Issue # 162 reviews

Our latest and greatest reviews for your reading & listening pleasure

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The links below are to REVIEWS I’ve written for Cadence Jazz World!!!

Michael Jefry Stevens – Angel’s Dance

Dom Minasi/Blaise Siwula – The Sunshine Don’t Mind My Singing

Dom Minasi/Hans Tammen – Alluvium Sun 

Dario Chiazzolino and Nico Di Battista – Rewriting Song

Dario Chiazzolino – Paint Your Life

NOTE:  I normally only do 30 reviews per issue… due to the high volume of submissions, & the long recovery period for my recent surgery, I will be reviewing several more (20 additional, for a total of 50) for this issue (and future issues, until our backlog is honed down)… “normal” review cycles will resume when I’ve got the QUEUE down to under 100!

A perfect way to close this issue out is by posting our first “guest review” in a long, LONG time… please welcome my newfound musical friend, Jeremy Shaskus, to the “I.N.” fold… he will be writing several more reviews over the coming months, I suspect.

Brad Allen Williams – LAMAR:   Featuring Brad’s fine guitar work, Tyshawn Sorey doing Drums and Pat Binachi on Organ… I’m not really a big fan of organ trios however when I saw Tyshawn Sorey’s name I figured that this was going to be good and man was I surprised at what came out.  The album kicks off with a Joe Jackson tune entitled Steppin’ Out. This is a real swinger. Everyone sounds at home in this context. As performers these musicians clearly understand how to bust out the fireworks when needed and create a seamlessly well blended sound. Considering the album was created in an analog format, most likely recorded in one room with one or two mics, using complete takes, I am left to speculate how many takes each of these songs took. Knowing Tyshawn loosely (emphasis on loosely) and reading up on Williams and Pat it wouldn’t surprise me if these guys did all of these in one take, if not a producers first take (2nd take). However, on the whole it took me until the middle of this album to really get engaged in what was going on.  The biggest culprit of my fleeting interest is the second track, an original titled 201 Poplar. What starts out as a classic down tempo blues slowly becomes morphed into, well I have no idea. The problem is not with the playing on this track but with the arrangement. It’s as if Williams had taken a bar band and made them play Ellington. Through out my listen I was constantly confused and couldn’t tell if I was supposed to be hearing the blues or Satin Doll.  On a positive note, the decrescendo in programming and difference in style of the subsequent tracks really acted as a nice set up to the surprising half way point of the hard hitting Eucluid and Lamar.  From there this group swings their way out into a beautiful solo guitar rendition of More Than You Know.  My overall impressions of this selection of recordings were pretty much the same as if I had watched a recently made “independent film” who’s focus is more on vintage production than actually creating a fresh captivating narrative within those means. Nothing really to keep you there but enough to hold your interest, for a little while at least.   Jeremy Shaskus

Oleg Kireyev & Keith Javors – THE MEETING:  I’ve been associated with the music that Keith produces, as well as his high-talent piano work, for many years now… the keyword when it comes to his ability to create is – “diverse”!  This is my first listen to Oleg’s excellent tenor sax work, but it’s clear that these gents just love jazz, and enjoy creating newness for listeners across the globe.  Tunes like the energy packed opener, “April“, will give you an immediate sense of familiarity – something only great players can do.  Tom Harrell’s trumpet, bass by Ben Williams and superb drumming from E.J. Strickland all contribute strongly to making this one of the best jazz albums (yet) that I’ve heard in 2016!  The fantastic title track, “The Meeting“, takes old listeners (like me) all the way back to some of the great releases on Blue Note – this one just KICKS, & makes the purchase price of the release seem insignificant… this one will get a lot of “replay” on your player, to be sure!  It was one of the shorter tracks, clocking in at a straight-up 5:00, “Fresh Blues” that got my vote for personal favorite of the 7 offered up on the “regular” release (or 9 on the “deluxe” release; the alternate take of this song is only 6 seconds longer, but they’re both perfect for replaying over & over, ad infinitum).  I give Oleg & Keith a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99 for this fine album (that’s bound to become a jazz classic)!  Get more information on Keith’s Inarhyme Records label page for the CD.        Rotcod Zzaj

Carrie Wicks – MAYBE:  It’s amazing (to me, anyway) that there are so many splendid artists so near to me (Carrie is based in Seattle, only a few miles from my abode)… her vocal work on this October 2015 release is full of life and the joy of living it!  After listening to her sweet & loose vocal on the haunting “Desolation Moon“, it’s clear that I need to carve some time out of my busy (retirement, lol) schedule & get on up North to hear her live, & maybe do a live interview as well.  She’s joined by some highly qualified players (Bill Anschell – piano; Jeff Johnson – bass; Byron Vannoy – drums & Aria Prame – harmony on “Maybe”), and they smoke that jazz, to be sure!  You’ll just love the laid-back feel on “Watercolor Rhyme“, and find yourself thinking back to far earlier days (Bill’s piano work on this tune is excellent).  Of the eleven superb pieces offered up, it was “Small Day Tomorrow” that captured my vote for personal favorite, though… a perfect feel for these great NW rainy days.  I give Carrie and her fellow players a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99 for this excellent album.  Get more information on the Origin Records page for this release.         Rotcod Zzaj


Juli Wood Quartet – SYNKKA METSA (DARK FOREST):  Though this is my first listen to Juli’s splendid sax work, it’s easy to tell by the first 8 notes that she’s a master at making those reeds sing… , and with her excellent cohorts (Alejandro Urzagaste – guitar; Clark Sommers – bass and Mike Schlick – drums), she’s put together an album that will be on your playlists for a long time to come!  Her sound is lush and full of life’s breath, especially on tunes like “Taivas on Sininen ja Valkoinen ( The Sky is Blue and White)“… definitely one of my favorite sax-led jazz pieces (yet) this year.  For something a bit more upbeat, you’ll dig down deep into “Väliaikainen (Temporary)“… all the players are right on-time & in synch for this one (& I loved the guitar leads on this one, too)!  Definitely inspiring for jazz fans of all stripes ’round the globe.  My personal favorite of the eight full-length tunes is the 5:02 “Ken voi Tyynessä Seilata (Who Can Sail in the Calm?)“… moody, yet expressive (and impressive) in ways that anyone with an ear for the jazz spirit will be able to relate to (in a BIG way).  I give Juli & her companions a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98 for this splendid release.  Get more information about the album and the players at the Origin Records page for this album.         Rotcod Zzaj

