IMPROVIJAZZATION Nation

Issue # 90 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!

 

Geni Skendo - STELLA: Another splendid on-line sonic adventure in from Geni & krew... (Geni Skendo doing flute/bass shakuhachi & shakulute, Slava Tolstoy on guitars, Yan Perchuk playing bass, Big Yuki playing keyboards, Dan Graham on drums and some very energetic vocals from Hadar Oshalimy)... Geni & Slava produced it, with Christian Kaufmann mixing and mastering, and it's one splendidly mellow jazz experience, I'll tell you, folks! You can purchase this excellently composed music at his site - www.genimusic.com  I poked around the web but was unable to find any samples for this new CD, but if you check out issue #89 you can hear a sample or two from a previous album called PORTRAITS. "Stella" is much more oriented to jazz... less introspective & more in the "groove" mode most jazz aficionados find so attractive. This outing (as you can see from the player list above) has a lot more musicians, & the vocals from Hadar add a totally new "band" quality to the tracks! Geni is already a favorite player for me, & I only met him on Facebook in the last couple of months. My favorite cut on this CD is called "Soul Train w/shakulute"... it's got a certain "bounce" that will keep you in the groove, whether you're just toe-tappin', or actually gettin' up to shake those hips... even seems to have a "Latin phunk" feel in some regards - depends on how one listens to it, I suppose. Tolstoy's guitar just smoked, but he's not a "tune-hog" in any sense, so you hear all the players contributing to getting the groove movin'. My ears are (once again) mightily impressed by the deep emotions Geni is able to evoke with his playing, but it was wonderful to hear this "other side" of his jazz persona... I'm telling you, readers... you can expect to hear much, MUCH more music from this player - 10 years down the road, remember - you heard it here first! I give this a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED! Get all the information you need, or purchase the CD from www.genimusic.com  Rotcod Zzaj
 

ThePeguesProject - THE HISTORICITY OF RODGER PEGUES:  Another fantastic sonic adventure I received from recent net travels is in from Rodger.  There's a pre-release performance close to home (up in Seattle), & I'm going to do everything in my power to be there to listen to this highly talented keyboardist & vocalist.  That's not something that happens often for me any more, as I don't like fighting the traffic on I-5 any more... but, yeah, it's that great!  Pegues has this thing called "soul" down pat... his styling on electric (Rhodes sounding) keyboard is the envy of this players' ear, I'll tell you... but it's not just "technique", it's his ability to evoke the spirit for the listener through masterfully played keyboards and vocal talents that are far & above the "average" in these days of (often) cloned jazz sounds. Don't read me wrong, though, he has the technical skills wrapped 'round his little fingers, too, & the tunes just SHINE!  I'm particularly enamored of compositions like "luvin you" & "i'll wait 4 you" that give you a feel for how skillfully Mr. Pegues can wrap his voice around a lyric and (either) make you cry a little for the "real folks" he sings about, or smile at their joy; I hear shades of singers like Curtis Mayfield & Marvin Gaye here, too - you know, the heroes of my younger years!  Since my ears are more inclined towards that superb Rhodes/electric piano sound, though, my favorite on the album is his beat-filled electronic walk through "hang on", the opener - one absolutely mellow tune! I give this a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for soulful jazz fans everywhere, as well as the "PICK" of this issue for "most creative jazz I've heard this year".  Get more information at his EPK page.  (author's note:  As an extra added bonus when I called Rodger up, he hipped me to his SOUNDCLICK site, which has long stream-only samples of many other tracks... in particular, he asked me to check out "Africa"... a superbly crafted piece that had me hitting the repeat button on the player over & over again for the excellent percussion and horn/synth weave he paints to enchant your ears... thanks, Rodger!)  Rotcod Zzaj

3 Days - THE TIME IS NOW: Jared Dickerson performs under the name "3 Days"... he's another "local player" I spotted through REVERBNATION who is doing some grand work in support of an album he plans to release shortly.  His focus is on the keyboard/synth side of things, with lots of heavy soul-i-fication (is there such a word?  If not, then I just invented something) going on... I'm reminded of some of the first efforts at "one-man-band" I used to do with my friends Harlan Mark Vale and Remus Glaude, but the new software rigs (Ableton, I believe Jared told me) make the sequencing and percussion come through with much less of that "dumb machine" quality that we often had to contend with on sequenced material.  & he goes far beyond that "too smooth" groove you often hear with this type of music... catch a snatch of "Hey Now" from his SoundClick page... though he has it classified as "smooth jazz", this one has enough "bump & jump" to take it almost into that good ol' "phunk" zone all of us jazzheads so truly love, 'coz we grew up on it.  My absolute favorite composition on (what will become) the album, though, is "My Space"... shades of Zawinul abound, & his electric piano sound keeps the freedom going through genuine keyboard skill; my only complaint is that it should have gone on for a minute or two longer.  "3 Days" is a clear representation (to me, anyway) of where jazz is (& SHOULD be) headed... music that both pleases the listener and amplifies artistry that comes from the root of us all - the SOUL, man!  We'll be sure to let you know when the CD is released... in the meantime, these highly original and spirit-filled tracks get a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for jazz lovers everywhere!  Visit the link above for REVERBNATION to get more information about this fine artist.  Rotcod Zzaj

