Issue # 96 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!



Slivovitz - HUBRIS: The sheer variety of styles on this second CD from Slivovitz makes the purchase of the album well worth your $$$, even if you're not a hardcore freak for music that takes you out there (as I am).  All the way from the opener's (which features absolute killer bass by Domenico Angarano) mad-dash middle eastern trek through territory that Zappa trod (track is called "Zorn a Surriento"), at least after some fashion... these guys carry it a step further, though, especially when Pietro Santangelo's sax assault on your aural appendages makes you realize that there is nothing musical geniuses can't do!  It's track #6, "Dammi un Besh O", that wins all my respect, even though it may come across to some listeners as the ultimate personification of the album title - but (as all of us who play know) you can't really be arrogant unless you've got the chops to back up your attitude... I'm hearing snatches of mem'ry here... the violins remind me of the finest gypsy jazz - sort of Django in Diladin spiked with meth, if you will - or even if you won't!  The point here is that if this 7-piece dynamo hum doesn't get you flying high (without the dope) - YOU are arrogant!  I also dug the genuine groove & bump on "Sono Tranquillo Eppure Spesso Strillo"... had me up outta' my seat dancin' 'round with th' headphones as though I was listening to some of the old George Duke craziness - SOLID phunk & fun!  If you've never heard these folks before, you owe it to your ears to git' DOW-un on 'em... they're KILLER (& we're tellin' the label we want ALL of their stuff)... not only do they get a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, but they earn the first ever "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 5.00 (on a scale of 1-5, they are at the very top)!  Get more information at     Rotcod Zzaj

Cara Clarke, Stefan Abuan, Steve Bartlett - BE HEAR (demo): As many who read our magazine regularly know, I seldom review demos... I'd been after Cara to get me something for review, though, for quite some time, & when she handed me this 5-song, I couldn't pass it up.  That's in great part because of the quality of recording & performance on these tracks... the Abuan original, "Long As I Have Music" is a standout track, & Cara molds it nicely into something of lasting value! It doesn't hurt one bit that guitarist Abuan & bassist Steve Bartlett are right in her zone, either... this trio has crafted some soulful sounds that will just shine when they flesh this out into a full album.  I've watched them mature into a trio to be dealt with over the last few months, and it's been pure pleasure for my aural appendages... their performances at one of our favorite spots in the area (Blue Bottle Cafe) are always pure joy to watch, with Stefan's hyper-aware licks on lead guitar, Steve's funk-filled bass both contributing to the soul-filled vocals & performance Cara always pulls off!  All the way from that Abuan original to Sly Stone's "Thank You" will have you up & dancin', even if you've never danced before... this is music that's full of the joy of soul, & "Be Hear" makes it happen - all night long.  I can tell y'all right now, if the CD is anywhere near as funky as this preview, it'll stay in your collection for years to come.  I give it a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, & an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.8 (on a scale of 1-5).  Get more information on Cara's FB page - & tell her I sent ya'!    Rotcod Zzaj

Jamie Craig - ILLUMINATION: I reviewed Jamie's first CD in issue #81, most favorably... and this 2nd effort is no less astounding than "The Lost Dream" was... excellent music that incorporates elements of New Age with jazz, fusion and just inspiring music that will light up your day!  His piano passages will blow you away, even if you're primarily a jazz fan... all "good" music, in our estimation, is about the spirit of the player and how well they're able to translate their feelings through their instrument(s), and Craig is full well capable of helping listeners soar to the highest planes.  While I love his piano work, I'm also intrigued by the string weaves he layers in, especially on tracks like "To Nola With Love"... the chord changes here will make you feel the love he's feeling as he plays this.  For something that takes you a bit further out, you'll find "Voyager IX" highly attractive to your ears, as did I... lots of variance in the moods here, and all with Jamie's masterful touch - this one will "fly you to the moon" (& beyond).  Many who attempt composing this kind of music get "almost there", but then fall flat when it comes to execution... not so with "Illumination" - you'll stay inspired from beginning to end.  My favorite piece was one of the slower ones, "Guardian Angel", which will make a believer out of you... there are higher planes to achieve than this lowly one on the universal scale, and Jamie takes you there.  I give this a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED... the "EQ" rating for this is 4.7... right up there with the best!  Get more information on Jamie's MYSPACE page.    Rotcod Zzaj

