Issue # 86 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!

Lua Hadar (with Twist) - LUA HADAR WITH TWIST:  If you find yourself in the mood for something slightly "different", you'll enjoy this 2nd CD from Lua... her vocals are highly energized & the players have a wonderfully engaging flow & presence that will immerse you in her "jazz world" quite pleasantly!  Nice video presentation YOUTUBE that will give you a good feel for what the album will bring you, though the recording provides a lot better ambience than the vid.  Listen to a sample of "Floating Where I Have Never Been (Je Vle)" to hear why I found her so very enchanting... Hadar has a real talent for wrapping you in with her unique vocals, & she sounds like she (just) lives for the music!  With such a versatile performer, you'll find this CD is a most welcome addition to collections that focus in on well-crafted jazz with high soulfulness and spirit.  A very nice 40 minute interlude that you'll listen to over & over, this album gets a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from our ears!  Get more detail from her website at   Rotcod Zzaj

Larry McDonough Quartet - SIMPLE GIFTS:  You'll not likely find a better gift than Larry's simple, yet enchanting, keyboard style... as those who listen a lot to piano/Rhodes artists know, keyboardists often get so "far down" into their playing that their presentations/performances come across as too self-engaged, but McDonough makes it clear from the opening line that he's much more interested in passing on his sense of joy than any sense of self-importance!  The players with him (Richard Terrill on tenor/soprano sax, Craig Matarrese's bass & electric bass, as well as super-sensitive drums by Chaz Draper) add to that sense of excitement and inspiration... an excellent quartet with superb talents and a real sensitivity for the emotions that drive listeners.  I found the title track (click on the link in the header to hear it) to be the most passionate & full of musical mystery, but "Dame la Mano/Red River Valley" came in a close second... full-bodied jazz that will quench your thirst for jazz with high spirit!  Larry's Rhodes on "Aja" took me back years to a certain Joe Zawinul & that whole Weather Report groove... this is one of the best keyboard-oriented CD's I've heard this year, & in addition to a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating, it also gets the "PICK" of this issue for "most sophisticated keyboard jazz"!  Get more information at   Rotcod Zzaj

Barbara King - PERFECT TIMING:  We all know the old saw about the DJ who doesn't "look" like he/she "sounds"... well, on this splendid musical outing, Ms. King doesn't "sound" like she "looks"... though her album picture is very flattering, you would never guess the TOTAL deepness in her vocals from that picture... I mean, it's just astounding... heavy-duty spirit flows through every line she sings, and she'll capture your heart & soul by the end of the very first track!   She'll have you reminiscing about Sarah Vaughn or Ella type performances in no time... 11 tracks, 4 of which are originals... in fact, it's the title track (an original, track 7) which immediately took my pick as favorite... some really nice rhythmic shifts, & Barbara is right out there in front of it (click on the album title above to listen to it).  "Your Smile", with it's gentle Latin persuasion, came in a close second.  Her debut CD is flawless... recording is excellent and her performances are full of soul and verve.  If you're looking for a perfect gift for your music lover whose prime attraction is energetic jazz vocals, you'll find it's "perfect timing"... the CD release is 11/25/2008, so get that gift NOW!  I give this one a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.  Get more information at    Rotcod Zzaj

The Fred Hess Band - SINGLE MOMENT:  I've said it before, & I'm sure I'll say it on the next few CD's as well... this grand player captures the "spirit" of jazz in his tenor sax compositions... he's joined by the same players he had on his "In The Grotto" CD, as well as fellow Pennsylvanian Dale Bruning on guitar.  What always shines through in a musical adventure from Fred is true energy for the music and the playing of it... one of the best examples of that on this go-round is "Norman's Gold", my favorite track on the album... this one just keeps moving... won't stop, in fact; & I don't just mean in the sense of be-bop madness, it's got a HOOK that won't quit - just keeps running through my head.  If you want something that won't "stick in your head" (unless you're already "bouncing off walls"); much more free-form... "Return Of The Clefs"... very humorous... yah, I know, jazz is supposed to be "serious", but get over it, eh?  Ha! Ha!  Immensely enjoyable!  Jazz fans everywhere will find this a most enjoyable musical adventure, & will certainly agree with my declaration - MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!  Get more information at  (& be sure to tell them we sent you, OK?).  Rotcod Zzaj

