Issue # 81 REVIEWS

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!

I've played in over 65 "bands" .  We will highlight a few of these bands in this (and future) issues. 

Featured Zzaj band for issue #81 - Sound Council (these don't auto-start - CLICK the PLAY button to listen while you read - or don't, totally up to you!  You can also PURCHASE these tracks, if you'd like to support our efforts; no obligation to do that, but the option is there if you'd like!)

This grouping featured John Alkins on keyboards and percussives, Harlan Mark Vale on keyboards and drums, with me on Kurzweill PC 88.    ENJOY!


Jamie Craig - THE LOST DREAM:  The promoter was right in their email cut sheet... this is some truly beautiful music.  Jamie's music isn't "strictly" New Age, though it certainly falls (a bit) in that realm... actually, if a label must be assigned, I think I'd call it "21st Century New Progressive".  There is solid rhythmic underpinning that carries his music to a level much more pleasant and accessible than some of the more "purist" music in the New Age genre... he is still able to create fantastic dream scenarios, with beautiful string washes, especially on track like "Movement Z", one of my favorites on the album.  One of the most energetic/powerful tunes on the CD is kind of a "New Age Gospel" track called "The Power and The Glory".... a totally new listening experience that will really move your mind into a "different" phase than you're used to if you're a huge fan of this genre.  I really enjoyed the emotional lift the tune gave me; in fact, it is my favorite cut, probably because it will challenge the listener.  All 'round a wonderful and inspiring listen... I rate it as MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!  Get more info at Jamie's site at  Rotcod Zzaj 

Paul Carr - MUSICALLY YOURS (Remembering Joe Henderson):  Folks, if you eat, sleep & breathe jazz, you're gonna' have to HAVE this CD.  I didn't realize I'd heard Paul until I spotted a review of the Eric Byrd trio in issue #80... his tenor was nearly as scorching on Eric's tribute to Ray Charles as it is on this superb album.  It's energy personified from the git, & it DOES "git", people, with that kind of "full body blow" that's the sign of CLASSIC jazz artistry!  Most of the cuts are indeed tributes to compositions by Mr. Henderson, but the title track is an original by Paul, as is track 5, "Classroom Agenda", by far my favorite piece on the album (though Joe's "Black Narcissus" comes in mighty near... one of the most emotionally packed tunes I've heard in years).  Tribute albums often have a bad rep, in that they come off as "wannabe's", but that certainly isn't the case on "Musically Yours"... it's almost like Paul has somehow tapped into Joe's spiritual energy, & is bringing his mem'ry back, if only for a few tunes.  This one gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, as well as the "PICK" of this issue for "best tenor sax"!  Get more information at  Rotcod Zzaj 

David Buchbinder - ODESSA HAVANA:  Here's yet another fantastic, & very different jazz experience for your ears!  David uses his significant talent on trumpet to combine Jewish & Cuban music into a listen that you won't soon forget!  Pianist Hilario Duran's keys contribute greatly to the success of this fusion, often keeping the Latin rhythm running as a counterpoint to horn works that must have come from ancient Jewish ritual... &, believe it or not, it really WORKS, even for a jaded jazz aficionado like me.  It's easy to hear why this was released on John Zorn's Tzadik label - the music is both entertaining and challenging at the same time... I can tell you, this isn't "tired", or "clichéd" in any way.  I've heard many artists try to make this kind of multi-cultural jazz "happen", but none of them comes CLOSE to what you will hear here!  This one is my FAVORITE for 2008, getting both our MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, as well as the "PICK" of this issue for "most challenging jazz"!  Superb and decidedly cutting edge!  Get more information at  Rotcod Zzaj  SAMPLE TRACKS (from OdessaHavana site)

Dave Askren - TRIO NUEVO +:  Dave's nylon string guitar work on this CD is superb... a couple of original tracks, and several notable covers (folks like John Coltrane, Joe Henderson & Charles Mingus, just to name a few).  He's joined on bass by Eddie Resto, and by drummers Walter Rodriguez & Ramon Banda.  Monk's "Epistrophy", track 6, is my particular favorite on this album... Askren & krew make the tune just "float" in/out of your consciousness, with lots of lush bass lines running great counterpoint to highly energetic guitar lines, & the percussion is superb.  The players certainly seemed to be having a blast, and their joy is infectious... you'll find your mind tapping rhythms right with them, and after you've absorbed it a couple of times, you'll realize this is one of those hooks that comes back to haunt you (in a good way, of course).  I also liked the opening track, Dave's original composition, "Tiene Tyner", a great deal - the whole band is tight & will wrap you in after only a couple of bars.  I rate this one HIGHLY RECOMMENDED... get more information at   Rotcod Zzaj 

