Issue # 85 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 #82 - Detroit Improv Duo (these don't auto-start - CLICK the PLAY button to listen while you read our reviews - or don't, totally up to you!). 

This grouping featured Pontiac, Michigan guitarist extraordinaire Jim Konen, with me on Kurzweill PC 88.  On "The Fasttrack", Jim played horn on his guitar synth - VERY interesting sounds.  The first two tracks also featured drummer Jim Russell, from Olympia, Washington.  ENJOY!

Bruno Raberg - LIFELINES:  We got our first exposure to Bruno's superb jazz bass in issue #73... that was his debut, & his playing has only gotten sweeter as time has flown on by... this is his 6th CD, & the players he's chosen for this one (Chris Cheek on sax, Ben Monder's guitar & drums byTed Poor/Matt Wilson) show his talent as a leader.  These guys are so far "on target", you'll wonder why you haven't been listening to them for lo these many years... it's a very interesting blend they play, mixing traditional forms with/in some very well-improvised compositions.  If a young bass player was looking for an aural role model, this album would be the perfect pathway to inspiration!  Since it's a double CD, there are 23 grand excursions to home in on; some with very calming lines, others that are deep enough that you won't realize until several days later that Raberg & crew have invaded your brain with some very subtle (almost hypnotic) forms that keep coming back to you.  I've started "previewing" all these CD's we get with my .mp3 player, and it was amazing how after only a listen or two, I would find some of his compositions feeling like "old friends" in my neural pathways. One of the tracks that really did that for me (& my favorite of all on the CD's) was "Moondown"... slow piece, but a very tasty (& invasive) morsel.  VERY impressive & get my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating in the immediate.  Get more information at   Rotcod Zzaj

Anne Phillips - BALLET TIME:  A lady jazz vocalist of high talent (to be sure) who we've not listened to before put this marvelous CD together with a quite unique twist... one track with each of some of her favorite players... folks like Dave Brubeck, Marian Mcpartland, Roger Kellaway, Bob Dourough & Dave Frishberg, just to name a few.  Certainly lends itself to different feelings and moods, & clearly demonstrates her musical skills... anyone who can sing with all these different players & pull it off with/in "their" style has got to be impressive.  Her approach to the pacing & her ability to discern "just where" the vocal needs to go is very attractive, & will make even the most "non-jazz" listener find something they love in her singing.  Since my own playing favors Rhodes so much, I imagine that "Here's To Life" became an instant hit for me (in part) because of Artie Butler's skill on the instrument, but there is no question that had it not been for Ms. Phillips superb vision of how the words needed to sound, it wouldn't have been near as cool... simply beautiful!  This album stands FAR ABOVE many of the female jazz vocal recordings we get in for review, especially since Anne is so able to wrap the listener in to the spell she is creating.  You won't find much better today - I give this one a definite MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.  Check her out today at   Rotcod Zzaj

Igor - OGOGO + LINDEN:  This fantastic set of improvised 21st Century works features an artist I'm surprised I'd not heard from before... a decidedly jazz "flavor", yet his guitar reminds me of 2 artists I'm exceedingly familiar with... Bret Hart's early works and my long-time improvising friend Davey Williams (who was one of the first guitarists I ever improvised with).  The "difference" is that Igor has matured his own style and (musically) paints his own aural images for your braincase... you will never be "the same" after your exposure to this adventurous and entertaining CD!  All originals, with reproductions of the Ron Linden paintings that inspired many of the tunes.  Clearly not "just another wild improv", there is a definite sense of direction in his playing/mixing, & I found myself listening back through several times in order to grasp the sonic imagery he was laying down.  It's true that a listener who only goes for AM radio or other adventure-free music won't find this terribly enjoyable - but those who read this 'zine regularly will "grok" that the musical language Igor speaks in transcends all barriers erected by those "blue meanie" types, & will perceive his vision immediately... this album gets our MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for listeners who want something different, fresh & new!  Get more information at   Rotcod Zzaj