Brian Kelly - AFTERPLAY:  This is our first outing with Brian's wonderful and highly talented keyboard work... & though it's a very contemporary style that he composes in, his musical spirit keeps his tunes far away from the (dreaded) "smooth jazz" pit... I'm very highly impressed.  There is a sense of raw & unadulterated joy in the playing that escapes many artists.  It doesn't hurt that he has some really strong players with him... far too many to itemize in a review, but you can get all that information (& more) on the CD page.  It was actually the opening track "River Rush" that turned out to be my favorite... you can just feel the rapids he's rushing you through... there is real movement implied, & you won't be able to sit still for this one!  A close second (for me, anyway), was "Snowflakes Rising"... it's not strictly a jazz track, but has real majesty as it's vision (& the segue into the next track is seamless).  You'll definitely want to keep your ears on this gent... he'll be at the top of the charts before you know it (don't forget, you heard it here first).  Grand energy and style that gets a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from me - very impressive!  Rotcod Zzaj

Tom Teasley - PAINTING TIME:  Seems like "old home week" around here tonight... we reviewed Tom's "Global Standard Time" quite some time ago (issue #37, which would have been in the late '90's, in fact)... we were greatly impressed then & glad to be reacquainted with his music!  His sonic palette is covered with rhythmic rainbows and morsels for your mind, but because the jazz is based on world-class talent, it will be a far more rewarding experience than any "conventional" drummer you've ever heard.  The best sonic mural I've heard this year is his "Good Foot Dervish", one of those smokers that starts right off & doesn't stop 'til it's over, if you catch my drift.  My favorite images on the CD, however, were realized in "White Orchid", one of those mysterious pieces that takes you right back to where the rhythm all began... simply a GREAT tune that will come back to haunt you!  If you love high talent with a distinct orientation towards percussion, you'll agree when I declare this to be MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED... in fact, this one gets the "PICK" of this issue for "best percussion-based jazz".  Like me, you'll want to hear much more from Tom!   Get more information at or  Rotcod Zzaj

Wayne Wallace Latin Jazz Quintet - INFINITY:  Well, Wayne's at it again... got his trusty trombones & tuba out to carry your ears on a galactic journey to the other side of... well, "Infinity"... we first reviewed his musical efforts in issue #84 on his "The Nature Of The Beat" album. If you want to see him live (albeit a bit grainy), check out his HEALDSBERG performance.  No matter where you check him out, Wayne's music will be full of heavy rhythm & innovative composition/arrangement... he's on a roll, & we all know how that goes - just RIDE the wave for as long as you can!  His appeal goes across all genre lines, and his talent shines through clearly... as you might expect, percussion plays a major role, thanks in great part to Michael Spiro's excellent grasp of what will make the listener move & groove!  What's most noticeable about "Infinity" is the emphasis on jazz styles that go far beyond "normal" Latin music... that was especially noticeable on "Love Walked In" (my favorite cut on the CD)... the quintet is joined by vocalist Jackie Ryan on this one, & this track alone makes the adventure worthwhile!  If you're in the mood for something with slick Rhodes/keyboard sounds, you'll dig "Straight Live/Mr. Clean"... slick blend, to be sure.  I give this one a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED... shades of Zawinul & Weather Report, to be sure.  Get more information at   Rotcod Zzaj