Corey Christiansen – FACTORY GIRL:  If what your ears are thirsting for is some great jazz/Americana/bluesy jazz, Corey’s guitar work will sit just right with you for that.  He’s actually released several previous albums, & though this is my first listen, I’m sure you’ll be hearing much more from this talented player.  Tunes like the 7:17 opener, “She’s Gone“, give yu plenty of time to absorb his laid-back, yet subtly crafted high-energy style.  Songs like “John Hardy” demonstrate just how comfortable Corey is with merging a jazz feel into a tune that might otherwise be considered “bluesy Americana”.  This is one of those kind of albums that you’ll find yourself looping over & over again, & so it’s bound to be a classic on jazz channels across the globe.  I totally dug (deep down) the title track, “Factory Girl“… in fact, I’m asking the promoter to make sure they send me any of Corey’s releases in need of review, ‘coz I like the soaring guitar on this one so much.  From a jazz/blues standpoint, it was the 5:37 “Cluck ol’ Hen” that got my vote for personal favorite of the nine songs on the album… some great keyboard work on this tune, too.  I give Corey & his compadres ((Zach Lapidus – Keyboards, SuperCollider; Jeremy Allen – Acoustic and Electric Bass; Matt Jorgensen – Drums; Michael Spiro – Percussion) a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99 for his fine musical experience.  Get more information on the Origin Records page for this release.         Rotcod Zzaj

Joel Miller and Sienna Dahlen – DREAM CASSETTE:  I’ve only reviewed one other release from Joel, back in issue # 83; it got high marks, but this new one is absolutely STUNNING!  Joel’s high-energy, high-talent saxophone work against the haunting vocal work Sienna does brings to mind (strangely enough) some of the best “pop” albums that I grew up with… in fact, they say in the liner notes that this is their idea of what a “pop release” should be.  The player list is far too long to itemize here, but you can check it out on the release page.  What they’ve managed to do is incorporate that “pop”  spirit in with some of the finest jazz licks you’ll ever hear – especially on tunes like “Flying Dream“… one of my favorite jazz/vocal tunes (yet) for 2016.  They also render up a new vision of “blues” on the two opening tracks, “Blue Times” and “Blue Times part II“… I just loved the vocal interactions from Joel and Sienna on this tune; in fact, these got my vote for personal favorite tracks of the dozen pieces offered up.  If your ears are looking for something fresh and creative, this is MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED… in fact, I’m giving it an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of (a perfect) 5.00, meaning that it also gets the “PICK” of this issue for “most creative jazz/vocal work”!  Get more information on the Origin Records page for this great album.         Rotcod Zzaj

Deva Premal & Miten – COSMIC CONNECTIONS LIVE:  As you know, I’ve listened to & reviewed many (probably hundreds) of albums that explore our connections with forces in the universe, using music as the way to travel there… this release does that in ways that reveal, even to the novice listener, the power of simple chants when combined with great music and true believe in those hooks.  The chorale effect on “Mangalam” is one of the most beautiful I’ve ever listened to, and the violins are, indeed – cosmic, balanced and without equal!    My first recommendation?  Carve out an hour or so and listen to this with your headphones on, so you can absorb the totality of pieces like “Rang De“… the flutework on this is just superb, and the fact that it’s a live performance puts the performers right up in front of your mind.  If you’ve been looking for sonic work that will help heal a broken spirit (whether yours or someone else’s), you’ll listen to my personal favorite of the nine performances offered up, “OM Kumara Mantra” over & over again; a true cultural weave that crosses all of the false boundaries.  I give Deva and Miten a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99 for this marvelous sonic journey.  Get more information at their web page for this fantastic album.        Rotcod Zzaj

Joanna Brouk – HEARING MUSIC:  Joanna’s music bridges generations, but it certainly does require that you listen… you’ll not find a lot “on the market” for this prolific Bay area composer, as she took an “early retirement” in the mid-eighties… but when you listen to tunes like the marvelously exploratory “Fire Breath“, you’ll hear (right away) the genius in her composition and playing style.  This certainly is NOT “just another New Age” trek… as evidenced by the slow build on “Aurora“… dark, deep and totally satisfying, just like the night sky you might imagine – the melding of the flute into the synthwash is totally calming.  A total of twenty-two songs grace this double-CD release, and if you’re interested in music that takes you down different paths than you might have expected – this is the ticket.  My personal favorite on the album is also the longest – clocking in at 21:54, “The Space Between” requires headphones (at least for the first listen)… absolutely fantastic.  This album will be a treasure for those who realize that sounds have more than just a passing influence on our culture… I give Joanna a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of (a perfect) 5.00 – meaning that she also get the “PICK” of this issue for “best exploratory music”.  Get more information on the Numero Group page for this release.       Rotcod Zzaj  

Pram Trio – SAGA THIRTEEN:  These players (Jack Bodkin on Piano, Mark Godfrey on Bass & Eric West on Drums) offers up a short look at their significant talent… I say short, because there are only six tunes offered… it’s just enough to whet your appetite for more from them.  Songs like the opener, “April“, give each of the three the chance to shine, freshly as those showers we hear about for that month.  A strong part of my attraction to their music is the fact that all six songs are originals… the other, I’d imagine, is that I just love Jack’s playing style – something jazz pianists the world ’round will envy, to be sure.  What’s also very noticeable about their songs, and their group dynamic, is the pacing… when you listen to pieces like my personal favorite, the closer, “Treptower Park“, you’ll realize that this is an album that definitely merits being in your collection… not only is the recording flawless on this one, it’s a luscious example of how jazz should be played.  I give these gents a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99.  Get more information, & listen to samples of the songs, at their Bandcamp page.          Rotcod Zzaj

Alan Hall sextet Ratatet – ARCTIC:  I’ll tell you right now, there’s nothing “cold” about the playing these folks do… “chill” might be a more apt word for their splendid jazz work, though.  The vibes, for instance, on “Fathers and Sons“, are about as cool as you’ll hear on the jazz scene today!  The list of players in the band is far too long, so you’ll need to visit their website to get all the skinny.  Alan’s drum work packs the required punch on upbeat pieces like “Red State, Blue State“… what’s most evident in their playing style is that they know one of the most essential ingredients for listener enjoyment is to have FUN with the music, & they surely do that on this tune.  The title track, “Arctic“, shows their high skills at moving between moods (and moving you, the listener, as well)… loved the ambience on this one.  Of the eleven pieces offered up for your long-term jazz listening enjoyment, though, it was the mellow, yet high-energy opener, “Electrick” that got my vote for personal favorite.  The only crit I’d make is that on the next release, it would be nice to have (at least) a few songs that went over the six minute mark.  In the end run, though, their superb skills as players makes it easy to give this release a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Get more information on the band and their work at the Ratatet website.      Rotcod Zzaj

Noah Preminger – DARK WAS THE NIGHT, COLD WAS THE GROUND:  This new release from Noah, who has been reviewed here many times, features his excellent sax work of course, as well as his musical companions Jason Palmer (trumpet), Kim Cass (double-bass) and Ian Froman (drums), in a no-overdub live session that will enchant jazz listeners of all stripes!  It’s clear that they had this rehearsed “down to the note”, which you’ll hear (right away) on the splendid opening title track, “Dark Was The Night, Cold Was The Ground“; it will only take you a bar or two to recognize the total talent at work here.  When you look at the rest of the titles, you’ll also realize that the focus on this one is Delta blues tunes interpreted with Noah’s unique skill… songs like “Black Snake Moan” are not just a “re-hash” of the same ol’ blues tunes… this is emotion-laden and will strike you at your very core!  My personal favorite of the nine performances is “I Am The Heavenly Way“.. a part of that is that it’s the longest song on the album, but the other side of the coin is that it does what the blues is supposed to do… take you so far dow-un that UP is the only way you can go!  I give Noah & his fellow players a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) of a (perfect) 5.00 – meaning that this also gets the “PICK” of this issue for “best blues-roots jazz”!  Get more information about Noah and all his projects at the Noah Preminger website.         Rotcod Zzaj