Borah Bergman-Stefano Pastor - LIVE AT TORTONA: Bergman's piano and Stefano Pastor's violin truly "make music together", though it's not for "tame listeners"... your ears need to be open to the spirit of improvisation in order to enjoy this.  Those (like me) who want something different will find this one of the more challenging listens this year... Borah's expressed sentiment about his keyboard playing is that "each hand can go in its own way when it wants to"... though many pianists want that to happen, few are able to make it happen without sounding like a train wreck.  There was a fellow (many years ago) named Greg Goodman who came close to Bergman's skill level, but clearly there is no one in my recent listening experience who can play this "disjointedly" and still make the visions mesh as seamlessly as this gent.  When you pair that up with Stefano's interjectory strings, you'll realize that there is be-bop available that ain't "just the same old thing".  I was especially attracted to the second track, "When Autumn Comes", probably because of the strong chords that make it "sound like regular jazz", but it was the marvelous duo on "Crescent" that totally captured me... Pastor's strings almost sound like a horn (something the liners say he intended)... for the uninitiated, this may remind them of what the inside of a terrorist's thoughts might sound like, but for those who want innovation in their sonic adventures, this is the cat's meow!  I rate it MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, & award it an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.85... high end pandemonium, no doubt!  Get more information at     Rotcod Zzaj

The Joshua Breakstone Trio - NO ONE NEW: Joshua's works have been reviewed here before, most notably in issue #65 1/2... this 5th release shows why he's considered one of the best jazz guitarists on the scene today!  He's joined by Lisle Atkinson on bass & Eliot Zigmund's drums & the trio cooks on all 8 tracks... of course, it's the original pieces that always keep my ears open... when you listen to the volcanic opener, "Over-Done", you'll know immediately why I dig his style so much!  Each player has a "voice" in the action, but leaves plenty of room for Joshua's searing leads... talk about energy - this is (nearly) 8 minutes of high-steppin' joy, boys!  If it's a more bluesy vein you're diggin' for, though, you'll fall in love (as I did) with "Blues Heretofore" right after the opening line... I mean, if you can't lay back & enjoy this one, you're a basket case already... in fact, listening back through all the cuts, I find that this is my favorite on the CD - smooth, yet full of life and energy.  His cover of Joe Henderson's "The Kicker" closes out the album with just the right amount of swingin' energy to make you keep comin' back for more - & more & more & more, no doubt in my mind.  It's a most interesting trio (for this reviewer, anyway) because it hearkens back to days when jazz was gentle, but Breakstone & crew spice it up with an energy that's clearly forward-looking, & not leaning on any kudos for past performance.  If you dig straight-ahead jazz guitar with high talent that will make for hours & hours of repeated listening pleasure, you'll agree with my rating of MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.82!  Get more information on this fantastic guitar player at   Rotcod Zzaj

Laurence Hobgood-Charlie Haden-Kurt Elling - WHEN THE HEART DANCES: This is some of the most poignant trio jazz I've heard in years... thought I hadn't listened to Hobgood's lively keyboards before, or Elling's vocals, I had listened to Haden play  his double bass with Kenny Burrell (live, in downtown Venice Beach, California, way back in the '70's)... this amazing CD brings out every little nuance in each of the trio's talents!  An original by Laurence titled "Sanctuary", though in a somewhat reflective mood, managed to transition to sheer/clear joy (for this listener, at least), perhaps because of the "blues" imagery his keyboard calls up for my ears.  Favorite tune for me, though, is actually the title track, "When the Heart Dances"... Hobgood's spirit is just bubbling up through his keyboards and the listener can't help but dance right along, 'round & 'round the floor - even if only mentally from their chair - simple, yet beautiful.  Charlie's original, "First Song", also features Elling's emotion-laden vocal & comes in a close second as a favorite.  There are 11 wonderful pieces of elegant jazz here that will zoom to the top of your playlists and stay there for years & years to come.  This is the kind of album that's destined to become an "instant classic" - if you don't believe me now, just click on the samples to hear what wonderment these gents can (& will) inspire for your heart... they will have you dancing!  Get more information at the NAIM (label) site for the CD!  This one gets an automatic MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.83).    Rotcod Zzaj