Jon Larsen - THE JIMMY CARL BLACK STORY:  We reviewed a CD by Jon sometime back called "Strange News From Mars" (issue #79).  The tracks on this new double album set sound (to me) like they were an "extension" of those sessions... as you'll see if you read the earlier review, I was hepped up 'coz Larsen was telling the Mars story in a (most) Zappian vein & featuring one of my favorite players from that era, Jimmy; this "extended tour", if you will, doesn't disappoint in the least, in fact some of the music on "The Jimmy Carl Black Story" takes the listener ever closer to the surreal blues/guitar scenarios that M.O.I. played those many years ago. I'm not quite sure what's going on, because Jon's HOTCLUB web page didn't show this album... maybe he's releasing it independently?  At any rate, the street date is 11/25/2008, so if you're a Zappa throwback & dug the fierce spirit of Jimmy Carl Black as a part of those adventures, you'll simply have to have this one in your collection.  Quite a few of the original players join in, most notably, Tommy Mars on drums & Jimmy on vocals/telephone... all 'round, a superb album that will be (both) nostalgic & full of fun!  I give this a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!  Get more information at QUALITON  Rotcod Zzaj

Mark Masters Ensemble - FAREWELL WALTER DEWEY REDMAN:  There is no greater musical pleasure than listening to jazz greats like Dewey Redman; alas, he's departed this earthly realm... in steps Mark Masters (who had played with Redman quite often before, & actually had planned to record with him in 2006), arranging 7 of the 11 tracks into a most appealing jazz excursion for listeners across the globe.  Oliver Lake plays tenor & alto sax, joined by trumpet from Tim Hagans, Peter Erskines' drums & Dave Carpenter on string bass... there are some excellent piano lines from Milcho Leviev as well, but with a 16-piece ensemble (as you might imagine), there is a lot of energy going on here.  First impression on the opening track, "Dewey's Tune", is a spirit of adventure and playfulness that you rarely find on tribute albums... these guys ROCK it, folks... you'll be engaged from the opening bar to the last lick!  If you prefer some alleycat slip&slide with a downright raunchy feel to it, you'll especially dig "Boody", favorite track on the CD.  You don't have to be a hardcore jazzhead to enjoy this fantastic album, as it's very accessible, even to the novice jazz listener.  All in all, a splendid listen that clearly merits a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from me!  Get more information from the CAPRI RECORDS catalog   Rotcod Zzaj

Marcus Goldhaber with the Jon Davis trio - TAKE ME ANYWHERE:  A strangely exciting vocal set by Marcus on this one... his voice makes me wonder if it's not Peggy Lee singing at first, but about half-way through the opener "No Moon At All", it's clear that Goldhaber's style is just "unique" & not unattractive at all. Some of the cuts are a bit too laid-back (in pace) for my ears, but his original composition - "A Walk" -  has a wonderfully "bouncy" feel that will lift your spirit up from the dregs!  My favorite track (because it has some superb jazz piano from Jon Davis, who co-authored this original, was "I Fall Apart"... this one just smokes, volkz!  A Buddy DeSilva/Jerome Kern called "Look For The Silver Lining" comes in a close second... Marcus' vocal is splendid on this one, & the whole trio participates with true verve & vigor.  If you're looking for a listen that is both enchanting & relaxing, you'll agree with my HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating & will visit the CD BABY page to get more information or purchase the CD.  Nicely done!  Rotcod Zzaj

Charlie Saibel & the Intrusions - HURDY GURDY BAND :  My long-time (& highly talented) musical friend Charlie actually released this album about a year (or so) ago... he had given me a copy, but it somehow got lost in the shuffle when we were moving to Hawaii... so I got him to kick me another copy as soon as we got back in town last month.  This "version" of his band, "The Intrusions", features (all) players I've watched him perform with (live) before... dynamite guitarist Steve Nowak, downright kickin' soprano/alto & tenor sax (as well as flute) from local artist Dan Blunck, & sure-fire drumming from Mike Slivka.  Old standard tracks (for Charlie, anyway) like "Demon Rum", and some smokin' arrangements on "Gordon's Blues", as well as a rawkin' gutsy blooz cut called "Hot In Heaven" all blend together into a mix that will have you steppin' for sure.  Charlie's organ on "Heaven" is pure pleasure, no doubt at all, & when Steve slides in with his high-flyin' guitar lead lines, it's you who will be in Nirvana.  Recording quality on this one represents something that's been going on with the various Saibel releases over the last several years... each one gets better; & that's especially true for Charlie's stunning vocals on this one!  I'm highly impressed, & you will be as well, especially if you love blues organ with a jazz flavor... this one gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!  Get more information by emailing Charlie at   Rotcod Zzaj

