Issue 146 Reviews

Our latest and greatest reviews for your reading & listening pleasure

To catch my latest LIVE SHOW reviews go to my Zzaj-Rant page for this issue!

Paul Jost – BREAKING THROUGH:  To the “other side”, no doubt… Paul’s splendid jazz vocals & hep scat work make this an absolutely perfect CD to close this issue out with!  All dozen vocals on this set are high-energy & full of life… just scope out the superb “Blues On The Corner“, & you’ll hear what I’m excited about right away!  This is Paul’s first solo release, with both standards & not-quite-so… I can tell you, I don’t often find male jazz vocals spinning over & over again on my playlist(s), but when tunes like the down/funky “I Don’t Need No Doctor” are available, there’s no question but what they will be repeats!   The street date is next Monday, 15 September, 2014… make sure you get your copy now!  My personal favorite was the multifaceted “Gentle Rain“…. this gem shows every side of the jazz coin, and fully showcases one of the strongest vocal talents on the jazz scene today.  I give Paul a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with a (perfect) “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 5.00… which means he also get the “PICK” of this issue for “most creative vocal jazz”!  Get more information at the Dot Time Records website.       Rotcod Zzaj

Latin Underground – SEVEN STOPS TO HEAVEN:  I can tell you right now – this is a most unusual release for our pals at SLAMPRODS… ultra high-energy Latin this just KICKZ out those jamz!  ’tis most assuredly the most “take no prisoners” approach I’ve heard (yet) this year for Latin jazz – I fell in love with it IMMEDIATELY when I heard the first ten bars or so… especially tracks like “Passion Fruit“… if you’re not in love with them by the end of this piece – you don’t know what passion’s all about!  If dance is more your preference, you’ll surely dig down deep on “Mambo Inn“…. had me up & slidin’ ’round the review room!  The absolute ultimate (for this reviewer, anyway) was the 5:47 “Which Is Broom“… SOME far-cool piano, & those super-strong horns makin’ you swing all the way through!  I give these guys a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, & suggest that you’ll be hearing from them again soon!  “EQ” (energy quotient) rating is 4.97.  Get more information at the SLAMPRODS site for this release.        Rotcod Zzaj

Moraine – GROUNDSWELL:  In the context of addiction, this band is THE STUFF, folks!  I swore off all “substances” years ago, but even getting close to a hit of the high-energy playing that Dennis Rea & the rest of this group do is enough to give me that good ol’ “contact high” that we used to search all over the street for!  As you’ll hear most poignantly on pieces like the 3:25 “Fountain Of Euthanasia“, they will wrap you up in a neat little bundle and propel you to the outer reaches of the universe… moods overcome you so rapidly that you (just) give in to the attractions of the coming life!  They had extensive studio production on this one, and it certainly shows as you scope out the instrumental rush that builds up on the marvelous “In That Distant Place“… 6:20… the blend is superb & certainly worth a snort (or more)… lol!  It was the strident purposefulness of “Waylaid” that got my vote for best track on the ten-song wonder, though… you won’t soon escape the pull of this powerful group after listening to this one.  In fact, in addition to my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, and an “EQ” (energy quotient) of a perfect 5.00, this grand excursion gets my “PICK” for “most creative music”!  Get more information at the MoonJune Records catalog page for this CD.       Rotcod Zzaj

Moraine: Groundswell

Louis Colaiannia – CLOSER:  The beautiful piano work Louis does on this CD (he’s no stranger in these pages) is definitely nearer to his classical roots… pieces like “The Way Of The Rain” amplify that point for your ears… but don’t mistake my tone… this is still high-energy & high-talent playing that will stay in your head for days (if not months and years).  I was totally blown away by the simple power of “Air“, and have no doubt you will be, too… in fact, I think it will hold your ears hostage for a while.  My personal favorite on the CD, “Aurora“, is in memory & tribute to those whose lives were shattered by the shooting in the Aurora Theater (2012)… one reason this was so attractive to me was the addition of Jeff Oster on flugelhorn; any way you listen, it conveys the sadness the angels must have had on that day.  I give Louis and players a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Get more information at Louis’s website.       Rotcod Zzaj