Lee Tyler Post - EMANCIPATE: Though the songs Lee croons are definitely not jazz (& there is NOTHING wrong with that - we all need a change of pace once in a while), they are filled with the kind of raw soul and lyrical power many of us in this country grew up on!  I hear snatches of singers like Gregg Allman, Springsteen, even a taste of Dylan at his zenith.  His all-original compositions speak to every one of us... our foibles, intrigues, joys & pains, and they do it without coming across (in the least) as "cry in yer' beer" cheapos.  One thing you can rest assured of, you'll be hearing this gent for a long time to come... his talent for digging down deep into your deepest memories & helping you reflect on them will (believe it or not) free you from the chains you may have enshrouded your psyche with.  His guitar-playing shows clear talent (& love of playing), but it's not all gooped up with high-tech wizardry that focuses the listener away from his message... the best example of that for me was "Thunderclap", but the track that turned out to be my favorite was "Hurricane"... nice swirling guitars, solid bass lines and beautiful lyrical descriptions of what happens when the winds of change are blowing... his vocal just SOARS on this one!  I'm mightily impressed & very happy to have made his acquaintance through his REVERBNATION page "Emancipate" gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from my ears!  Rotcod Zzaj

Goat - SPECIAL AGENT: The lead-in to the first track, "The Lucifer Project", will fool you... sounds like just another rap drum/beat solo kind of thing, but it won't take your ears long to figure out that this tune is far more complex & engaging than your first impression would have led you to believe... the group is a good-old 3-piece (Greg Sinibaldi - Tenor Sax, EWI, Electronics, Zach Stewart - Guitar, Electronics, Denali Williams - Drums), but they display a clear talent for sonically screwing with your head.  I can't argue with the genre they picked for themselves, either - "Friggin Good"... ha! ha!  What I can tell you, without doubt, that this isn't just another "wack band"... excellent recording & the downloads from the store were 320 bit .mp3's... they will challenge your perceptions a bit, and give you that taste of "different" you've been looking for.  My favorite cut, as it turns out, was the quirky stilted-rhythm of "Armadillo"... lots of playful segments here that gave me a clear image of some of those armadillos I used to see trekking around down in the desert near Barstow, California.  If you want something a bit more "laid back", check out the long "Wish"... nice builds here for a pretty long piece - 10:16 on my player - that shows the special talents of each player!  The title track is dense and thick with innuendo, but also could serve as a movie backing track for such a title.  Though this is my first listen to these gents, I expect to be hearing a lot more from them.  This one gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for listeners who aren't afraid to try out something new!  Get more information at www.gregsinibaldi.com    Rotcod Zzaj

Zach Dunham - SKETCHING GESTURES: A very nicely abstract set of pieces found (randomly, of course) via the Internet (& REVERBNATION)... very difficult to "describe" Zach's music, as it's "his & his alone"... a very interesting freestyle "style" that combines a whole plethora of instruments (the usual suspects, drums, bass (with a HIGHLIGHT on bass... some excellent solos), horns, guitars - you who improvise know the drill - whatever's there) into something that "normals" will run (immediately) scared from, but those with adventurous ears (like your friendly editor) will come running TO!  I've had the privilege of playing with many performers who understood this kind of music (I won't bore you with a long "name dropping" list) & can tell you that when it's "done right", as the tunes I'm hearing here are, it's full of excitement for BOTH the players & the listener!  One note on the 8 tracks Zach gave me for download as a part of his upcoming CD effort (he said he's still refining the mix) is that they are in an "accessible" mode... even "old school" listeners are bound to find something they enjoy on this album.  If I were inclined to put a "label" on it (though I'm not), I'd term it as something like "nu jazz", or "Zach jazz"... one reason it's not possible to put such useless containers on Dunham's music, though, is because it IS jazz, albeit experimental... it may not be what grandpa listened to (exactly) on the Philco, but it is definitely where jazz IS... in constant evolution & as a result full of sonic discoveries for the performer as well as the audience.  I'm greatly impressed with "Sketching Gestures", actually, and would tell Mr. Dunham to GET THAT MIX wrapped up - the world deserves to hear more creative energy like this!  I give it a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED & will predict that you'll be hearing much, MUCH more from this group!  Get more information at the REVERBNATION site linked above.   Rotcod Zzaj