Hot Club De Norvege - DJANGO MUSIC:  This fantastic little CD came in with a package (reviewed in this issue) from Jon Larsen... it also features Finn Hauge doing violin and harmonica (his harp is just excellent), as well as guitar & vocals from Per Frydenlund and bass from Svein Aarbostad.  The key thought that shines through while you're listening to these guys play is (pure & simple) joy!!!  Jazz in the highest traditions of Django Reinhardt, truly string-based jazz, with a hot dose of "today" spirit tossed in for good measure... the recording is sweet, & I imagine it took some fairly significant engineering to capture their gypsy souls in such sharp and crystally-defined atmospheres.  They've been playing together for many years, and you can hear the talent just pouring over your ears... this is an album that will stay in the "keeper" pile for eons, not just a few months!  Listeners who haven't listened to Django Reinhardt's magic music before will find that this musical adventure is the perfect place to hear what all the excitement is about... a splendid CD that I give a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, & give the "PICK" of this issue for "best gypsy jazz"!  Get more information at their QUALITON page!   Rotcod Zzaj

Peter Sommer - CROSSROADS:  Sommer's tenor saxophone is displayed for your ears in high form... he's joined by an excellent pianist, Eric Gunnison, bassist Ken Walker & drummer Todd Reid for a CD adventure you won't soon forget.  I couldn't find any "deep links" for this album (yet), but if you go to his MYSPACE page, you'll be able to preview the album.  Peter's strength is really in the deep and rich sonic tones he's able to paint in... this is the kind of jazz that has "meat on it's bones", & even the most jaded improv fan will enjoy what Sommer is doing here.  Unfortunately, there were only two original tracks by Peter on this outing - hope for more originals on the next release... don't let that stop you, though, because on tunes like Wayne Shorter's "Dance Cadaverous" (my favorite piece on the album), the recording & playing are so far above average that you won't notice the difference betwixt original and cover.  Another fantastic cut IS an original... "Carpe Coffee" ensures that the listener will be jumpin' right along with the players high energy and verve!  If you're looking for a "Rocky Mountain" jazz high (the players are all from Colorado), you'll agree with me when I declare this to be MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for lovers of stellar jazz!   Rotcod Zzaj

The Burr Johnson Band - WHAT IT IS:  Slated for a 5 February 2009 release, this CD is bound to hit the streets running... I want to say that this is our "first listen" to Burr's smashing guitar-tistry, but I'm sure I'd be in error, since he's played with Spyro Gyra, Ray Charles, B.B. King & a whole host of other "names" in the jazz/funk arena.  I can tell you, without qualification, that he is one of the funkiest (& most exciting) players I've listened to in many, MANY years... while his guitar leads will scorch your ears, the crisp & punctual drums from Thierry Arpino & heavy phonk bass from Al Payson will have you itchin' to get up on your feet & MOVE that THANG!  You can watch the band perform "Slinky's Big Brother" or "Ol Factory" at YouTube by clicking... but for much better sound quality, you've just GOT to get this CD!  I'm sure that my impression of this trio was jump-started by the fact that they play all originals, but it's also because they're able to revive a spirit that was prevalent in the early '60's... not just "adventure", but "discovery" & the sense that there IS hope... maybe Obama should use "Ol Factory" (my favorite on the CD - it's funky, but also sophisticated) as backing for his early Presidential speeches from the Oval Orifice!  The keyword for this album is clearly "uplifting", & in these hard times, we all need to lift our eyes up towards the hope & promise music like Burr & band offer.  This gets our MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating, as well as the "PICK" of the year for "funkiest jazz on the planet"... get more information at his site, at  THIS one stays in the .mp3 player forEVER, volkz!   Rotcod Zzaj

