Issue # 95 REVIEWS

New! New! New!  Zzaj PODCAST!

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The Eric Frazier Quintet - LIVE @ CECIL'S JAZZ CLUB (VOL 1 and 2): I'm not sure why this didn't get released as a double CD... instead, it's 2 separate CD packages... but, no matter, the music is still excellent and packed with high-flying jazz energy!  His conga drumming, vocals & percussion are par excellence, flawlessly executed & more punctual than a metronome.  He is joined by Gene Ghee on tenor sax, piano from Yoichi Izeki, Quentin Franklin's bass & drums from Larry Williams.  Both volumes feature at least 1 original from Eric, and as is my tradition, that's what I listened to first... unfortunately, there was only one volume with samples available for direct download (on AMAZON - shame on CD BABY, anyway, for using that infernal FLASH player...), so the track I listened to first was "Like A Lion In The Serengeti" on Volume 2... an "instant hit" for my ears, so to speak... some great vocals by Eric (I believe - since nobody else was listed as doing vocals), & it jumps!  Back on Volume 1, Izeki's keyboards are superb on "Celia" (remember, no samples on CD Baby, & this CD wasn't on Amazon), & Ghee's tenor synchs right along... it's a real ride, for sure!  "Knowbody Knows Me" was party time, to be sure, but it was track 2 on Volume 2, "Cantaloupe Island" (a Hancock/Jackson/Maupin/Mason tune) that got my vote for absolute favorite, especially with the emphasis on Frazier's percussion because of the arrangement of this swingin' tune!  If you're down in the dumps a bit & want some music to minister to your spirit with a prescription for fun, you'll want to get these CD's... they get a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from me with our new "energy quotient" (or "EQ") rating of 4.5 (5 is highest, 1 low).  Get more information at   Rotcod Zzaj

Igor - LUNAR SURPHASE: Do a search on this guy (on our page search, inside the 'zine) & you'll find out we've been reviewing a lot of material from him... some "hardcore" jazz/improv-only listeners won't be able to grok this... you have to be open to the experimental (with emphasis on mental) to be able to enjoy the ride his guitars take you on... definitely in the electronic zone, & with little to no mercy for those who demand rigid form, you'll still find complex & ultimately satisfying rhythm, melody (of a sort) & speed-up/slow down songs that take you to (& through) the outer reaches of spatial planes you didn't even know existed.  In fact, I find myself wondering if this isn't music played sdrawkcab from another (unknown) dimension.. ha! ha!  There are some very intriguing moments here, & "Autoportrait With Ginja" certainly stood out as a winner amongst the 15 tracks that Igor plays for you on this CD.  The addition of trumpet from Andrei Solovyov on "Connect With OGOGO" demonstrates pure genius, especially once Igor's guitar lead chimes in!  My favorite track, though, is "Can You Feel It", which strangely enough seems to have some similar rhythm tricks to the old Parliament/P-Funk stuff... a superb adventure, to be sure... if you can't "feel" this, buy your burial plot now, as yer' dead already!  Is this "jazz"?  Absolutely not... Is it "rock"?  Most assuredly no!  What it is is Igor's (somewhat) warped interpretations of the rays traversing the universe & morphed into a strictly entertaining CD that gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from me for adventurous listeners everywhere, & an "EQ" rating of 4.8 (5 is highest, 1 low).!  Get more information at or   (tell him Zzaj sent you).   Rotcod Zzaj