Marcos Varela – SAN YGNACIO:  Wow!  What an extreme change of pace… from Klezmer/tuba-led, to a bass-led group in full jazz mode on a debut album that will simply stun your aural appendages… you’ll think you’re in one of those smoky back-room clubs at 3:00 am as you listen to the beautiful synchronicity of Marcos’s bass on tunes like the 6:11 high-energy opener, “I Should Care“… your ears (& your whole body, in fact) will thrill to Marcos’s original “Colinas de Santa Maria“… I can tell you (right NOW, folks) that this tune spins at least a couple of times a day on my player.  Of the eleven tunes offered up for your jazz listening pleasure, though, it was the 8:39 “Red on Planet Pluto” that got my vote for personal favorite, with “Mitsuru” coming in a (very close) second… the bass solo on this tune is just fantastic, and when the whole group kicks into gear, you’ve got one of the liveliest songs you’ve heard (yet) this year (especially Marcos’s bass)!  I give Marcos & crew a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99 for this excellent debut release.  Get more information by reading Marcos’ bio.           Rotcod Zzaj

Naftule’s Dream – BLOOD:  This very interesting band, which has actually been around since the 1990’s, features Glenn Dickson doing clarinets, Gary Bohan on cornet, Michael McLaughlin on accordion, Andrew Stern doing electric guitar, Jim Gray on tuba  and Eric Rosenthal doing drums, will simply blow your mind (not to mention your ears) away!  It’s their first release since 2002.  Songs like the 6:19 tuba-led (yes, I did say “tuba-led, lol) “Calabria” will quickly hip you to the fact that this isn’t “just another klezmer” band (though there are certainly elements of that).  Of the nine songs offered up, though, it was the high-energy “Aby Kirly the War Hero” that caught my ear immediately, and won my vote for personal favorite… they take a traditional tune and improvise it all to pieces!  I give N.D. a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97 for this most unique musical experience.  Get more information and insight at the Naftule’s Dream website.        Rotcod Zzaj


Jane Ira Bloom – EARLY AMERICANS:  The latest & greatest from this wonderfully talented soprano saxophonist features her long-term cohorts Mark Helias on bass and Bobby Previte on drums, and all I can say is – WOW!  Every album she produces is something “different”… never getting stuck in the jazz ruts is definitely a hallmark, and songs like her original 5:27 “Mind Gray River” is clear proof that her unique creativity is alive and well… images of solitude and sadness abound on this one.  I definitely loved the upbeat opener, “Song Patrol“; too bad it was only 2:59, but you’ll hear the ideas clearly as you listen (& listen again) to yet another Jane original.  One of the most strong descriptions a musician can have is reflected in the liner notes on the promo sheet – “a strong visual thinker”; nothing could be more true, and you’ll certainly grok that as you listen to my personal favorite of the thirteen tunes offered up – “Singing The Triangle” features – what else – a “triangle” being played ’round, underneath and on top of the horns, bass and drums.  If you’re looking for music that’s fresh and tasty, this comes MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED; “EQ” (energy quotient) rating is 4.99.  Get more information about Jane and her excellent creative sonic works at Jane’s website.         Rotcod Zzaj

Lisa Downing – THE WISDOM OF MY SHADOW:  I’ve reviewed Lisa’s wonderful and intimate piano work before (issues # 119 most recently and # 106 previously).  Her approach to the keyboard is always solid and forthright, but on this new album, it somehow seems more powerful and personal.  The copy I have is pre-release, so there are no samples online right now, but you can purchase your advance copy here.  You can easily visualize the power being presented on Lisa’s vision of a “Black Wedding”… her chords on this one echo for eternity, and will have you playing the song over & over again; actually, the cover art also shows you that this is far more than “just another piano” album!  The music paints beautiful, and sometimes somber, images of the feminine side of life (in all of us), and her original “Moonrise” (co-authored with Améthyste Spardel & Gunnar Spardel) is undoubtedly one of the most stunning musical journeys I’ve ever experienced (and that’s truly saying something, as I’ve been privileged to experience some of the best artists on the planet).  Of the fourteen vision-filled sonic wonders, it was another original (with Al Jewer & Andy Mitran, who are also reviewed in this issue) that got my vote for personal favorite – “Cloudwalker” brings real meaning to the idea that we are just on the cusp of events that will change all of us for the better in the most near and immediate sense.  Though this release is full of new age sentiments, it cannot be lumped together with any particular style or genre… making it one of the most unique and satisfying albums you will ever purchase… I give this one a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99.  Get more information at Lisa’s website.          Rotcod Zzaj

The StoneCoats – POOR BOY BLUES:  Frequent readers here will know that I have to “switch up” every once in a while… it can’t be “just jazz alla’ time”… & this little group out of Mississippi is the perfect way to renew energy in another form… they KILL it on track like “Blues Boogie“, one of my favorite blues/rock tunes this year – ‘specially when that guitar solo kicks in!  The group is – Brannon Barnett doing lead guitar & vocals, Carson Bristow performing lead and rhythm guitars, Ashten Frisella playing bass and doing backup vocals, with Leighton Bristow doing drums & bass… they perform really well together, and are able to KICK it out on tunes like “Roll It Over“!  Of the ten songs offered up for yer’ rockin’ pleasure, it was the title track, “Poor Boy Blues“, that got my vote for personal favorite, though… this sounds like just what the band is all about.  I give this fine group a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97.  Get more information at The Stonecoats website.         Rotcod Zzaj

Greg Chako – TWO’S COMPANY, THREE’S A CROWD:  If you’ve been reading the last three or four issues, you know that I received a whole stack of “catch-ups” from Greg… CD’s of his that I hadn’t reviewed yet, or that he hadn’t sent due to my moves all ’round the world during the years they were recorded.  This particular effort is a 2-cool recording of “Great American Songbook” tunes that feature his wonderful jazz guitar work, with high-talent artists joining him (Andrea Mitchell on vocals, and pianists Homei Matsumoto and Hiroshi Tanaka)… their rendition of tunes like “I Could Write A Book” will thrill any true jazz lover… Andrea’s vocal is crisp & clear, & Greg’s fretwork (as always) is superb.  The laid-back atmosphere on “Some Other Spring” makes it timeless, and I’ve no doubt it will spin as many times on your player as it has on mine.  My pick for personal favorite of the sixteen songs offered up is the closer, “Take the A-Train“… if you want to introduce a new listener to well-played jazz – this is the one!  I give Greg and his compatriots a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99 for this excellent album.  You can get more information (as well as the whole discography from Greg) at his page for this release.        Rotcod Zzaj