Leslie Lewis & the Gerard Hagen Trio - OF TWO MINDS:  If you're seeking some heavy scat & sultry jazz vocals from a lady who knows what jazz is all about, you'll need to pick up this debut CD release... if there's someone in your life you who loves "real jazz", this would make a perfect musical adventure for them, too!  Hagen's piano was the perfect choice - Leslie & Gerard are clearly "trading licks"... just think of your favorite smoky after-hours joint & drop these two on the stage, & you'll have one of the best sets your ears have ever witnessed.  It's our first listen to Ms. Lewis, but I can tell you it won't be our last... she absolutely shines on T. Monk's "Round Midnight"... don't believe I've ever heard a better vocal than hers for this fine tune... it's my favorite on the album, though the opening track, "In Walked Bud", comes in a close second... her scat on this one is killer!  What's most striking about her work, in my mind, is her ability to kind of "turn a tune" her way... surely the sign of a true artist!  I rate this one HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, & look forward to more of her works!  Get more information at her LESLIE LEWIS page!  Rotcod Zzaj

Chuck Bernstein  - DELTA BERIMBAU BLUES:  Those who read our 'zine regularly will know that I prefer music that's "different"... getting the "same old" music in every time would make for a very boring musical life...  I can say with absolute certainty that there's nothing "regular" about drummer Chuck Bernstein's intriguing little CD!  We reviewed an album from a group called "Monk's Music Trio" in issue #80... my particular favorite on that one was a track called "Brake's Sake", & it was Bernstein's fantastic playing that really caught my ear on that one.  For this new effort, Chuck's "berimbau" (a single-stringed gourd from Brazil) is what makes this unique... you can read a really nice article he wrote about his playing of the instrument HERE!  This new CD won't be released until 27 January, 2009, so samples for this one may be hard to find until then (heck, I couldn't even find the cover art), but in the meantime, you can hear some of the tracks from his other works on his MUSIC PAGE!  Being somewhat of a geezer myself, I can really appreciate the length of time Bernstein has been at this, & (for me, anyway), it makes the listen ever more rewarding.  While this won't be everyone's cup of java, jazz listeners who want to "get on down" under the surface of the music & into the nuts & bolts of what drives all music (percussion), this will be pure pleasure... I give it a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED & surely hope we will getting more of his fantastic work(s) through the mail-slot!  Rotcod Zzaj

Shakers N' Bakers - YEARNING FOR ZION:  The guys by the wall in the Yarmulke's will absolutely freak when they spin this... in point of fact, you'll probably be quite taken aback yourself, no matter how far "out"  you may consider yourself to be!  The opener, "In Me Canoe", is a stunning combo of jaded reggae & Jewish wailing wall - it's my favorite piece on the CD, no doubt!  For sheer energy and oddball rhythmic shifts, "The Roar of God" comes in a close second... I don't think I've heard a stranger tune this year - VERY entertaining!  This isn't the kind of album you will be comfortable playing for your elderly mum (unless SHE was a member of the "Shaker" religious sect, dancing that "different dance" as the result of some snake venom potion conjured up by a jaded rabbi from the Mormon side of the trax) - but if you just luv a spirit of adventure and exploration in your music, you'll find this one irresistible... the only problem with the CD is trying to figure out which "stack" to put it in... it doesn't fit in jazz, & if you tried to put it in the "religion" pile, you'd have to create a new label.  For experimentalists everywhere, I give this one a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!  Get more information at  Rotcod Zzaj

Lee Shaw Trio - LIVE IN GRAZ:  Most jazz listeners appreciate a live performance more than recorded music, but also know that it's often difficult (even with today's advanced gear) to capture the "essence" of live on a CD... in this case, nothing could be further from the truth.  Each of the seven tracks (5 of them are Shaw originals) features a nice little intro from Ms. Shaw, and the DVD presentation that accompanies the music CD blends live performance very nicely with some stellar interviews where Lee remembers her husband, drummer Stan Shaw!  It's the recording that will worm your way into your heart, though... simply flawless sound... Lee's marvelous keyboards are complimented very nicely by deep & rich bass from Rich Syracuse and crisply recorded drums from Jeff "Siege" Siegel.  Younger listeners will be amazed by the energy and verve (in both the interviews and the playing) that Ms. Shaw conveys (she was born in 1926, according to the DVD)... definitely an inspiration for those aspiring towards music as a career!  The pace of the tracks chosen was a bit "slower" than my normal listening cadence, but "Night Mist Blues" (an Ahmad Jamal tune) was clearly my favorite... very tasty indeed, the kind of jazz that sticks to your ribs!  A little trip down jazz mem'ry lane that earns a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for jazz fans of all persuasions from me!  Get more information at   Rotcod Zzaj