Bob Mover - IT AMAZES ME:  I believe you as a listener will be amazed as well... Mover's alto & tenor sax playing is first-rate all the way through his Zoho debut CD, & his wonderful and expressive vocals will make you wonder why you haven't heard more of this fantastic musician (his first release in over 20 years).  The album features players like Kenny Barron (piano), Dennis Irwin (bass), Steve Williams (drums), Reg Schwager (guitar) & Igor Butman (tenor sax)... truly an "all-star" cast, totally fitting for a player of Bob's legendary stature.  If you're a long-time jazz fan, you'll listen to this musical experience over & over again, & recognize the superb talent displayed here for what it is - wonderful!  I ran through this on the .mp3 player at least 10 times, catching different nuances on each listen... the mark of true artistry comes through in every bar.  The title track was most impressive, & my favorite on the album... I think that's because of Bob's heartfelt vocal (click on the review header to listen).  A great CD that merits an immediate MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, as well as the "PICK" of this issue for "most enjoyable jazz" album.  Get more information at   Rotcod Zzaj

Ian Tescee - A TRAVELER'S GUIDE TO MARS:  If they have this kind of beat full music on Mars, I expect everyone will be signing up for the journey... you can get a clear and present preview of what the voyage may be like by listening to Ian's masterful space music vision on this electronic extravaganza.  This isn't just any ordinary set of electronic music... Mr. Tescee has gained (almost) cult status in the circles dedicated to such music, and your ears will recognize the extreme gift he has for turning dreams into sonic reality from the opening bar.  Very easy to imagine yourself crashing through the asteroid zones at hyper-speed as you listen to one of my favorite cuts, "The New World" or feeling the mystery of new explorations brought to life by "Beneath The Ice"... "Ice" has many layers, and you'll listen in awe as you discover Tescee's talented insights on this one.  A grand musical adventure that merits our MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating.  Get more information at   Rotcod Zzaj  this

AO - TWIRL:  Highly impressive world/electronic with some fantastic percussion undercurrents that will suck you in to it's vortex and spin you out as a newly "awakened" being (unless you're already caught up in the miasma of "mindless" music that's so prevalent on today's .mp3 players)... if you're already seeking music that's a cut above the pap served up on today's AM (& even FM) channels, though, you'll find this sonic adventure to your liking!  We reviewed their "Grow Wild" CD many years ago in issue #41... they were impressive then & are even moreso on "TWIRL".  The album is slated for an October 2008 release, so you'll want to go to their site, at (right now) & get yours... or download only the .mp3's that you enjoy most.  One of the more energetic pieces was "Obayo", with a crisp vocal opener followed by excellent percussion that segues nicely into a very danceable piece of music.  Rather than "world" (if I had to categorize their playing), I would term this as "universal"... but with the universe viewed from human minds open to possibility and hope... as I listen to this, hope is the feeling that courses through each and every composition (maybe Obama should be using this as his campaign theme).  No matter what word you use, though, this CD will be well-received by your aural/mental channels... I give it our MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, as well as "PICK" of this issue for "most inspiring musical experience".  Get more information at their site (above).  Rotcod Zzaj

Stringtrek (LaDonna Smith/Misha Feigin) - FLOATING BRIDGES:  My friend LaDonna sent this "just out" release as a part of her revival of the "Transmuseq" label she & Davey Williams started many years ago.  What a perfect musical experience to highlight an improv revival... as I listen to her violin/viola/voice and guitar/balalaika/vocals from Misha Feigin, I'm reminded of the times of high excitement I participated in when Transmuseq had just formed!  The difference is that this session was definitely 21st Century, recorded live in Krakow, Poland on June 6th, 2007... 'n it KOOKZ, folks!  In the letter that accompanied, she described this album as "just out"... if that were the case, it truly would hearken back to those early days (since that's pretty much what we played - "out").  The music in this performance is conveyed with much fuller "body", however, and though (certainly) not "mainstream", it came across as quite accessible!  LaDonna has always encouraged what I call the "inter-mingle", too, & my favorite track on the album is "Tribal Reverberation", especially for the spoken-word it contains... SMOKING!!!  I've a feeling that over the next 20 years, "regular" listeners will demand adventure in their music, & "FLOATING BRIDGES" will be remembered as one of the first CD's that made listeners thirst for more improvisational energy.  For those who love improvised magic already, as well as new young minds looking for "fresh", this comes MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!  Get more information at the TRANSMUSEQ site.  Rotcod Zzaj