Mambo Mantis - TRANSPHONIC DIMENSIONS:  Our pals over at Wooweb have been busy hoppin' across tesseracts & time warps, as they produced this wonderfully "out there" CD - but we wouldn't expect any less from them.  We've been reviewing material from Bonnie Kane & her wizard warren for eons now... "Mambo Mantis" will take you through the layers of improvised travel on a journey that doesn't necessarily take you back where you originated from... in fact, you'll probably never be able to "get back" what you started with.  That's not necessarily a bad thing, though, 'coz tuneage like "Now The Leg" will unleash potentials you've never even imagined before.  Bonnie is in fine form here, taking her sax where no man (or woman) has dared gone before.  The drums are crisp & the the rest of the instruments accompany in a mode that can only be described as "fury".  This is my favorite cut on the album, though "China Pang" comes in a very close second - it reminds me in many ways of the old "Transmuseq" stuff, with Davey Williams & LaDonna Smith (albeit in a more "21st Century" mode).  If your mind is restless, exploring for new adventure, this IS the ticket... of course, if you're mentally "lazy", & only want to hear what's been played before, this won't be your trip.  From my perspective, it rates a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.  Get more information at   Rotcod Zzaj  SOX1 sample (from MYSPACE)

Scott August - LOST CANYONS:  Scott's flute playing is simply fantastic... on this CD, he's playing the "Anasazi" flute (as well as other types), one of the oldest types of instruments known to mankind.  There's no doubt from his sensitive playing that he's in touch with his Native American roots.  He's put together a total of four CD's, though for some reason, this is our very first listen to his high talent and skill.  His compositional skills, especially in this Native American arena, are unparalleled, at least as far as my ears are concerned - & I've heard a lot of different artists in this genre!  He weaves piano, guitars, synth & lots of other instruments from different cultures (kalimba, udu & tabla, for instance) in carefully, not detracting in the least from the cultural aspects of his canyon theme, yet at the same time showing the universal aspects of music/instruments from all cultures on the globe.  Even jazz fans will find something to like here, as August has a passion for what he plays that comes through shining in all respects.  I love this CD - it will stay in the "keeper" rack, for years to come!  I rate it as MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED... give it a try by playing my favorite track, "Chasing the Sun", or any of the other samples there.  A great album that will be enjoyed by music lovers everywhere.   Rotcod Zzaj

Steve Dooks:  COCKTAILS, HEARTACHES AND CIGARS - My immediate thought on the opening bars of Steve's "I Don't Have You Anymore", was "lounge lizard to the max"... but as you settle back with yer' big cigar, you'll find a certain affection for this extremely talented (& gravelly-voiced) singer/piano player that won't soon quit.  He plays that "stick to yer' ribs" flavor of jazz that stays with you for years, especially if you dig the cut.  The title track just JUMPS right out at you... heavy latin-based rhythm & hep-cat swing jazz that was an absolute favorite for me... took me right back to jazz jumps along the edge of the Ohio river (Columbus) back in the late '80's... very cool stuff!  This guy is an all-original player who knows that musicians sometimes need to be able to take life (& it's foibles) less seriously; that a part of the "entertainment" package needs to be the ability to infuse the listeners' day with joy & a little humor.  Though this is my first listen to his work, it's clear that he will be on the scene for many years to come... "Cocktails, Heartaches and Cigars" gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from our years.  Get more information at  Rotcod Zzaj

The Gust Spenos Quartet - SWING THEORY:  There's far more than "theory" involved with the kickin' music on this splendid debut CD... if it's big band swing you're yearning after, you'll surely get your fix (& more) here!  Lots of trombone from Wycliffe Gordon, Gust's tenor sax swingin' to the max, along with alto by Eric Schneider, some cool vocals by Everett Greene, piano from Marvin Chandler, bvass by Frank Smith & drums from Kenny Phelps.  An even dozen "name" tracks, like "Cheek To Cheek from Irving Berlin & "Ow" by Dizzy Gillespie (my favorite on the CD - it just keeps on MOVING & makin' me tap my toes).  What's most clear through listening to these tracks is that the players were having an absolute BLAST... no heavy-handed steppin' on each other, instead, they come across as if the music is what it's supposed to be - FUN, man!  It's been a while since I listened to a swing band with this much energy & verve; it gets a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from these ol' ears!  Get more information at  Rotcod Zzaj