Ron Mitchell - JAZZY ME - LIVE IN JAPAN: I grew up on a whole host of male jazz singers... Dean Martin, Perry Como, Sammy Davis Jr., Sinatra & that whole thing... this CD from Ron (recorded from many live performances in Japan) takes me back (in one respect) to those days of yore!  His voice is totally unique, and it's clear to the listener that he's his own guy... no copy-cat stuff going on here.  If it were only a CD, you'd miss a lot of his attractive performance style, but there's a full-blown (& very well done) DVD in the package, too... Ron's clearly able to draw the audience in, even in the small-club setting (or maybe because of it, not sure which); if you're not sure you believe that, listen to him doing "Smile" (especially enjoyable on the DVD, as you get to see the lady he's doing this totally "in" duet with - Ed:  Per a note from Ron, her name is Lileth, & she definitely smokes those jazzy rhythms); definitely my favorite cut on the album!  Getting to watch him "fraternize" as he does the performance is a bonus you don't always get from a newly released audio-only CD, and Mitchell is superbly expressive on all the songs he does here, to the point that he gets the audience clapping - IN TIME - right along with him... I spent 15 years total in the Orient, & while there's plenty of exuberance there, it's often hard to get folks to be in time on the sophisticated kind of material he's performing, but he's got it down!  I'm highly impressed with his vocal talent, performance skills & clear love of singing!  I give him a definite HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, & an "EQ" rating of 4.2 (5 is highest, 1 low).  Get more information at   Rotcod Zzaj

Michael Samson - A STILL MOTION: Though this is our first listen to Michael's piano work, it's easy to tell from the opening bar that he's a player who enjoys communicating his message & that he has a very expressive style.  The title track (click it above to hear a sample) is the opener, and certainly lives up to it's name... starting off quietly, but building the movement until you know that it's not "just another piano player"... firm touch, fully expressive and without a hint of the "psychic mumbo jumbo" that many solo pianists come across with in their playing... a definitely "warm" feeling that I liked a lot!  He has some wonderful chord structures on "Beyond My Question" that will make you listen to the track over & over again, but it was the overtones and unhurried grace of "When Light Dances" (and then the dancing)  that was my favorite piece!  There is a booklet of Michael's poems that comes with the package, and I must admit that reading the poem behind "Light Dances" helped me to visualize the brilliant tones he painted that tune in... very, very nice.  One of the quotes from Samson that really struck home for me went something like "I have always believed that my music is a reflection of my inner self...", and what he's done here is shown true talent for bringing that inner self out for the listener to enjoy.  Some truly beautiful solo piano with excellent energies infused, this gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, & an "EQ" rating of 4.9.  Get more information at    Rotcod Zzaj

Acoustic Ocean - LIGHT RETURNING: There come times in everyone's life where they need to settle back and adjust attitudes... in my case, that's fairly often, and the way I (usually) do it is with music just like this marvelously talented duo (Peggy Morgan on Celtic harp and Bette Phelan arranging guitars, dulcimers, piano & many other instruments) has produced.  They were folk singers for many years, and it's apparent that they bring significant "people skills" with them, which ensures that the songs on this meditative excursion will draw you right in.  Arrangements are fantastic and literally swirl you right through the simple themes, gently moving you into the zone where comfort comes easily.  That's especially true on pieces like "We Are the Ones"... bird sounds abound on the opening, & the theme sounds a bit "Native American", especially the shifting chant vocal... this might be "just another" New Age attempt at "sounding" like practitioners of Lodge rituals, but the way the harp, violins and guitars continue to move your spirit is anything but ordinary; this is the best tune of it's type I've heard in many years, and it will help you in your journey to better attitude.  The excellent natural sounds on "Ancient Forest" will envelop you in rich shades of green, too... shining music with maximum healing power and energy.  In fact, they get a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED & an "EQ" rating of 4.7.  Get more information at   Rotcod Zzaj

