Issue # 98 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!



John Funkhouser Trio - TIME: If it's truly tasty jazz you're looking for, with highly original energy and talent that just won't quit, you will dig John's piano work with his trio... he's joined by bassist Greg Loughman and drummer Mike Connors, and they just smoke these 11 tunes!  There is nothing "cliché" about any of the pieces, and you can hear influences from lots of notables in their playing.  I was especially impressed with cuts like the 7:41 "Emancipation" - it's not just the feeling of free they create, it's also the seamlessness with which they play... when John hands off the track to Greg's bass at about 1:48 or so, you hardly even notice that the voices have changed.  This takes real skill, and Funkhouser's trio carries it off like the pros they are.  John's deep, rich keyboards on "Alone Together" will wrap you in a blues blanket that's comforting and soulful.  For something a little more "bouncy" (almost danceable), try "Ellipse"... the other beautiful thing about their music is that it takes twists & turns almost as complicated as one of my heroes, Frank Zappa... I know that's an odd comparison for a jazz trio, but their timing and supreme syncopation is what brings that to mind for me, & "Ellipse" is perfect in it's execution.... all the players are right on time, no slipups and no crowding or power grabbing!  This is one of the tightest jazz trio efforts I've heard this year (& that's saying something, 'coz I've listened to a lot of them in 2009).  My definite favorite on the CD, though, is "Eleventy One"... there's a whole lot o' phunk goin' on here, especially in John's keyboard lines, & the arrangement makes you want to get up & dance until dawn has flown th' coop!  I give this a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.97.  Get more information at   Rotcod Zzaj

Daniel Smith - BLUE BASSOON: We reviewed Daniel's last CD in issue #78 and were amazed at his ability to use his bassoon (not something we always think of as a really rockin' instrument) to totally blow us away... well, on this one, he's taken it over the top!  It doesn't hit the streets until the 12th of January, 2010, so get your copy now!  Everything melds together to make this one of the hottest 2010 jazz CD's I've heard yet... the players he's picked to be with him... super jazz keyboards from Martin Bejerano, Edward Perez' on totally timely bass, awesome drumming from Ludwig Afonso and a grand guest guitar shot (on a couple of tracks) by Larry Campbell, as well as an unrelenting energy for blues-based jazz penned by some of the greats (Cannonball, Lee Morgan, even Coltrane) make this a listening experience you'll never forget!  Man, this cat can BLOW that horn... and he makes it sound effortless, though we all know it's not that at all... the band is tight in every way you can imagine, too, never a dull moment or stray note.  Smith's reeds stay right out in front, but give plenty of room for high-spirited interpretations from each of the players... that's especially true on tunes like the opener, Horace Silver's "The Jody Grind" - Martin's keyboards just cook, & Perez' bass literally drives the tune!  My absolute favorite, though, was Lee Morgan's "The Double Up"... the kind of full-tilt energy displayed here is what makes jazz stand out and ROCK the WORLD!  I'm greatly impressed & declare this 13 track album to be MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, as well as the "PICK" of this issue for "best bassoon jazz/blues CD"!  It gets an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.98, really close to the top of the 5 point scale.  Get more information at  (there's also a great video there about the making of the CD).   Rotcod Zzaj

