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Improvijazzation Nation

Issue # 77 REVIEWS

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!

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!

Shelf Life:  Ductworks:  What a perfectly appropriate re-entry into the review biz... Bryan Day sent this one, which was recorded in Omaha... Features Bryan, A. Boardman, J. Jaras & J. Schleidt in the kinds of sets I used to participate when I first started improvising (way back in the late 1970's... this outing has far more electronics than were available when we were doing such jams, but listeners who crave after music that strays from the "norm", & challenges the aural appendages will find this quite pleasing.  Lots of little "grinders" in/out/under/through the guitar strums, percussive surprises & great sounds (that you'd never hear on a "conventional" jam session) that make repeated listens a must... you'll discover something you hadn't heard each time you listen.  Is this "jazz"? - decidedly NOT... is it interesting?  Quite SO - but your mind (as well as your ears) must be prepared for a taste of strange.  This will serve as a great intro for those uninitiated in the joys of discovery that fine improv can inspire.  I give it a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, particularly if you are in for some well-crafted sonic adventure.  Check Bryan's site at or e-mail him at    Rotcod Zzaj

Simon Ben-Shir Group - WAYS:  This CD is pure joy to listen to, whether you're a hard-core jazz fan, or only a casual passer-by.  The brilliant splashes of color on the CD jacket give you an indicator of the life contained in the music, but once you pop it in the tray & begin spinning the title track (which opens the experience), you'll find yourself fully engaged & enchanted.  Ben-Shir's bass (and guitar) talents are fully revealed on the second cut, "Jochebed"... it's a bit hard to describe, as there are solid rhythmic foundations in the Middle East, but then John Frazee's horn kicks in, & you feel like you're in th' middle of the Caribbean somewhere.   Itemizing each of the pieces would be like "giving the secret away", and you wouldn't want that - it would be like telling the end of a movie... and, that's what this beautiful musical experience reminds me of... a well-crafted tale that invokes memories seated deep in your psyche, bringing each of the emotions you experienced back in new ways.  Absolutely stunning jazz, nothing pretentious, & very enjoyable.  I especially enjoyed the highly energetic "Four Score", the "deepest" jazz cut on the album.  I've no doubt that listening to these folks in a live setting would make you come away ready to overcome all the evil in the universe.  I give it a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!  To check out more about the band, visit their site at or e-mail them to  You can also get a lot more background on the band at  Rotcod Zzaj

Carla Hassett - QUERO SABER (I Want To Know):  We first reviewed Carla in issue # 71 - we were highly impressed with her then, & surely are FAR more so on this outing... there is a rhythmic sophistication to all 11 tracks that shows greater understanding of what the soul in music is really all about than players who've been at this for 50 years!  My favorite cut on the album is "Over You", which mixes together a sorta' "Latino rap" beat with sweet Brazilian guitar strum - then when she moves in on your consciousness with her haunting vocalization, you'll be truly transported... my only regret was that it was only 3:37, but I suspect that's part of the mystique - you'll have this hook in yer' head for a LONG time!  She's recorded/played with some heavy folks... Billy Idol, Jon Anderson (Yes), Sergio Mendez, & a list that goes on & on... as in my review in the earlier issue, though, the highlight of folks she's played with (for me) was Thomas Dolby - for the "new" sound, Dolby is a paragon, as far as I'm concerned, & Ms. Hassett is clearly able to open new sonic channels in your mind & heart, to be sure.  Whether you're inclined to "hard" jazz, a little bit o' "street" rhythm, or "down & deep" Latino soul, you'll find something you'll like on "Quero Saber".  I give this album a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, without a moment's hesitation.  Learn more about Carla via her site at ,, or e-mail to   Rotcod Zzaj

Greg Chako - PAINT A PICTURE, TELL A STORY:  Our first listen to Greg's wonderful guitar work is deeply satisfying, & (without doubt) an excursion into the adventure that his music imparts... over half the tracks are originals, and (as many who read this 'zine know), that makes it an automatic winner for this reviewer.  There is just something about tunes penned by the artist that lets you know right where they are coming from!  My favorite original on this outing is "Murtabop" - influences all the way from NYC to China & back (including some Indian food, which is where the title comes from).  This cut is like a trip 'round the world in 6:32, & is relentless in the energy it conveys for getting ones' fingers wrapped 'round LIFE... certainly brings out the theme of the title - I can see those outdoor markets I used to cruise through in Thailand, or Korea, very clearly when I listen to this sweet little tune.  Another favorite is track # 7, "What da' Funk"... some real (& legitimate) groovin' happening here; when the rhythm doubles up, you'll be itchin' to get on yer' FEET, peepz!  True jazz aficionados will HAVE to have this one in their collection - Greg is a master!  I'm impressed enough to declare this one the "PICK" of this issue for "best all-round jazz" - without qualification, it is MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!  Get more information from Greg's site, at or look at the promo kit, HERERotcod Zzaj

Derrik Jordan - SuperString Theory Goes to Senegal:  Our first review of Derrik's work was in issue # 68... as those who read that review will know, I was highly impressed with his total grasp of "world music", but without the lack of energy that the genre title often implies.  & this outing is even more outstanding.  His 5-string electric violin is there (& you know it), but it's place in the mix is very non-intrusive; the mix, in fact, is pure artistry, in & of itself.  If you listen to this CD at one sitting, you will realize (at least a little of) the magic involved in creating music - especially music that forms bridges between cultures.  Featured players include:  Derrik Jordan; Barou Sall; Pape Sakho; Helen Kerlin-Smith; Tony Vacca; Erik Lawrence; Jo Sallins; Steve Leicach; Sobobade Drummers... as you can see, a list far too long to itemize each instrument.  One of the most impressive players here (though all were amazing) was the vocalist, Helen Kerlin-Smith... her vocals on "Aliwu Mix" are not only enchanting, they display a soul at (total) ease with the music... it was odd, too, because Derrik didn't actually meet her until he had returned from Senegal to Vermont - talk about strange, eh?  My favorite track on the album is cut 4, "Jump 12", a Jordan composition - make you have to get up & dance... pure joy all the way through this one.  In fact, if you don't register high on the joy-meter after listening to the 11 tracks on "SuperString" - you'll never get over whatever's ailing you.  This automatically gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from us, but it also gets the "PICK" of this issue for "most creative musical expression"!  View more information at  - you can also purchase the album from there!   Rotcod Zzaj