The Jeff Brooks Quartet – ONE TAKE:  This one came to me as a direct hand-off from a local sound engineer (Tom Pell), who also plays bass on this very interesting excursion into jazz clarinet-land.  In fact, it’s far more than just “interesting”… tunes like “646” have energy that just ripples through your mind as you listen to this… Jeff’s clarinet is solid all the way through!  If you haven’t listened to a lot of clarinet in jazz yet, this would serve as a perfect intro… I particularly dug the lively spirit on “Courante“, where talent (and some great recording expertise) just shines right through.  All the players are right in touch with each other… seamless jazz, especially on tracks like my personal favorite, “On His 40th“… this CD is an all-around pleasant jazz listen, and gets a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from me… “EQ” (energy quotient) rating is 4.97.  Get more information at the ALLMUSIC page for this CD.      Rotcod Zzaj

Jeff Brooks: One Take with the Jeff Brooks Quartet

Fred Hersch Trio – FLOATING:  Fred is no stranger here… been reviewed many times… his piano is vibrant and full of life, & in this trio setting (with bassist John Hébert and drummer Eric McPherson), it’s a sure-bet winner!  Tunes like “West Virginia Rose” will put you in a pensive mood, and have you coming back time & time again to listen.  The boogie-ness of “Home Fries” had me bouncin’ my knee & tappin’ my toes right along with the trio, to be sure!  That’s one constant about the music Fred puts together for you, by the way… you can always count on it revealing new facets about his artistry.  My personal favorite of these ten songs was the simple, yet beautiful, gentleness of “A Speech To The Sea“… one of the best jazz trios on the scene today, Fred & crew get 9as they most always do) a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from me, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Get more information at Fred’s website.        Rotcod Zzaj

Patrick Battstone – WINTER’S POEMS:  Acoustic piano poetry from the very talented (solo) keyboardist Pat Battstone.  I didn’t actually get acquainted with his spirited, yet introspective, piano work until hearing him with Richard Poole (reviewed in issue # 122), so this series of sonic poems is like a whole new vista for my ears.  I particularly enjoyed the “brightness” on tasty pieces like “Poem 3“… many of the phrasings and nuances remind me very strongly of another favorite pianist who I’ve played with before, John Alkins (sadly departed now).  One significant difference in their styles is that Pat’s chords & overtones seem (somehow) more sustained and long-lasting than some of the Alkins pieces did.  My personal favorite was the bouncy and swirling “Poem 5“; this comes closer to the jazz style than many of the other pieces on the CD, too.  The only drawback was the naming convention… as evidenced by Pat’s later work with Poole, though, I’d say he’s past that now.  I totally enjoyed the creativity and vibrancy of spirit on this one – it gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, particularly for those who love solo piano, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Get more information at Pat’s domain/website.      Rotcod Zzaj

Patrick Battstone: Winter

Ken Husbands – KEEPIN’ IT GOING:  If you want a guitar player that can truly “funk around” on your CD – you just GOTTA’ get Ken!  If you don’t believe MY ears, just scope out the killer opening track, “East Coast Groupings” to get a taste o’ his funky style… I dug it a whole lot!  Ken is joined on this one by bassist Aaron Germain and drummer Otto Huber, & the trio just KICKZ’ it!  From a jazz standpoint, the 7:44 “Almost Eleven” was the clear winner, & certainly got my vote for favorite of the six tunes offered up for your groovin’ pleasure!  If your listening style runs more towards low, slow & relaxed (yet totally upbeat) Latin jazz, then you will fall in love with the closer, “But I Don’t”, right after you start spinning it.  I would have liked to have heard (maybe) one more track, to round it out to 40 minutes or more, but the trio’s adventurous musical spirit and high-energy playing clearly make it rate a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97.  Get more information at Ken’s website.   Rotcod Zzaj