Plamen Karadonev - CROSSING LINES:  The title track opens this fantastic album/CD, showcasing some of the most solid jazz I've heard (yet) this year... keyboardist/accordionist/composer Karadonev really shows his superb skill and understanding of what it means to take chances and play with cultural diversity... this isn't in the liner notes, but I rather suspect that's what inspired the CD title... Plamen (somehow) merges Balkan folk, classical & superbly straight-ahead 21st century jazz into a blend that will excite the listener who wants something "new"... something slightly "different" from worn-out clichéd music.  Karadonev's piano chops show strong style with real sensitivity for what the listener will hear and react to... we've all (those of who play keyboards, anyway) said "if I could only play like that guy" - that is especially true in this case.  His piano is totally integrated into each piece, yet he doesn't come across as overbearing at all!  My favorite piece is the title track, which you can listen to by clicking on the highlighted title at the beginning of this review.  This is one of the best cross-cultural jazz album's I've listened to in the last couple of years, & I give it a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating, as well as the "PICK" of this issue for "best new jazz" album of 2008.  Get more information at   Rotcod Zzaj

Satoko Fujii Min-Yoh Ensemble - FUJIN RAIJIN:  One reviewer classified this superbly crafted jazz/experimental CD from our (long-time) friend Satoko as "almost terrifying"... & in certain contexts, I suppose that might be somewhat accurate.  Fujii's piano shines (as it does on almost every musical experience I've listened to from her), and the other players are right on top of their form as well... Natsuki Tamura on trumpet, Curtis Hasselbring's trombone & Andrea Parkins playing accordion.  What FUJIN is not is "traditional"... you might suspect that when you heard about the accordion (to some degree), but it is the "improvosition" that makes the music so unique... it feels like every composition was totally improvised, even though I've no doubt that's not true.  If your musical tastes are totally traditional, you'll probably shut the player off & move back to the stability of your AM/FM station... but if your ears are after true adventure, this one comes MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!  Find out more about the album HERERotcod Zzaj

Frank Rosolino & Carl Fontana - TROMBONE HEAVEN, VANCOUVER 1978:  It's simply amazing how well-recorded this session is... they must have done it (somehow) digitally (or remastered that way), even though it was such a ways back.  Joining these two red-hot 'bone players are Elmer Gill on piano, Torban Oxbol on bass & George Ursan doing drums.  The hottest track on the CD is Monk's "Well, You Needn't", no doubt; this tune jumps right in & doesn't quit until the very last note, if you know what I mean - a KICKER!You can listen to samples here... any stolid jazz fan (especially those who dig trombone) is going to want this album in their collection, though... it just won't do to listen to only snitches/snatches.  The recording includes lots of audience interaction, but not enough to get in the way of the music.  I was jumpin' the whole time I listened... I suppose that could have something to do with the era the album was recorded in... more "passion", more "exclusivity" in those days - but whatever the reason, this is an absolute MUST-HAVE for any jazzer worth their salt.  This is THE BEST trombone/jazz album I've ever heard - it gets our MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating, as well as the "PICK" of this issue for "best trombone jazz ever", with no hesitation.  Get more information at CITY HALL RecordsRotcod Zzaj

Lauren Hooker - RIGHT WHERE I BELONG:  If you've not listened to Ms. Hooker's fantastic vocal jazz before, you'll want to rush right out & GET this CD; if you have heard her before, you know why I'm saying that.  The title track is a variation on "Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child", & is my favorite female jazz vocal on the album... in fact, it's my favorite version of that tune ever, I believe.  A Fats Weller tune, "Lovebug Jitters", comes in a close second, probably because of the precision with which she turns the phrases on it.  She has a certain "duskiness" in her voice that lets you know (in the immediate) that she's BEEN where she's singing of!  Those accompanying her are right ON it, too... Allen Farnh on piano, Rufus Reid plays bass & Tim Horner doing drums & percussion... they are SOME KIND of tight, & know exactly where to back away so you can hear what Lauren has to say to you, or move IN to give her a moment's space.  We hear a lot of ladies doing jazz vocals here in the Zzaj abode - I'll tell you, this lady is one of the BEST on the scene... this gets our MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating, & I've no doubt you'll agree.  A superb musical experience!  Get more at   Rotcod Zzaj