Chasm - BAMBOO BLUE: Mark Esakoff, co-founder of this band, sent me his MYSPACE link... when I went to listen, I was highly impressed & asked him to send me something... 2 or 3 days later, this marvelous little CD showed up (it's the band's third).  Popped it in & began burning it to my review drive... it populated with auto-tag right away... always a good sign, as it shows that a band is dedicated to having everything at a pro level (having the CD ready on the web is excellent, because it means you don't have to type all the titles & such in - 'coz it find them for you... even the album art).  'nuff of my boasting about how easy it was... back to the music.. the title track leads in (click the title to listen to the sample) with some nice flute energy & backing guitars (like those "hidden voices" down under it, too).  The musical style is close enough to jazz so that even hardcore jazzers will dig this, but it has a strong element of "world" involved, too.  Mark's guitar, marimba & ukulele, Michael Whipple's flutes, keyboard and percussion, Brad Strickland's guitar & electric sitar, Arne Anselm's upright bass and Aaron Winters' drum kit & djembe all blend together most satisfactorily into 11 (all original) tracks infused with high energy and talent!  (there are also guest players - Brad Ranola on drums, bongos & cajon, Bodhi Jones doing bass & drums and Mark Freddy on danmo, angklung & vocals).  Some beautiful rhythms make "Close To Earth" very aurally attractive - might even get you to dancin', though it would "cut off" too soon (it's only 3:44 - put it on loop, I guess).  My absolute favorite, though (probably because of it's mysterious and jazzy flavor) was "Soothsayer Swing" - they go soaring at about 1:19... excellent tune, just full of life!  I give these folks a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED... & an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.82.  Get more information at or   and after you fall in love with the samples, tell 'em Zzaj sent ya', ok?    Rotcod Zzaj

The American Music Project - ON THE BRIGHT SIDE: Nice rappin' jazz from the Motor City - Dejuan Everett doing the poetry, with Curtis Isom on vocals, Dane Beys alto sax, Keith Javors doing keyboards, Dave Zeigner on bass & Alex Brooks' drums. I'm strongly impressed with this group, 'coz they hold up their end of the promise by keepin' it all shiny... I had probably expected some descent into the dregs, 'specially since I know Detroit isn't the most pleasant place to be right now... but the cynicism I may have expected was overcome by a verbal and musical plea to the human spirit to HANG!  All the players are absolutely at the top of their form, & they do their performance with the POWER I would've expected from the '60's rap icons I grew up with - like "The Last Poets" - and with a streetwise elegance that can challenge ANY high-speaking, well-educated fool that thinks he knows what life is all about, but ain't never been OUT in the STREET!  I'm sure that Beys' wailing sax on "Path Of Most Resistance" went a long way towards convincing my ears that these folks are for real - no shuck & jive, they sound like they've LIVED on the tuff side, & emerged to the point - check out my favorite track on the album to hear what I'm talking about - "Call It What You Want"... words that mean something and jazz that will urge your aura to achieve new heights!  Their music/words are an instant classic to these old ears, and a perfect introduction to the new year of our hope, 2010.  I give this one a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, as well as the "PICK" of this issue for "best spoken word & jazz"... "EQ" (energy quotient) rating is 4.94 - very high!  Get more information at     Rotcod Zzaj

Chris Potter, Steve Wilson, Terell Stafford, Keith Javors, Delbert Felix, John Davis - COMING TOGETHER: Read the review above and you'll see that it mentions the keyboardist on this grand jazz CD - it came in a package from the promoter, and I hadn't noticed it until just now... probably because there's not really a group name.  The music is actually in tribute to saxophonist/composer Brendan Romaneck, who passed tragically just 2 months before this session was to be recorded.  Having already listened to Keith's magical fingers on "The American Music Project" endeavor, I knew it would be well qualified as jazz of the first order... truly soulful jazz produced by pianist Javors.  The keyword for the entire musical adventure, for my ears anyway, is "high energy"... there's not one slipup, no gaffes whatsoever.  All but 3 of the 11 pieces are originals from Brendan, and I suspect that's a big part of what attracted me so much to the music here... this is jazz that will stay on the playlist forever - truly a shame to have lost such a monster talent, but these players do Romaneck proud, no doubt.  That's especially true on cuts like "3 Steps Ahead of the Spider"... just LISTEN to the reeds wailing and transporting you to the equivalent of musical heaven!  If you're looking for a tune that's a bit more laid back in approach, try out "Nancy With The Laughing Face" - a real "Getz" feel to the sax on this one, but still full of life and power.  My favorite composition on the CD though, is "Minion", with it's slow build to total abandon... and Keith's piano solo at about 3:48 is clearly superior to many players on the scene these days.  I'm highly impressed with the abilities of this group of players, & give them a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for any listener who wants jazz that will last through the eons.  They get an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.93.  Get more information at   Rotcod Zzaj