Mostly Other People Do The Killing - THIS IS OUR MOOSIC:  If you haven't heard these folks before, make sure you're mentally prepared... it's not a "protest" group... in fact, it's a bit hard to tell exactly what kind of a group it may be... we reviewed their "Shamokin" album in issue #73   & (per their own liner notes) equated them to some form of musical terrorism.  Stops, starts & multifarious journeys in between will have you (either) on the edge of your seat, or trying to beat your way out of the walls... ha! ha!  No one can accuse these folks of not having fun, even if it is at the expense of your musical conceptions... they are either genius or jokesters.  Let's put it this way... if one were to pipe this music into Sara Palin's night chambers, she would emerge in the morning even more rabid than she was at the convention.  Despite the musical antics, I found this CD an absolute musical adventure, & bestow upon MOPDtK our HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating for this entourage (maybe that's because in another life, I was known as the "King of Chaos").  Get more information (or indigestion) at   Rotcod Zzaj

Knitting By Twilight - AN EVENING OUT OF TOWN:  Our (long time) musical friends John & Karen (Riendeau) Orsi have been sending music that challenges the listener for far too long for me to list here... we reviewed a CD called "Aurora Caught Napping" in issue #81 & have reviewed KBT releases for quite some time now (the last one I have record of was in issue #75).  The keyword on all the Orsi projects has always been "creative"... think of this as 21st Century "head shop" music - some beautiful synth works, but the percussion on the opening track, "Jaunt To Dreamland" (my favorite piece on the album) will TAKE YOU THERE... for something REALLY "out there", try "Bell Weather" (excellent use of sonic space, yet fully accessible)!  You can purchase the tracks/album at their DIGISTATION page, or just listen to the samples to get an idea of what I'm talking about... this is the best release I've heard from John/Karen/crew yet, perhaps inspired (in some way) by the "new aura" falling over the land now that someone with something to offer (hope) has been elected (or maybe that's just me "hoping", not sure which).  There is nothing "ordinary" about any music from these folks, and I always find it a joy to get a package from them... recording quality on this release is HIGH-end, & there are "spirit calls" abounding throughout all the tracks. especially on cuts like "Venus for Everyone" -truly unlike anything you've ever heard (but not "trash improv" that leaves you unsated, either).  A very rewarding listen that gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from these old ears.  Get more information at   Tell them Zzaj sent you, of course!   Rotcod Zzaj

Darunam/Milan - THE LAST ANGEL ON EARTH:  This session can't be called jazz - it's more like a visit to a church, a sort of "world church"., if you will... it's interesting, nevertheless, in great part because the compositions were done (almost exclusively) over & through the internet.  A true 21st Century collaboration, likely representative of greater things to come.  The pieces will be broadcast on "Canada Live" in early January 2009... the music has decided leadings to the Middle East... no, not terrorists, silly... in fact I think it's more an "anti-terror" message than anything else.  Songs about angels abound, as one might imagine, all from different cultures and traditions... full of emotion and life... my favorite cut on the album, "AMMA (Sarasvati)" sounds almost like I'd imagine a "gypsy blues" to be... the clarinet lead is absolute killer!  If you're inclined towards something that leans more towards "pop", you'll like "SUNSHINE (Raphael)'s" bouncy rhythms... no matter what your particular pleasure is, you'll find something you like on this forward-looking musical adventure... I give it a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!  Get more information at   Rotcod Zzaj