Louie Bellson/Clark Terry - LOUIE & CLARK EXPEDITION 2:  Adventure, as in a trek through big-band land, is in the air as I listen to the opener on this CD (& my favorite on the album), "State Street Swing"... not that we haven't heard such tuneage before, of course, but drummer Bellson & trumpet/flugelhorn master Terry infuse this with the kind of energy I remember way back when one of my uncles introduced me to the magick of big-bands via Woody Herman.  What I find most amazing about this particular jazz safari, though, is that it's not "just rollicking" big-band high steppin'... on the 2nd track, "City of Seasons", Clark makes you think you're in the best after-hours joint you've ever been in... that's one BLUE horn, people!  2 cuts later, on "Lake Shore Drive", though, they (all 17 pieces) are back with some of the most soul-filled jumpin' you've heard in years.  An album full of contrasts, this one will stay in your collection, at the top of the stack, for years to come... truly exciting music, it should be "mandatory" for all music classes in High Schools across the land!  It rates our MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED without a moment's hesitation.  Get more information at   Rotcod Zzaj

Herd of Mers - AURORA CAUGHT NAPPING:  Our friends from (as in John & Karen (Riendeau) Orsi, who have been submitting stuff to us for a long, long time now) definitely "changed the mood up" on us... after 3 or 4 jazz wonders in a row, this is a pleasant diversion into rockin' psychedelia, to be sure.  The percussion on the title track opens with the same kinda' fugue you might hear/feel when YOU were being awakened; a haunting piece, no doubt.  The way they blend the excellent drums into the guitar/vocals on "Fold", my favorite track, somehow brings to mind visions of hobbits & goblins dancin' 'round the pillars of StoneHenge... may not be what they intended, but that's what I see/hear... excellent little tune.  There's a hypnotic quality (as with some of John's earlier CD's) that runs all through the music, & Karen & John clearly enjoy doing their (highly talented) vocals together.  Jazzheads may not find this their cup o' tea, but for those who like to rock ev'ry once in a moon's passage, this is THE ticket... gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from these ol' ears!  Get more information at the web site above!  Much FUN!   Rotcod Zzaj

Jeremy Yudkin - Miles Davis, Miles Smiles, and the Invention of Post Bop:  Having been a full-blown fan of Miles ever since I first heard "Bitches' Brew", the title of this book (from Indiana University Press) caught my eye immediately when the promoter sent the announcement out for inclusion in our HAPPENINGS section.  What I didn't expect was a free-flowing (almost improvisational) flow from the author, Jeremy Yudkin (professor of music at the College of Fine Arts and associated faculty of the Department of African American Studies at Boston University and Visiting Professor of Music at Oxford University)... Yudkin's style of writing will wrap any reader (even a musical novice) up completely in his flow.  I assume (though I don't know) that he (Jeremy) wrote this while listening to the albums he wrote about, or that he had listened so extensively that the patterns were sort of "burned" into his brain - for my read, I watched the video of "All Blue" and "Footprints" (one of my favorite all-time tracks) as I read Professor Yudkin's blow-by-blow of each tune he was describing.  His overall focus was that "Miles Smiles" was an album often overlooked as "classic Davis" - he succeeded in convincing me!  This is an excellent account of the often turbulent life of a player that inhabited those cosmic realms that all jazz musicians aspire to, & I give it our MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, particularly for those who want to catch a glimmer of how tunes are structured and (at times) improvised... the musical diagrams that are included really help the reader to understand each track, especially when they are listening to the tune being described.  To order call 1-800-842-6796 or log onto Rotcod Zzaj

Mirio Cosottini/Tonino Miano - THE CURVATURE OF PACE:  All the way from Italy comes this very enjoyable CD full of full-blown piano/trumpet improvisations from Mirio (trumpet) and Tonino (piano).  The intro, "Rushdash", is light/airy, with (as the title implies) a real "movement" to it.  The second piece, "The Hunt", is more sparse, definitely haunting, & full of strange oddistry.  After a solid third listen to the entire album, I found that my favorite track was "Nine Years Ago", probably because of the well-recorded piano... contrasts abound on this composition, too, with breath-tones galore from Cosottini's trumpet providing counterpoint to the sweet sounds from Miano's keyboard. Suffice it to say that it won't be (exactly) what you expected... of course if you are a dedicated fan of improvisation, you wouldn't want it to be anything less, right?  Very exploratory and rewarding musical experience, especially for listeners who refuse to accept "normal" in their adventures.  I give this a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for any and all who want to hear the music of tomorrow - today!  Get more information at   Rotcod Zzaj