Davis & Deleault (featuring Eugene Friesen and Glen Velez) - DAVIS & DELEAULT: We first reviewed these gents in issue #89, playing backup for poet F.D. Reeve... asked Don (Davis) if he had anything in need of review, & this arrived only a few days later.  Davis' highly talented work on sax (alto & soprano), bass clarinet, shakuhachi & flute is superbly complimented by Joe Deleault's spirit-filled piano mastery, & as an "extra added attraction", you get to hear sultry cello by Eugene Friesen along with thoroughly timely (& on-time) percussion, Bodhran, Pandero & Tar Drums from Glen Velez... I was highly impressed by their work on Mr. Reeves album, probably in part because I know it's difficult at times to "match up" with a spoken-word artist, but this great CD gives insight into whole new aspects of their talents.  The CD Baby page hints at a "fusion" of jazz & "world" musics... the tune that best illustrated that (I believe) was "Naked As We Came"... very calming, yet full of spirit and life.  My favorite piece, though, was the lively "The Four Winds"... Don's reeds just SHINE, as well as Deleault's total movement on the keyboards... this tune is a KEEPER, to be sure, & will "stick in your head" for days to come.  You've never heard "Strawberry Fields Forever" as it sounds with Friesen's cello backing it on this CD - totally mellow.  The recording is "right on", catching every little nuance you can imagine!  I've no doubt that you'll be hearing a LOT MORE from these folks - they get my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating, to be sure!  Get more information at www.davisanddeleault.com  (and be sure to tell them that Zzaj sent you)!    Rotcod Zzaj

White Rocket - WHITE ROCKET: The piano work from Greg Felton & drums from Sean Carpio (from Dublin) play some jazz miracles for your ears when paired up with NY'er Jacob Wick's magic trumpet!  Admittedly, this is not music for the timid & does require actually listening... if you're looking for 1930's jazz, you'll have to move a few bins down from this trio's debut CD.  Totally original compositions from the trio, with more energy than I've ever heard from such a combination... but these guys minds' seem to be melted together as you listen to them; it's one of the tightest trios I've heard in about 5 years.  I thought that was especially true on "His Story", where Felton does (what I call) a "chord stride" in support of crispy percussion from Carpio & very lively brass from Wick!  It was the 2:58 "Hone" that captured the spot of "favorite track" for these old bent ears, though... talk about crescendo building... my only complaint was that it could have been about a minute longer (or so).  Their real forte, in my view, is an abundance of rhythmic structure that will propel you right to the edge of the galaxy - this could well serve as theme music for the first intergalactic flight - "White Rocket", indeed - Ha! Ha!  I'm highly impressed and hope to hear many more albums from this superbly talented trio.  They get a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from me, as well as the "PICK" of this issue for "best jazz trio work".  Get more information at their MYSPACE page!   Rotcod Zzaj

The Conduit Trio - BEYOND LIQUID GLASS: Besides that ultimately cool title for the CD, this trio has one heck of a lot going for them - namely that they were just what the Rotcod ordered... if these 16 tracks don't liven up your day, your soul is beyond repair!  The highlight on the opening track (Smelling Salt) (for this listener, at any rate) was Robert Branch's molten guitar leads... just like any good glass-blower, he bends those sonics into what he believes they should be... all to superb effect for the listener... a most memorable tune & one of my favorites on the album.  The absolute GEM, though, was "Silent Fury"... this composition brings home the reality of one of their slogans in the promo sheet - "Progressive Jazz for the 21st Century" - with music craft that remind me at times of McGlaughlin Mahavishnu-type stuff, but more rhythmically challenging in a constantly evolving shift that will be interesting even for the most seasoned (i.e., jaded) listener.  Another tune that is a true ear-catcher, especially for folks who grew up on Zappa, was "Disparate Measures".... it's not just that it has volcanic movement, but that the trio brings such FULL BODY to the sound... if your ears have any level of adventure in them, you'll find this a keeper that will travel everywhere with you.  You'll need to purchase the CD to get full grasp of why I'm so excited about these gents (David Furnas on 6-string bass & Josh English on drums flesh out the unit), but trust me when I declare this to be MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, and the "PICK" of this issue for "best progressive jazz for 2009".  Get more information at www.conduittrio.com/   Rotcod Zzaj