A New Day - SUMMER REFLECTIONS: "A New Day" is pianist/composer Rob Miller and Ron Heustis doing orchestrations, all to wonderful effect... if you want to know what summer "sounds like" through the ears/eyes & souls of accomplished players, you'll surely become acquainted with it on this (their second) CD.  In some sense, what they're playing reminds me of the Windham Hill "seasonal" releases... the compositions are highly original, full of spirit and totally engaging.  If you're a "purist" jazz fan, you may not find these as attractive as did I, but even if that's true, you'll know you're listening to high talent.  I couldn't find non-flash downloadables (as you can find when an artist loads their work on AMAZON), but their SOUND PAGE has flash samples of each of the tracks (actually, if you Google them, you can find them on plenty of podcasts).  The most attractive piece for this listener was the 6-minute "Early Rising"... I've always been easily engaged by the sound of a Kalimba, and they weave it into this composition very nicely... horns, guitar, everything you might imagine as you get up to meet a new day... keyword for this track is "inspiring"!  I also loved the full body approach on "Place of Solitude" - the orchestrals are excellent.  All in all, this is one of the better New Age recordings I've listened to this year - it earns a well-deserved HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, as well as an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.48.  Get more information at    Rotcod Zzaj

Charito - WATCH WHAT HAPPENS: Another laid-back jazz vocalist, Charito joins one amazing pianist/player from France, Michel Legrand... the recording doesn't "favor" either one, & they're both able to impress you with zesty talent and powerful playing! I'm telling you right now, when LeGrand kicks in with "scat" on the second track, "Summer Me, Winter Me", or the duet on "Pieces Of Dreams", your ears will quickly realize just how astounding life can be when in the presence of musical quality.  Charito is from Japan (or at least, she's based there), & having lived in the Orient myself for nigh on 20 years, I can tell you that she's "got it"... no pretending or imitating here - she's the "real thing".  As you read through her BIO, you'll see that she gets extremely high marks from jazz notables like Nancy Wilson, & I've no doubt that doesn't come "easy".  There are a couple of good introductory vids at ALLABOUTJAZZ on her, though I couldn't find any downloadable .mp3's for you - the AMAZON page didn't have any samples, either.  Her voice is full of soul, and she's easily able to wrap you into her spell... very enjoyable CD, in great part because of Michel's playing, but Charito is quality vocal jazz... she gets a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from me... "EQ" (energy quotient) rating is 4.45.  Get more information at   Rotcod Zzaj

Dan Moretti - TRES MUSE: We have reviewed Dan's splendid jazz works for many years now... all the way back to issue #36 & most recently in issue #93... anything we've heard his tenor sax on is the highest display of talent and energy you'll find on the scene today!  On this outing, he's joined by Marty Richards' drums & Marty Ballou on electric bass... a superb trio of masterful players who will challenge your ears, albeit in most pleasant fashion... this is the kind of jazz you can listen to for hours (even days) & find yourself coming back to over & over again to taste the essence of tightness - highly impressive and without restrictions.  This kind of originality in composition takes me back to my earliest years of listening to jazz - the early 1960's, when everything I listened to was exciting, because it was fresh & new... tunes like "Mumbo Jumbo" will remind you (as they did me) of great players like Eddie Harris, yet still excite you because the energy is clearly 21st Century!  The driving drum intro on "Fais Do-Do" will have your blood pumpin' at thrice the normal rate and your muses will be dancing as well... it was Ballou's thumping bass line that made "Guacamaya" my favorite on the CD, though... these guys are right on time every second, & will have you revisiting their muse far more than three times!  11 tracks of unadulterated jazz bliss for those who don't want their genres "mixed" into some unintelligible hydra... this gets our MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.78!  Get more information at   Rotcod Zzaj

