at Judi's site, at     (there's an e-mail button on Judi's page), or purchase at    Rotcod Zzaj

Eric Hofbauer - AMERICAN VANITY:  I've no doubt this one got on the promoter's list (B&K Communications) because she knows my affinity for well-improvised guitar music.  What makes this set (so very much) different is that it doesn't use "panic riffs" to achieve a sense of freedom.  Rather, Hofbauer uses clear definition to bring a clear sense of "relevance" to his theme; & the pieces each have their own distinctive sense of character.  Don't read my thoughts "wrong", though... this isn't high-end flamenco, or soft (i.e., lame) jazz... Eric uses his considerable talents (in both playing and composing) to challenge the norms - so, if you thought you were gonna' hear  too terribly sweet sambas that would transport you to lullaby-land, think again.  This is (definitely) th' kind of music that John Ashcroft would outlaw, & "Shrubbie" would despise (which goes a long way towards elevating it to a very high level, in our opinion).  You'll find lots of little (wonderful) rhythmic nuances from 'round th' world woven in between the strings, & find yourself treasuring this for a long time, unless your mind is "pigeonhole-locked".  A thoroughly enjoyable guitar improv CD, with tons of style to boot.  Gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from us for adventurous audiophiles the world over.  Purchase at  or through Eric's site, at   Rotcod Zzaj

Adam Rafferty Trio - THREE SOULS:  What a difference a change makes.... another jazz guitar CD, but this outing is much more "standard" - or at least "based" in th' standards of jazz.  What makes the listening so intriguing (for this reviewer, anyway) is the tunes are all Adam's original compositions.  Shades of his varied background in rock, blues & funk shine through, as does an immense love of playing.  Drummer Tomas Fujiwara & bassist Danton Boller contribute their considerable talents to round the feeling of creativity that each tune inspires, but without "overshadowing" each other (at ALL - this is one of the most cohesive jazz sets I've listened to in a while).  I especially dug on "Bootieology", which will either have you shakin', or callin' your doctor with complaints of a heart attack.  It's a smooth-phunky kind of cut that sneaks up on your brain a couple days later, as you catch yourself steppin' to th' rhythm th' trio left stuck in your brain.  "Crimson" is my favorite track, though, mainly because it starts off with drivin' style & stirs up visions of kaleidoscopic brightness throughout!  Great trio, great jazz & great fun for listeners of all persuasions.  Gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from me, especially for those who love jazz with an edge.  Contact via Adam's pages, at or on the Consolidated Artists Productions' site, at     Rotcod Zzaj

Pinkeye d'Gekko - DRY CLOTHES FOR THE DROWNING:  Sho' sounds ta' me like Seattle grunge got up off it's back-end & moved down to St. Louis, people!  We reviewed this band earlier (sometime last year, I think), but this CD is ever-more ROCKin', to be sure!  During th' trek to th' mid-states, they picked up a lil' country, amplified their (guitar) rockin' style, & brought a full helpin' of rib-stickin' juke joint tunes that'd make Jerry Lee & his 15-year-ole' bride properly proud to be spinnin' this disk!  & they still don't conform to th' norm - which, in our book, makes 'em better'n most rawk we listen to these days.  My favorite trak, "Queen of the Fire", will have ya' out there steppin' on th' flo', as those power guitars trample any delusions of "regular".  Th' techno-beat undercurrent on "Call Me Adolf During Wartime" woulda' prob'ly made a great background during "Shrubbie's" latest debate.  If yer' lookin' for "standards", with no sense of strange & twisted, move on to yer' local "K-Store", but if you want your ears to be challenged with (sometimes Zappa-like) "outer limits" rock - GET THIS!  It gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from us, 'specially for listeners who need somethin' to substitute fer' th' meth they used ter' do!   Contact at 2008 Swindon Ave., Columbia, MO 65203, on th' site at or via e-mail to     Rotcod Zzaj