Dan Adler - ALL THINGS FAMILIAR: Although it's true that Adler's jazz comes across feeling very "familiar", his style and approach to things jazz is uniquely his, and that's very comforting for the jazz aficionado, or the "occasional" jazz fan.  His guitar stays nicely (although not obtrusively) out in front, and the players who join him hold their own all the way through the 10 cuts (6 are original Adler compositions, too, an extra added attraction for this reviewer)... Richard Samuels piano is wonderful, the bass from Dimitri Kolesnik is steady-on, drums by Philip Stewart totally punctual and there's some stunning tenor sax from Grant Stewart (editor wonders - are Philip & Grant related?).  The music isn't "in your face", or too far off the beaten path, which sticks to the album theme, yet is infused with high energy to the point that you won't soon forget this new musical acquaintance (though Dan's been part of the NYC jazz scene for at least 20 years, this is the first time we've heard his work).  He's also a very interesting person... you can find a wealth of information on his website, including jazz transcriptions, CD reviews & extensive music articles... it's at http://danadler.com/... that may be (in part) because he holds degrees in Computer Science and Electrical Engineering.  You won't hear any "weird" sonics, or technological marvels in this recording, though... it's clear that Dan understands how to keep the "real" in his music... all very straight-up composition, with the music (and excellent talent) being the focus.  It turns out that my favorite cut is the title track (click on the link to hear a sample of it), probably because it's one of Dan's original compositions, but also because the players all get equal time on solo.  My ears were also drawn (immediately) to "Sivan's Samba"; clear Latin flavor, but some really robust sections that will stay in your ears.  A very entertaining first round for Adler as a leader that gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from this reviewer.   Rotcod Zzaj

La Forza - DANCE MUSIC FOR YOUR MIND: There is a wealth of music on OMD's right now (like REVERBNATION, where I pulled this from)... I scan these kinds of sites every now and then, particularly in "local" mode to see what I can hear, & when I cruised through the tracks from Austrian-born (and classically-trained) pianist/electronic artist Divina Klein and underground hip-hop producer Douglas Mackar, I sent them a note right away asking for a CD.  It arrived only a couple of days later... the copy I received wasn't a "promo" copy, in other words it was without a full jacket/label/etc., but after talking with La Forza, that was simply because they had exceeded their quota on review copies... the jacket art is visible at their site, as well as the thumbnail I pulled here, & it's really cool!  What we really review here is the ENERGY (and talent) quotient displayed by the artists for the music being played, anyway.  The compositions on their CD of electronic dance they provided for review show an abundance of talent and a clearly focused energy all the way through... that's especially true of pieces like "In Joy" - my favorite on the album; they truly understand the achievement of "balance" between the "beat" part for the dance element and the "composition" part for the keyboards... I just loved the phasing during the intro.  I'm reminded in many ways of another favorite artist of ours, "John & Karen (Riendeau) Orsi" on "Aurora Caught Napping", but La Forza seems to stay with the dance orientation more than John & Karen do.  For listeners enchanted with the undercurrent & bass-driven tunes, listen to "Spiral Galaxy", certainly worthy accompaniment for your next ride through a wormhole.  This is one of the more inspired pieces of electronique I've listened to in the last year, & draws a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from me.  Get more information at www.laforza.com (& be sure to tell them we sent you).   Rotcod Zzaj

Denise Donatelli - WHAT LIES WITHIN: If it's tasty jazz vocals you need to wake up on a dreary weekend morning (like today up here in the Great NW), you need look no further than this marvelous CD from Denise... her voice is full of energy & her talent quotient is above the mark in all regards.  Her full-throat and straight-ahead vocal on "Sails" will blow your mind and fill you with inspiration to get onboard the ship of life and travel to all corners, no doubt.  What shines through the combination of vocal and excellent instrumental work assembled here is Donatelli's clear love of jazz... many other singers try to reach the heights that Denise soars to, but are unable to, perhaps because they are having to try.  The group of players she assembled to back her spirited performance up is far too long to itemize here, but they are ON every second of every tune.  The other impression that shines through when listening to the songs here is that in addition to being enthused about what they are doing, the entire group is totally professional... you don't always get the level of intensity evidenced here, and one of the best tracks to hear that on is the beautiful "Crystal Silence"... if this one doesn't make you reflect nostalgically, you've already got a stake through your heart!  The best cut (& my favorite) on the album, though, is the opener, "My Shining Hour", one of the best jazz vocals I've heard this year.  You won't want to let this album slip away, and I've no doubt you will agree with me when I declare this one MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED! Get more information at www.denisedonatelli.com   Rotcod Zzaj