Fred Simon-Paul McCandless-Steve Rodby-Mark Walker - SINCE FOREVER: There have been some wonderful releases coming in to us from the NAIM label lately... Fred Simon's piano compositions lead the quartet here, most splendidly.  His keyboard style is clearly based on lots of training, but his soul clearly comes through as he leads and backs reeds by Paul McCandless, acoustic bass from Steve Robby and drums/percussion from Mark Walker. The high-flying and jubilant second track, "No War Nowhere" is among my favorites... each player has a part to play, and play it they do... of course, I'm sure the theme has much to do with the emotion you feel pouring out from each instrument!  It is the dynamic and mysterious "Even in the Evening" that captures the prize of being my favorite, though... it stays in the jazz realm, but there are moments when I can clearly picture a symphony playing this one as a classic.  If you're inclined to hear something a bit more bright and upbeat, you'll fall in love with "What's The Magic Word?" immediately.  The keywords for all dozen of Simon's track are vibrant and essential... nearly 64 minutes of pure sonic pleasure that gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from us and an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.89 - volcanic!  Get more information and listen to samples at Fred's MYSPACE page!    Rotcod Zzaj

Christopher Boscole - PRESENTS OF ANGELS: Being a piano player myself, I can tell you that they often have a tendency towards so much introspection that their compositions often sound too self-absorbed - you know, like they're taking themselves too seriously.  That's surely not the case on Christopher's wonderful CD!  "Joy" is a word often used to describe the efforts of solo pianists doing "new age" works, and (once again), that is often a keyword for listeners to expect over-glitzy passages so far removed from the human condition that they're not enjoyable at all... Boscole's playing communicates the vision he wants you to see without any overstatement, and clearly demonstrates talent far beyond the reach of many of those who "think" they know how to put their vision across!  This is EXCELLENT piano, something I know I'll continue listening to for the long term... this is especially true on compositions like "Angel of Bliss", my favorite on the album.  Christopher's talent goes way beyond the norm for this genre, and pieces like "Knights of Gold", another favorite, put you in the mood to commune with higher beings!  I'm most highly impressed - this CD gets my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, as well as the "PICK" of this issue for "best solo piano"!  You owe it to your ears (and your soul) to pick this one up for your collection of favorites!  The "EQ" (energy quotient) rating is 4.86 (almost unheard of for solo piano).  Get more information at   Rotcod Zzaj

Richard Brent Turner - JAZZ RELIGION, THE SECOND LINE AND BLACK NEW ORLEANS: The image you see here pretty much "says it all" about this (very) interesting & engaging book from Richard Turner.  The brass band funeral processions are far more than just the "party" that the media shows for the "Crescent City"... Turner is a teacher of religions, and brings a wealth of personal knowledge, as well as direct experience with "the Second Line" that contributes so much to traditions that birthed the jazz we hear today... all the way from the original Congo Square performances to players (like Louis Armstrong, Mahalia Jackson - even the Neville Brothers) whose roots in this music so full of life and healing power helped to create jazz on the wider basis we know it today.  He intelligently explains how Voudou & even Catholicism blended elements from the African Diaspora, West Africa & Haiti and fused into a music founded on "resistance" that left even the Jim Crow folks at a loss as to how to "control" it (fact is, they never will be able to control the spirits, as much as they might like to do that).  This is the kind of book that you'll go back & read through again & again... & get something new out of it each time, no doubt in my mind.  The beauty of Richard's writing is that he's able to tell you his story without getting so scholarly about it that you have to consult a dictionary or Thesaurus for every other page.  A thoroughly enjoyable read, with a totally engaging photo section that captures (at least) part of the spirit of the music/religion he's writing about.  I'm impressed enough to give this a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for anyone interested in "digging a bit deeper" into where this "jazz" all came from.  Get more information at Indiana University Press - & of course, tell them you read the review here!  Rotcod Zzaj 