The Ed Palermo Big Band – ONE CHILD LEFT BEHIND:   I reviewed one of Ed’s big-band CD’s in issue # 141, where he got (not only) high marks, but a “PICK” for his excellent renditions of Frank Zappa’s work!  This latest extravaganza branches out to play tunes from other artists as well… you’ll totally dig on all-original compositions from Ed, like “Dirty White Bucks“, too!  Other artists who are covered range all the way from Neil Young, in this event, “Harvest Moon“… you’ll definitely hear elements of jazz lounge on the vocal for this track.  The cover of the theme for “Scarface” is a perfect counterpoint to some of the other styles they play in for this seventeen-song gem… laid-back & mellow, to be sure.  There’s lots of Frank’s songs on this release, too, ergo, he’s not “left behind”… my personal favorite of all the tracks on this album is “Po-Jama People“, with Napoleon Murphy Brock (from Zappa’s early bands) doing the vocal… absolute killer!  Ed & his crew get another MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99 for this fine musical excursion.  Get more information on the Cuneiform Records page for this release.      Rotcod Zzaj


Michael Jefry Stevens – BRASS TACTICS:  Michael’s latest release features Steve Swell and Dave Taylor on trombones, Dave Ballou and Ed Sarath on trumpets & of course, Michael Jefry Stevens on piano and composition… when you combine that level of talent with the skills of conductor Amy Kohn, you’ve got an original jazz performance that can’t be beat.  Songs like the 5:38 “Variables” will capture our ears and provide a sonic experience like none other you’ve had.  Michael’s piano intro and the horn interplay on “Ping Pong” will have you glancing back, forth & in all directions, no doubt… even with an odd title like that, you’ll hear what I mean after the first two bars.  It was “Forty Degrees Celsius” that got my vote for personal favorite of the dozen tracks offered up, though… that’s partially because it’s the longest on the album, ergo gives plenty of room for each player to contribute to the theme.  I give Michael & his crew a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98 for this most interesting sonic adventure.  Get more information at Michael’s page for this release.       Rotcod Zzaj

Backwater – THE UNHOLY:  This lil’ rocker, in from Björn Wennerborg, at Bad Language Records in Sweden, is quite simply – AMAZING!  The fact that it’s only a duo makes their performance on songs like the opener, “Fog“, even more of a trip… for those who love to ride life hard & experience it to the fullest, this is definitely what you’ll want on your player as ya’ rawk on down th’ road!  The power they display on “Chains” is nuthin’ but R-A-W energy… I listened to this (maybe) a hundred times, & am still scopin’ it out.  The other thing that’s totally cool about this duo is that they don’t get stuck in th’ rock ruts that so many bands do… a completely different vibe emerges on “Grace“… almost a rock opera kinda’ thing.  Of the eleven driven tunes offered up, though, it was “Distance” that gets my vote for personal favorite… if you’re looking for some music to get your spirit re-energized, this is MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED; it gets an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98… get more information at the band’s FACEBOOK page.        Rotcod Zzaj

Adam Fairhall – THE SPIRIT FARM:  Another VERY interesting musical adventure from our friends at Slam Productions… it features Adam Fairhall performing on grand piano, prepared Hohner Pianet T, prepared toy piano, indian harmonium; Christophe de Bezenac doing tenor saxophone; Anton Hunter on electric guitar; Johnny Hunter doing drums; Dave Kane on double bass and Corey Mwamba performing on vibraphone, glockenspiel, dulcimer, wooden flute… they create fantastic and intimate improvisations that will hold you spellbound, particularly on tunes like the 15:31 opener, “All“… what’s most notable on this tune is the pacing – they take lots of time to weave in elements that will remain just beyond your perception, until (maybe) the 3rd or 4th listen – be sure you do that first excursion with headphones on, or you may miss some of those neat little nuances.  Though this is my first listen to Adam’s spellbinding work, I’m actively impressed… my personal favorite of the five (long) improvisations offered up is “All Again“… if you’re doing this with headphones on, as recommended, you will certainly agree that this is MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.  The “EQ” (energy quotient) rating is 4.99.  Get more information at the Slam Productions page for this release.        Rotcod Zzaj

Han-earl Park, Catherine Sikora, Josh Sinton – ANOMIC APHASIA:  If you’re looking for guitar that’s great, but “different”, you’ll love what Han-earl and his companions (Catherine on tenor/soprano sax, Nick Didkovsky on guitar for tracks 1 & 5 and Josh on baritone sax & bass clarinet) are doing on this improvised set… I’ll tell you right now, though, this isn’t music for background, or listeners who are timid!  You’ll hear that right away on the 27:19 opener, “Monopod“… twists, turns and constant motion that will eat your brain if you forget to put on your tinfoil hat – ha! ha!  The 7:34 “Hydraphon” will bring to mind images of Dune worms and aliens… this reminds me (a lot) of some of the works I used to hear (and on occasion participate in) with Davey Williams and LaDonna Smith (way back in the day).  Of the five (very long) tracks on the album, it was the closer, “Stopcock“, that got my vote for personal favorite… very tasty guitar licks on this one.  I give Han-earl and his pals a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, particularly for listeners who love strange in all its forms; “EQ” (energy quotient) rating is 4.98.  Get more information at the Slam Productions page for this release.         Rotcod Zzaj

Sherry Finzer Darin Mahoney Will Clipman – TRIALOGUE:  This release has lots of “label headers”… new age, bluegrass & many, many more… what’s so ultimate cool about Sherry’s flutes, the guitar work from Darin and percussion from Will is that all those labels apply… a truly fresh and soulful sound, particularly on tunes like the high-energy opener, “Cote d Ivoire“… (I can’t help but think of some of the early Richie Havens work as I listen to this) a big part of my attraction to their playing is that the tunes are all original, thus full of shimmering life!  The 6:17 “Confused” starts off with a beautiful flute intro, then gently segues into one of the most mellow songs I’ve heard (yet) in 2016.  I’ve reviewed work from Sherry and Darin before, most recently in issue # 135, and loved what they were able to create together.  Of the ten songs offered up for your listening and meditative pleasure, it was the 4:35 “Midnight in Marrakech” that got my vote for personal favorite; the recording is flawless, and the energy is totally enchanting.  I give Sherry, Darin and Will a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99 for this splendid musical experience.  You can get more information on the album and the artists at Sherry’s pages.        Rotcod Zzaj

Neil Patton – BETWEEN SHADOW AND LIGHT:  Neil’s solo piano will capture your heart & soul in only the first few bars… another great Northwest artist (he’s from Oregon), his talent and ability shine, especially on tunes like the 4:27 “Great Expectations“… I just love the deep and rich harmonics he creates with his playing style on this track!  The influences he lists (Kansas, Alan Parsons, just to name a few) are as varied as his ability to paint sonic imagery with his keyboards – as you listen to the rippling notes and beautiful chords on “Surface Tension“, you’ll realize that you’re in the presence of an artist who is truly inspired (and inspiring).  It was the bright density of “Flights of Angels” that got my vote for personal favorite of the thirteen compositions offered up, though… be sure to listen to this album with your headphones on, at least for the first sitting.  I give Neil a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98 for this great release.  Get more information at Neil’s page for this release (it was a 2015 winner at Mainly Piano).       Rotcod Zzaj