Mike Holober and the Gotham Jazz Orchestra - THOUGHT TRAINS:  An all-original & straight-up jazz CD that will take (all) you ol' jazzheads back down memory lane very pleasantly, but with a twist - it will (also) bring you into th' world of th' 21st century.  This is exciting music, with such a big sound that it will transcend all those other melodies bouncin' 'round in yer' head when it hits th’ streets on October 16th, 2004!  Holober's keyboards are enough to make buying th' CD well worth it... he has very strong style (of his own), with nice phunk-ee chops that remind (greatly) of Horace Silver, balanced with some extremely dexterous right-hand fluidity that (when blended together) make him one of th' most talented players I've heard in years!  He's joined by some real weight in this big-band venture, most notably bassist Ron Carter & drummer John Riley.  High-quality energy & talent shine through on each & every track, & make this a definite "keeper" - jazz fans everywhere will be groovin' to this great train in 3001 - I mean, this R-O-A-R-S!  Gets our MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, along with th' "PICK" of this year for "best big band jazz"!  Contact, or via e-mail to     Rotcod Zzaj   

Dom Minasi - QUICK RESPONSE:  Man, I don't think there's ever been a CD more aptly named.  Minasi is one of th' quickest guitar players I've ever listened to.  I mean, this guy is all over it!  He's joined by equally capable players Mark Whitecage (sax), John Bollinger (drums), & some superb organ work by Kyle Koehler.  Several of Dom's originals are featured, & (as always), they are th' ones that keep my ears in awake mode.  My favorite is track 2, "Feels Like Rain in China", recorded first time on this album... strange to hear this funky "groove" in such an ethereal setting, but it works!  Minasi (apparently) dropped off th' scene several years ago (nearly 25), but he's back with full verve & swing, people!  I really like his compositional style, because the group doesn't let some "standard" of how long a tune is supposed to be get in the way of playin' it th' way it needs to be played.  The players must be psychic, they're right on top of each others' licks, without crowding at all.  Strong flavors of improv here, & that's strange, too, because these are some of the most accessible tunes you'll hear this year... maybe freedom is the better word.  "Quick Response" gets an immediate MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from this reviewer.  Contact at  or via e-mail to     Rotcod Zzaj

Xaxis Wye - FORMES:  Jeff Mueller takes us trolling through the world of sonic dreams again, painting ambient landscapes for your head to escape to.  No cheap "thrum&drum" electronics, these are more like sculptures.  This isn't a CD that's recommended during your drive to Safeway, as it's (often) hallucinogenic effect might get you pulled over in th' parking lot for whatever it is that John Ashcroft doesn't like.  As far as that goes, even if you listen to it with the headphones on in th' safety of your music chamber, you may find yourself wondering if you haven't been visited by strange "other" life forms.  Heh! Heh!  What is nice about these comps is that they've got some "meat" on 'em... but they do require concentration to absorb.  Another point in favor of the album is that you have not heard sounds like these before, unless you've already figured out the secrets of warp drive.  Very nice blends, indeed an enjoyable listen - gets a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for those not enchanted with more of the same!  Contact at or via e-mail to   Rotcod Zzaj

Roc - MUCK:  All that comes in th' "press kit" is a note portending to be from Alfred T. Charmichael (aka Ability To Communicate)... I've got a strange feeling about these trax, tho'... sounds an awfully lot like my friend EDI singin' those disturbing slowed-down lyrics; actually, they're not all that troublesome until you READ them.  Somewhat along th' lines of what I 'magine Lennon was writing in his steepest smack strangeness(es) - whispers of wholeness, too submerged to sink in to..  DEEPest reaches, to be sure.  You (just) can't listen to this with any other background going on... imperative that you descend to th' depths with th' players.  Some of th' beats are intriguing, & not just "beats"; part of th' larger (?stellar?) compositional format, without any overbearing electronics.  Noise can be fun, & it's certainly more intellectually satisfying than th' debates.  In the overall, this gets a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for listeners who want to hear something that digs deeper into the psyche than David Bowie (unless he was on blue dot).  Contact at or via e-mail to     Rotcod Zzaj