The Rick Ray Band - NOTHING TO LOSE:  Folks who have followed this 'zine since it started will know that we've been reviewing Rick's high-powered progressive rock sounds (nearly) since the first issue - "The Guitarsonist", "Manipulated DNA" & "MANIACAL DISASTROPHE TOUR" (by a grouping he called "Riot Act"), just to name a few.  Obviously, we know something about Mr. Ray's playing, & if we weren't enthralled with his unique guitar signature, wouldn't have reviewed so many of his musical excursions.  Th' key element is always PUNCH... this is rock that just will NOT QUIT!  The other attractor (for our ears, anyway) is the jazz-filled runs - in fact, reedist Rick Schultz may well have something to do with that... his clarinet/sax(es) often contribute to extended riffing & explosive moments that make Ray's music much, much more than "just another house rock band".  Track 4, "Blue Print For Ruin" is just such a cut... it's out there, though certainly based on familiar patterns... this is my favorite composition on this album, without doubt!  Other red-hot players featured include Sam "PJ" Glorioso (Drums), Jack Ambrose (bass) & Alex Abraham (lead vocals). The other distinction that a Rick Ray CD has (on every one he's ever sent me) is this - it STAYS in the CD player in the car... meaning I'm constantly toolin' down th' road (this time, anyway) with "nothing to lose".  For listeners with a taste for music both exotic & exciting, this comes MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.  Contact through th' site at or via e-mail to    Rotcod Zzaj

Jazmin Sky - Jazmin Sky:  This CD is what this 'zine is all about... self-produced "raw energy" with the utmost in high quality sonic experience for the listener.  Jazmin's musical writing style & vocals carry me back many, many years - back when my whole life was lived in th' "funk zone"... rhythmically, folks/styles like Curtis Mayfield & Larry Graham, Patti Labelle, Chaka Kahn, & (yes) even th' Queen - Aretha come to mind as I sit here listening to "Downtown".  Her vocals are full-bodied, yet inviting, as she sings "U Turn Me On"... slow funk, lotz' o' "stride & pop" bass... though she's from small-town PA (Johnstown) originally, it's immediately apparent that she's wrapped herself in sophistication, & caught a taste o' that soul - the only thing that can make this kind of vocal music an adventure.  I can tell you, if th' world had  a little more of such well-crafted, yet funk-i-fied, music to listen to, many of the atrocities I've witnessed in my own globe-trotting would vanish.  Ms. Sky's music conveys "real", without coming across as pretentious, or over-glammed.  Strong elements of jazz on the .mp3 samples I listened to made this an "instant invite", & am I ever glad I asked her for the songs.  Keep your ears on this young'un... she's going FAR!  Range, texture & (most importantly) spirit are the keywords for this debut album.  This gets a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from these ol' Zzaj ears!  Get more information, or purchase the CD, on her site, at   Rotcod Zzaj 

Jarrett Cherner Trio - BURGEONING:  Hmmmm... let's see, now... "rapidly escalating"... "growing"... "mushrooming"... all 3 words serve very nicely to describe this all-original set from pianist/composer Jarrett Cherner.  In the sense of "rapidly escalating", I feel myself quickly rising into a zone that I've always wanted jazz to elevate me to... when it comes to "growing", Jarrett's compositions will (very rapidly) grow on YOU (as they did on me).  I mean, it's often hard to discern a "hook" in a jazz tune, but track 2, "Shake The Cage", seemed to stick in my head for hours - & if that's not a "hook", I don't know what is.  His hands & fingers are  solid on the board, & the trio (Jorge Roeder's acoustic & electric basses & Jorge Perez-Albela's drums & percussives) is right with him all the way through.  The music is more than just "punctual", though... it has a sense of timelessness not always found in the music composed by younger players these days... the listener won't be just tappin' their toes, they will be enchanted; & that is especially true of the title track!  A really solid, forever kind of tune.  The cut that is nearest to the kind of jazz I "burgeoned" on, though, & my favorite one on the album, is simply titled - "Theme".  My only complaint is that the track was too short.  A truly versatile talent that jazz listeners are bound to hear a lot more from!  This gets our MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating.  Superb playing for hours of pleasurable listening.  Find out more, or purchase the album on his site, at    Rotcod Zzaj

Theo Ross - CUT THE CHORD:  Flutist (& superb vocalist) Theo Ross captures your attention on the very first track, "Lovestruck"... absolutely beautiful & relaxing music that will give you pleasure (just) from listening.  Track 3, "Without You" comes (very) close to the old "soul music" genre, with some definite "phunk" goin' on... nice bass lines keep the groove going, but when his  vocal chimes in (after about a minute) you can feel the romance in the tune.  The track that really shines (for me), though, is the last cut, "Could Be"... string-wash intro leads ever so gently to rhythm & flute (then bass) - in smooth jazz territory, but with (more than) enough soul to keep it from getting tossed for being "that" dreaded category.  Some of the beauty in the tune was definitely stirred by the Rhodes-sound floating down under.  My only complaint about the CD is that it's only got about 20 minutes of music on it... we hope Theo's next recording will have far more for us to enjoy.  He's got that spirit that's so essential, and his light-hearted approach to playing will cheer you up on even the bluest of days.  We give this one a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, & will look forward to his next recording.  To learn more about the artist, visit his site, at    Rotcod Zzaj