The David Leonhardt Trio - BACH TO THE BLUES: We've listened to David's beautiful piano works before (and reviewed them, in issue #83)... this trio outing features the same players (David's piano, with bass by Matthew Parrish and drums from Alvester Garnett), but the theme is not pop classics - instead, they hone in on pieces like "Clair De Lune", "Canon in D"... THE classics, you know, folks like Bach, Debussy and Chopin.  If you found those composers boring in your music appreciation class, you can rest assured that won't be the case with David and his crew's interpretations of the songs... Leonhardt's touch on the boards is firm yet not overbearing, and the bass and drums are perfectly represented - in other words, they are a very tight jazz trio that will hold your attention and inspire you with their way of doing these tunes.  For one of the most upbeat takes you've ever heard on Bach's "Prelude in A minor"... the piano intro is pronounced, with drums and bass so "on time" you almost don't know they are there... at about 1:23, the separation becomes a bit more obvious, with more of a jazz feel... extremely pleasant arrangements, with high talent displayed on every note.  My personal favorite was "Clair de Lune"... after only bar 4, the trio had me swirling through the night in a jazz waltz for forever.  These guys get a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from me (and that's rare for a "theme" album, where everything's a cover), with an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.91.  Get more information at    Rotcod Zzaj

Michael Stribling - THE PROMISE: Literally everything you hear on this magical CD came from Michael, or (as he says) "All tunes, tracks, and tinkering"... and what becomes evident (certainly by the second tune, "Daily Living") is that Michael has an approach to music that can't be characterized as anything except JOY!  Some reviewers believe that music composed on electronic instruments can't have the same degree of "life" in it as that made on purely acoustic instruments... Stribling makes it clear that is not true, and pulls it off with high-spirit and talent!  The tunes he has put together here will take your soul on a soaring journey to where the good side of man exists, particularly on tracks like "When Love Comes Near" - his string washes rapidly envelop you and allow you to feel what "real" is meant to be.  For pure unadulterated pleasure, though, you must listen to my favorite piece on the album, "Distant Shores"... the kind of music the angels would play as you make your transition to the other side... gentle, yet infused with hope and forward vision.  I'm very much impressed, and you will be, too... "The Promise" gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for listeners who want more than "everyday" on their menu.  It gets an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.92, very high (here) for a "new age" or "inspirational" CD.  Get more information, as well as access to full-length versions of these tracks) at  (ed; Michael also asked me to point out his site, which has the music and newsletters, videos, etc.)    Rotcod Zzaj

The Fat Cat Big Band - FACE: I had done some reviews of alto saxophonist Sharel Cassity's work (issues #83 & 84) and that may be why we got this marvelous CD in for review.  It's clear that these "cats" are into jazz (their own interpretations of it, not some schlock "imitation" band).  The whole affair seems to be headed up (maybe "organized", or "instigated" is a better word) by one crazed guitarist named Jade Synstelien... who apparently once said "Well, yeah man, the pow wow beat sits under the bebop, sits under all American music.  There would be no bebop without the pow-wow beat of the Red People."  Now, that's a different take on where jazz came from (at least it is to me), but if you stop & think about it (over a bowl or two, maybe), it really makes sense!  That's not to say that the music sounds like it was composed in a sweat lodge, but if you listen to Jade's guitar lines, you will hear a new paradigm for jazz revealed... if you don't believe me, check out the title track "Face".  Sharel's fantastic alto leads in, together with Jade's guitar, & their intro sets the pace for the rest of the players as they join in to a big band celebration the likes of which you've never heard before.  Liner notes are famous (or maybe infamous) for proclaiming things like "this music heralds the dawn of a new age"... on this CD (the last of a trilogy), it's like you get to hear much more than you ever heard before about where jazz really came from, without any hype required... this is the "real deal".  The beauty, though, is that there is no one "preaching" it... the lesson is in the listening, and every moment will be joyous (unless you're just a total mugwump, so steeped in your "learned ways" that you'll never really know anything).  My favorite piece on the album is "Bory-Alice", which also features Jade's (ever so jaded) vocals... thought I was in a speak-easy somewhere near O-ora - absolute FUN, any you listen to it!  I give this a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, as well as declaring it the "PICK" of this issue for "best original jazz".... it also gets an astronomical "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.96!  Get more information at    Rotcod Zzaj