Steve Khan - BORROWED TIME: Here's yet another from our fantastic guitar-jazz friend Steve... we reviewed 2 of his more recent efforts in issues #88 and #89.  On "Borrowed Time" (released in 2007), he's joined by John Patitucci doing bass, Jack DeJohnette on drums and Manolo Badrena's percussion (along with a host of others).  The CD includes explorations of tunes from folks like Monk, Ornette Coleman, McCoy Tyner and others, but (as usual), the originals are what stay in my mind... the beautiful and dreamy "Face Value" is the perfect vehicle for opening up a lazy Saturday morning, especially when Randy Brecker chimes in on Flugelhorn.  In the same vein, but with some wonderful eastern influences, was "EL FAQUIR", which I loved especially for the beautiful (and long) introduction - it clocked in at 13:39 on my PC... Badal Roy's superb tabla and excellent bass clarinet from Bob Mintzer will weave a truly world fantasy for your ears and leave you more enlightened than you've ever been... a very improvisational feel and my favorite on the album, without doubt!  Steve's guitar on this piece saunters in, out and through the entire 13+ minutes and imparts a great sense of calm, something we all need to aspire towards in these ever-more trying times... it's the most relaxed playing I've ever heard from him!  The other track I really scoped out a lot was "BLUES FOR BALL"... very subtle & laden with the soul you'd expect from the blues.... a McCoy Tyner tune that's very satisfying.  This one is my favorite of all the CD's I've listened to from Khan, though I'm sure there will be many more coming down the proverbial pike... I give this a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, as well as the "PICK" of this issue for "best guitar-based jazz".  Get more information at www.stevekhan.com   Rotcod Zzaj

Kari Gaffney - SATIN DOLL: I've been waiting (quite) a while for this fantastic 2002 CD in from Kari... don't know when I realized that in addition to promoting tons of jazz artists, she was also a performer; also not sure if she has any further vocal jazz (or any other kinds of jazz) in the works, but I can tell you that her voice on this one will grab you, hold you & wrap you into her spell quite nicely.  She's joined by Erik Hargrove (drums), Hal Melia (sax, flute & clarinet) and Jeff Williams (guitars and bass) in some stunning performances of classic jazz tunes... but her voice makes the excursion far more inspiring than just another rendition of "the same old tunes"!  I can't quite describe in words what the attraction is... words like "husky", "soulful" & "spirit-filled" come to mind, but have probably been hacked to death already by other reviewers!  As I listened to the opening track, "Speak Low", I felt like I never wanted to walk away to do anything else... the recording is so crystal-clear that you'll believe she's right there in your living room singing for you personally... that's especially true when Hal's flute weaves in behind her lines; simple, yet sweet & totally attractive.  The suave jazz feeling evoked by "West Coast Blues" made that one my favorite track - probably something to do with her ability to sing those blues like they were made for her to wear.  The best place to check out the tracks is at the album's CD BABY page; you'll also find a lot of notes there about how the album came to be.  This CD was well worth the wait - it gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from these old ears, and the "PICK" of this issue for "best female jazz vocal CD".  A superb jazz adventure.   Rotcod Zzaj

Alt Tal - OPEN THE GATES: Here's a refreshing sound... basic sax (David Alt), bass (Kenny Annis) & drum (Andrew Ryan) trio that flawlessly improvises 11 all-original Alt compositions in a solid modern jazz performance that will put you in moods both introspective & joyful.  The jumping piece "Nymph" is most representative of the playful spirit the title would make you think of... it's track 4, "Amoureuse de Mon Père", that will take you over the top, perhaps even jumping beyond resolute toe-tappin' to jumping up and dancing a bit... my favorite on the CD, to be sure.  On "Amoureuse", the drums seem to propel it, & the bass provides superb counterpoint... David's sax paints a bubbly stream that will make you think of your father, no doubt.  If you're favoring the reflective side at the current moment, be sure to check out "Force Of Nature", the tune I thought was the most mellow on the entire album.  The overall impression I had was that this approaches improvised jazz with a decidedly "eastern" flavor, more studied and controlled than other reedists I've listened to who are doing it "from the hip", so to speak.  All in all, very impressive & full of vigor... I rate this one as HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for jazz listeners who want to experience an album with many facets - excellent sound quality, high talent and sonic vistas you haven't heard before!  Get more information at www.alttal.com   Rotcod Zzaj