Michael Jefry Stevens Trio - FOR ANDREW:  A deeply mysterious musical adventure from Michael, whose "For The Children" CD we reviewed in issue #82... his piano is still just as innovative as ever on this new CD (slated for release in January 2009), and bass from Peter Herbert, along with drums from Jeff "Siege" Siegel do a lot to add to my strongly favorable impression of Stevens' talent.  Seven of the nine tracks are originals, which once again boosts my liking for the highly creative work they're doing... every second, every bar of the performance provides windows into the world of what "could be" if talent were aloud to go unleashed.  If you listen to jazz piano regularly, you will immediately recognize how appealing Stevens' playing is... totally fluid, yet with "something to convey" - it almost feels as if each note were carefully selected before being inserted into the composition, but at the same time, it (somehow) comes across as "improvised".  I haven't heard introspective playing like this in years (except on that earlier CD), and know that "For Andrew" will stay on the top shelves of my collection for years to come... it's MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, without doubt!  Get more information at  Rotcod Zzaj

Satoko Fujii Orchestra New York - SUMMER SUITE It would border on "ridiminous" for me to itemize all the reviews I've done of Ms. Fujii's works over the last 15 years... but there's nothing odd our out of kilter about this new CD, unless you're the type of listener who just can't abide by music that challenges your horizons at every bar.  The title track clocks in at 39:02, & as you might imagine, is a musical adventure in and of itself.  Satoko's claims to fame are her vibrant and totally inspiring arrangements, and her brilliant visions of a world where the music is what matters, and she digs down deep on this 13-piece orchestral excursion.  If you're a first time listener, you need to make sure that you're listening to the album with headphones on and no interruptions scheduled... these works do require close listening - they're not background/elevator music - but your spirit will be rewarded as you listen to her spirit emerge in most shimmering fashion!  For a more "modern" listen, you'll certainly dig "Sanrei", which sounds (to my ears, anyway) like an upbeat Japanese funeral march of some sort, in the trappings of rock-art (or something like that).  The last cut, "In The Town You Don't See On The Map", is much more familiar jazz territory for most listeners.  A wonderful menagerie of compositions that is enjoyable enough to rate it MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for jazz fans who want something new & exciting to listen to.  Get more information at   Rotcod Zzaj 

Rob Mosher's Storytime - THE TORTOISE - :  What an enjoyable 73 minutes... Rob's "Storytime" title for the band made me think that this was going to be another "child's intro to jazz" kind of thing, but after the first listen and reading the liner notes, it was immediately clear that Mosher had snagged onto a concept that's fully borne out by quality talent and a very full-bodied jazz experience!  He does some marvelous things with his reeds (soprano sax, oboe, english horn) and is joined by 9 other totally dedicated players on 13 all-original Mosher tracks.  I was especially impressed with what sounded almost like a jazz march, "March of the Elephants" (my favorite track); there are some magical interweaves in the arrangements that held me spellbound for the whole 7:55 minutes.  Nir Felder's guitar lines on "Twilight" are both intriguing and inspiring, & the jazz ambience on "Jupiter" is at some of the highest levels I've heard in 2008!  I've no doubt you'll be hearing much more from Rob after this debut, & I give this my HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating, to be sure!  Get more information at   Rotcod Zzaj

Zen Zadravec Quartet - COMING OF AGE:  Ah, a breath of fresh (jazz) air on this superb little CD from Zen... all original compositions that hit the spot from the opening note to the last bar... Zadravec's piano playing is full of vibrant energy and clear talent, & his co-players (Todd Bashore on alto & soprano sax, Alex Hernandez on bass & Chris Brown on drums) play with strong enough intent that you'll never question their jazz abilities.  The title track (click on the title to listen) leads off with an excellent percussion intro & morphs ever so smoothly into a total & classic jazz panorama, especially when guest Derrick Gardner's trumpet kicks in - it's my favorite cut on the album... you'll also enjoy "Givin' It Up" for the snappy arrangements & slick trombone solo (from another masterful guest, Conrad Herwig)... the interplay between the piano and the trombone is simply fantastic.  This is one of the most creative releases (in a pure jazz vein) I've heard this year, & gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from me!  Get more information at  Rotcod Zzaj



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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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