Jack Broad - CURRENT: I was just blown away when I listened to these tunes on Jack's MYSPACE page... he had sent me an email calling attention to the page... soaring guitar solos and mixes that have influences from all the way back in the glory days of the 1960's.  Names like Mahavishnu, Carlos and Robin Trower come to mind immediately, but he makes it clear that this is coming from his soul.  Tunes like "Cold Cut" are definitely "today" songs, with all the high tech wizardry and spirit that the tools can add to guitar-based super-movement... this track goes into the outer edges of the stratosphere & well beyond... you won't be sitting still while listening to this piece.  I liked this tune (especially) because of the pulsing rhythms he has driving it!  If you're looking for something a bit more mysterious and moody, try "Swamp Witch"... there's definitely some "guitar voodoo" involved in this powerful epic (7:41)... he winds 'er up slowly, but it isn't long before you realize the broom he was riding on musta' had about 400hp under it... razor-sharp sliding lines that take you into a séance of your own... too cool!  It was actually the closer, though, "Nu Sounds (For the Old Soul)", that made this CD a clear winner for my ears, though... I keep coming back to it on the playlists (or in the car player) - can't get that tune outta' my head... definitely my favorite piece on the album.  I rate this as MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, & will tell you - you should keep your ears on this gent... he's gonna' invade yer' ears over the next few years.  "Current" gets an EQ (energy quotient) rating of 4.96!  Get more information at the MYSPACE site above.   Rotcod Zzaj

GR Project - SCULPTURES IN TIME: This quintet, with Gabriel Riesco leading on guitar, Nir Naaman's sax work, Roy Assaf on keyboards, bass by Chris Smith and drums by Colin Stranahan is more than "just another jazz CD"... it's a tribute for sculptor Eduardo Chillida; an attempt to "see" music with the same interpretations of time/space that the famous sculptor had.  One of the things that was most striking for me is that the liner notes proclaim that it was "recorded in one day"... in my mind, that means that it was very much "of the moment", and that's the feel the music conveys, to be sure - no plodding lines here, or re-hashed jazz clichés.  Though the music is clearly in the jazz realm, there are moments on "Chillada" (beginning right at about 6:00 into the 8:51 piece) where the percussion emulates the sculptors' thoughts and movements as he creates something... some excellent creative movements here that give you a real sense of why they are doing this tribute.  The group's vision of the artistic beauty is best expressed on "Ol For", I thought... they use all the little timing tricks available in their musical kit bag to carve out snatches of musical perfection... this was my favorite cut on the album. I hadn't heard Gabriel (or the other artists) before, but I've no doubt jazz fans everywhere will be seeking out their high-energy (& high-talent) jazz for years to come... this gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from my ears, with an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.92.  Get more information at    Rotcod Zzaj

James Moody - 4A: There are some moments when you just know the jazz in your life is sweeter than you could have ever imagined... when you listen to James' tenor (& alto/soprano) sax on this tasty little CD, you know this is one of those occasions!  He is joined by Kenny Barron on piano, Todd Coolman on bass and Lewis Nash on drums on an incredible recording that just feels good!  That is especially evident on Kenny's original "Voyage", one of my favorite cuts on the album... Moody's reeds just soar on the lead lines and all the other players are on the journey as well... superb jazz, to be sure!  We've all heard excellent sax players before, whether of the "new breed" or "old stalwart" variety... James Moody is among the best of those and this album will give you hours of listening pleasure... his 60+ years of experience will shine through for listeners of all stripes!  I was lulled right into thinking that I was IN the club as "'Round Midnight" played... one of the best versions I've ever heard of it, & when the sax kicks in at about 3:04 (or so) - and Nash's drums at 5:19 are astounding.. I could even see the blue smoke rising... mighty pretty!  For real high-energy, though, you'll probably find Moody's rendition of "Without A Song" your favorite (as did I)... pure soul flowing through him and out to the listener!  This is one of the most impressive musical experiences I've heard in 2009.  Everything on this CD is well-balanced and high-talent... I give it a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED and an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.97.  Get more information at     Rotcod Zzaj 