Michael DeMaria - OCEAN: The aspect of Michael's music that impressed me most on his previous release, "Siyotanka" was his ability to touch the listener with the power needed to heal them... and this new release shows that talent at an even deeper level.  Michael tells me in the letter that accompanied the package that the music was "designed to help people relax and let go"... not necessarily the kind of relaxation that puts them so deep under that they want to sleep - more the kind that spurs pleasant brainwaves to help a listener focus on the healing power they have within themselves.  I know (from my own experiences/recovery) that this is possible and that the world would be a far better place if more folks could settle down enough to feel the gentle calm that "Moonlit Sea" inspired for me!  Well crafted and full of spirit, DeMaria's music touches your mind through passages that (at times) feel like your brain is being massaged... witness the bass sounds, beautiful flute, dynamic strings and enchanting vocals on my favorite track, "In Search of Home".  This kind of music deserves your undivided attention - it isn't "background" music, & you should make sure you set aside the full hour for an uninterrupted listen - preferably with headphones on.  Be sure to keep your ears on Michael, as you're going to be hearing more and more from him in the coming years... he gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from me, as well as the "PICK" of the year for "best ambient CD".  This one gets an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.92 (scale is 1-5).  Get more information at   Rotcod Zzaj

Tom Braxton - ENDLESS HIGHWAY: One of my promoters took a (real) chance on this one, as the ads all kind of put Tom's fantastic CD in the "smooth jazz" category... while it has elements of that (you know, stock chords & similar changes), none of the compositions carry that dreaded "lull" that genre category carries with it for many of our readers.  Why?  Because Braxton's style on both his originals & those of the other players whose tunes appear here all contain stellar energy for the playing of the music... there isn't a dull tune on the album!  As you might imagine, the title track is one of Tom's, & it KICKS right in - splendid introduction to his playing, which I'd not heard before, though I'm sure after hearing these spirit-filled tunes, we'll all be hearing more from him in the future!  There's a clear sense of jumpin' for JOY on many of the 13 pieces, but nowhere is that sense of just how great life can be was it more evident than on my favorite cut, "Soul Purpose", another Braxton original... his tenor sax is superb here, and his talent for arranging shines right on through with his horn arrangements.  If you want to hear from what jump sounds like, you'll definitely dig "That Wayman Smile", by Tom & keyboardist Jay Rowe... gettin' on up to dance isn't a question on this one, it's a mandate.  For something that soars, check out "The Journey Radio Edit" - perfect cut for the lead-out on an album that has the high spirit and life-filled energy that is demanded to get a review here.  This gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from my ears, & an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.75!  Get more information at  Rotcod Zzaj 

Davey Williams - ANTENNA ROAD: Davey's back at the improv shrine again - only in this case, we need to bowin' down to him (it's just the price of fame, Mr. Williams... ha! ha!).  30 (yes, I said THIRTY) tracks that vary in length from seconds long to minutes long... superb improvisations that will warm the cockles of yer' heart - unless, of course, you're in a "smooth jazz" frame o' mind... then, Davey's odd-istry may not groove you quite as much as it did me.  I've known him for a long time (since around 1980 or so, when we played together on a CD called Sdrawkcab Zzaj), & can say unequivocally that this is the best guitar-based improvisation set I've ever heard... everything is recorded very clearly, nothing is left to chance.  Names like Derek Bailey are often used to make comparisons with Williams, but I can tell you for a fact that you have never heard music like this... all the way from mythical dragons screeching in your ears to ordnance blowing out your eardrums, "Antenna Road" is totally original.  In your braincase will roil distant remembrances of players like Beefheart, perhaps Zappa & others too jaded for public consumption, but you'll know that what you've been exposed to is the imagination of a genuine modern wizard, with no punches pulled & no prisoners taken.  Unfortunately, the sample trax from this one appear to be up on CD BABY, which uses flash, so no direct downloads were available (damnable FLASH player sucks buttermilk)... guess that means you'll just have to purchase it - and if you're a fan of mind-boggling improvised music, you will be driven to purchase this.  It is, quite simply, the VERY BEST IMPROVISED GUITAR I've ever heard... not only a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, but it gets the "PICK" of this century for "best improvised guitar"!  The EQ (energy quotient) is 4.92.  Get more information at    Rotcod Zzaj