Kate Schutt - NO LOVE LOST:  I've been very impressed with the "ArtistShare" projects we've been reviewing over the last couple of issues... & this fantastic effort from Ms. Schutt is no exception... superb vocals that cross in/out of jazz and popular music genres.  Her voice is smoky, sultry and will have you laughin', cryin' & singin' th' blues right along with her.... & on that note, the "ArtistShare" experience is a collaborative one... hear Kate explain what it's all about in her own words, or watch her perform "Calamity" (one of my  favorite tracks) live!  This lady is a master at what she's trying to do, & will draw many comparisons... Rickie Lee Jones, as well as Joni Mitchell, come to mind immediately, but you'll find her voice and writing style are uniquely hers & that she's easy to fall in love with.  Since most of the ideas for these "love stories" came from others, Kate has added a new dimension to what being a performer is all about... she is now writing to interpret what the other person felt, & that is just so cool!  Only a truly talented performer could pull a project like this off, and I'd think it probably took hours on end to sort through all the submissions to cull the ones she could turn into compositions that would "reach out & touch" all that listen.  Keep your ears on Kate, she will be rising UP rapidly (& remember, that prediction came from Zzaj)!  MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED & the "PICK" of this issue for "best folk/jazz"!  Get more information at Kate's ARTISTSHARE site.  Rotcod Zzaj

John Stein - ENCOUNTERPOINT:  I first reviewed John's CD "Green Street" in issue #79... this new jazz excursion features his superb guitar artistry in a very different vein... though his guitar & acoustic bass are still excellent, the tone of the compositions is much more cosmopolitan; sorta' "uptown", if you will!  His quartet features the keyboards of Koichi Sato, acoustic bass by John Lockwood & drums/percussion by Ze Eduardo Nazario... truly international.  You can get a full 6 minute preview (albeit a bit lo-fi) of my favorite cut, "Jordu", by clicking on the track title here... that tune clearly demonstrates how tight the players are together, as well as the sophistication of the compositions on this wonderful 7th album.  There's a decidedly Latin feel to many of the pieces, but not in a "one orientation" sense; it's just that you can feel it as a part of his musical vision, & his talents shine through.  This one is perfect for the headphone zone, & you should reserve a full hour to absorb all the pieces.  Shades of the "Green Street" phunk peek through on "Half-Whole Blues", another favorite of mine; in the whole, this is one of the most enjoyable guitar-based CD's I've heard this year.  I give "ENCOUNTERPOINT" an unequivocal MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating.  Get more information at   Rotcod Zzaj

Court Mast - SAUSALITO SUMMER:  If you're looking for an album that allows you to kick back & groove, Court's magic cornet/trumpet will do it all for you, no doubt.  & when you toss in Scott Petersen's saxophones, flute from Tim Wallace, piano by Sam Grobe-Heintz, Dave Bell's guitar, bass by Ari Munkres & Kendrick Freeman's drums, it truly comes together!  I imagine one of the reasons I'm so excited by the often funky tuneage is because they are all Mast original compositions; as regular readers of this 'zine know, I believe pretty firmly that originals give the listener a much closer glimpse into the mind/soul of the players.  Mr. Mast notes players like Henry Mancini & Chuck Mangione as favorites of his, & it's clear from listening to the title track (click on the link in the review title to hear it) that he understands what 'dat FONK be all about!  My favorite piece on the album, though, is "Tam Junction"... very playful & breezy, with some heavy blues (background) influences.  The most notable thing about this whole musical experience is that there's something different from track to track... though the players definitely know how to get in th' groove, they don't get stuck in any ruts.  One suggestion would be to get a video up on "You Tube" as quickly as can be... I would love to get a visual sample of them playing together.  This one gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from our ears, & we hope to hear much more from Court.  Get more information at   Rotcod Zzaj