Harlan Mark Vale - ETERNUS CONSCIENTIA: My musical soulmate Mark has surely been going in different directions over the last 5 years or so... new creations, new ideas and new energies unbounded.  We last encountered (reviewed) his journey down these pathways in issue #83 on his solo piano CD, Bright Angel... this new excursion into the spheres is realized electronically... when you hear the opening track, "Lux Lucis of Divinus Hereditas" (or "Light of Divine Inheritance"), you will aurally see where he has been.  Being in contact with the light referenced is a powerful experience, but it's seldom conveyed sonically with as much understanding as Mark passes on to you here... I've no doubt that the meditative explorations he's been on over the last several years are helping him "grasp" this, but he is doing it here in a way that allows you to hear his serenity.  When he shifts to "Santus Nuntius" (or "Sacred Message" in the Tunnel of Crickets), I hear the talent he's loaned me over the years amplified into the purity of soul he (and all of us) are really searching for... simple, but wondrous, music.  It is the leadout track, though, "Ingressus Counstituo Prodigium" (or "Entering Stationary Portal"), that captures my ear as favorite... at 14:32, the piece gives him plenty of space to develop his vision, and he does so with a skill that can only come from total devotion to the music and love for being.  No "quick twists" or sound card gimmickry here, this is calm and fulfilling music that comes from deep down.  The most amazing part of being on this musical trip with Vale is how clearly he "sees" what will appeal to the inner part of so many of us, and channels it from another source into the sonic light we all seek.  This is (without doubt) the best electronic music I've heard from Mark (or any other electronic artist) this year (and I'm sure next)... it gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from me, as well as the "PICK" of 2009 for "richest musical realization".  It gets an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Get more information at   Rotcod Zzaj

Saltman-Knowles - YESTERDAY'S MAN: Music from these folks is always welcomed here at IMPROVIJAZZATION NATION... we reviewed their "Return of the Composer" CD in issue #94.  Knowles keyboards and Saltman's bass are just as vibrant on this new 10-song album... there are a whole host of other players here, but their other regular player is vocalist Lori Williams-Chisolm, whose vocals shine again this time.  That's particularly true of her singing on tracks like "Cry"... at about 6:11 into the 7:10 piece, she rolls into a scat that's among the best I've ever heard... will bring a tear of joy (or more) to your eye, for sure.  The funk-poppin' beat of the bass helps a great deal on the lead-in to "Shesh", but as always, they bring it right back to the jazz that's at the core of all their musical adventures... great piece, to be sure.  Their music is all original, so there's no chance that you'll be challenged with tired covers of someone else's jazz vision... the energy is high and the talent just flows from these folks!  My favorite cut was "Blues For Sale" an original from Saltman that puts that bass right out there where it belongs - driving this kickin' tune that they said (in the liner notes) has "a bit of bug juice in the percussion solo"... not sure exactly what they meant there, but this tune is superb jazz that will get your spirit movin'!  Actually, though, the whole production is a winner, & I give it a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, to be sure.  "EQ" (energy quotient) rating is 4.93.  Get more information at   Rotcod Zzaj

The Wayne Wallace Latin Jazz Quintet - BIEN BIEN: One of the feelings you get when listening to Wayne's excellent music is pure, unadulterated joy... whether it's on one of the (3) originals, or on pieces from folks like (one of my all-time favorites) Eddie Harris, this quintet makes sure you know that life is to be lived.  We reviewed Wallace's quintet most recently in issue #86, and this new addition is just as killer for sure... his trombone is right out in front on Harris's "Freedom Jazz Dance"... not sure why, but I'm also catching a vibe similar to some of George Duke's stuff with Zappa - probably because of the vocal, which just shines.  What captured my ear (right away) for best all-round jazz piece, though, was Wayne's "Playa Negra"... the balance between the instruments is just superb, and if you can't catch the vibe on this one - you've already got two feet in the grave... Wayne composed it in honor of that town in Costa Rica, & you'll feel like you're right there with those folks!  One of the things Wallace focuses on is that one's playing must be "in the moment", meaning a willingness to explore the unknown... this CD captures that spirit most eloquently, and you'll find yourself listening over & over again to realize it with the players.  I give this one a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, as well as an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.94.  Get more information at   Rotcod Zzaj