Lawrence Blatt - FIBONACCI'S DREAM:  The second CD from Lawrence (the first was "Out Of The Woodwork", though our first listen to his sentimental and highly talented guitar work.  Finger-picked acoustic that brings up images of "the old homestead", "wild west sunsets" and other equally powerful pictures.  He has some great percussion going on down under the title track, which is my favorite on the album (you can listen to it by clicking on the title link above).  I am reminded in some ways of pieces I've heard our friend & collaborator Eric Wallack do, though Blatt's touch & style use a totally different approach... less jazz-oriented (though there are hints of that as well) & more like you might imagine when you think of the music behind "For A Few Dollars More", or "Deliverance".  Another artist who creates songs similar in some ways is a former MIXPOSURE artist, Guy Michetti... another of my favorite tracks on "Fibonacci's Dream" was the last title, "Move Um Out"... I can clearly see a long, long cattle drive forming up across desert mesas and snow-driven plains.  A wonderful album and a display of excellent talent, rated by us as MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!  Get more information about Lawrence at   Rotcod Zzaj

Roger Davidson - BOM DIA:  I remembered Roger's music right away - we had reviewed him in issue #69, & thoroughly enjoyed his light & airy keyboard styling.  This title clearly is more in a Latin vein than the earlier release, perhaps because of the guest percussionist, Marivaldo dos Santos, though bassist David Finck & drummer Paulo Brago add to the distinctly South American/Carribean flavor of the (all original) music on BOM DIA.  A solid collection, very listenable, with just short of a dozen tracks that will stay with you long-term.  The players really went all out with the title track, with highly danceable energy... this one was my favorite track (sample it by clicking on the title at the head of this review), mostly because of the genuinely tight rhythms & crystal-clear recording of Roger's keyboards.  I rate this one as HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for any and all who enjoy listening to highly talented jazz; it's set for a 24 June, 2008 release, so be sure to scout your copy out now!  Get more information from his BIORotcod Zzaj

Bill Hart - SUBJECT TO CHANGE:  If your ears are thirsting for a taste of that good old "fusion" jazz style (with some serious rock-leaning beats mixed in for good measure), this CD from Bill will do the trick, no doubt!  He's clearly a master at passing high energy through his guitar strings to the listener... by the middle of the opener, "On My Way Home", I was clickin' & tappin' ALL digits!  It wouldn't take but 2 listens through the entire CD to convince me that I actually could go back to th' eighties... the bass player (Enrico Galetta) had a lot to do with that "time travel" sensation... lots of finger-poppin', yet solid & flowing lines that serve as phroggin' trusses for Hart's high-energy soloing.  It was an "off-track" composition that really caught my ear, though... "Canadese-Africano"... lots of nice rhythmic counterpoints, & Hart's electric style meshes really nicely with both Gary Wilkins' bass line, superb drums by Charles Marvray & great percussion by Ahsa Ahla... it's my favorite cut on the album.  Superb recording, no "drops", clear from start to finish; only drawback was that with all that great recording, the track titles weren't burned (with CD-text) to the CD, so I had to type them in myself.  That's only a minor criticism, though... the music is so great that it earns a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED... we hope to hear many more from Bill!  Get more information from   Rotcod Zzaj

Don Immel - LONG WAY HOME:  This CD came in from a promoter who usually sends "new age" music... Don's CD, especially on the title track (also the opener), is much more in a jazz vein... probably because of his trombone; this is my favorite cut on the album (listen to it by clicking above).  He has a particularly "rich" & "enduring" style on his notes that somehow makes them "hang" just a second or three longer than you may be used to.  Another cut I found especially intriguing was "Fool's Full Quiver"; Don co-wrote the lyrics with Erin Kaser, showing considerable talent & skill in that area as well!  I'm really impressed, & if you love music that takes you a cut above "smooth", or "same old" (as in creative and original), you'll find "Long Way Home" to your liking for the long-term.  This one definitely will stay in the car CD player for months to come (the highest honor a CD gets here at Improvijazzation Nation)... it rates an immediate MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, as well as the "PICK" of this issue for "best creative music"!  Get more information at   Rotcod Zzaj


Guideline for artists SUBMITTING to us:  We do NOT generally review .mp3 files/sites.  Being an active artist myself, though, I understand the need for the use of Internet sites as a "staging ground" for reviews!  You are encouraged to email us your .mp3 links... we will visit the site/link, & if we like your energies, we will contact YOU!  (We will NOT respond to followup inquiries about .mp3 files, though!!!  p.s.  If you EVER e-mail me .mp3 files, you will be BLACKLISTED on this site!!!)

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  In This Issue: - IF you are the FIRST e-mail respondent to this note (to  - MAKE SURE your subject states ALEX CD), you will receive (free of charge) a copy of a superb jazz CD by Alex Kontorovich, titled "DEEP MINOR" (which was reviewed in our last issue).  We will have (some) more freebies coming in future issues, so be sure & tell all your friends about us!

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