Indian Blood - REBUKE:  Jeffrey Thomas Blanchard hasn't been in our pages before, but he should'a' been!  This boy KNOWS how ta' ROCK!  A quote from the liners will tell you quite a bit about his ideas/philosophy - "I don't despise or get obsessed with new things, I just give it respect.  I am asking the same of you while observing the CD "Rebuke".  The 14 songs on the album are all (just) packed with high-energy, lyrical mystery and a clear mastery of how to get the words to "fit" in the right places.  I find myself wanting to make comparisons, but as many thousands of reviews as I've written - I'm unable to find anything in this dilapidated ol' braincase that is a "match".  Blanchard's musical style is totally & unequivocally his own... & we LIKE that!  If more rawk-ers played like this, people would get the message... they would understand that life isn't (at all) a bowl of cherries, & that the "real" folks out there have problems that have been 'round for ages... basically, the callousness of those who "have stuff" already.  Jeffrey draws the listener in with a combination of masterful guitar-riffs, strong bass lines & life-filled lyrical stories that will haunt you if you listen down (just a little bit) "deeper" than you normally might.  I'm highly impressed!  This one gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating from us, as well as the "PICK" of this issue for "best rock album of '07".  GREAT rockin' music!   Learn more at  Rotcod Zzaj

Mark Cloutier and Friends - MAKING THAT GUITAR TALK:  I've been listening to Mark on MIXPOSURE for 2 or 3 years now, & asked him to send me a CD for our "reincarnation" issue (this one).  He sent it out right away... & it includes some of my (other) favorite players on MIX... Loren Risker, Robert Grant & Pete Muzakmen, just to name a few!  Mark's guitar work is splendid, much of it in a "pure blues" mode... & if you love blues guitar, yer' gonna' REALLY love his songs!  There weren't any credits on the album, other than player names (you can correct that on the next cover, eh, Mark?), so I can't be sure who was playin' that grand ol' bluesy organ down under th' wailing riffs.... suffice it to say that it will GRAB yer' heart & make ya' FEEL 'dem azures, to be sure!  There are 17 tracks on this, which Mark thought might be a "little much" for one sitting... not at ALL... this is perfect for slammin' in th' car player & trekkin' on down that phroggin' RO-ad, especially cuts like track 2, "I'm Taking Off"... ya' don't know if it's a SPACE-SHIP he's talkin' about, or leavin' his love, but ya' sure know he's SCREAMIN' those good old blooz with th' strings.  Another favorite track is "Strolling"... walkin' blues, great stride bass lines, make ya' get on up & DANCE those blues - just KICK-azz stuph!  The electronics & keyboards on "Smoothe" are just that.. mighty mellow, no doubt.  If it's raw talent yer' after, & you've got an hour or two to relax - DO it with this!  My only advice for the next 'round would be to put some credits on th' cover sheet, & maybe get the track titles to show up on the CD itself.  Well produced otherwise, but it's th' ENERGY that counts (for me), & this one gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from us!  Send any more that you produce, brother!  Rotcod Zzaj

The Fred Hess Band - IN THE GROTTO:  Dr. Hess has graced our pages before, in issue #71.  Our ears were impressed on that album ("Crossed Paths"), and they are astounded on this round!  The players on "Grotto" (Fred on tenor sax, Ron Miles on trumpet, John Gunther on flute & alto/tenor sax, Ken Filiano on bass & Matt Wilson doing drums) are tightly meshed, but not "tight" at all.  The magical notes "flow", but there is plenty of emotion & musical energy coming through in each of the (7) tracks... it's obvious that these folks have played together for some time... (while) they may be reading charts, they seem to (just) instinctively know where the next note/phrase is going to fall.  Very sophisticated & UN-caveman-like, this takes me back to numerous jazz haunts (grottos around the world, ya' know...), where players and fans alike were in to the music - to the exclusion of anything around them... just there for the music, & the joy that tracks like "Hold On" (my favorite on the album) can bring.  Filiano's bowed bass, & the exploratory feel of the other instruments on "Ninth House" epic (clocked in at 13:45) make it a close second.  The hardcore jazz fan, as well as the listener who is just being initiated, will find something in each & every cut on "In The Grotto" they can enjoy.  This one is (clearly) a "keeper"... it gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from these ol' ears... GET it, especially if you're a jazz collector.  Learn more at  Rotcod Zzaj

Tom Furgas - strings1.wrk.:  We have always enjoyed the original creative works we get from Tom (enough so that we DID a recording, ANIMAL CRACKER ODYSSEYS, with him a couple years back)... he doesn't disappoint at all on this string-focused CD, and is a strong part of what makes this 'zine so much fun to write.  Using Cakewalk Music Creator, he crafts some of the prettiest & most engaging works we have heard in some years.  Nothing "fancy" on the covers, as (with so many home-producers) all the energy is placed on the music itself.  I found myself engaged from the first bar, all the way through the 8 tracks on the album, but it was cut 6 that I enjoyed the most (probably because it has some deep bass-sounding lines running through it).  This one took (about) 2 full listens to grasp the intricacy of his sonic visions - it's definitely advised that you use headphones, so you can immerse yourself in the beauty he's portraying.  As many in the underground recording scene know, Tom is very prolific... varied styles, many nuances... this is another flavor of strange, yet enjoyable.  I give this outing a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, & challenge you to learn more about Tom Furgas by reading the interview at ANTOCULARIS, or our own, in issue #74(added notes from Tom:  the disc is available for $9 postage paid (US) or $12 postage paid (everywhere else), or is available in trade for any other artist's CD, to 1840 Paisley St #3, Youngstown, OH 44511-1024) Rotcod Zzaj