Harlan Mark Vale – INVISIBLE INK FROM THE THINK BOTTLE:  If that album title doesn’t capture your curiosity, you’re a dead cat already, to be sure.  As frequent readers here know, Mark is a very prolific artist and long-time playing friend of mine who gets reviewed here often for his drawings from the well of creativity – and in his case, as evidenced by tunes like the percussion-driven Hunting Snakes“… the little “sneaky” vocal snippets will definitely remind you of your last encounter with the slimy ones (lol).  If you’re looking for something a bit more bright and inspiring to listen to, you’ll totally dig “Nostalgia Airport“… simple, yet beautiful.  The key thing about his new release, though, is that there are no “pigeonholes” to shove his creations into… you’ll hear on the slow-paced “Country” that he’s totally talented in a variety of styles.  My personal favorite of the fifteen “invisible” sonic creations is the 6:54 closer, “Emotional Algebra“… yes, there are moments when it’s complex, but if you keep your thinking cap (and your headphones) on as you listen to this, you’ll realize that you’re in the presence of true musical genius.  Mark gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from these old ears, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99 for this fabulous music.  Get more information and purchase this CD at Mark’s Bandcamp page for this release.         Rotcod Zzaj


Tad Britton – CICADA:  I still have a few tapes laying ’round, but none as good as this 23-year-old master from Tad, whose high-talent percussion work is joined by Sax/keyboards/flute/cowbell from Hans Teuber, bass from Jeff Johnson and guitar by Pete Fogle… sessions recorded inn the ’92-’93 time-frame are now immortalized on tunes like the wonderful & airy “Gone“… it’s only 4:18, but it will stay with you for the long term, to be sure.  Hans’s reeds are prevalent on “1929“, but all the players are right “together” on each & every note.  The bass lines on “Mfloat” do just what the title indicates… they “float” seamlessly through the ether the players create for you – do this tune with your headphones on, to be sure (at least for the first listen).  It was the strange swirling atmospherics on “Seclusion” that made it my personal favorite of the ten great compositions offered up for your listening edification.  What sets Tad and his fellow players apart is that they are riding on waves of musical creativity seldom experienced by us mere mortals… I give this one a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of (a perfect) 5.00 – meaning that they also get the “PICK” of his issue for “most creative jazz”.  Get more information at the Origin Records page for this splendid musical adventure.        Rotcod Zzaj

Sarah Partridge – I NEVER THOUGHT I’D BE HERE:  It doesn’t always happen, but this time, the promoter got the keyword right, when it was declared that Sarah’s jazz vocal work is “dazzling”… she leads a high-energy, high-talent crew of players (you can view them on the album page at Origin) on this ten-song bundle of energy… songs like the opener, “Perspective” (from one of her earlier albums, I believe), establishes her as one of the most talented jazz vocalists on the scene today!  The swirling guitar on “Caverns of My Heart“, as well as the pacing, made it one of my favorite jazz vocal tunes (yet) for 2016.  If it’s “frenetic” you want to listen to, you’ll fall in love (immediately) with “Runaway Train“… this one brings back many fond jazz memories for me, & her scat work on this is absolutely KILLAH’!  The song that got my personal vote for favorite, though, was “Light of Day“… & certainly makes the album merit the MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED I give it, as well as an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99.  Get more information at the Origin Records page for this release.       Rotcod Zzaj



Clay Giberson – MINGA MINGA:  It’s difficult to pull off solo piano when the genre/content is jazz/blues based, but Portland, Oregon pianist Clay is able to do that without a hitch.  Songs like the opener, “Little Bird“, will give your ears a clear image of just how intimate/bluesy his keyboards can be.  It’s all about the birth of his daughter, and will be a gift to her that will last forever.  I particularly enjoyed pieces like “Burst“, which isn’t (at all) what the title of the song might make you think it would be.  The short (3:02) “Stride Right” conveys the marching you might think of when you scope out the title, but in a most pleasant (& different) fashion.  Of the eleven pieces offered up, it was the 6:07 “Astir” that easily captured my vote for personal favorite… what’s so decidedly unique about Clay’s work is totally evident on this compositions… blues without the “push”… laid-back, yet laden with the emotion-packed rich chords that we all crave.  I give Clay a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98 for this great album.  Get more information about this exceptional jazz playerat Clay’s website.      Rotcod Zzaj

Nick Finzer – THE CHASE:  For some reason, I’d never associated trombone jazz with album titles like “The Chase”… but Nick & his (many) musical cohorts surely pull it off on great tunes like the stunning opener, “Life Happens“… in fact, this tune has some of the highest energy licks I’ve heard (yet) in 2016.  The title track, “The Chase“, uses plenty of cut & run changes to enhance the sense of movement & (possibly) danger!  When it comes to compositions like this, it’s all about timely execution, and these gents are right ON it on every note.  For something a bit more laid-back & bluesy, you’ll greatly groove on “While You’re Gone“… it’s still jam-packed with energy, but in a smoky-room atmosphere, if you will.   For all-around best jazz feel, though, it was the 6:44 “Spheres of Influence” that got my vote for personal favorite of the eleven dazzling performances offered up… the players are so together on this tune that your ears will demand repeated listens to capture the full impact of their talent.  I give Nick & his friends a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99 for this fine jazz release.  Get more information at the Origin Records label page for this album.          Rotcod Zzaj

Taylor Cook – THE COOK BOOK:  Exquisitely prepared and dished up for your aural appendages… it’s hard to believe that Taylor’s alto sax, flute & clarinet can smoke up a kitchen (or any other room, for that matter) with such delicious sonic delicacies, but (as “they” say) – the proof’s in th’ puddin’!  You’ll become a believer the instant you hear the delicious rhythms and reed work on “El Toro“… a (very) broad range of talent displayed through Taylor’s horns on this one.  A whole host of players join Taylor… Mike Murley on Tenor Saxophone, Tim Ries on Soprano Saxophone, and also joined by Jack Bodkin on Piano, Brandon Wall on Guitar, Justin Gray on Bass & Robin Claxton on Drums (along with many other players)… as always, with the best jazz, it’s highly recommended that you scope this out with your headphones on for the first go-round, especially on tracks like my personal favorite of the ten offered up… “Backstroke Boogie” is far & away from what you might think of as “boogie”, but you’ll catch yourself savoring it’s wonderful rhythms throughout the day… too cool for words, & those guitar leads are KILLAH’.  I give Taylor & his compatriots a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98 for this tasty set.  Get more information at Taylor’s page for this release.        Rotcod Zzaj