Pascal Bokar - SAVANNA JAZZ CLUB:  We don't get a lot of "live club" recordings any more; not sure why, maybe because they're often difficult to get mastered well... no worries on this one, though... Pascal's talent comes shining through on every tune, along with the legendary Donald "Duck" Bailey's drums & a host of other players far too long to list here (you'll have to check it out online to get the whole cast list).  Bokar's guitar playing borders on full mastery, and the jazz message he preaches comes from his blood... there's nothing contrived on these performances, and several original compositions give you a very clear glimpse into the joy he's offering up (much of that joyful message due in part to his West African heritage).  No doubt there are touches of Wes (as in Montgomery) apparent in his playing, but the real deal is a clear sonic image of a free soul who knows how to dig right on down to the roots of jazz and interpret it so even a listener new to jazz will catch the fire.  I'm highly impressed & hope to hear (much) more from Mr. Bokar.  "SAVANNA JAZZ CLUB" gets more than just a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating... it's also the "PICK" of this issue for "most joyous jazz"!  Get more information at  Rotcod Zzaj

The Rick Ray Band - VIOLENCE MARRED BY PEACE:  Rick is one of the most prolific players we have ever heard... ergo, impossible to list all the issues we've reviewed him in (please use the SEARCH tool at the bottom of this page to take your own tour).  Though his high-powered guitar playing often treads into jazz territory, it's his anti-evil message that really attracted my ears so many years ago... he's not afraid to terrorize the evil that surrounds us (usually in the form of double-speaking politicians who are so far removed from us that they HAVE to lie to get the masses to fall in line).  The cover of this CD release tells the entire story... some nasty implications there for folks like Georgie, as well as those in our midst (about 95%) who can't "see" what's going on around them.  On to the music... it's "SGT Pepperspray" that made my ears perk right up... especially 'coz Rick's guitar comes through with total talent displayed on this one!  I've been a fan of this band for years now, and you will form an allegiance by the second track, guaranteed.  Excellent rockin' album that gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from us!  Get more information at   Rotcod Zzaj

Charmaine Clamor - MY HARANA:  Charmaine's excellent jazz vocals on her "FLIPPIN' OUT" CD were reviewed in issue #78 - most favorably, I might add.  It's important to point out that the songs on this new album are much different in style & tone... though her deep and sultry vocals still hold you in a magic spell, they are much more oriented towards the Filipino tradition of Harana (serenading your lover) than straight-ahead jazz.  Don't let that stop you from giving her a close listen, especially if you're in a pensive mood and want to feel the beauty of being ministered to as a lover.  I do prefer her jazz orientation, no question, but this was a genuinely unique listening experience, without question.  I rate this one as HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, and expect that those of Filipino descent will feel like they're right at home as they listen to her exquisite style and talent.  Get more information at   Rotcod Zzaj

Benn Clatworthy, Chris Colangelo, Ryan Doyle - THE DECIDER:  Benn's excellent soprano/tenor sax work, along with some sweet flute, is complimented very nicely by bass from Chris & drums by Ryan on this nicely recorded CD.  He's been on the California scene for some many years now (since 1980), after migrating from England, and has played with names like Cedar Walton, Lary Gales & Lionel Hampton.  Clatworthy copies no one else's style & has a unique and distinctive style that will be very attractive to any jazz fan worth their salt.  You can catch a live recording of him at YOUTUBE (not the same players, but his sax work is still brilliant).  The title track is the most introspective on the album, with some rich tones from his reeds, but I found "Patterns" (track 3) to be my favorite... each player gets to show their talent, and your ears will be delighted through all 6:58 minutes - but especially during Benn's outstanding solo!  This one rates a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED without question, and will be a keeper for any jazz fan who loves exceptional reed work!  Get more information at   Rotcod Zzaj