Alex Kontorovich - DEEP MINOR:  Just so many things that make this fantastic CD unique, not least of which is stunning work on banjo (Brandon Seabrook), in conjunction with superb clarinet & alto sax by the leader, Alex Kontorovich, beautiful bass by Reuben Radding (who we had the great fortune of watching in live performance in Philadelphia last year, & reviewed in issue #64), & diligent drums by Aaron Alexander (who has played on numerous albums here in our pages, & most notably in issue #70).  The whole "tone" of the CD is different, to be sure, incorporating klezmer in the mix.  You will get the feel of jazz giants like Bird & Coltrane, but be taken to new heights with their explorations into "new" zones of music traditionally not thought of as "jazz".  In their capable hands, you will find pure joy exploding from their musical visions, & hours of listening pleasure.  Radding's bass on "New Orleans Funeral March" is completely haunting on the long intro... then it is totally supportive as the other instruments segue into long sequences that "honor" the giants who have passed (there are moments where Seabrook's guitars make one think of Sonny Sharrock).  My favorite cut, though, is track #7, "AfroJewban Suite"... if you want to hear what the "new" jazz, the jazz of "today" is - you've got to have this CD... get more information about Alex on his site, at  This CD is scheduled for release on 18 September, so remember - you first read about it here!  "Deep Minor" conveys many moods and styles to the listener, so well that it (automatically) gets our MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating.  Rotcod Zzaj

Ronno Jaxon - RONNO BLUES:  Crusin' th' netz' for new talent... lookin' under "blues", since that's how I felt (at th' time)... there are times when you just know - this is "IT".  Well, this CD was (to be SURE) recognizable as havin' those ol' down & dur-ty blooz!  Especially trax like cut # 2, "Babygirl Blues" (one of my fave cutz on th' album).  Ronno's got a wicked touch on those git-ar strings... knows how ta' make 'em piss & moan & wail... of course, with this "reincarnation" issue comin' up, I want to make sure I've only got th' BEST, so I dashed off an e-mail to Mr. Jaxon... not more than a few days later, a big BOX full o' blues (& a bit o' rawk-in stuph, too) comes tumblin' out!  Since this was th' first one I heard on th' site, I pulled this out for review first.... you'll get all of my reviews in later issues.  He's even got a track on here, trak 5, "Home", that reminds me somehow of th' fantastic tuneage on th' Funkadelics "Hardcore Jollies"... it's interesting, too, 'coz it's contrasted against a vocal that comes across as more "Delta" kind of stuff.  High talent here, & energy reigns supreme.  We were highly impressed from th' sample material we heard, & mighty happy Ronno shared his music with us... "Ronno Blues" gets a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, 'specially for those who understand that a dose o' 'dem blues ev'ry once in a while is a required ingredient in a well-lived life.  Get more info on his site, at or send an e-mail to  Some FINE, fine blues here!  Rotcod Zzaj

Judi Silvano - WOMEN'S WORK:  Judi has graced our pages often (#67, #68 & #69, as well as an interview).  Her jazz vocals can only be described as svelte & smooth... what sets her music apart from all those "other" singers, though, is th' earthquake-level energy... if there were a musical "Richter scale", she'd come off at about a "12"!  This CD will reach right out & grab your heartstrings, but in such a pleasant way that you'll keep comin' back for more, hour after hour, day after day.  The full range of emotions is explored here.. joy, sadness & a little laid-back late-night blues... jazz fans everywhere will know, from the first bar, that they've got to have this one!  As you might expect from th' title, her vocals are complimented by superb playing from Janice Friedman (keyboards),  Jennifer Vincent (bass) &  Allison Miller (drums). It's a live recording ("Sweet Rhythm Jazz Club, NYC), which helps to make it even more enchanting... as you listen to this album, you'll see/hear Judi & friends right there in your living room.  We've always enjoyed Ms. Silvano's jazz work, & have no doubt that you'll be a life-long fan from the first cut... so much talent, so much energy - this one gets our MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED - some of th' best vocal jazz we've heard this year!  Get more information at her site: , or buy the album at CD BABYRotcod Zzaj

Anthony Branker & Ascent - SPIRIT SONGS:  It seems an awfully long time since I've been able to drink in compositions like Anthony has assembled for your ears on this wonderful & enchanting jazz CD.  That would have something to do with my recent travels in Iraq, but that's another story, too long to tell here.  Additionally, it's very important to me to touch everything I can, & taste all that's around me.  "Spirit Songs" is a perfect "re-entry" album, full of verve & strong inspiration, & that applies most especially to the title track (which is my absolute favorite "left-hand-rhythm piano track" in many years!.  'tis no wonder, with reedists Antonio Hart & Ralph Bowen, trombone by Clifford Adams, Jr., keys by Jonny King, bass by John Benitez & crisp/precise drumworks by Ralph Peterson, Jr.  Though more "lighthearted" than (let's say) the gritty spiritual works of Pharaoh (Saunders), the heavy doses of soul & "connection" with other-worldly beings are still fully vibrant, & will inspire any true jazz lover.  "Sons Of Sound" have produced (yet) another gem here, which gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from these old jazzified ears.  Contact/purchase at the label site, at        Rotcod Zzaj

3Osity - 3OSITY When there's scorchin' Hammond to be heard, you'll know, after listening to this fantastic trio, that Pat Bianchi had something to do with it... he's joined in this trio by guitarist Dave Corbus & drummer Todd Reid.  This thang just KICKZ along, folks... we're talkin' sheer & total energy here, too, not some namby-pamby wannabe!  & that was just th' opener, their version of Mcoy Tyner's "Inception".  Pace slows down a tad (but is still infused throughout with power) on Jimi's "Wind Cries Mary", but when they move on to Jack McDuff's "Scufflin'", the total balance & exuberant joy they exude will become clear as blue skies on a festival day.  This is one of those CD's that brings back the spirit of jazz... no copy-cattin' here, their energies are honest & pure.  One of the best albums I've heard in 2006, & immediately rates a "MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED".  I've no doubt that this trio will be around for years to come - they've got the magick!   Contact or get more info from the label site, at      Rotcod Zzaj