E.S.P - TIME'S UP: It's nice to hear that my native turf is flourishing with jazz players extraordinaire... these guys were from the Buffalo and Syracuse areas, only a few miles from where I grew up in northern Pennsylvania... & they've learned their licks well, getting right on down deep into what makes the genre "tick".  Bassist Matt Vacanti, saxophonist Brian Scherer (who also plays flute on this outing), guitarist John Magnante & newest member drummer Karl Sterling are joined by keyboards from Barry Blumenthal in a "real jazz" session that will make your ears sit up & listen! 11 all-original compositions (essentially from each member of the group) that will wail your night away and make you realize that jazz is far more than a cultural element to be studied in hallowed halls... it's that music that gets "right up in your ears" and comes back to haunt you over & over again.  That's especially true with movers like "Post Bop Republic"... the hook is killer, and each player is featured very nicely on the recording... it's the kind of straight-ahead and full-bodied music that communicates joy in every bar.  Vacanti's bass just smokes on "Stone Cold", in 9/4, bringing back memories of the jazz greats I listened to in much earlier decades; complex structure but totally accessible, and it leaves plenty of room for the other instruments to say their piece as well. It was actually a tune called "Merge", by guitarist Magnante, that won my heart as favorite, though... Brian's flute on this one is absolutely full of life and vigor!  I give these guys a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.93.  Get more information at  Rotcod Zzaj 

JB Floyd, Thomas Buckner, George Marsh: IN CROSSING THE BUSY STREET - Looking back through my archive, I (just now) realize that I've been reviewing works by Thomas Buckner for a long, long time... this is our first listen to the excellence of pianist/composer/improvisor JB Floyd, but (as noted), Buckner's deep and rich baritone has been 'round these pages for quite some many years, and his impact is no less strong in this (sort of) trio (George Marsh plays crisp & crystal-clear drums); the entire work is based on a poem by Daniel Abdal-Hayy Moore, so although the piano and drums are there in support of the effort (in a big way), the story is told by Thomas's strong spoken-word and song.  This is clearly not "be-bop", "funk" or "smooth" jazz, but it is surely sonic art and will make you taste every moment of the tale.  Some of you may be aware that I first started out with spoken-word performances... nowhere near the high-talent scale displayed here, but (in my mind) it's not a "competitive sport" anyway... this kind of magic is done to tell the story, and the trio works wonderfully together to wrap you into their spell.  A very interesting excursion that your ears (and your spirit) deserve.  I give this a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for any and all who want "more" than "just average" in their listening experience.  It gets an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.94.  Get more information at    Rotcod Zzaj

Jeff Hamilton Trio - SYMBIOSIS: If there were any more talent displayed on this fine CD (Jeff's Capri label debut), it would be a clear cut case of "jazz overload" for sure!  Mostly standards, but with Hamilton's expert drums, the crystal-clear keyboards of Tamir Hendelman  and beautiful bass from Christoph Luty, you'll know you're on jammin' jazz turf by the time the opener (by Joseph Mydrow & Mack Gordon) "You Make Me Feel So Young" is halfway through.  If you want something a tad more gentle, with all the nuances you could imagine, try the title track, "Symbiosis"... Jeff's brush work on here is simple, yet astounding, and Luty's bass work hints at genius, to be sure.  My personal favorite was the trio's rendition of Ray Brown's "Blues for Junior"... Hendelman's keyboards take your soul right down there where the blues were born!  The recording is superb, with every little phrase clearly captured - in fact, I don't think I've heard a better-recorded jazz album this year... that's especially true on Jeff's original composition, "Samba De Martelo"... every little beat is vibrant and full of the kind of movement most trios can only yearn for.  The Wikipedia definition of the CD title is (roughly translated) "living together"... this trio's 9 years together shows just how close they've been... high talent and energy on every track.  I give this a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, as well as an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.97.  Get more information at    Rotcod Zzaj