Julie Peel - NEAR THE SUN: Here's a musical experience that is a bit different for us... it's certainly not jazz, & the producer didn't mislabel it or anything like that... I just like to hear something different once in a while.  Ms. Peel is French-born & Canada-raised & has developed a strong lyrical style on her own... what else would an indie-rocker say?  That someone else did it for them?  I'm just kidding, of course.... Julie's songs (produced, mixed and recorded by her) have a strong energy, and will draw you to her right away.  Another part of what made her music attractive is that the one-sheet tells us that she wrote many of the songs very quickly - one in under an hour - and that spontaneity is (to me, as a writer and spoken-word performer) totally essential when trying to get a message or an emotion across to a listener.  Peel is excellent at this, & as an added benefit, she's a player as well... though I abandoned "musician worship" may decades ago, I really dig her style, especially on cuts like "Unfold" - lyric-wise and guitar-rhythm-wise, I hear similarities to one of my own heroes, Bruce Cockburn... but Julie's clearly got her own sense of direction & melds some very nice strings into the mix on this one.  On "Sister", I keep hearing snatches of CSNY, yet the stories are clearly different than those old days.  Julie has produced a timely & poignant folk-indie-rocker that draws a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from me for anyone interested in what today sounds like. It gets an "EQ" rating of 4.5 Get more information at   Rotcod Zzaj

David Wahler - ANTIQUUS: Mr. Wahler clearly knows how to reach back in time and draw out pieces of the inner human spirit... this debut CD shows a strength of purpose and vision that many New Age players only pretend to have.  What makes his music different?  From my aural perspective, it is his masterful use of lush string arrangements... his piano is solid, too, but he weaves all manner of strings and percussives into the mix to help the listener reach far down into the kind of consciousness that brings memories we often don't even know we possess. I am especially impressed with his "Delphi Dream"... wonderful swirls, bright harp sounds and very pleasant background drones that wrap you into his spell in only seconds... it is my favorite piece on the album, no doubt.  Can't help but thinking that if this is only his debut, we have much MUCH more to look forward to in the years to come... you'll certainly agree when you listen to the beautiful "Night Sky of Orion" - this one makes me see waves washing ashore as stars reach down through a balmy summer evening to tell me stories of the ancients.  Even the most hardcore be-bopper or free-styler will find something enlightening on Wahler's superb sonic time tapestry... this gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from my ears, and an "EQ" rating of 4.8.  Get more information at   Rotcod Zzaj

Satoko Fujii Orchestra Nagoya - SANREI: I'm more than just "enchanted" with (nearly) all the music Satoko puts together... her orchestras have been entertaining my ears for years... but this one is among my favorite - the best word to describe it is "volcanic"!  I couldn't find any samples for you, though I'm sure they're out there somewhere... probably in that den of iniquity that "Godzilla" waits in, laying in wait to attack your ears.  If you've never heard "unleashed" Fujii before, this is your ticket to oblivion... you may think (as you listen) that it's disorganized chaos, but after the third or fourth listen, you'll know that it's one of the most tightly knit large orchestral ensembles you'll ever hear!  It's not just the sheer intensity of the playing, though that certainly contributes to the adventure, but the idea that this is her interpretation of those very moments of her existence... & being able to pull that off without sounding like a large-scale rock band gone totally amok is a feat that very few composers can make happen!  To be fair to "regular listeners" (those who think that Kenny G is the "epitome" of jazz, perhaps), you probably won't find this all that attractive... you must possess a true spirit of adventure to enjoy what Satoko & crew make happen here... .think Frank Zappa on ultimate steroids, then toss in a massive dose of insanity & you'll have a fair idea of the trek you'll be taking.  It's strongly advised that you do this with headphones & no interruptions, because the magma will be shifting in so many directions at once that you'll experience a "sonic shift" that will forever ruin your understanding of why you ever listened to the dreaded "smoove jazz" - ever.  This gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, as well as the "PICK" of 2009 for "best high-end orchestral jazz"... "EQ" rating is 5 out of 5!  Get more information at    Rotcod Zzaj