Incandescent Sky - PATHS AND ANGLES:  This is (quite simply) the BEST performance I've heard from these folks yet... & I've heard several... we've reviewed them, quite favorably, in previous issues.  They call themselves "progressive texturalists", which fits the sense of musical adventure they convey quite nicely.  There are no "clichés" here, only ideas that move to mountains & on into radiance... their own "Aurora Borealis", if you will.  I'm transported to purity as I sit here listening to "Angles"... it just "swells"... full-bodied & enchanting all the way through.  If you love music that moves through the spheres, but without being overbearing - this is your TICKET!  My favorite track on the album (because of it's (musical) "angles", I'd say), is the exit cut, "Trade Winds"... some very pointed & moving architextures, to be sure.  This gets a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from our ears.  Get more information at or contact via     Rotcod Zzaj

Antoinette Montague - PRETTY BLUES:  This IS one "pretty" CD... Antoinette sings th' blooz with th' best of them, & cuts no slack along the way.  If you're a big fan of jazz with blues leanings (& true, TRUE soul), you'll fall in love with her rich & gutsy blues styling after just a couple of bars.  Bill Easley's tenor sax (& his flute, too) does some beautiful call/response work here... there's also some fine keyboard by Mulgrew Miller, drums by Kenny Washington & deep-throated bass by Peter Washington.  The recording is crystal-clear, totally enjoyable & Ms. Montague's unique tone & spirit will take you high into the blue skies!  From a jazz point of view, I just LOVED "Miss Celie's Blues (Sister)".  If you're looking for great jazz vocals with firm blues roots & heavy, heavy soul, you'll want to sample Antoinette's "PRETTY BLUES".  To get more information about her, visit her site, at        Rotcod Zzaj

Ann Sweeten - A PLACE IN THE SUN I recently returned from a "place in the sun" (Iraq), that holds none of the beautiful reflections that Ann's fine keyboard artistry does for the listener.  Though it's classified (I suppose) in the "New Age" genre in the store racks, her compositions & musical spirituality come shining through to impart visions of peace and comfort that the world sorely needs right at this miserable time in it's history.  The orchestrals will take you to a higher spiritual plane than you've been on lately, & she wraps you, ever so subtly, in her ability & maturity.  This is the second time we've reviewed her wonderful works, & we're certain it won't be the last.  For those who love inspiring music played with the listener's well-being in mind, this gets our MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating.  Highly impressive, & bound to become a classic.  For more information about Ann, visit her page(s) at  Rotcod Zzaj

The Joe Gilman Trio - VIEW SO TENDER - WONDER REVISITED:  Mr. Gilman's jazzified tribute to Stevie Wonder's fantastic music is well received by these ears, to be sure... a rousing intro with "I Wish", with stride lines (both Joe's keyboards & Joe Sanders' bass) galore & superbly crafted rhythms by Justin Brown, will wake you right up & put you on top of the world!  Yes, these ARE tunes you've heard before, but this trio brings new (jazz) life to them, with both skill & a clear sense of love for the music.  "Sir Duke" is my favorite track on the album, showing their versatility & cohesiveness as a unit... nothing "stodgy", pure soul to transport you to the same realms the original(s) did... as I sat here listening, I couldn't believe how sweet life can be, & it was th' moods they were creating with their interpretations of Wonder's wondrous music(s) that made it happen.  This one gets a clearly deserved HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from my ears, & I know you jazz fans will want (even need) this fine lil' CD in your collection.  Get more information at     Rotcod Zzaj

Nest - LAST DAY, FIRST DAY:  What a taste of "odd" for a Sunday morning... Eric sent this CD from Portland, Oregon, while I was in the desert... looks like it was in May, this year.  The music on here will be a bit of a challenge for some, though others will grok it right away - one name I recognize immediately in the group that put this together, of course, is our old pal C. Goff III, so that explains a lot of the "strange" elements hereon.  Lots of vox-overs, tastes of industrial machine noises, & a prevailing sense of "the experiment" that the whole "home taper" thing started off with, oh-so-many years ago!  "NEST" have a real sense of how to use "pauses" to enhance the sonic experience, & I found this very, VERY enjoyable as "new"... something I hadn't heard before that challenged me to actually "listen" to what they were doing.  Eric described it as a "Studio project"... no liner notes, so no idea if that means "pro studio", or "home studio"... either way, it sounds just fine throughout.  This is not for the "faint-hearted", or for listeners who want "only standard"... it IS a challenge to listen through - but, of course, that's why Eric sent it to US for review... we WANT music that challenges the listener & spurs them on to new heights... & in that sense, this gets our MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating!  For more information. e-mail Eric at    Rotcod Zzaj

Richie Hart - GREASY STREET:  If it's FUNK yer' lookin' for, look no further... th' CD title just about tells ya' what this will be all about... down-home greas-i-fied fare, with Richie's guitars doin' lead(s) all over some great keyboards (by Pete Levin), Hammond organ (by Dr. Lonnie Smith), & all nicely complimented by some superb basslines (Rick Petrone), drums by Joe Corsello, sax by Jerry Weldon & trombone by Clifton Anderson.  There are wonderful moments to remember players like Bro. Jack McDuff through this group's energy-filled renditions of tunes by legends like Coltrane, Ron Carter & even Jimmy Smith.  This isn't just pleasant to the ear kinda' stuff, it's "uptown" in every sense of the word sophistication.  Jazz fans everywhere will want this in their CD wallets, so they can listen to it as they tool 'round & 'round th' world-space.  This gets our HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating for any & all who love smooth-sailin' jazz with more than just "smooth" to speak for it.  A simply GREAT album.  Find out more at     Rotcod Zzaj