Ken Husbands: Keepin

Greg Chako – WHERE WE FIND OURSELVES:  It was quite some years back that I first reviewed Greg’s astounding jazz guitar work (issue # 82 & even before that in issue # 77).  So imagine my surprise when he popped up on FB  this summer with a full-blown double-CD sonic adventure – any guitar jazz fan in his right mind would be clamoring to get this stone-cold GEM spinning – & Greg is offering it up digitally for free… I’m telling you folks, when you listen to killer tunes like “Wave Of Love“, you’ll know that you’re in the presence of musical genius.  The gently swaying chords (not to mention the horns) of “Takachan” made me fall in love with it right away.  It was the 7:41 “Long Summer Samba” that got my vote for personal favorite of the fifteen songs on the CD’s, though… a perfect style-match for this masterful jazz guitarist, and all the other band members (Andy Bevan, Didjeridu, Flute, Sax (Soprano), Sax (Tenor), Saxophone; Greg Chako, Composer, Guitar, Liner Notes, Primary Artist; Mark DeRose, Bongos, Congas, Drums, Percussion; John Herbert and Lion Studios in Singapore; Pat Hallaran, Trombone; John Herbert, Engineer, Mastering, Mixing)… this one gets my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, as well as a (perfect) “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 5.00… meaning it also gets the “PICK” of this issue for “best guitar-led jazz CD”.  Get more information at Greg’s music page on FB.       Rotcod Zzaj

Greg Chako: Where We Find Ourselves

Charles Davis – FOR THE LOVE OF LORI:  Absolutely WOW!  Charles sax work is truly outstanding, and well-complemented by Steve Davis on trombone, Joe Mangnarelli on trumpet, Neil Smith on drums, Rick Germanson on piano and David Williams doing bass. Lori was Charles’ wife, who passed in 2012 (from cancer).  The fact that Charles can still create with such power and beauty at 81 years of age is amazing, especially on tunes like the opener, “Begues“, one of my favorites this summer; one reason for that is because the players are really together!  It was the original title track, “For The Love Of Lori“, that reached right out & grabbed me, though… definitely my personal favorite of the eight offered up… you can hear both the pain and the beauty in this piece.  I also got a real charge out of Charles’ rendition of Cedar Walton’s “Cedar’s Blues“… high-energy jazz that will stay on your playlists for years to come.  I give this one a (DEFINITE) MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Get more information at Charles’s website.        Rotcod Zzaj

Anthony Branker & Word Play – THE FORWARD (TOWARDS EQUALITY) SUITE:  Many readers who have been with me for a long time know that I got my start in performance with spoken-word… so Anthony’s high-energy sax work, combined with some excellent poetry & spoken-word make it a sure-fire winner for my ears!  The opener, “Preamble“, alone, makes it worth the purchase of this dozen song masterpiece (for this listener, to be sure).  Since Anthony sent it my way, I’ve been spinning this two or three times a week, especially tunes like the highly powerful “Forgotten Peoples“… if this one doesn’t inspire you to ask yourself why some are treated differently than others – you’ll never get it!  The cause (and need) for freedom is clearly brought to vibrant life in the 5:31 “If We Must Die“… the keyword for this composition is “strong”!  The kids from MLK Elementary School who join in on “Our Dreams” add an element of reality that’s often forgotten in our daily hither & thither… absolutely my favorite track on the CD.  I give Anthony and his Word Play folks my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99!  This is one you will WANT to get.  Learn more about this jazz giant at Anthony’s website.       Rotcod Zzaj