Trevor Giancola – FUNDAMENTAL: This superb Toronto-based trio features Trevor’s fantastic Guitar, with Neil Swainson on Acoustic Bass and Adam Arruda on Drums, and they KICK it folks… as you’ll hear immediately as you listen to the 7:50 opener, “Fascination“… it has a kinda’ “lazy” feel, but as you delve deeper into the tune (with your headphones on, of course), you’ll realize that even on the slower pieces, there is some fundamentally VOLCANIC jazz action going on here! For something a little more upbeat, you’ll find “Punjab” to your liking, as did I. Another beautiful aspect of this trio is that it crosses generational lines in a big way… all the way from mid-twenties to early-sixties, your ears will get the benefit of years of playing experience! It’s clear that these players understand the “root” of the album title – FUN… & that’s especially evident on tunes like my personal favorite of the ten offered up (one of the shorter pieces, actually), “De Dah“… you’ll relish every note on this one, but as noted before, be sure you do your first sitting for this splendid set with you ‘phones on!  This trio is one of the best I’ve listened to (yet) in 2016; they get a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99.  Get more information on this bright, shining jazz star at Trevor’s website.        Rotcod Zzaj

Lauren White – OUT OF THE PAST (JAZZ AND NOIR): If you’ve listened to jazz in those late-night alleyways that I haunted (auf Deutschland, circa 1960’s), you’ll realize right away that Lauren is the kind of jazz vocalist that stays in the “eternal” mode… you’ll hear shades of the famous (Peggy Lee comes to mind), but what makes her work so great is that she’s all her own style… in fact, the opener, “When All the Lights in the Sign Worked“, takes me (right on) back to memories of Marlboros in those back alley-cat shadows, tokin’ with th’ best of ’em in downtown Frankfurt! The string intro on “I’d Rather Have The Blues” will definitely transport you to the grand hullabaloo of the 1940’s – as well it should, since this song was in a Mickey Spillane movie called Kiss Me Deadly… Lauren knows just how to convey the feelings of that era, cigarette-dangling & all… lol. It was one of the shorter tracks, “I’m Gonna Go Fishing“, that got my vote for personal favorite of the nine tunes offered up. What Ms. White is quite well able to do is make you WANT the past to come back… so you can be a part of Ramsey’s “in-crowd”, eh? I give Lauren & her players a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” rating of 4.98 for this high-energy release. Get more information at Laura’s FACEBOOK music page. Rotcod Zzaj

Louis Heriveaux – TRIADIC EPISODE:  Louis is one great jazz pianist who hails from down Atlanta way, and he definitely shows his keyboard chops on this excellent (first) release as a leader, he will make you fall in love (in the immediate) with his high-energy playing style on tunes like “Theme for Doslyn“… & his fellow players (Curtis Lundy on bass and Terreon Gully doing drums) make the trio one of the best you’ll listen to this year (& probably for many more to come).  The lively & upbeat  feel on “Lundy’s Blues” may make it seem less blues than dance, but the energy is right ON the mark, to be sure (and the timing between the three players is absolutely impeccable).  That title track, “Triadic Episode“, will unquestionably have you reaching for your cigarettes (even if ya’ don’t smoke – THEY do) as though you were in the coolest late-night jazz club on the planet.  As sometimes happens, though, it was the fantastic closer, “Swing’n Things” that got my vote for personal favorite of the eleven high-talent jazz pieces offered up.  I give Louis & his bandmates a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for this one, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99 for this fine album.  Get more information at the Hot Shoe Records page for this release.       Rotcod Zzaj

Kat Parra – SONGBOOK OF THE AMERICAS:  It’s been a while since I listened to & reviewed Kat’s superb vocal work (issue # 100 was the last one), but her energy is just as stellar as it was then on this new release.  Songs like “Wouldn’t It Be Sweet? (Au Privave)” will show you just how energetic she is when in performance mode, to be sure.  She’s been “on & off again” from a career standpoint, which is probably part of the reason it’s been a while since I listened to her (raising kids can do that to one)… there is ample evidence that she’s just as enchanted with jazz as she was on her earlier efforts, though.. just check out the high energy on “Till There Was You (featuring Nate Pruitt)” to get a peek at where she’s headed jazz-wise… I loved the percussion & vocal counterpoint on this great song!  Of the eleven fine songs on the album, it was the 5:03 “(Four)Ever More” that got my vote for personal favorite… one of the most “alive” jazz vocals I’ve listened to (yet) in 2016.  One of the key elements she’s able to project with her vocals is “FUN”!!!  I give Kat & her fantastic players (far too long a list for this page) a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98 for this excellent release.  Get more information at Kat’s website.         Rotcod Zzaj

Casarano – Bardoscia – Savoldelli (C.B.S.) – THE GREAT JAZZ GIG IN THE SKY: This album features one of my favorite jazz/spoken-word artists, Boris Savoldelli, but it’s a decidedly different sonic experience than I’ve ever heard him do (& that’s saying something, ‘coz I’ve reviewed his work a lot)!  In addition to his haunting vocals and electronics, he’s joined by Raffaele Casarano on saxes and electronics,
Marco Bardoscia doing double bass and electronics and some fantastic guest artists – Dewa Budjana on guitars, WK569 doing background sounds manipulation and Maurizio Nobili on reciter (hmmm… what’s a “reciter”?)… doesn’t really matter, as you’ll hear their high talent and energy on songs like the great “Breathe“… no doubt that “new life” will come to you through listening to this one.  The title track, “The Great Gig In The Sky – Money“, has some great double-bass, and clocking in at 7:40, leaves tons of space for the listener to dream right along with the players; when the vocals kick in, you’ll know you’ve ascended to a place you’ve never imagined before.  It was the perfect integration of the vocals with all the instruments on “Brain Damage” that captured my vote for personal favorite of the nine tunes offered up.  I give C.B.S. a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of (a perfect) 5.00… which means that they also get the “PICK” of this issue for “best vocal/jazz band”!  Get more information at the Moonjune Records page for this superb vocal & sonic excursion.        Rotcod Zzaj

Slivovitz – ALL YOU CAN EAT:  Ah-ha!  The one-sheet has nailed it down firmly… this is “progressive gypsy eclectic jazz”… I can’t exactly vouch for all those monikers being labelled there, but what I can do is declare it to be a delicious smorgasbord of musical delicacies that will, on tunes like “Mani in Faccia“, warp your noodle beyond all repair… you’ve got some stellar sonic chefs represented here from Italy – Pietro Santangelo on teno/alto sax; Marcello Giannini on electric/acoustic guitars; Riccardo Villari doing acoustic/electric violin; Ciro Riccardi on trupmet; Derek Di Perri on harmonica; Vincenz0 Lamangna on bass guitar; & finally Salvatore Rainone stirrin’ th’ mix up totally with his drums.  These folks have been reviewed quite a few times here already, most recently in issue # 121, & I’ve no doubt they will be cookin’ for us again sometime soon… especially when they are executing splendid musical cuisine like “Currywurst“… a totally H-O-T sandwich, this one.  My personal favorite of the eight great songs offered up, though, is the tasty closer, “Oblio“, probably inspired by one of Harry Nillson’s acid dreams!  Any way you listen, this merits a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Get more information at the Moonjune Records page for this release.        Rotcod Zzaj