Bill Carrothers - ARMISTICE 1918:  I'm more fortunate than most 'zines, 'coz I get albums that nobody else gets (first).  Pianist Carrothers uses his (considerable) keyboard skills on this double CD to illustrate a historical period that many (if not all) of us have probably forgotten (but never should).  What is most absolutely stunning is how carefully he has crafted the emotional impact of this devastating period of war in our past.  Bill is joined by quite a crew... Peg Carrothers on vocals, Matt Turner on cello, Drew Gress on double bass, Bill Stewart on drums, Jay Epstein on percussion, Mark Henderson doing contrabass clarinet, & the "Knob Creek Choir".  From the early tracks, reflecting a gay spirit just prior to the war, to "Call To Arms", all the way to "There's A Long Trail A Winding", the story of a separation between man/woman unfolds, as sadly as it always does.  Methinks we ought to get (i.e., force) John Kerry & George Bush to sit down together & listen to this in front of a national audience; it might not change anything, but it would certainly be more impressive than their recent antics!  There are some masterful compositions & high talent here, truly inspiring music!  You can't pigeonhole this album into any particular corner, it is a work of art & deserves wide recognition!  Some amazing music that brings home how wonderful life can be when it's not torn apart by stubborn men who want power, regardless of the cost(s) to others.  This gets our MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, & should be "recommended listening" for grade schoolers!  Contact at    or via e-mail to    Rotcod Zzaj

The Phonographers Union - LIVE ON SONARCHY RADIO:  Every recording I've heard that Doug Haire was involved in brings new meaning to "different".  He & Marcos Fernandes (who is part of the Union) have captured an exquisitely revealing listen to the works of 9 field recordists.  It is an amazing sonic journey, & improvised in the finest traditions of freedom.  If you walked in on this bunch in th' Jackstraw Studio, you probably wouldn't have the foggiest as to what was going on... it's when the collective sonic experience hits your ears that you know you've been exposed to something that's sonically "down under".  If you're stuck in 3-chord listening mode, & have been forever, you probably won't find much to attract you here, but if your mind knows that there is something more to listening than AM radio all day - GET THIS!  I've been involved in a few such projects myself, but never on the grand scale that these folks approach, & the recording captures it flawlessly!  This gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for people not afraid to listen to new adventures.  VERY interesting.  Contact at P.O. Box 81973, San Diego, CA 92138, visit the site at or e-mail to     Rotcod Zzaj

Bob Dorough - SUNDAY AT IRIDIUM:  If you ever watched (ABC's) "Schoolhouse Rock", you've probably heard Bob, but I can guarantee it was a much different set than this live recording at NYC's "Iridium" (51st & Broadway, in case you're in town on a Sunday afternoon)... this is a cool set that features several originals, & th' kind of high energy that only a veteran can bring.  His keyboard style is dashing & bold, but th' rest of the quartet (basically Steve Berger on guitar, Steve Gilmore on bass & Ed Ornowski on drums... you also get to hear guests Joe Wilder on trumpet & Daryl Sherman doing vox & four-handed piano with Bob) get their licks in without being overshadowed (in th' least).  I'd never heard Bob's vocals before, but it's almost like listening to some kinda' cross between Satchmo & Willie Nelson, if you can grasp that... really laid-back & intimate, but right "on" the whole way through!  Though I'm focusing on th' energy quotient, it's not th' same as, let's say, an all-out ramjam like you might've heard Sonny Sharrock do - this is much more subtle  & "groovy", for lack of a better word.  If you're a fan of simple (yet great) jazz that doesn't look down it's nose at the listener, you'll agree with me when I declare it MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!  Pure enjoyment, something you'll keep on pullin' out of th' stack & listening to over & over.  Contact at 2189 Cleveland St., Suite 225, Clearwater, FL 33765, via e-mail to or     Rotcod Zzaj