Boris Savoldelli-Elliott Sharp - PROTOPLASMIC: If ever you've watched amoebas dancing & wondered what all those molecules inside them are thinking - this sonic adventure will get you down to that level... heck, you can even hear them speaking... we've reviewed Sharp's work before, with Satoko Fujii, but not with him as the feature instrument, & have been mightily impressed!  Elliott & Boris (vocals) call their works "instant compositions", & those of you who've listened to my better pieces know that such spontaneous pieces are hard to achieve excellence on... well, these guys are masters of this sort of improvisation!  I'm reminded (in sections) of old vinyl we've reviewed from Davey Williams, but Savoldelli's vocals add a whole new dimension to the final output... if you love improv, but prefer it to penetrate all the way down to your chromosomes, you won't be able to do without this craziness.  The piece I find most attractive (with my jaded aural sensibilities) is "Reflective Mind"... it's like you're able to hear the nitemares shimmering back & forth in some kind of radar-guided panorama - unfortunate that it's only just over 3 minutes, but it's way cool!  "Khaotic Life" was also very interesting, with dense guitar parts & solid sub-mental rhythms that force you to (either) listen or ignore - + which, it clocks in at about 6 minutes, so there's a lot more room for "build".  All-in-all, this is one of the most interesting improvised sessions I've heard in 2009 - it gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for those who love improvisation... "EQ" rating is 4.75.  Get more information at or   Rotcod Zzaj

Eddie Daniels and Roger Kellaway - LIVE AT THE JAZZ BAKERY: If you're looking for jazz that's a little less "out", but performed with verve & panache, this one will decidedly do the trick... we've reviewed both of these gents before - most favorably - & having Rogers' full-force piano playing under, over & through Eddie's high-energy clarinet work is something you'll want to hear.  As you might imagine, the live recording either makes or breaks a CD, but in this case, it's a definite plus... every little nuance is captured so intricately you don't even have to wear your headphones to listen to it (though it's better that way, of course).  I thought the second piece in,  "Slow Dance", was one of the more expressive (though pensive & quite bluesy) tunes on the album... "This Is the Time" was my favorite track, though... strong call & response going on here, & Kellaway's piano is simply full of the joy of being alive!  This is music that doesn't require long "educated" reviewer dissection, or high-minded pronouncements... it's just for the pleasure of the listener (& I'm sure it was fun for the players as well).  We need more like this on the scene, and I've no doubt that if music like this were piped into today's classrooms, we'd have a lot less violence.  I give this one a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for jazz listeners of any persuasion; "EQ" rating is 4.82.  Get more information at Eddie's site... great fun!    Rotcod Zzaj

Don Campau - MOLDABLE HEAD: I've done a few experiments myself with symphonic strings, but nothing with the breadth and depth that Campau pulls off here... as with most of the projects I've reviewed from him, it sticks to theme & gives you a taste of something you haven't heard before.  Oh, yes, others may have tried it, but Don's focus on the moment at hand in the mode he's chosen is admirable and the results are very pleasant for the adventurous listener.  I'm sure that "regular" classical listeners will be very disturbed by what his imagination (and skill) produces, and will run off raving into the night skies with screams of "heresy", "heresy"... but I quite enjoyed it!  If some of the original composers (Bach, Brahms, Wagner, etc.) had the digital tools we have these days, I've no doubt we would be hearing such works from them.  "Symphony #1 second movement" was my favorite on the CD, most likely because of the diverse scenarios Don paints for your ears.   I couldn't find any downloadable samples or streams, but perhaps we'll be pointed in that direction when I send Don this review.  This is one of the most rewarding musical adventures I've heard from Campau to date, & that's a whole host of listening over lo these many years.... I give it a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, as well as an "EQ" rating of 4.65.  Get more information at    Rotcod Zzaj