Yair Loewenson trio featuring Mark Turner – OLD BOTTLES NEW WINE:  It’s always refreshing to hear new jazz voices, and Yair’s jazz guitar work on this excellent trio album is totally energizing!  Songs like the 6:35 opener, “Davka“, will indeed heighten your spirits and brighten your day!  The contemporary (yet artful) “Pasta” is no-nonsense jazz that shows the high talent and energy of all the players.  Yair has been teaching and playing jazz since his late teens, and it’s clear from his bio that he loves what he’s doing – to the degree, I can say, that all who listen will be just as enchanted as I was when listening to this release.  On this second album, he also plays some excellent jazz guitar, as evidenced by the smooth moves on “Stolen Picks“… Mark Turner’s reed work on this one is just stellar, and will have you soaring on every note.  My personal favorite of the dozen songs offered up is “Tension and Release“… all the players are excellent; Yair is joined by Mark Turner on Tenor Sax, Gal Shaya doing Bass and Noam Israeli on Drums – this is good as it gets when it comes to high-energy trio jazz.  I give Yair & crew a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99 for this fine album.  Get more information on this great artist at Yair’s website.       Rotcod Zzaj

Jim Clayton – LENNY JUMPS IN:  As the liner notes indicate, you’ve probably not been bantering about Jim’s name around your dinner table, ‘coz he’s still “on the rise”… I can tell you, though, that his splendid keyboard work will have him as a household-recognized name in the next year or so… the focus on this release (I first reviewed him in issue # 145) is primarily on his own compositions, and tunes like the gently-flowing “Riverwalk” demonstrate his creative ability to the max.  The opener, “Louisiana Cat Club“, is among the funkiest piano-led tunes I’ve heard (yet) this year… you’ll definitely feel like you’re in the French Quarter as you listen (& dance) to this one.    Though it’s one of the shorter tunes on the album, it was the title track, “Lenny Jumps In“, that caught my ear & got my vote for personal favorite of the eleven songs offered up.  For piano jazz lovers everywhere, this is MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Learn more about Jim at his discography page.         Rotcod Zzaj   

Steve Washington Featuring The Thad Wilson Jazz Orchestra – RIGHT TO LOVE:  If you’re a big fan of big-band/orchestral & vocal jazz, you’ll totally love Steve’s high-energy work on this 2015 release.  Though his voice doesn’t sound like Jarreau, the energy in the performance is similar, and that says a lot for this native of the nation’s Capital.  His swaying vocal on “Corcovado“, with the backing of Thad’s splendid orchestra, will definitely lead you to the love he sings of.  The boogie-based “Alright, Okay, You Win” displays a clear ability to switch gears… heck, you’ll think you’re out on Route 66 sailing along in your ’63 ‘Vette.  He performs regularly in the D.C. area, so if you’re in town, make sure you check his schedule – it’s worth it.  The laid-back & bluesy “The Lamp Is Low” (the longest cut on the album) won my (immediate) vote for personal favorite of the nine memorable songs on this release.  I give Steve & his fellow performers a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98 for this excellent vocal-fronted jazz performance.  You can learn more about him at Steve’s website.        Rotcod Zzaj

Al Jewer & Andy Mitran – TRANSMIGRATION:  What an absolutely wonderful set of music to listen to… over an hour of sonic beauty with a supporting cast that’s far too large to be itemized here.  The true keyword for what they’ve produced with their music, though, is – POWER!  & you’ll hear that clearly as you listen to one of my favorite tunes for 2016 (already), “Rendezvous“… if you can’t “pull yourself together” after listening through this five times – you’re too far gone already… Andy’s percussion work on this one makes it absolutely fabulous, no matter what level of listener you are!  I mentioned their capability and talent at projecting energy earlier… you will hear that boundlessly on “Unfolding Path“… it’s really nice to hear so many of these artists I’ve been reviewing over the year come together and use their creativity to help a world filled with minds looking for a way; and this album does that, without question.  My personal favorite of the fourteen tunes offered up, though, is the totally enchanting closer, “Event Horizon“… you’ll hear the changes coming!  I give Al and Andy (and their cast of many) a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for this musical adventure, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99.  Get more information at Al & Andy’s website.         Rotcod Zzaj      

Christine Brown – SOUVENIRS:  Readers who share my love for well-played solo piano will find this release a most welcome addition to their sonic library.  There are certain days in the great Pacific Northwest (where I reside) when nothing will do except some insightful and energetic keyboards, and tunes like “Shiver” provide the proof for that.  On solo efforts like this, a keyboardist’s “touch” is the determining factor between excellent and not so… as you listen to “Traveling Dreams“, you will hear that she is a master at expressing what’s in her mind & soul through those keys; a truly beautiful piece that will touch you too.  The other thing that makes (or breaks) a piano artists’ work is the originality and creativity expressed by their playing… all fourteen of these wonderful songs are original compositions by Christine; it was the beautiful “Prelude to Sunrise” that captured the spirit the best for me, and got my vote as personal favorite.  Soulful piano from an artist with the chops to make it capture your spirit, too, this one gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from me, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97.  Get more information at Christine’s website.         Rotcod Zzaj

Mary-Kathryn – WONDERS IN THE DEEP:  So, you’re thinking (as you look at the cover art) – “oh, Gourd, not yet another New Age singer”… ah, get RID of those thoughts, mi amigos!  As she slides past the intro vocal on the opener, “Hear My Cry“, you’ll hear energy and rhythms you’d have never expected from that cover.  A whole host of well-qualified players are backing up the marvelous sense of life and the living of it she projects through her voice, especially on tunes like “Mediterranean Passage“, one of my favorites, to be sure… she will definitely transport you there.  Well-arranged is what comes to mind as I listen to “Into The Heavens” – loved the piano and guitar intro on this piece.  She was a co-writer of the mysterious and totally engaging “Elohim“… I believe part of my attraction to this song, and what made it my personal choice for favorite of the ten songs offered up, is that it was the longest – giving it plenty of time to develop.  Any way you listen to it, you’ll agree, this is a wonderful musical experience that gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from me, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99.  Get more information at Mary-Kathryn’s website.        Rotcod Zzaj 

Randy Bernsen – GRACE NOTES:  I’m not sure how I missed all 12 albums that Randy’s previously been on as a leader, but I can tell you that his jazz guitar work is among the best I’ve heard lately.  The git-down funkiness on “Black Top” (an original from bassist Jimmy Haslip and pianist Russell Ferrante, who are also playing here) has some strong bass (of course), and Russell’s piano takes me way back to the days of my first introduction(s) to jazz, as in Ramsey Lewis’ & similar players.  Randy’s own original, “Grace“, just smokes with the power of coolness, I’ll tell you.  The high-energy “Blues Travelers“, another that Randy penned, lets each & every one of the players shine brightly… very unique styling and full-body throughout – you’ll spin this track over & over on your favorites list.  Strangely enough, it was the cover of Lennon-MCcartney’s “She’s A Woman” that got my nod for personal favorite of the eight tunes offered up on this excellent album.  I give Randy & all his players a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98 for this one.  Get more information on this high-energy creator at Randy’s website.       Rotcod Zzaj