Erik Hillestad - LULLABIES FROM THE AXIS OF EVIL:  What a novel concept - using the lullabies of the countries our reckless leader declared as the "Axis Of Evil" to show, most starkly, how ridiculous (and evil) it is to paint other human beings in dark colors for (supposed) political gain.  What should happen is that George, Dick, Kim Jong Il & a few ayatollahs should be plopped down in a listening room together & exposed to the sadness & hope that these tunes sung for (all of our) children bring home for all ears.  Being the cynic (about politicians) that I am, I rather doubt that will ever happen... but, if it did, even lunkheaded fools  in positions of "leadership" might begin to realize how much more fruitful this world could be if children/teenagers were raised on the "values" that this beautiful CD evokes!  There are some very hip pieces here, too...  I especially loved track 3, "Don't You Worry My Child", from Afghanistan... definite funky beat down under.  Track 8, "Stars Are Rising", from North Korea, is one of the most haunting tunes I've listened to this year.  If you're like me, political arguments are worthless wastes of time - but, playing this album for your politically-inclined friends (and enemies) could go a long way towards ridding the world of the greedy & evil men who are bent on (only) their own goals, regardless of the cost in human sacrifice & pain.  This comes MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED & gets the "PICK" of this issue for "most healing album of 2004".  Contact at Valley Entertainment, 333 W. 52nd St., 9th Floor, New York, NY 10019, or on the site at     Rotcod Zzaj

The Jeff Kaiser Ockodektet with The Ojai Camerata - THE ALCHEMICAL MASS and The Kaizer/Diaz-Infante Sextet - SUITE SOLUTIO:   Two quite different sets... "Mass" seems to focus more on the ethereal, while "Suite" anchors itself (more) in the "downbeat"... darker shadings, but both highlighting the life that well-played music brings to the soul.  That contrast was best illustrated by the superb vocal explorations on "Kyrie", on the "Mass" section, as opposed to my favorite cut on the album, "Part I" of the "Suite".  Light & airy vocals on the first, deep walking bass lines on the second.  If you're more inclined to "fast improv", check out cut 10 ("Part IV")... radical, but (definitely) under control.  Jeff's recordings have gotten better & better every time we've heard a new one, & this is no exception... super recording quality.  Don't try & scope this one on th' living room speakers - do it with headphones th' first time around... there are lots of nuances you'll miss unless you zone yourself into the "concentration" zone.  Even (some) "regular" jazzheads will enjoy this, but it will be an especially delightful & sumptuous treat for fans of improv who have been waiting to hear the sound quality bar raised.  This gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from our ears - a definite KEEPER!   Contact at    Rotcod Zzaj

Holly Hofmann - MINOR MIRACLE:  A mellow, laid-back Northwest Saturday mornin' is th' perfect time to listen to Holly work miracles (for your ears)  on this groovin' lil' CD!  With Mike Wofford (her husband, actually) on keyboards, Peter Washington doing bass & Victor Lewis on drums, it will get your day started just right,   sunny even if it's overcast & rainy out.  Your ears will feel th' sense of "communion" these players have, from the opening bar... plenty of room for each player, & nobody "steps on" anyone else - it's obvious they love playing together.  Th' album starts off slow & groovin' with "Everything I Love", but moves right on ahead on th' second cut, "CRS-CRAFT", a beautiful & bouncy tune that lets Holly's playful spirit shine brilliantly!  My favorite selection on this wonderfully bright album is th' title track, a Wofford/Hoffman original... a little over 7 minutes of pure jazz pleasure, with a real "down-home & phunky" feel... definite groove, nice solos all around - a very catchy tune that will stick in your brain for years.  This Capri release is a "must have" for dedicated fans of jazz, & gets our MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.. a "KEEPER", for sure!  Contact at Capri Records, POB 892, Bailey, CO 80421-0892, or through their site at    Rotcod Zzaj