Kerani – ARCTIC SUNRISE:  What an absolutely beautiful way to start a Sunday morning… Kerani’s piano is magical, and full of the life and vigor that makes the globe turn.  She says (in the liner notes) that her intent is to “call attention to these beautiful and important Arctic and Antarctica wilderness areas.”  The spoken-word that’s layered in over the piano/strings does that perfectly and in very majestic fashion!  In fact, I’ll go as far as to say that the opening title cut, “Arctic Sunrise“, is the most inspiring piece of music I’ve heard (yet) in 2014!!  Kerani’s ability to paint beautiful sonic realities is best evidenced on my personal favorite of the eight compositions made available for your enlightenment… “Aurora Sky” brings the beauty and wonder home, and will definitely make you want to join in the struggle against the dollar-mongers who would lay our planet to waste for a few meager dollars.  I give Kerani a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) of a (perfect) 5.00… which means that she also gets the “PICK” of this issue for “most inspirational music”.  Get more information at Kerani’s website.       Rotcod Zzaj

Kerani: Arctic Sunrise

Led Bib – THE PEOPLE IN YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD:  Well – maybe not my neighborhood… I haven’t heard (or seen) this kind of subversive musical activity around my house lately (though it would be most welcomed… lol).  The build on “Angry Waters (Lost To Sea)” displays musical talent far above average, in many realms… prog, jazz, rock, you know.  Of course, I’d expect nothing less from the Cuneiform label, who have been providing us with some stunning CD’s over the last couple of years.  “At The Ant Farm” does resemble some of the folks ’round here… of course, all that activity is usually focused (sadly) on how to get a greener lawn, rather than how to grow better vegetables.  What’s on display here, though, is a clear ability to paint (sometimes deafening) portraits of ordinary (& not so ordinary) folks/events.  I was especially impressed with “Orphan Elephants“… it was my favorite of the 11 tracks offered up.  The only hazard is that you may have neighbors tossing cannonballs your way if you turn this up too loud.  I totally dug it, & it gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Get more information at the Led Bib website.        Rotcod Zzaj

Gianni Gagliardi – NOMADIC NATURE:  There are some CD’s that reach right out & tell you that they are “top of the line”… this debut album from saxophonist Gianni is definitely one of those.  The recording is flawless, from the first note all the way through to the very end!  The opener, “Paris“, is 8:22, is the tune I was talking about… it just grabs your ears and won’t let go.  Unfortunately, that was the only one I could find with samples… I also dug deep into “Macanudo Man”… Gianni’s tone is rich and deep on this one, and the energy is high-level, even though it’s a laid-back tune.  One of the main things the CD has going for it is that all 8 tunes are originals… that always (for this reviewer, anyway) lends a certain amount of “credence”, especially for jazz albums.  This one gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from me, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of (a perfect) 5.00 – which means that (despite the lack of samples on the net), it also gets the “PICK” of this issue for “best sax-led jazz”.  Get more information at Gianni’s website.     Rotcod Zzaj

Lisa Casalino – I’M OLD FASHIONED:  I was first exposed to Lisa’s lovely vocal jazz in issue # 122, and gave her good marks for her fresh approach and lively style.  This CD carries the tradition right on, and you’ll be mighty pleased as you listen to her performance on the title track, “I’m Old Fashioned“… no, it’s not “out there”, or odd in any way… it’s just Lisa entertaining, & that’s mighty fine by me!  I totally dug the short (2:57) “Optimistic“… if you’re as much into jazz as you think you are – you’ll dig it too.  It was one of the longer tunes that got my vote for favorite of the ten tracks offered up, though… “I’ll Never” is a love song for lovers, no doubt about it… laid-back & full of the blues (the sax reminds me of some of the Stan Getz sessions) that love can be.  I give Lisa another MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97.  Get more information about Lisa at the Lisa Casalino webiste.       Rotcod Zzaj