Clear Water – ELECTRICITY:  It took me a few moments of glancing through the promo sheet to realize that this (very) unique duo (with two guest vocalists) was produced and performed by one of my favorite jazz trumpet players, Donald Malloy!  He’s joined by Matt Vorzimer on drums, and they create music that stretches the boundaries in all directions… yes, it’s jazz, but it’s also a very pleasant form of electronic music.  As you listen to the opening (title) track, “Electricity“, you’ll hear exactly what I mean… these gents take it OUT there, folks!   The 6:10 “Coral Blankets” has some excellent synth woven in, and is full of the high-energy work I’ve come to expect from this great trumpet player.  I first heard & reviewed Donald’s work in issue # 93, and even though that music was more in a “trad-jazz” vein, the new release still communicates the spiritual flow Donald wants to give to the listener.  My personal favorite on this new album is “Running On High”… high-energy, great vocal work woven in, & it gets dow-un to that element of FUNK we all want to hear!  I give Donald & his compatriots a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, along with a (perfect) “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 5.00… meaning he also gets the “PICK” of this issue for “best electronic jazz”.  Get more information at the Wave Magnetik pages.        Rotcod Zzaj


Candice Hoyes – ON A TURQOUISE CLOUD:  If you’re in the same age range I am (Ellington era, to be sure), this debut release will take you back to all those high-end jazz clubs you used to visit; Candice, classically trained, also enjoys singing jazz, and on tunes like “Transblucency“, you’ll hear why I consider her to be among the best jazz vocalist I listened to in 2015, as she soars through those blue-sky clouds.  The gentle & laid-back mood she creates on “Creole Love Call” will make you fall in love with her ability by the second bar, no question… she’s got that definite “down south” feeling goin’ on!  Though I’m not much of a “church-person” these days, I found the deep emotions Ms. Hoyes stirred on “Almighty God” quite powerful, and found myself remembering her energy for the song many times.  It was the upbeat & kickin’ “Baby” that got my (immediate) vote for personal favorite track of the thirteen offered up.  I give Candice a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98 for this fine debut.  You can get more information about this high-talent singer at Candice’s page for this album.         Rotcod Zzaj

Uptown Vocal Jazz Quartet with Richie Cole – VOCAL MADNESS:  There are mornings (maybe even whole days) when nothin’ but some good vocal jazz will cure what ails me… this D.C. group is joined by alto saxophonist Richie Cole on a dozen-song extravaganza that will slate your thirst for jazz that (vocally) satisfies!  Tunes like “It’s the Same Thing Everywhere” will rock your inner self, and Richie’s sax just KICKS on this song.  In addition to Richie’s excellent reed work, you’ll also hear drums by Frank Russo, piano from Alan Blackman, bass by Max Murray and guitar from Steve Herberman… & to tell the truth, it’s the players that help to set this release apart from all the other attempts at vocal jazz.  The back-alley, hep-cat rhythms on “He Was The Cat” had me swingin’, & you’ll be up & dancin’ ’round th’ room in mere seconds.  It was the laid-back & smoky-sounding “Tokyo Rose Sings the Blues” that got my vote for personal favorite… just superb harmony & totally pro vocal work here.  I give UVJQ a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98 for this splendid CD.  Get more information about this high-talent vocal group at the UVJQ website.        Rotcod Zzaj

Duduka Da Fonseca Trio – JIVE SAMBA:   Duduka’s a master drummer of rare precision and talent, and he’s been reviewed many times by these old ears – and surrounds himself with players of the same quality, like David Feldman on piano, Guto Wirtti on acoustic bass and (guest tenor saxophonist) Paulo Levi (track four).  Songs like “Sco s Bossa” will put you in that Latin jazz mood you were yearning for, in a most gentle, yet lively, way… pure and raw beauty on this song… David’s piano is elegant on this track.  The 6:45 “Peresina” is jazz that will bring back mem’ries for older folks (like ) out there… the recordings is ultra-crisp on this track in particular, and will have you listening to every note, every beat.  It was the energy levels on one of the shorter pieces that made it my personal favorite of the ten tunes offered up – “El Gaucho” – a definite sense of adventure helped make it my best experience on the album.  I give the trio a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99.  Get more information about this splendid jazz drummer at the Zoho Music label page for him.       Rotcod Zzaj

Dave Stryker – MESSIN’ WITH MISTER T:  If your ears have never had the pleasure of listening to Dave’s high-energy (& high-talent) jazz guitar – there’s NO better time than right now!  He’s joined on this ten-song extravaganza by lots of players, but the key ones are Jared Gold on hammond B3 organ, McClenty Hunter doing drums and Mayra Casales doing percussion on many of the tracks… you’ll think you’ve walked into one of those ’60’s late-night underground joints that had the likes of players like Stanley Turrentine, or Jimmy Smith.  The opener alone, “La Place Street” (a Turrentine original) makes it worth the purchase, and Jared’s Hammond just kickz’ out th’ jammz on this one!  Things get mighty frenetic on the group’s cover of John Coltrane’s “Impressions“… you won’t be able to resist tappin’ your toes on this tune, I can tell ya’!  It was the down & funky closer, Stanley’s “Sidesteppin’“, that (easily) won my vote for personal favorite, though… man, this is some mellow playin’, people!  I give Dave & his players a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with a (perfect) “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 5.00 – meaning that this also get the “PICK” of this issue for “best guitar-led jazz”!  Get more information on Dave & all his work at his web page for this release!           Rotcod Zzaj


Roger Davidson and Pablo Aslan – LIVE AT CAFFE VIVALDI VOLUME I:  I’ve been reviewing both of these master players for some many years now, and their performance on this release is “on” – as always!  Absolutely tasty piano from Roger and great bass work from Pablo on tunes like the splendid high-energy “Alma Hermosa“… they both shine forth on this one!  If you just want to dance the night away, you’ll totally dig on “Triangle Waltz“… there’s definitely not a better way for a jazz lover to spend an evening than to visit these gents during one of their live performances.  My personal favorite of the eleven tracks offered up during this sweet session is “Amantes Para Sempre”… it’s this tune that demonstrates their mastery the best for my old ears.  I give Roger & Pablo a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98 for this fine jazz recordings.  Get more information at the Soundbrush Records label page for this release.         Rotcod Zzaj




Gibrilville – THE FOREIGNER/JJC DELUXE:  Not a lot of rap gets reviewed here, quite simply because not a lot gets submitted to me… as soon as I listened to the first couple of tracks, I realized that this is “different” rap – ‘coz it actually has MUSIC in it!  Tunes like “Bad Girl” are full of dynamics, and lots of nice little pipe sounds smokin’ down ’round under the vocalist.  The 3:55 “Ghetto Youth FT Blitz The Ambassdor” serve up the protest you’d expect for a song with that title – but Gibrilville uses the text without overdoing the “explicit” part that’s advertised… and, of course, I respect a player who understands that “less is more” when it comes to profanity… he uses the language very well, and I’m impressed by that.  It was the musical/instrumental twists & turns on the backup to “We Are Going To Make It” that made it my personal favorite of the sixteen full-tilt trax offered up.  I give Gibril and his players a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED on this release, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97.  Get more information at the Gibrilville website.        Rotcod Zzaj