Steve Haines Quintet with Jimmy Cobb - STICKADIBOOM: Steve's Zoho-label debut release (actually his second album) features some stunning all-original aural adventures composed by himself and Jimmy Cobb.  8 tracks that will lift your spirits up and have you boppin' right along with all six of the players.  That's especially true on tunes like the opener, "The Freightrain", which will speed you up & doze over any worries you might have had.  Haines' bass doesn't get up in your face, or trod over the other players, & you'll clearly hear David Lown's tenor sax, Rob Smith's trumpet & tenor sax, as well as great keyboards from Chip Crawford... drum duties are split between Thomas Taylor (tracks 1 & 7) and special guest drummer Jimmy Cobb, who used to play in Miles quintet (all other tracks) The tune that had the best jazz feel (I felt) was "Rendezvous", with excellent solos from each player... a totally balanced jazz composition that will come back to mind many times after you listen to it; my favorite cut.  Another excellent piece was the title track, which will make you think you're back in a 1970's all-night blue-smoke joint... fun personified is the way I heard it.  The track where I felt most comfortable with Steve's bass playing was "Re: Frayne", dedicated to a sax-playing pal of his named Rob Frayne, but he's well integrated into all 8 tunes.  If you're a "hardcore" jazz fan who wants a CD that will stay in the "keeper" pile, this comes MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.  Get more information at www.zohomusic.com/cds_detail.php?cds_id=75   Rotcod Zzaj

Solomon Douglas Swingtet -  SWINGMATISM: Solomon's band has been around since '02, and when he uses "swing" to describe the music they play (all 10 or so of them, depending on where he's playing), he's not using the word lightly... this is some of the most upbeat big-band swing I've ever heard (and believe me, I've heard more than a few bars)!  The beautiful thing about Douglas' piano is that he always keeps things hopping, never letting the focus stay on his keyboards for too long.  As you might expect, since Douglas is the leader, his piano is right "there" on every tune, but every instrument (or group of them) gets a chance out in front when he arranges the tunes.  All the varieties of the great swing era are represented on this romp - pre-swing hot, classic swing, be-bop that won't quit, what Solomon terms "New Testament Basie", as well as postbop modern.  If you're looking for sweet piano boppin', listen to Solomon on Ellington's "Black and Tan Fantasy"; he treads lightly, but milks some sweet soul right out of those keys.  For something with a true groove, you'll probably find your favorite to be "Stolen Moments", as I did... it stays close to Oliver Nelson's original composition, but seemed (to my ears) to come across with a very much (more) cosmopolitan feel.  Ray Noble's "Cherokee" is very tastefully done, too, but I just fell in love with "Stolen Moments".  Since swing jazz is "timeless" music, anyone who listens will find something they like... & you should go investigate as soon as you can, since it comes MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED by me... get more information at http://solomondouglas.com/  (& be sure to tell him that Zzaj sent you).   Rotcod Zzaj

Russ Hewitt - BAJO EL SOL: This month has been splendid for "online" musical discoveries... after some ads I put out on various sites soliciting music for review, Russ sent me an email... the next morning after our exchange, his full electronic press kit (EPK), with all 10 tracks from his debut CD, was waiting for me to pickup online.  Many of us in the review community have been forecasting that this method of getting releases reviewed would be happening "soon" (I remember talking about it at least 6 years ago in some of my rants) - well, folks, it's HERE!  Now must get back to the focus, though... Russ's beautiful guitar style, which he calls "Nuevo Flamenco”, will have you enchanted from the opening bar... his playing will lift your spirit up, no matter how far down it's been... especially true on tunes like "Tranquillo" - very mellow, yet full of life & energy.  Extensive travels around the globe have also given his compositions a truly "world" feel, without becoming bogged down in some of the cliché's that have been associated with world music in the past... he infuses each tune with his own unique character, the way (all) music was meant to be played.  One of the best pieces, & my favorite on the CD, was "Inger", which takes you to the edge of the horizon & back.  He has a full cast of highly talented players with him, including Walfredo Reyes Jr on drums, Rafael Padilla playing percussion, Bob Parr on bass, and flamenco guitar prodigy Alfredo Caceres joins him as well.  A superb musical experience, that even strict jazzheads will enjoy... I give this a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.  Get more information at www.russhewittmusic.com   Rotcod Zzaj