Eddie Crowe's Blues Unchained - BLUES UNCHAINED:  One thing that's so cool about th' internet is that if I hear somethin' I dig on, all I have to do is let th' player(s) know I'm interested, & (unless they think I'm some kinda' wannabe hypester) somethin' will come thru th' PO box in (just) a few days.  That's th' way this superb lil' blues CD came to us!  Actually, Eddie had his daughter snail it to us, & if (like me), you just gotta' have yer' dose o' blues ev'ry once in a while, you'll find his blues are red-hot!  Eddie is th' singer for th' group, along with lead guitarist Bobby "Blue" Perry, reedist Gene Meros, Dave Jensen doin' keyboards, Nelson Jervis on drums & Chris Sellman with great bass.  These guys jam out like they been down there (ya' know, where those blues come from)... my favorite cut on th' CD they sent was their live performance of "Shakey Ground" - Sellman's bass leads in just drippin' phunky lines, & "Blue's" leads be bringin' th' fire on!  Meros' sax sounds jus' like downtown, where them blues live, ya' know?  "Too Tall To Mambo" is another great cut, & features Eddie's b-b-q greasy vocals in classic style... brings that long-necked woman he's singin' about right inro yer' livin' room.  If you dig on blues energy that crosses (lots of) musical boundaries, you'll agree with me when I declare this album as HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.  We'll be (anxiously) waitin' for th' full-blown CD release when it comes out!   Download tracks at  or on th' pages at    Rotcod Zzaj

Various Artists - HEART OF INNOCENCE:  One of our favorite promoters/labels these days is (definitely) Valley Entertainment... they consistently provide us with music both beautiful & "above the cut".  This CD, billed as ""A Collection of Women's Songs for Everybody Everywhere", features eleven ladies who easily capture hearts & touch parts of the listener long thought buried.  Folks like Donna De Lory (who does the lead-in track), Miriam Stockley & the (UK) group "Bliss" are featured on songs both pretty & painful... the full range of emotions is presented, in very listenable fashion.  The compositions range broadly across the spectrum (leaning more towards electronic folk, I'd say), but one of my favorites, ""Rosalinda", has some very enchanting tabla & strings woven together under a simple, yet captivating, vocal by Suzanne Sterling.  "Fair Skye", sung by Lisbeth Scott, is another clear winner.  Anyone who  can't feel the life emanating from these soulful tunes is either six feet under, or on George W. Shrub's cabinet - this album gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating from us!  Contact at Valley Entertainment, 333 W. 52nd St., 9th Floor, New York, NY 10019, or on the site at     Rotcod Zzaj

Mike Longo and the New York State of the Art Jazz Ensemble - OASIS:  We've reviewed a couple of albums by Mike before (check back, using the search tool at the bottom of this page), but never quite at this more "big band" level.  As always, Mike's keyboards are prominent, but woven in with heavy brass & reeds that could easily back a movie about th' 30's & 40's... it's quite an amazing combination, actually, since he's got th' "numbers" of instruments that would easily equate to those old-style bands on a big scale, but Longo's arrangements allow him to keep the ensemble feel of a small room in downtown San Francisco.  Some very high energy tracks, but my favorite is an original called "Chanson"... a close second goes to a really upbeat & catchy piece (also an original) titled "No More Blues".  If you haven't listened to Mr. Longo before, & are looking for some great jazz, in a big band format like you've never heard before - GET THIS.  There won't be too many jazz aficionados who disagree with me when I declare this to be MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.  "Oasis" definitely won't go in th' "no play" stack!  H-O-T stuff.  Contact through Creative Service Company, 4360 Emerald Dr., Colorado Springs, CO 80918... also via e-mail to  (the CD is also available at places like AMAZON, or at CAP records, at )    Rotcod Zzaj