Eyal Maoz's Edom - HOPE AND DESTRUCTION: If you're a fan of Zorn's more powerful works, but like a certain flavor of chaos mixed in with your visions of good & evil, "Hope and Destruction" will turn your krank... Eyal's guitar work can't really be compared to any other players - it is uniquely his own sound, and this grouping - bass by Shanir Ezra Blumenkranz, drums from Yuval Lion, & masterful keyboards from Brian Marsella - has no qualms about pulling out all the stops at once.  If you demand "continuity & form" in the music you listen to, move on out of here... these players are about exploration, down to the deepest/darkest corners of the soul, though they know how to soar with the angels & demons as well.  When you see a reviewer use phrases like "sheer wall of noise", or "cataclysmic", what they are trying to describe (most times) is the energy wave created by the players... in this instance, that power-filled quality is in all dozen of the compositions, but it doesn't reach out and jerk you around like a pit bull might... instead, it sucks you up into it's tornado-like tunnel and makes you a part of it!  "Tsi" was one of my favorite pieces on the album for that bulldog intensity, & one I'd rank on the "destruction" side of the equation... my absolute favorite on the CD, though, was "Messenger" - this one will take you to Kansas & beyond & warp you from Dorothy to Dorena, KC to JC & back!  Every twist & turn these guys jam you through will be full of the pain & joy that life is on an everyday basis... this gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED & a "EQ" rating of 4.95.  Get more information at   Rotcod Zzaj

John M Bennett - FASTER NIH: John's spoken raves are always something to be looked forward to... he calls these pieces "sounded" poetry... perhaps because there are little "sounds" woven between his twisted words - a superb bell sound, little percussives & many others.  Trying to "interpret" nearly anything that Bennett does to make it "fit" into a preconceived notion of what poems are "supposed to be" is as useless as trying to hang skyhooks from the clouds.  This is pertinent, it is "now", & it is surely expression from the mind of one of today's most poignant and (at the same time) disturbing writer/performers!  C. Mehrl Bennett did the artwork for this one, which is quite interesting to me... she and John seem to be working together more and more often these days, and having done regular "dinner" with them in their Columbus zone, I believe she's the only one who truly understands what drives this dude to constantly create things!  This certainly isn't "jazz", and you'll never hear it on FM radio... teachers at all levels will warn you away from this kind of creativity - which is part & parcel of why our society is such a wreck today... we need this kind of originality now more than ever before - even if it bothers us!  I sincerely doubt that Obama will have this piped into the gardens anytime soon, but if he listened to it (even once), our nation would move away from the current psychotic direction it's traveling in.  Those who are spoken-word fanatics like me will agree with me when I declare this "required listening", as well as MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!  "EQ" is rated at 4.75.  Get more information at    Rotcod Zzaj

Knitting By Twilight - RIDING THE WAY BACK: KBT drummer John Orsi told me that this CD would be "something different"... the music is just as enchanting as all the other releases we've reviewed by them (do a search on "Knitting" on any of our pages to find them all), but there's a very strong emphasis on his percussion work this time out.  Also, there are only 5 tracks (it's an EP), but you'll find them infecting your mind & coming back to "put a haunt" on you in the middle of your day... that's especially true as the synth & guitar parts kick in over the grand percussion Orsi lays down - the track titled "Blue Ink for Fountain Pens" captured my ears with it's density and entertaining sounds & turned out to be my favorite on the album!  "Twirling Guitars and Glad Tambourines" kind of gives away the theme with the title, but it's no slouch, either.  I prefer their longer sets, but if you .mp3 these & put them on "repeat", you'll find yourself playing them over & over again, even coming back to them.  A very impressive, albeit short, ride with KBT that gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from us. If you've not listened to this group before, you should do so soon - we've been enjoying their indie spirit for quite some many years now. This has an "EQ" of 4.67.  Get more information at and be sure to tell John that Zzaj sent you!  Rotcod Zzaj