Sarah Brooks and Graceful Soul - UNDER THE BONES OF THE GREAT BLUE WHALE: A sweet taste of jazz blues vocal, with the emphasis on blues, this live recording is a CD you'll treasure (& keep playing over & over) for a long time to come.  For folks as old as me, it will bring back mem'ries of the '70's heyday of singers like Roberta Flack, Gladys Knight & many others who kinda' "taught us" the ecstasy of a well-honed blues vocal with jazz underpinnings.  When she kicks into track 3, "Chain Of Fools", you'll think (almost) you're hearing the "Queen" (Aretha) belt it out... Ms. Brooks does a splendid job of interpreting the track in her own fashion, though, & you'll know the difference; a killer tune that was my favorite vocal on the CD!  Having the audience included (as on most live recordings) will make you feel like gettin' up & bumpin' 'round th' floor for a few steps, too, no doubt.  If it's time for you to lay back & ruminate on love, though, you'll especially dig Sarah's splendid vocal on "Since I Fell for You".  For this ol' rocker, though, the tune that had the DRIVE I was expecting from such a rockin' set was an old Pee Wee Ellis tune called "Chicken" with some downright FUNKY instrumental pieces on it.    Go to http://sarahbrooks.com/ to hear all the samples & purchase this great album... it's gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from me for those inclined to mix a lil' soulful blues in with their jazz diet ev'ry once in a while!  Rotcod Zzaj

Satoko Fujii - Myra Melford - UNDER THE WATER: I have reviewed so many of Satoko's exceptional CD's that it would be impossible to list them all here in a review (just do a search at the bottom of this page to see what I mean); unfortunately, it appears that I've only reviewed one of Myra's (issue #39), but have heard her marvelous improvising since the late 1970's when I knew her at a little coffee house (here in Olympia) called the "Gnu Deli".  This CD features the two of them together in live performance at Maybeck Recital Hall (West Coast)... and what performances they are - all the way from plucked piano strings to solo against that, this is one of the most invigorating piano duos I've ever heard!  It's truly like they were speaking to each other through the keyboard(s)... this kind of conversation is one that regular folks don't often have, because in addition to a strong element of focus, it requires the kind of studied talent that most of us will never have.  These two are master sonic conversationalists, and they paint the water-themed comprovisations in tones that are warm (at times), frenetic (at others) and full-tilt from the opening bar to the closing note!  We've all been at some of those sessions where pianists were trying to impress the audience (or sometimes each other) with monkey-shines on the plucked strings... they sometimes come across as "interesting", but seldom do they shine as brightly as on the duets here.  The little "bell" intro on "The Migration of Fish" is very pretty, but over the 11:21 that it lasts evolves into one of the most exciting pieces of piano music I have ever heard.  Some artists "try" this playing style, but (unequivocally) none of them "get" it like "Under The Water" does - this is a GIANT album that deserves some serious listening, and you have never listened to anything as unique as this... limited edition (only 500 copies), so get yours NOW, while you can!  I give it a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, as well as the "PICK" of this issue for "best improvised piano"!    Get more information at http:/www2s.biglobe.ne.jp/~Libra,  www.myramelford.com or purchase from the following site:  http://diskunion.net/jazz/ct/detail/LIBRA202-204  Rotcod Zzaj

XISIX - LIVE SHOW: This set of electronic dance was encountered after meeting XISIX at his REVERBNATION page... I'd been walking through a pile of jazz, techno & electronic artists in my area, & found him... signed up as a fan on RN, then talked to him about sending something our way (in this case, all digitally).  He's got some strange & decidedly "out there" music that could easily be added to the "SPACE" category, rather than "Electronic Dance", although it's definitely beat-based... & WHAT beats... this isn't yer' "stock" drum machine (albeit some of it may come from a box)... simply WILD percussion, which (I believe) is what drew my ears in the first place.  Some of those ol' fashioned "raves" (back in the '80's, when I was much younger) would have thrived on music like this.  Aliens talk to you in the background, maybe even shades of 666, uno's?  A bit of language (at the front) made me hesitate to continue, but I don't shy away if there's SPIRIT involved in the playing, & this dude's GOT that in spades!  Don't think granny'll be bumpin' to this anytime soon, but those who are lookin' to get their ears (& heads) loosened up in a flurry of dance will find this strangely engaging.  His instrumentation/execution is right on, all the way through the 5 trax on this show.  For those who are really IN to the "dance/electronica" genre, I give this a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED... for jazzheads, worth a listen, but may not be your cup of tea.  Get more information at www.woundedinfidel.com/xisixweb/   Rotcod Zzaj