The James Moody and Hank Jones Quartet - OUR DELIGHT:  Dedicated jazz fans the world over can always tell when they are listening to the true masters, & Hank's piano joined with James' tenor sax and flute work are in that class without doubt.  Todd Coolman's bass and drums by Adam Nussbaum flesh out the quartet for a jazz experience you won't soon forget (or put down, either).  Amazingly enough, this is their very first recording together... I found that hard to believe, but it's true; so, in that sense, this IS a "classic"... their solid playing and heartfelt soul just shine through, & you won't want to miss the chance to hear them.  It's a very straight-ahead recording, basically standards, but packed with punch from the opening to closing measures!  This takes me back years and years, though newly initiated jazz fans will find freshness and verve in every tune.  My favorite cut was Dizzy's "Woody & You", with an oddly named tune by Moody called "Darben the Red Foxx" coming in a close second because of his superb flute... if you didn't like jazz before you listened to this tune, you WILL!  This gets our MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, along with an advisement that you'll WANT to have this in your collection... visit to get more information.  Rotcod Zzaj

Spencer Brewer - CINEMATIC: 2 very interesting CD's in this package from Spencer... first one titled "Black & White", featuring Brewer's piano interpretations, which are full-bodied an rich-toned... but when the fantastic strings, horns and other grand sounds are added to the same track on the second CD (titled "Technicolor"), the tracks really come to life!  I imagine it will depend more on your mood at the moment to decide which album you enjoy more... both versions have intimate little nuances that will be revealed on repeated listens.  Brewer's explorations are for the most part related to film music - what you might term "movie scores"... a whole art unto itself, if you've never noticed that before... "average viewers" often don't realize just how powerful the music behind the imagery is, and how it is intentionally designed to influence the emotions... Spencer's wonderful CD's will bring that home for you!  One of the most haunting pieces (from the TECHNICOLOR side) was "Fellini's Carousel", my favorite on the albums... wonderful orchestral sequences for your ears!  Many of the compositions are Brewer originals that have already been used in films such as "Heartwood", "Last Chance for Eden" and many others.  While the CD's can't be placed in any pigeonhole, and certainly aren't "jazz" in the strictest sense, the music is rich and rewarding for any listener willing to take a headphone ride (recommended), and I give it a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, to be sure.  Get more information at   Rotcod Zzaj

Toni Jannotta - IS IT MAGIC?:  We hadn't listened to Toni's rich and husky jazz vocals before, but were most pleasantly surprised.   She's definitely not "just another lady jazz singer"... 8 of the dozen tracks are her original compositions (though she only plays keyboards on the last cut, "Ruthie's Themes").  Greg Gordon Smith's excellent piano, Pablo Motta's sultry bass, superb drums from Chris Wabich and fine flute work by Scheila Gonzalez back her on all the pieces in most excellent fashion.  It's clear that these are high talent players, totally dedicated to wrapping the listener into the web/spell they are weaving... they accomplish that in most jumping fashion on my favorite Janotta composition, "Ventura", as well as on my second favorite cut on the album, "Storm's A Comin'"... one of the prettiest and well-composed pieces I've heard in a while!  If you'd like to see her performing live, visit THIS PAGE on her site... or just go to to get more information.  "IS IT MAGIC?" gets my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, especially for those most enchanted by female vocalists with true verve & panache. Rotcod Zzaj