L' Tanya Mari' - A TEARDROP OF SUN: This lady jazz singer takes me back to a day & time when giants were the ones that ruled the airwaves... her delivery reminds one of such greats as Ella Fitzgerald & Sarah Vaughn.  The band she has backing her splendid singing has far too many players to itemize here, but suffice it to say that they smoke the joint... as does she!  The second track in, "Nothing Will Be As It Was" is a winner & full of spirit & power.  The tune I enjoyed above all others, though, was "I Gotta Right To Sing The Blues"... nice smooth guitar lead-in, then L' Tanya (literally) slides right in to one of the most righteous blues pieces I've heard in years... definitely my favorite piece on the album!  The "jazziest" piece (for my ears, anyway) was "That Old Black Magic", in great part because of the arrangement... this definitely sounds like an original, not just a cover... I'm lovin' this one, too!  What makes a jazz singer is the soul they're able to pass on to the listener, & L' Tanya Mari' has that down to a "T"... she's one of the best jazzers I've heard this year, & gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED to be sure.  Get more information at   The "EQ" for this one is 4.65.  Rotcod Zzaj

Ed Drury - BENEATH THE SURFACE: I've been enchanted by Ed's swirling Didgeridoo compositions for some years now, ever since the original Mixposure site came up... he did a lot of collaborations, & I reviewed a lot of them (you know, just those "quick" track reviews that we all enjoyed doing on Mix back in those earlier days), as well as an INTERVIEW.  Something that's a sure testament to how much I really enjoy a musical set is if I actually purchase it (I've only bought, maybe, 5 or 6 albums in the last 20 years)... well, as soon as I heard the samples, I knew this one was well worth the paltry fee for a full-album digital download ($8, at Ed Drury Music).  An even dozen magical tracks that will stun your ears & penetrate you all the way down to your core!  Subtle, yet (somehow) heavy rhythms, along with magical sound bytes, propel the listener down the same trails that I imagine Alice travelled on her mystical treks through unreality... Ed infuses this all with beautiful and pleasing passages that reveal what the heart of a musician is really all about - if they've transcended the "normal", that is.  Counterpoint to this is that he's learned his lessons well enough to know that someone playing this spooky instrument who "leans on it too hard" will disappoint the listener... no "showy" or "braggardly" moments here... just the natural spirit of a player emerging to calm the listener to the point where their own spirit can join in the celebration.  One of the strongest experiences was "Chasing the Wind"... you'll think you're in a Native American lodge, soaring over new and adventurous mountains and valleys... but, my favorite composition was "Streetlight Desire"... just like the title, it's sultry, a bit dark, but alluring from start to finish.  The keyword for this album is "journey"... that's exactly what it feels like... an adventure-filled trek, & it gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from these old ears, for listeners of all persuasions.  My "EQ" rating for this one is 4.75. Get more information at    Rotcod Zzaj

Bob Marsh - Jim Ryan - Spirit - THE SPIRIT MOVES US: I've been listening to Jim Ryan & Bob Marsh for quite some many years now, free jazz all the way.  Bob was up in the Olympia area several years ago (with Jack Wright, I believe), & I got to meet/greet with him, so I'm fairly familiar with his antics on a more personal level... never actually played with him, though I'd certainly like to.  Jim's sent us numerous CD's for review, most notably in issue #50 and issue #59.  This is the first I've heard this character "Spirit" (percussion) though, & it adds one helluva breadth to the improvisations.  The other strong factor in the recordings' favor is the recording itself... recorded in Bob's studio this May, it captures every (single) little nuance of the straight-ahead improvisations... I mean, I didn't even have to wear the headphones, & the levels on the speakers were only just under half - & it KICKS!  The entire session is in a groove of it's own, & those who have played improvised will recognize (after only the first few bars) that these guys are ON IT!  It's striking that they are so comfortable with each other, since that's usually the downfall of any group that's trying to do it in the "free zone"... either they try to "outclass" each other, or there's no sense of mutual direction... in this case, though, nothing could be further from the truth... this is absolutely the tightest improv set I've listened to this year.  Bob's cello is relaxed, yet guiding, Jim's reeds, kalimba & other artistry are solid, & Spirits' percussion is crystal clear.  Though there are 8 "movements", it's really just one continuous session... this not only gets my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating, it's also the "PICK" of this issue for "best improvised trio"!  The "EQ" rating for this one is 4.82. Get more information at  & tell 'em Zzaj sent you!    Rotcod Zzaj