The Jon Hemmersam/Dom Minasi Quartet - THE JON HEMMERSAM/DOM MINASI QUARTET We hadn't listened to Jon (electric & Spanish guitars) before, but we did review Dom (Electric & 12-string acoustic) in #76 - which made it obvious that th' jazz would be raw energy & joy!  They're joined by Ken Filiano (double-bass) & Kresten Osgood (drums), & what an outing it is.  My favorite track is "Inside Out", which gives space for each (highly talented) player to "show it off" to the maximum... intense without being overpowering, yet fully in roots-jazz mode, the track is the epitome of what jazz expression is all about!  There is also the first cut on the album, "Sprint", which just about gives it away... these folks are moving (at the speed of light) all through the track, & their energy is infectious... if you can't "catch their groove" on this piece, you're catatonic.  Though this is a "studio" recording, it sounds amazingly like a "live" shot... th' kind of jazz that will "stick to your ribs", & stay with you for th' long term.  This one is scheduled to be released on September 1st, 2007, so rush right on over to one of these sites to order your copy now - or  Fantastic jazz that gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating from us!   Rotcod Zzaj

Golda Solomon - WORD RIFFS:  There is only one word to describe Golda's superb word-work on this CD - "jazzified"!  The opener (also th' title trak) takes me back to smoky-blue dens of iniquity (& other great things) & remembrances of all those players I grew up (Ra, Monk & 'Trane) & will surely go to rest with.  It's only (about) 4 minutes long, but is like a gallery tour of spoken paintings that does great honor to all the greats, & will "smoke out" all those who only "pretend to understand" the muse & marriage it (naturally) has with word-artistry.   Quoting lines is like giving away secrets (methinks), but "winos holding pint-sized brown bags" just about tells you th' story.  We've been impressed with Golda's poetry for a long time now (all th' way from "Po' Jazz" to her POETRY)... & I've no doubt that you will know whereof she speaks (even if you've not been initiated into the beauty of poetry joined with find jazz... the players were:  Golda - words; Christopher Dean Sullivan - bass; Michael T.A. Thompson - soundrhythium; Eri Yamamoto - piano & Saco Yasuma - alto saxophone)... YOU, too, will be "jazzified" - & then, you'll surely agree with my assessment... this CD gets our MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating, as well as the "PICK" of this issue for "best spoken-word/jazz album for 2007".  Get more information at  Rotcod Zzaj

David Gallegos - MIS RECUERDOS:  Soft/gentle are the words that reverberate through my head on listening to the opening track "Lagrimas del Cielo" (Tears of the Sky)... David's guitar is pure, simple & masterful.  That would track, since he said that this was "a very emotional year"... if I were able to lay my feelings out this clearly, there would be so many problems that would just disappear!  It would have been nice to have the credits a little clearer on the CD jacket... there is some beautiful synth work supporting his guitars, as well as the singer on "Falling", & (unless I missed it), I didn't see anything that would tell me who helped him out.  (Feedback direct from David:  "to answer a question you had on there... I did all the keyboard tracks... everything was programmed; aside from all the guitar tracks, I did all the percussion and keyboard programming... and had 2 other friends (Angel Flores & Michell Loose) do bass and vocals... ed.)...  That's a minor criticism, however, because it is always the passion and energy for the music that count for us... & on "Una Vida Triste", "A Sad Life", we can hear (& visualize) every person who has ever suffered tragedy and sorrow.  I am highly impressed (& it takes a bit to do that these days, especially with guitar artists, since I've heard so many of them through these many years)... Gallegos communicates his memories so that they (almost instantly) become ours to relive & discover.  I give this album a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for any listener who needs a bit more lovely in their life.  Get more information at, or contact him directly at   Rotcod Zzaj

Double Duo - CROSSWORD PUZZLE:  "Intricate" comes to mind when listening to the introduction to "A Butterfly, Bee, Mantis and Grasshopper"... as with any CD featuring Natsuki Tamura (trumpet) & Satoko Fujii (piano)!  We've reviewed a lot of their releases, & from the standpoint of creative artistry, this one is among the best.  The album (& group) title comes from the fact that Tamura is joined by Angelo Verploegen (trumpet) & Fujii joins forces with Misha Mengelberg (piano)... having done a few "bug oriented" compositions myself, I can immediately hear & feel the detail, as will any listener worth their salt.  It's a very "slow build"... "Butterfly" runs a total of 33:38, so they have plenty of time to poke their antennae 'round & ensure every little sound gets explored.  The "frenzy" occurs about 10 minutes in, & will have those listeners who thrive on exploration & nuance thrilled beyond belief.  If your habits don't include discovery of the new in the musical realm, you probably won't be as excited as I was about it, but you'll surely understand more about improvised playing.  I give this one a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, & would encourage novices to puzzle through this until they can "fill in the blanks".  GREAT album, volkz!  Get more information at  or e-mail them at  Rotcod Zzaj

C. Goff III - PINK WOODEN BODIES:  I've little doubt that the (real) reason Mr. Goff sent this particular CD to me for review is that he uses a (pink, natch) Mahalo Ukelele, as well as a (pink) Mattel Barbie violin to create soundscapes for his somewhat rather rabid vocalizations... ha! ha!  What better sounds to write a review for.. I mean I can almost see the original natives of these islands cringing in their burial grounds as they scope out "Deep In The Cake", or "Lulled On The Shores of Atmosphere" - I mean, the waves are there - RIGHT IN yer' earlobes!  Th' rhythmic contrasts on track 7, "Pisces in Peril" will make you realize how close this world is to disaster.  It's been a long time since we've had the pleasure of reviewing the absolute & enchanting "odd-istry" that Charles is so fully capable of, & "Pink Wooden Bodies" will upset more applecarts than did Johnny (Appleseed).  Get (far more) information (than you may need) at C. Goff's "Taped Rugs Productions" catalog - or e-mail him at  This outing earns him a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from our ears!    Rotcod Zzaj