Jon Lundbom & Big Five Chord - ACCOMPLISH JAZZ: We've reviewed quite a few CD's from the HOT CUP RECORDS label, most of featuring challenging listens, like Moppa Elliott's "MOPDtK" (Mostly Other People Do The Killing)... this grouping with Lundbom's guitar work also features bass from Elliott, as well as some astounding & quite complex alto & tenor sax work from Jon Irabagon and Bryan Murray respectively, as well as drums from Danny Fischer to round the quintet sound out.  What you will hear as you listen is odd time signatures that make your listen even more challenging when you compare the reeds against the drums and bass lines... unfortunately, the only downloadable samples I could find were at CD BABY (so there's no way to deep link to the individual tracks), so you'll have to listen to them there.  There are only 5 pieces, but they all clock in at (nearly) 10 minutes or more; each requires that you have headphones (there isn't any better way to focus, & focus is an absolute requirement for this kind of music).  The piece I found most attractive featured Jon's guitar in solo mode (at the front).. "Tick Dog" was 9:59 & it sorta' sucks you in to it's own vortex, though not in a "jolting" way... there are sections where I'm reminded of my friend Davey William's playing, though Lundbom makes it "feel" more like jazz... an excellent sonic adventure that had me on the edge of my chair the whole way through, especially when the rest of the group kicked in.  This is a very enchanting CD for listeners who want "more than normal", and won't settle for the "same old stuff"... I rate it as MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.95.  Get more information at   Rotcod Zzaj

Indiana University Press - THE JAZZ FICTION ANTHOLOGY: We receive treasures every day here at Zzaj Productions... many come in the form of a CD, or digital downloads, but there are other (musical) gems as well (many of which we have reviewed from IUP).  This particular book is a mother lode for anyone who wants a different perspective on jazz... as the book's editors (Sascha Feinstein & David Rife) say in the introduction... "In the best jazz fiction, we learn from the epiphanic experiences of the men and women moved by the music - not just the musicians...".  Players, of course, "speak" the language of jazz, as is so well evidenced by James Baldwin's classic jazz tale, "Sonny's Blues"; the writer of fiction has a different set of linguistic tools, of course, but it is (clearly, from these stories) the jazz/music that speaks through their words.  That's the other fantastic thing about this particular assemblage - they have writers from across the globe, not just those residing in the (supposed) "homeland" of jazz, the good ole' U.S.A.  32 stories in all, and each with it's own vibrant rhythm and pulse.  Many folks in today's world have kind of "turned off" reading, especially since writing about music often turns out to be a pretty boring read... often intellectual and with only a "scholarly" view... but this fantastic book has the potential to get young readers in to the stories - because each piece was carefully selected to tell the human side of the jazz story, so it won't be hard for a young reader to find their own story.  I am highly impressed... this book should be recommended reading in every music appreciation class, at all levels... grade school to college & on to University.  Feinstein and Rife have done a marvelous job of putting together a volume that will be readable over & over again... it gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from me, with an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.98 (yeah, it's that good, almost a perfect 5.00).  Get more information at Indiana University Press     Rotcod Zzaj