Cecilia - PAPILLION: This is our first listen to Cecilia's Latin/Bossa/Jazz vocals, & I've not a doubt we'll be listening to her again.  If you've ever heard Astrud Gilberto on the early Getz albums, you'll have an idea where this young lady is going to take you.  Difference is that this is all dressed up in 21st Century effects... some work, others don't work as well... there was a panning sequence on "Estase" that turned my head a bit, because the pan didn't work 100%.... on the other hand, the mix on "Papillon" emphasizes the rich and deep vocals that Cecilia's range allow her to express her soul through.  My initial take on this CD was "fluff" & "hype", but after 3 or 4 more listens, it's clear that she knows how to draw your ears out & wrap them in her aura.  Just imagine yourself in that Brazilian haven you've always wanted to visit, Cuba Libre firmly in hand & in the mood to find love... with the kind of magic Cecilia is capable of weaving, that romance will come your way before the evening's over. My only real complaint is that the CD jacket (either) didn't have the player list, or it was in such small print that these ol' eyes couldn't find it.  All in all, a very enjoyable listen, & certainly qualifies as jazz... I give this a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, & an "EQ" rating of 4.40..  Get more information (though quite limited) at      Rotcod Zzaj   

Jacam Manricks - LABYRINTH: What an absolutely pleasant jazz experience... Jacam (a transplanted Aussie, now living & playing in NYC) composed/arranged & played all manner of reeds (alto/soprano sax, clarinet & bass clarinet, as well as flute) on these purely original compositions.  He's joined by some current jazz legends on the scene... Ben Monder playing some outstanding electric & acoustic guitars, beautiful piano from Jacob Sacks, Thomas Morgan doing splendid acoustic bass & drums by the inimitable Tyshawn Sorey.  The thing you feel as a listener (right away) is a sense of accessibility to the music Jacam is imaging for your ears... especially on the superbly intimate and expressive "Move"... each instrument crafts their own slice of motion, yet gels together as one of the most solidly creative works you'll hear this year.  Manricks has a PhD as a composer, but there's nothing "stodgy" or boring about the sweet spirit he channels through his instrument for you to aurally witness... though his playing style is very different than Getz, he is just as impressive as the first time I listened (way, WAY back in the mid-'60's) to Stan... Jacam's music will influence your thoughts about what jazz is for many years to come.  The tune I enjoyed most among the 8 on the CD is "Aeronautics"... the tune isn't one of those "rip-snorters" from the standpoint of heavy rhythm, yet it has some of the most propelling lines I've ever heard... excellent jazz that will be a favorite for you over & over & over again.  The players are right in synch, definitely speaking a language of their own - but in a manner that lets the listener interpret it in their own dialect.  This one gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from me... the "EQ" rating is 4.79.!  Get more information at   Rotcod Zzaj

Kat Walker - JAZZ SKAT GUMBO:  This lady has one husky vocal presence... & her scat is magic personified... you won't believe your ears when you listen to her rendition of "Bobby McGee"... so many try to imitate Janis' when doing this tune, but Kat owns this version, no doubt; Bart Ramsey's boogie street piano has much to do with the pure energy in the music (as well as bouncin' bass from Spike Perkins, totally there tenor sax from Dominick Grillo & dynamic drumming from Dennis O' Toole), but when Walker moves into scat mode near the end of the song, you just want her to keep the tune going forever.  You'll undoubtedly connect the album title with N'Awleans from the "Gumbo" reference, as well you should, since that's where Kat & the whole krew hail from... & it's that same raw, down-home approach to music, with a big gob o' gleefulness that will have you dancin' right along with them on my favorite track, "I Got Rhythm"!  I don't think I've understood the fun that music can evoke until listening to this dynamic woman of jazz from the home of it all... I give this a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for any jazz listener who wants their mood to be elevated to the clouds & beyond. The "EQ" for this one is 4.65. Get more information at   Rotcod Zzaj