Lisa Casalino: I

Adam Schroeder – LET’S:  I first reviewed Adam’s superb baritone sax work in issue # 106 he got high marks on that one, and this CD  finds him with guitarist Anthony Wilson, bassist John Clayton and drummer Jeff Hamilton (most of whom have been reviewed here in their own groups – all excellent players).  The 6:28 Shroeder original, “Let’s Clap Your Hands” will have you movin’ ’round the floor… high-energy, to be sure!  “Patient Endurance, Steady Hope” is another Schroeder original, though in a completely different mood.  It was the totally upbeat title track, “Let’s“, that won my vote for favorite track of the eleven offered up… jazz like it’s supposed to be!  Once again, I give Adam & crew a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  You can get more information about this fantastic artist at the Adam Schroeder website.   Rotcod Zzaj

Adam Schroeder: Let

Gene Segal – MENTAL IMAGES:  It’s been a while since I reviewed Gene’s exciting jazz guitar work… he was last reviewed in issue # 96… I can tell you right now (after listening back through the first one), the energy on this CD is different/better in major ways.  “Healing Feeling” is a shining example of that… an absolute gem for an opener… if raw energy in jazz is your forte – GET THIS one!  Gene is joined by Jon Irabagon on alto saxophone, Sam Sadigursky ontenor & soprano saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet, Sean Conly on bass and Jaimeo Brown on drums, in a session that will inspire images for years to come… I just loved the easygoing feel of “The Ringmaster“… every instrument is “together”, and the recording on this tune is totally flawless… this is my favorite tune of the eight offered up for your jazz adventure of 2014.  I give Gene & all his players a definite MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99.  You can order this one via email to or purchase at AMAZON.      Rotcod Zzaj

Danny Freyer – MUST BE LOVE:  I must say, up front, that this vocal jazz hearkens back to a day & time of music that I don’t often listen to any more… Frank Sinatra, Perry Como, Andy Williams & 100 other singers that we used to watch with anticipation every week (when they had their own TV shows)… on the other hand, Danny has some very cool jazz players backing his vocals – & that made all the difference in the world!  On tunes like “Bop Goes My Heart“, the energy is ever-present, and makes for a very lively song.  I truly dug the down & bluesy “Lean Baby“… it has the key ingredient for great jazz vocal work – FUN!  The 7:40 “Promise Me You’ll Remember” turned out to be my personal favorite track of the eleven offered up… a tad on the “lounge” side, but very memorable, nevertheless (because of the strings, I think).  I give Danny & crew a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.96.  Get more information at Danny’s website.       Rotcod Zzaj

Danny Freyer: Must Be Love

Rich Halley 4 – THE WISDOM OF ROCKS:  If you’re truly all about “real jazz” – don’t miss this splendid sonic adventure.  I’ve been reviewing Rich’s music for many years now, & his “4” is one of the most powerful formations he plays in… you get to hear  Rich Halley on tenor sax; Michael Vlatkovich on trombone; Clyde Reed on bass; and Rich’s son, Carson Halley on drums.  Tunes like “A Brief Note” will simply blow you away – but I advise that you do your first listen with headphones on… you’ll want to absorb every single note!  If you want to hear total artistry, you’ll be listening to “The Semblance of Stealth” again & (yet) again.  My personal favorite of the dozen songs on the CD was the title track, “The Wisdom of Rocks“… solid playing, and total originality from players that know where that wisdom they’re playing about comes from!  A totally satisfying jazz jaunt from the Rich Halley 4 that gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from my jaded ears, as well as an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99.  Get more information at Rich’s website.       Rotcod Zzaj

Rich Halley 4: The Wisdom of Rocks (feat. Michael Vlatkovich, Clyde Reed and Carson Halley)

Joe LoCascio and Woody Witt – ABSINTHE:  Since the drink in the CD title is classified as a Spirit… it turns out to be a superb title for this most intimate piano (Joe) and sax (Woody) recording session!  On the title cut, “Absinthe“, you’ll witness one of the most intimate and tasteful duos you’ve ever heard… I know this one spun over & over (and OVER) again on my playlist, and won’t be shoved to the bottom any time soon!  Witt’s reed work meshes perfectly with keyboards that are in perfect harmony with the spirit of the composer, Billy Strayhorn.  Tunes like “Chelsea Bridge” will just “w-o-w” your ears and take you to the place all jazz lovers ultimately want to be – oblivion.   It was the lively and energetic interplay on the 5:05 “Rain Check” that won my vote as favorite of the nine tracks offered up for your listening enjoyment, though… perfect melding of these two musical giants, that certainly merits the MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED I’m giving it, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Get more information at the Blue Bamboo Music page for this release.       Rotcod Zzaj