Soulfood - spaSCAPES:  DJ Free (Native flutes, & soundscapes) is the perpetrator of some wonderfully soothing sounds for your spirit here... he's joined by Richard Hardy on reeds and Peter Schimke on Grand piano & synths.  Reviewers (in my estimation) often tend to "overlook" music that doesn't (necessarily) "fit" into a neat little genre package... I've even been known to push such recordings to the rear of the review bin until I've gotten those more easily classified done (on occasion).  That would surely be an error in the case of this superb CD... everything (& I mean every sound) flows gracefully & gently through your ears & down inside of you to put you in total relaxation mode.  If you're in need of some healing moments (actually, over an hour's worth of beauty), this is your ticket to bliss.  We have been reviewing "Soulfood" releases since (at least) issue #56), & they have always been great - but this one rates our MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating.   While it's not "strictly jazz", the energy & artistry required to produce it display high talent & true love for the power of music to bring peace.  GET this one!  More information is available at via e-mail to  or at SOULFOOD Music & Media, POB 902, Chanhassen, MN 55317  Rotcod Zzaj

Motown Moe - MOTOWN MOE:  This neat little home-produced CD hearkens back to our roots, to be sure... th' daze of home-recorded tapes pouring in through the mail slot, hiss & all.  For those who haven't "kept up" with the trends, those who make their own music these days are able to produce far better quality than any of those (old) tapes.  "Moe" (Kevin) has put together a nice little collage of his work, with varied styles & (musical) shapes to display his talent - & significant talent is evident.  You might be misled by his stage name... this isn't all just rehash of ol' "MOTOWN phunkiness"... it does have plenty of soul, but that's counterbalanced with what is clearly a (true) love for the music, & a good understanding of how much rhythmic undercurrent can influence the emotions of a listener.  Recommendations for Moe?  Try making an insert sheet (with track titles, credits, etc.) on your next venture... also, maybe use a program like "AudioGrabber" to embed the titles right into the CD (...since I wrote the original review, Moe "went the extra mile", & sent me a "final" copy of the CD, with a nicely done jacket, CD label, etc. - looks much better)!  No big deal, anyway... the key to our reviewing is whether the energy is present - & it surely IS on Moe's CD.  This one gets a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from us.  Get more information on his site, at  Rotcod Zzaj

Dan Fogel - 15 WEST:  Every once in a while, a packet o' pure pleasure rolls thru th' mail slot to awaken our spirit to ever-new possibilities.  Jazz organ music is often only an imitation of great players like Jimmy (Smith, or McGriff, take yer' pick), or Groove Holmes... we can tell you, Mr. Fogel has th' soul quotient required to make you recognize his masterful touch & (true) style!  Distinctive feel & a love of th' funkiness inherent in great jazz organ; the only drawback (if there was one) is that we would have loved it if there were double th' 9 tracks - because this kind of jazz is timeless.... ebullient & full of the drama of a life lived (& played) well!  Dan's joined by O'Donel Levy (guitar), Pete Chavez (tenor sax) & Webb Thomas (drums), who all contribute strongly to making this one of the most memorable jazz albums we've heard in years.  Though I (too) love playing organ & Rhodes sounds, I can't come (anywhere) close to his high-energy style!  "15 WEST" will inspire you & provide you with hour upon hour of memorable music... we not only give it our MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating, we also declare Dan Fogel the "PICK" of this issue for "best jazz organ".  GET this one.  More information is available at  Rotcod Zzaj

Alex Rosselli - 2012:  On this CD, I go back many, many years to early rock odysseys... groups like YES... strong, STRONG guitar fantasy tales from Alex that will take you on a trip like you've never been on before.  His playing isn't (quite) as psychedelically oriented as those old groups... more on a 21st Century level, where he actually puts you "in touch" with all those things that have been bubbling down in your cauldron.  It's pure guitar, interpreting sounds around you, turning lifetime experiences into guitar wall-of-sound artistry that will astound your ears.  I'd advise against trying to listen to this all at one sitting... take the first 3 cuts (that's 20 minutes worth), then go off & absorb them over a mug of cappuccino... then come back for the next round.  After you've absorbed it all, it's time to put it in yer' car player & RAWK on DOW-un thee road!  I'm highly impressed, as I was when I first caught Mr. Rosselli on the web & requested this CD for review.  This CD is an experience... not just "another rock guitar album, & it gets a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from these adventurous ears!  Get more info at or e-mail Alex at  Rotcod Zzaj

Purple Gums - MO' BETTA BUTTA:  The most recent review we did of Mr. Roper's work was in #71 - we've always gotten a big kick out of his tuba jazz... &, it's not just the fact that he's playing totally qualified jazz with th' tuba... there's an element of "craziness" that runs across every Roper release I've ever heard... it's like no jazz you've ever heard... raw, purely original, & loaded with spontaneous fun!  The other players we hadn't listened to before are on this outing as well... Bobby Bradford (cornet, percussion, vocals... he's worked with Ornette & John Carter & plenty of others of equal stature) and Francis Wong (soprano sax, tenor sax, erhu, percussion & vocals).  The keyword for this whole experience is fresh, & funny!  The spoken word on the title trak will just crack you up!  Th' diatribe on which is better (butter or oleo) is "in the zone"... like, "out there", volkz!  A first (fo' us, anyway) is the kewl bluesy number, with a vocal, on cut 5 "The City" (which is based (musically) on Charles Mingus' "Nostalgia In Times Square").  If you've exhausted your "smoove jazz" quotient, & are ready for some truly enjoyable jazz - GET THIS ONE!  We give it our MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, & declare it to be our "PICK" of this issue for "most original & creative jazz" we've heard this year.  Contact William at or visit his site at    Rotcod Zzaj