Ben Averch - WASHINGTON STATE: Ben & I hooked up (yah, another one online) via his REVERBNATION page... several excellent cuts there for you to listen to.  After a bit of message exchange, he came back to me & asked if I'd listened... had, but I like to have the downloads (so I can do the review at my leisure)... he turned 'em on & "instant download", had the whole thing on my drive.  He plays some VERY psych/prog stretches, particularly on tunes like "In A Dream State"... soaring lines that will take you about as high as Washington can get you... & having lived here since 1978, I know how well elevated that can be.  It's not just the excellent guitar work, either, he's got the whole rhythm thing down in a big way.  What impressed me (more than anything), though, was his lyrical skill... I want to compare that to (for instance) the skills of one of my favorites, Bruce Cockburn... but Ben's playing takes the lyrical/music combination to a whole different level than most of Bruce's best stuff... in listening, I hear a whole new 21st century influence in Averch's compositional style... what Obama might term as "hope" shines through.  There are lots of guitar players who "think" they have progressive down, but their output comes short of the mark of that mountain-high quality I hear on "Washington State"... if you don't believe me, listen at about the 3:05 mark on "Levitate", one of the most energetic tunes I've heard this year.  All in all, this album is a true "KEEPER", & gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from these (often) rockin' old ears!  Check out the album at his RN site, or at http://averch.com/listen.html  & be sure to tell them Zzaj sent you!  Rotcod Zzaj

C. Goff III - SANDUSKSCENES: OK, Goff - there's no doubt about it - you've gone FAR TOO FAR this time... the descendants of Herbert (Hoover) have got you in their sights this time, no doubt... cruelty to MANtis'... on "Mantis Meal", you pretend to be playing nursery rhymes (albeit for Karloff films) and introduce our youngsters to cannibalistic scenes of one bug being eaten by the other.... pretty good parody of politicians, I thought, but entirely too graphic for malleable minds - oh, I see, that was the whole idea... make the IPOD gen-x-ers squirm with a dose of visual cruelty... ha! ha! ha!  (Those who haven't read this magazine for a long time won't know that I've reviewed a LOT of C. Goff's material - this is the most entertaining, albeit jaded, I've received from him to date).  That "Trip To The Fair" gives a pretty good perspective on all us turkeys tied up in knots over the whirligig state of the economy, along with a snatch or 2 of "Animal Farm".  Excellent experiments in homemade sonic wonder that may not win a Grammy, but will have Granny in stitches as she watches.  Excellent quality DVD for those not afraid to tackle the "same old scenes" you'd find in that town in Ohio with some new interpretations from Mr. Goff.  I rate it as MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, to be sure!  Get more information at www.geocities.com/padukem/ or go directly to his YOUTUBE videos page (over 77 that I saw).  The epitome of where the digital age is taking us - like, oblivion, man!   Rotcod Zzaj

Charlie Kohlhase's Explorer's Club - ADVENTURES: This debut CD features Charlie's highly-charged alto, tenor & baritone sax mananglements  along with Matt Langley's frenetic tenor & soprano, trombone from Jeff Galindo, Eric Hofbauer's guitar, bass by Jef Charland and drums from (both) Miki Matsuki & Chris Punis (Punis & Jef Charland were reviewed quite favorably with another quartet in issue #89, & I've reviewed Eric's guitar works before in issue # 50, as well as other issues).  The beautiful thing about Charlie's CD is a grand sense of humor... musicians not afraid to explore the contrasts that can be achieved by not "sticking to one thing"... pretty much all-original compositions (7 out of 10 were written by Kohlhase) with peaks and valleys (in tempo and tone) galore (yah, I know that "galore" dates me, but I'm old enough not to have to care about that).  Titles like "The Alarm Clock Is My Only Kryptonite" isn't just an eye-catcher either, it's a study in sonic restraint (on the part of the players, I mean) that will keep your ears on the edge of the seat!  The reed's interactions with all the other instruments will serve as a primer for your introduction to the language of sax, & have you trying to "whistle" along with their rhythm changes... percussion on "Loquator & Taciturnator" is superb all the way through the track... hyper bop for the 21st century.  This won't be an "easy listening" experience, so if you can only handle basic 4/4 time with no diversions, it won't lead you to Nirvana... but if you're a fellow explorer, in the sense of listening, this will be like spelunking through the myriad facets of a wormhole.  It gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from me!  Get more information at www.charliekohlhase.com    Rotcod Zzaj

 

 

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