Maurice Richard Libby, aka Whiteboy Slim - HOMEMADE:  Another kick-butt submission from one of my internet scans (on ).  I fired off an e-mail as soon as I heard this guys' .mp3's... yeah, th' energy sounded that good.  & now, listening to his CD, it's just as impressive.  some wicked harp playin', & high-energy blues (in many different styles) that will rock yer' sockzoff!  All th' way from delta to uptown "jump".  "I Found A Woman", track 3, is heavy & hot.. my favorite track on th' CD.  There are a couple of suggestions I (always) have for artists who're doin' their own production, & they apply here, also.... please put credits on th' jacket, so I know who was playin' what.  &, since (I'm assuming) th' recordings are bein' done with a ripping program, put th' track titles on th' CD, too.  That's a minor hit, though, & if you like blues that gets yer' blood pumpin', your ears deserve it... this album is a KEEPER.  He's been giggin' all around Canada, but you might be able to catch him on th' site at   This is one of th' best blues albums I've heard this year, & gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from our ears!  Mighty fine blues, good sound & definitely HOMEMADE!    Rotcod Zzaj

Donald Lewis King - THE SONIC ALCHEMY OF DONALD LEWIS KING:  I'm reminded (only in some ways) of music I've heard my musical partner Kramtones do, especially his solo works.... but, Donald definitely has his own style, & it's indeed pleasant to hear.  It doesn't fit (well) into any "category"... snatches of jazz, with leanings towards th' cosmic & universal.  In today's environment of "homemade" musical adventure, Mr. King has a light that shines most brightly; in fact, that's the keyword that comes to mind as I listen to th' track named "Olivia"... this is "illuminated" music.  "Olivia" is my favorite track... nice percussion undercarriage, solid bass lines, great woodwind sounds... all woven into a (really) solid composition that reminds the listener of th' good times, not all th' junk these politicos try & bring us down with, or useless & unspirited claptrap from th' majors.  I would caution Donald that th' album covers need a bit more work.... for instance, I'd really like to see a musician/instrument list somewhere, & adding the track titles on th' CD itself would go a long way... yah, it takes a bit more time for th' production, but it's necessary.  Having produced a lot of music myself, I know that (especially in my early tape days) this is something that often gets overlooked.  Music this good deserves a little more packaging focus, though.  Don't let that stop you from going to his site, though, at  & downloading a few samples... Donald's music needs to be heard, & gets a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for listeners who aren't afraid to explore something just a bit different!  You can also purchase the CD at  A really nice 15-song CD.  We're looking forward to reviewing more from Donald!    Rotcod Zzaj

Dottie Grossman & Michael Vlatkovich - CALL AND RESPONSE:  You'll have to enjoy poetry to "like" this CD... Ms. Grossman's poems, in this classic format, with her (usually) reading first, then Michael's trombone as the "response" are indeed haunting.  As you might expect, these are quite short pieces, none of them exceeding 3 minutes; but if you listen through the whole 35 pieces, it will all be "perfectly clear".  Those who have been reading this 'zine for a few years will realize that I have a love affair with well-done poetry/music... this is more than "well done", it's perfect.  Many CD's done this way come off without letting th' listener get deep inside the poetry... some kind of competition between th' poet & th' player, I think - but "Call and Response" is easy to get into, & brings th' surreal home in a heartbeat.  I enjoyed it thoroughly!  One thing that makes the album stand out is that the spoken word all "makes sense"... & the improvised trombone adds to the feeling that this is "perfectly natural", even though it's (not at all) what you'd hear on your "regular" FM station.  This is a true "KEEPER", & lovers of th' power that well-done words & music have to change perceptions will agree with me when I declare this MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.  Contact at    Rotcod Zzaj