Paul Renz - IN MY OWN HANDS: Paul is a jazz/music teacher from the Minneapolis area, which may be why I hadn't heard his work before... apparently, he performs mostly in the midwest... I'll have to look him up next time I'm in Illinois (next month, in fact)... I'd love to watch/hear him play.  These 9 original compositions span the full range of the jazz spectrum, and his guitar mastery is evident through each and every track.  He's joined by Nathan Fryett's drums, bass from Eric Graham, piano and Hammond organ from Brian Ziemniak and flutes from Anders Bostrom in a magical session that the listener won't soon forget.  This is the first CD I've reviewed in 2010, and it's clearly a winner... Brian's organ on the second track, "On The Move" drives the tune into that "uptown jazz mode" that I so dearly love, & the flutes from Bostrom on this one put him squarely at the top of the heap - not to mention the solid drums from Nathan and vibrant bass from Brian!  My favorite piece on the CD, though, is the 8:27 "First Impressionism"... beautiful pacing on the intro, with a very pleasing build to solos from each instrument (you know, there's a ton of time in over 8 minutes for them to flex their musical muscles in)... Paul's guitar is just beautiful through every note, with changes that just melt right into the next flow.  A clear display of the kind of talent that makes classic jazz music.... solid pattern, tight lines and freedom enough in the playing that it never goes into a "rut"!  For downright joyous mood, you'll also dig "Take It Home"... this is the kind of high spirit I cut my jazz teeth on back in the '60's, & it will be a "hit" for any jazz listener with a love for music that just bounces you around - Renz' guitar solo on this one just soars!  I give this one a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, as well as an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.97.  Get more information at    Rotcod Zzaj

Antionette Montague - BEHIND THE SMILE: This is one rockin' jazz vocalist... she definitely leads the band (Bill Easley on sax, flute & clarinet; Mulgrew Miller on piano; bass from Peter Washington & drums by Kenny Washington) with her vocals, but they are one unit, no punches pulled & as tight as a slingshot together!  I couldn't find any downloads for this one, probably because it doesn't hit the streets until February, 2010... I'll drop some links as soon as they're available (in the HAPPENINGS section).  There isn't any "hesitation" in her vocals... strong projection and heartfelt emotion shine right through, especially on tracks like Bill Broonzy's "Give Your Mama One Smile"... blues with intestinal fortitude, if you catch my drift... Easley's clarinet is power personified on this one... you'll think you're in a speakeasy back in the '30's, no doubt.  My favorite tune on the album, though, is her rendition of Marvin Gay's "What s Going On"... if just a few people would listen to the message in this song, we could get out of these infernal wars we've been in (but ya' don't want to get me off into the politics of it all)... Montague's talent puts a new sense of urgency on this classic tune, though!   This is one of the most vibrant vocal CD's I've heard in a long time, & I give it a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.93.  Get more information at   Rotcod Zzaj

Plunge - DANCING ON THIN ICE: Plunge is a trio from New Orleans made up of Mark McGrain on trombone, Tim Green on saxophones and James Singleton on bass.  It isn't your "standard" jazz trio in any sense of the word, yet they play jazz that clearly is influenced by the Gods (& Goddesses) in that neck of the woods.  There are strange little demons vocally assaulting your ears as the trombone & bass dance together, strangely reminiscent (in my mind, anyway) of some ancient voodoo rite of passage... that's evident on the opener, "Friday Night at the Top", which blends mysteriously right into the next tune, "Life of a Cipher"... dark tones here from Tim, but they'll get you dancin' to the heat of the tribal fire I can imagine this being played around.  This is their second release, & we certainly expect we'll be hearing much more from them... high talent & their own distinctive groove... a really tight trio... listen to the high-pitch reeds at about 2:44 on "Cipher", reminding me of something Roland Kirk might have played, & when Mark's 'bone kicks in at about 3:15, the groove is clearly established (shades of Peter Gunn... ha! ha!).  There's a strange element of one of those New Orleans marching bands in their patterns, definitely funkified... having been down this trail myself on one or more occasions (many, many years ago now), I can really relate to the "nod" they establish on "Opium"... it just seems to have that swagger we had when the flip was over & the nod went away... it's my favorite piece of the 11 all original McGrain compositions.  "Plunge" has it's own unique sound that jazzers hungry for talent will dig to the 'nth degree!  This band gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from me, with an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.94.  Get more information at     Rotcod Zzaj




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

Here are a few tunes of MINE for you to listen to - it's from my latest CD release, "AC not PC" (Alphabetically Correct, not Politically Correct)




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