Leonardo E M Cioglia - CONTOS:  We were excited to get this Brazilian bassist's CD in for review... final details on release don't appear to be available on the web yet, so you can surely say you "heard about it here first" (that's why there's no cover image available).  His music is full of magic, and his compositions are full of the mystery of life... don't read that wrong, though... "mysterious" doesn't mean "inaccessible"... it's just that you will be best entertained if you listen to this with headphones on, at least on the first round, to wrap yourself in the pleasant sonic images and textures he paints for your ears.  I am more than (just) impressed; this is one of the best bass-led groups I've heard in many years.  The list of players has too many to itemize here... suffice it to say that they meld together in almost "orchestral" fashion throughout this wonderful album.  To get an intimate view of a very dynamic live performance of my favorite cut on the album, click the title - "Lencois de Areia"... very robust tune & superbly composed! This album comes MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for any jazz fans who have more than the usual dose of bass in their listening menu.  To get more information about when "CONTOS" will be officially released, visit   Rotcod Zzaj

Jonathan Voltzok - MORE TO COME:  This young jazz trombonist is simply stellar, no question... & "he's only just begun"!  9 tracks on his "Kol Yo Records" debut CD, 5 of them Voltzok originals, & all of them straight ahead hard-charging jazz... he's joined by Aaron Goldberg's piano, Barak Mori's bass, drums from Ali Jackson & has 2 special guests - fellow-trombonist (of legendary stature) Slide Hampton (tracks 2 & 9), as well as alto saxophone from giant Antonio Hart (tracks 4 & 6).  Jonathan's already a master of the be-bop tradition, and someone to keep your ears on, especially from the standpoint of compositional skills!  The slinky "Shadows" best illustrates his sensitivity to capturing the listener, & is my favorite cut on the CD... but the band also kicks some tail on Horace Silver's "Opus de Funk" - truly tight playing, every note is "right on time".  If you thought jazz was dead & want to get it back in the "living zone" again, just pick up this CD - like NOW, folks!  I give this one a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, as well as "PICK" of this issue for "best young composer".  Get more information at   Rotcod Zzaj

Roger Kellaway - Live At The Jazz Standard (2 disc set):  This IPO label has been doing a ton of live recording lately... anything from Mr. Kellaway is welcome here for review (we've reviewed him exclusively in #71 & #68 (in 68, he played piano for a tribute to Tom Macintosh).  What's always enchanting about Kellaway's keyboard playing is his "touch"... that will definitely be the envy of those who aspire to becoming a piano player... it's not just that he's right "on" every note, it's also that he uses touch to "shade" the passages, more effectively than anyone I've ever listened to (& BELIEVE me, I've listened to a lot of keyboard players).  Whenever I see a picture of him, I can't help thinking "Burl Ives" (probably isn't "fair", but that's the image I got... ha! ha!), but as a jazzer, he's about as far removed from that era as one can be... Roger is the ULTIMATE jazz keyboard meister, & you'll fall in love with his playing in the immediate.  Key players with him on this extended 2 CD set include Russell Malone on guitar, Stefon Harris' vibes, Jay Leonhardt's bass and cello from Borislav Strulev, and they take this live jazz set to a new level... I mean, it's still purely jazz, but with Strulev's wonderful cello, it's elevated to the n'th degree!  Whether you're a dyed-in-the-wool jazz aficionado or a newbie, you'll find hours and hours of pleasure from this outing.  I give it a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED... get more information on the 14 November, 2008 release at   Rotcod Zzaj

Aaron Irwin Group - BLOOD AND THUNDER:  Seven of the nine wonderful jazz compositions on this fantastic CD were penned by Aaron, and it's easy to tell when you hear the extreme energy and clear talent that comes shining through your ears as you listen!  Irwin is from Illinois, and the photos that accompany the CD/jacket/etc., make it clear that he's managed to maintain his roots as a "real person", despite the hubbub and confusion often associated with NYC (in fact, all kidding aside, when I first looked at the pictures, I thought I was looking at the cover photos for an old 1960's jazz album.. ha! ha!). Mr Irwin disproves that illusion on "Little Hurts", my favorite track on the album... the reeds are spot on, & Ben Monder's guitar solo sneaks up on you, then just soars, carrying you into zones you've never imagined before (even though the piece is only 5:52)... Aaron really knows how to build a tune to fever pitch!  This is high-talent & energy at it's best... gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from my ears!  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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