Chris Pugh/Jack Gold - PENUMBRA/HEQAT:  One never quite knows what will be encountered on a release from Jack's "SolDisk" label... I mean, you know that it will be jazz, & you know that it will often be free-form, but what the "format" will be is usually a mystery.  The guitar by Mr. Pugh is excellent "out" guitar, just sorta' "taking off" in his own direction, backed by Jack's drums & percussives on the opening section of "Penumbra", titled "Detritus"... I'm reminded, in a great many ways, of open-ended jam sessions we used to do in a coffee-house ("Gnu Deli") in Olympia, with a guitarist named Bob Cerelli... cosmic jazz that never stopped! Much like a journey through a guitar-fueled galaxy that had listeners on the edge of their seats, careening through near-disasters with shadowed asteroids and (other) planetary bodies.  This music will certainly never be relegated to the "muzak" bins; it is both challenging to listen to, and satisfying (for the adventurous listener, anyway)... if you can't make musical leaps & bounds, you'll probably find this beyond your capacity to comprehend.  An abrupt shift occurs on "Talus", the second performance... murky, down-under interplay between Chris & Jack... much more subdued, yet equally as intriguing (to the enlightened listener).  Last track, "Heqat", brings to life all the pyramid-inspired images it's title implies... a different set of players here... Chris's composition is performed by "Trio Recherche" - Melise Mellinger on violin, Barbara Maurer on viola & Lucas Fels on cello.  My favorite piece on the album is the opener, "Detritus", though, due to the high energy quotient!  You won't find a more challenging release anytime soon - my jaded ears give it a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for those who are looking for something "new" in jazz!  Visit the site at or contact direct via  Rotcod Zzaj

Sharp Practise - RADIOCITY:  This CD is in a musical style I seldom listen to any longer... strong, simple rhythmic R&R, with strong guitar lines & great lyrics... it came to us from Nigel Clothier, in UK, after some internet solicitations I made for new material.  This kind of music will go far on the radio/charts, no doubt... clean hooks, well-played & full of great energy... those who fall in love with this won't be the "regular" crowd here at "I.N.", as it's not "out" there.  In fact, I (& many of my generation) grew up on this kind of guitar/synth-centric rockin' (whether we admit it or not) - & it's great road music!  You put this in th' CD player in NYC (or Philly, for that matter), & cruise on down Route 66, hittin' a few gas stops along th' way - you know, that kind of adventure.  It's clear from listening that "Sharp Practise" enjoy what they're doing, & it won't take but a couple of trax for them to lure you in, too!  This one gets a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for lovers of music for fun!  Get more info on their site, at  Rotcod Zzaj

Ellen Honert - BREATH OF THE SOUL:  You know th' joke about th' DJ - "do I look like I sound"?  Almost never... well, listening to Ellen (after seeing her on the CD jacket) puts that in reverse... you'd never expect the rich, soulful & most adventuresome vocals she projects from just lookin' at th' picture.  Her album is most aptly titled, to be sure... I've listened to a lot of very strong female jazz vocalists over the years, & hearing Ms. Honert breathes new breath into the core of my soul!  ALL the songs are keepers, tunes that you'll treasure for years to come, for both the intricacy of the backing compositions, & the care taken with the vocal recordings.  My favorite track on the album is #2, "Life Is What You Make It"... the call/response vocal she does here will make you "feel" your life, no matter how far "down" you may be.  This is our first listen to her highly creative work, & she's an IMMEDIATE favorite... 'coz her energy is just so clean... almost like fire burning!  Ellen's album is among the best I've heard this year, & she gets our MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, as well as the "PICK" of this issue for "best female jazz vocalist".  You will love her music!  Get more info on the site at  Rotcod Zzaj

Annea Lockwood - THOUSAND YEAR DREAMING/FLOATING WORLD:  You have not heard music like this before (unless you lived in the Pleistocene age, perhaps); conch shells combine with didg, oboes & other reeds to form a journey into a place uninhabited by corporate executives & flim-flam politicos.  I can easily picture myself on the edge of an ocean, looking back over high ridges & "dreaming" of gigantic creatures moving towards me... & you'll be able to see whatever is in your subconscious as well.  This is not, however, the kind of music you pop in th' player & dance to... you must allow yourself to become immersed in the musicians' world... to ride the gentle currents of their reeds into something "new"... something "strange"... something "different".  & that isn't a "bad thing"... if you can get to that stage of relaxation (with them), you'll find it very rewarding, & a (musical) poetic adventure of it's own.  I enjoyed this trek immensely, & so will any listener with a thirst for abnormal.  This round gets a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from these experimental ears.  Get more information & purchase the album  at   Rotcod Zzaj

Patrick Flynn - GOOD NEWS:  Musically, there's nothin' better (to me) than good old down-to-earth blues... maybe a touch o' twang to go with it, but especially great when you can feel th' pain that inspired th' tune!  Though this is our first listen, we could tell on th' first 8 bars of th' title track that Mr. Flynn got th' soul & spirit it takes to lift yours right on up out of those holes we (all) find ourselves in sometimes... this is an original player who has lived what he's singin'!  You'll hear shades of Catfish Hodge in some of th' tracks, maybe, & even a slice or two of Paul Butterfield's upbeat energy ("Money Don't Matter").  Patrick is a music producer, as well as a player, & that comes through clearly in the recording... everything is evenly balanced... this is a recording that stands out for the sound, as well as for the musical energy!  As I listen on through (track 5 now, "Take The Spirit and Run"), that organ (pretty jazzy, by the way) makes me realize just how versatile this fellow is... KICKIN', people!  We want to hear more of Flynn's work, so promoters, send it on IN!  This is the most well-crafted soul/blues/jazz album I've listened to (yet) this year... it gets our MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating!  If you love blues, you'll have to get this one in your collection; get more information at Patrick's label site -   Rotcod Zzaj

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