Kori Linae Carothers - TRILLIUM: There are many stunning moments on this fantastic multi-instrumental CD.  She has a gentle, yet piercing, piano style... in other words, her music doesn't invade you with overbearing penetration... rather it's like she's breathing through her fingers for you.  Her synthesizer work on the marvelous "Blue Ice" (my favorite on the album) will have you spinning the track over and over (as I did)... it's not one of those "mysterious, swami-like" things; rather, her light just shines through, & you understand in only seconds how much power illumination has!  Her composition skill on "Carpe Diem" makes the CD well worth the purchase... her spirit washes over yours & lets you ascend to the very heights of the dreamThe image I get is of a player who knows what she wants her music to say, and has the ultimate skill to convey it in a way that will let the listener know that they are hearing true originality.  Very exciting music that will carry you through the land this extremely sensitive player lives in, & make you want to stay there for a long time... my "EQ" rating for this album is 4.94, very near the top of the 1-5 scale (& that says a lot)... pure energy!  You may want to note that Will Ackerman (founder of Windham Hill) produced this, & plays guitar on it as well.  It gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from me!  Get more information at   Rotcod Zzaj

Fred Hess Big Band - HOLD ON: Man, there's no doubt that as one gets older, time starts slidin' by, & it's often hard to remember just how prolific an artist friend is... this is the 14th album from Fred... I'm sure we haven't reviewed all of his works, but there have been plenty in this 'zine.... check out issue #77 for an example.  Since it's Big Band, he has a cast of thousands (well, maybe not quite that many), heavy on the horns, as you might imagine.  What's most striking about his arrangements (for my ears, anyway) is that there's no space for "waste"... every note sounds like it was plotted out to make sure the energy stays clean and holds the listener in the spell!  Having grown up in the "TV era", when bands like Dorsey & Glenn Miller were prominent on the tube, especially in musicals, I know that this many players can (either) "get out of hand", or become dull & boring dance routine that doesn't "feel" like spirit-filled jazz, but as you listen to "Good Question", you'll hear the full-tilt capacity that Fred & his compatriots are enabled with... if this doesn't move you to grab the rail ("hold on", eh?) & hang for dear life, I surely don't know what will.  It's the title track, "Hold On" that cinched up my love of this adventure, though... every second will excite you, and you'll dig just how vibrant jazz in a "big way" can be.  This gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from me, as well as the "PICK" of this issue for "best Big Band jazz"... it also garners an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.95 on my scale of 1-5!  Get more information at   Rotcod Zzaj

Dennis Rea, Fellow Travelers and Fifth Columnist - IRON KIM STYLE: There are times when I can't believe my incredibly good fortune... & listening to this latest CD from Rea & krew on this soon to be released album (MoonJune label) are paramount among those times!  Dennis always challenges the listener with his high energy guitar works, but as you listen to Bill Jones trumpet on "Po' Breef", you'll know that your quest for where anger comes from & how it should be managed is over... the other players, Ryan Berg on bass, Thaddaeus Brophy on 12-string electric guitar, Jay Jaskot on drums & a local Olympia gent, Izaak Mills doing bass clarinet (tracks 1 & 5 only) all contribute to the explorations of pandemonium... this is especially true on the opener (& my favorite cut on the album), "Mean Streets of Pyongyang"!  All ten tracks are "on", with a take no prisoners approach that leans forward toward the 22nd Century.  Is it jazz?  Well, not exactly... more like fusion gone mad in the "dear leader's" hands... almost nuclear in intent as well as intensity!  Even the more somber tracks, like the 7:44 "Adrift" feature subtle undercurrents of energies you probably didn't even know existed.  This is an excellent improvised musical adventure that comes MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from me, with an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.92!  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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