Gene Segal - HYPNOTIC: I'm continually impressed by the high quality of music sent for review these days... this CD is from a Brooklyn-based jazz guitarist (originally from Russia) who has put together an excellent sextet... jazz fans will love his all-original music, as did I!  Each & every track is packed with the kind of vibrant energy that only can come from a person who is fully engaged in life!  Gene's excellent guitar is joined by organ from Sam Barsh (I'm just lovin' his style), drums & percussion by Matt Kane, tenor sax from Mike Sim, both tenor & soprano by Bryan Beninghove, & rounded out by trumpet from Jonathan Powell.  There's a rockin' undercurrent of uptown funkiness that can't be resisted, especially on pieces like "Blues Again"... Barsh's exceedingly talented organ playing is a perfect compliment to Segal's kickin' leads, & at 5:25, it's long enough to make you get on up & step to it!  "Alef" leads in with a great call/response funk riff, & when the horns start doing counterpoint, you'll be groovin' for sure!  My favorite on the CD, though was the last track, "Truth"; each player has a part to play, & they clearly are in tune enough not to be steppin' all over each other... Gene's guitar has some scorching leads here, too, which is probably why I dug it so much!  I expect I'll be hearing a lot more from Segal after this stunning debut effort... keep your ears on him, to be sure!  I give him a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED on this one, as well as an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.91.  Get more information at   Rotcod Zzaj

David Widelock Trio - SKATING ON THE SIDEWALK: The mark of a true music professional is the ability to flex between different styles of music without "losing" the listener.... David & his trio companions (Fred Randolph's acoustic & fretless electric bass, & Jim Kassis on drums) have put together a truly attractive 11 song sonic package for your pleasure that displays the highest talent level I've heard from a trio in quite some time!  All tracks (except 2) are composed by Widelock, which adds an "edge" that's necessary, at least in some ways, to get a top rating from me... & it goes all the way from straight-up jazz to funk to great Latin-influenced jazz.  If you're looking for "laid-back", try "A Colorful Dream Underwater"... Randolph's bass lends a nice loose feel in support of great (& very clear) guitar leads by David.  On the other hand, if you're looking for somethin' to get yer' "groove on", you'll dig "Peeling The Magic Onion" in a big way... this one's still playing in my car player - great for the road, I'll tell you!  My (absolute) favorite, though, was "Something Easy"... it's one of the best blues-influenced originals I've heard (yet) this year... absolutely tight playing that will haunt your ears for years to come.  Though this isn't his debut release (his last was in 1985), it might as well be, in my mind, anyway... it paints a very clear sonic image of a player who (though having been around for a good long time) is right in touch with what jazz fans want to hear in the "now".  I give it a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, & will definitely look forward to his next release!  "EQ" (energy quotient) rating is 4.86.  Get more information at   Rotcod Zzaj