Mike Milillo - MIKE MILILLO:  I first heard Mike at & asked him to send me a CD right away.  Couldn't have asked for anything more or better... these are th' kinds o' songs that have "meat on their bones".  Not (so much) from th' standpoint of being complex, they're actually very listenable... but his compositions are not just MOR, or "ditties" made up for mindless listeners.  If you've ever listened to & admired Frank Zappa's "other" albums, you'll hear a little bit (even a lot) of his influence on Mike's tunes.  Track 3, "Jazz Schmazz", is my favorite, probably because it's got a down&phunky walkin' bass line & some wailin' sax work that pretends it's Muhammad Ali, floatin', but kickin' yer' tail.... th' brass sounds are snappy as well.  Milillo has a real grasp of string sounds, too, a style I love to hear, if it's done as well as this... some really nice orchestral weaves that show the kind of talent & passion for creativity we need more of on today's "scene".  As F.Z. perceived it on one of his albums, this is like "Jazz From Hell"... simple, effective & H-O-T, people.  Listeners who left their "souls" behind at th' "smooth jazz" queue won't "get" this, but players like Mike Millio aren't really weaving these sonic webs for those kind of listeners, anyway.  This gets our MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, as well as th' "PICK" of this issue for "most creative music".  Really dug this listen... we hope to hear more, Mike.  Contact at or via e-mail to    Rotcod Zzaj

Michaux - JUST MICHAUX:  I asked Michaux (actually, I think it was Arlana who responded) about some trax I heard him do on SOUNDCLICK a couple weeks back, & asked if he'd consider sending us a CD for review.  So, like a day or four later, here comes this NICELY DONE package... th' only thing missin' was a bio sheet, but most of that is at his SOUNDCLICK page, if you want to read more.  Th' reason I asked for his music in th' first place is 'coz I heard (some) strains of Marvin Gaye, maybe even some Curtis Mayfield floatin' through "Love You The Right Way"...  now, I'm only talkin'  "snatches", tho', 'coz this playa has his own style DOWN!  Nice, lilting soul music with super rhythms clickin' down under to keep yer' feet & yer' booty groovin'!  Now, believe it or not, I grew up on this R&B style (why do you think my own CD's lean so hard onna' blooz?).  It's a pleasure to hear someone with youth in their heart drift (ever so gently) back towards actual music against th' rhythms!  Turns out "Love You The Right Way" is my favorite track, but I like th' phunk on "Resti 2 tion", too...  that's really where I hear a lil' o' Curtis M shinin' through!  All in all, this is a keeper... get us some kinda' promo sheet in th' next package... NICE cover insert/booklet, with th' songs/lyrics written in.  Th' producers also know how to use modern tools, because they had the track titles burned onto the CD (so they show up in your playlist... nice touch!  Use glossy next time!  I give it a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for listeners who want a lil' bit of style ringin' in their ears.  We wanna' hear th' NEXT ONE, too, Michaux!  Contact via e-mail to  or on th' site at    Rotcod Zzaj

Rough Noise Divine (RND) - HEAD HUNTER:  First listened to RND (Dan Sanchez on his SOUNDCLICK pages last week... nice, smooth-flowing electronics, with some intriguing mixes that kind of cross between dance/techno & vocals that hint at bumpin' soul.  Dan's home pages (HERE) feature some really nice graphic artwork (by him) as well.  Some of the paintings are very "sci-fi" & "futuristic" - which meshes very nicely with his musical vision(s), too.  Th' beats are recorded & mixed so as to emphasize th' melodies & harmonies that make music flow, rather than just that persistent "thump" that so many techno artists cling to.  Many of the "techno" CD's we get for review are little more than phased drum machine trix - Dan proves that he has real musical sense, & will expand your horizons in the sonic realms as inspiringly as his art does.  One of my favorite tracks was "Area 51", which leads in with a very appropriate signal tone & has some really nice choral sounds going on behind (just) th' beat scenarios.  I rate him as a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for anyone thirsting for something unclassifiable, yet accessible (in the electronic arena).  A real pleasant & inspiring listen.  Contact via e-mail to da or visit the sites linked above in this review.   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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