John Wojciechowski - LEXICON: John's tenor and soprano sax works are (quite simply) astounding!  His tone makes it that way - full-bodied and rich all the way from opening note to closing bar.  Unfortunately, this one wasn't up on AMAZON (yet?), so I couldn't link the samples right in for you, but you can hear 4 or 5 of them on John's listening page (whoops, I did find some downloadable/playable samples at EMUSIC - our hats are off to those folks for making the links available, even tho' it does appear to be that abominable FLASH player).  He's joined by Dave Miller on guitar, Ron Perillo on piano/Rhodes, Dennis Carroll on bass and Dana Hall on drums/cymbals; you may not realize it until you've listened to him, but he's been on the jazz scene with lots of players.  Nine original tunes keep the energy going at full-bore, especially on compositions like "Jazz Folk Song", my absolute favorite on the album... at about 2:50, Perillo's excellent piano chops are joined by a scorching sax lead that you won't soon forget, & Carroll's bass introduction provides a driving force that propels it at rocket speed!    There are all kinds of player comparisons I could make (names like Getz, Adderley & such come to mind), but what I so much enjoy about his energy is that you can tell everything he plays is straight from the heart... songs like "Jazz Folk Song" are more expressive of the ancient language that music truly is than any I've heard in years!  If it's rousing drums and energy that spans the universe you crave, you'll fall in love with "Pentatonic Tune"... this one just soars!  If you're looking for an album that will become an "instant jazz classic" - this is it!!!  I rate it MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, as well as award it the "PICK" of this issue for "best saxophone-based jazz quintet"!  "EQ" (energy quotient) rating is 4.96!  Get more information at   Rotcod Zzaj

LaDonna Smith - Michael Evans - DEVIANT SHAKTI: Here's our longtime improvising pal LaDonna creating crystal-clear improvised havoc with her violin/viola in tandem with Michael Evans, doing percussion, drums, electronics & Theremin!  As many of you who read this 'zine on a regular basis may know, I first met LaDonna way back in the earliest days of her label, Transmuseq... I was doing a lot of performance art & played with her & guitarist Davey Williams (also reviewed in this issue).  My first listen to this CD was through speakers, & to be fair to the artists, decided right away that it MUST be taken in through headphones... doing the listen in any other fashion takes away from the intense concentration and focus that you must have when experiencing improvised music; and I can tell you that you'd be missing a lot... this is one of the intricately woven sonic tapestries I've ever heard from LaDonna... EVERY note has a new adventure, and you'll find yourself absorbed to the 'nth degree after only the first 20 seconds.  There are "voices" in here that even the most able among us will find difficult to grok, even if we are at the highest levels of "the force"... Smith's string antics mesh perfectly with Michael's (r)evolutionary percussion to give you an insight of the language the creators of the universe speak in... what language, you ask?  Why, pure and unadulterated music, of course, unfettered by convention or mediocrity.  If you are inclined to thinking that artistry can only be "true" if it reflects the conventions man often wants to superimpose over the chaos that life really is - go elsewhere... but if you appreciate sonics that take you to new levels, you'll have no choice but to get this one!  The "EQ" (energy quotient) level on this one is what gives it away as one of the best improvised albums in a long time - it gets a 5.0 (which is at the top of the Zzaj energy scale... you can't go any higher).  It is, of course, MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for those listeners who are unafraid of "different" music, as well as the "PICK" of this issue for "best improvised duet"!  Get more information (& listen to short samples) at CD BABY!   Rotcod Zzaj

Fra Fra Sound - DYA SO: Having led an "addictive lifestyle" myself for a few years, I know that what often causes folks to get hung on substances is a key element missing in their lives - & that is the joy that comes from a life fully lived... these gents help to inspire such through their music, in a big way!  I'm highly impressed, as will any jazz fan who is looking for Afro-Latin sounds that will get both body & mind moving in zones that bring that joy on!  To watch a video of them "at play", go HERE - the feeling there reminds me somewhat of old vids of groups that Joe Zawinul was in, & in fact, Weather Report does come to mind on tunes like "We'll See You There" (this is at their MYSPACE page... couldn't find any direct download samples that weren't using FLASH).  We've actually listened to (& reviewed) them before, but for some reason, I was unable to find the issue they were in.  The FAVORITE track (for me) on this outing, though, was "100% Halal"... in addition to the marvelous horns, there is also some fantastic electric piano work... if this one doesn't get you up & moving - you're dead already!  Those who want to find jazz that will stand the test of time need only check out the links above... 9 joyous tracks that will be the envy of jazz aficionados 'round the planet.  I give them a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, & have told the promoter that we want EVERY release they have (past, present or future) for review!  Funk without the fuss - GREAT jazz that gets an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.95!  Get info at   Rotcod Zzaj


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




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

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