The Microscopic Septet – MANHATTAN MOONRISE:  Obviously, in honor of last week’s “super-moon”, I can tell you that (even) the man-in-the-moon would have been dancin’ to this one… what absolute fun!  The title track alone, “Manhattan Moonrise“, makes the CD worth the purchase… co-leader Joel Forrester said the the title “evokes the moment when nighttime in New York struggles to come to life.  The Micros—no matter where we play, let alone where we live, these days—has always been a New York band.  We bring The City to our music:  this amounts to a form of high lunacy”… that lunacy is totally evident on the lively & jazzy “Let’s Coolerate One“… if you don’t have your “saddle-shoes” out, dig ’em outta’ th’ closet – NOW – ‘coz this one is COOKIN’!  My personal favorite is the bouncy & vibrant “Hang It On A Line”… if you can’t feel the spirit with this one – you’re never going to!  I give these folks a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Get more information at The Microscopic Septet’s site.         Rotcod Zzaj


The Sours – THE SOURS:  What an absolutely pretty sonic experience… all original acoustic music that will bring you the full range of emotions that one can experience.  Vocalist/guitarist Sarah Schrift,  and guitarist Sasha Markovic give you a slice of life – the way it really is!  On pieces like “Seawitch“, you’ll feel the high energy and love of life that “real” songwriters understand must be a part of everything they present… you won’t stop listening until you’ve heard every single note.  This isn’t a “high-tech gizmo” kinda’ recording – but it’s one of the best I’ve heard (yet) in 2014… every little nuance is clear as a bell!  The piano (Kana Kamitsubo) on “Wish” made it my favorite tune on the eleven-song album.  It’s not a “jazz” CD, but it has exactly the right mix of life & verve to make it well worth the HIGHLY RECOMMENDED I give it.  “EQ” (energy quotient) rating is 4.97.  Get more information at The Sours website.        Rotcod Zzaj

Signal Problems – SIGNAL PROBLEMS:  Trumpeter Danny Gouker leads this very interesting quartet in some sonic directions that your ears are not expecting… mine weren’t.  Tunes like “Pogo Stick” will have you hopping… whoops, sorry – just couldn’t resist!  It was actually pieces like “Made for TV pt. 2” that garnered (far) more of my aural attention, though… slick, with lots of buzz.  This is high-energy alternative improv that has great fluid playing and a high degree of the ultimate ingredient for enjoyable music – creativity!  I got the biggest rush out of the 9:32 “Slippy Sloop”, though… this one is definitely my favorite of the ten tracks offered up.  Danny’s horn is joined by Eric Trudel on Tenor Saxophone, Adam Hopkins doing Bass and Nathan Ellman-bell on Drums, in a well-rounded exploratory session that gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from me (unless, of course, you’re only into “old standard” jazz – then, you’ll move on to the fuddy-duddy rack, I’m sure).  “EQ” (energy quotient) rating is 4.98.  Get more information at the pfMentum page for this release.       Rotcod Zzaj

Tunto – HUNI:  Definite “fun from Finland”; when you first look at that CD cover, you’re wondering “what the heck is THIS”?  And now, as you aurally scope out “Balloon Music“, you are still wondering that… though now with a sense of feel for what they are playing, anyway.  In fact, if you cruise on through all ten tracks, you’ll find that pieces like “Stalking Music” do indeed “give you a feel” for what the players are thinking about as they play this very interesting music… I can clearly hear the creepers in the back alley on this cute tune.  The other thing that strikes me as I listen is that these are very proficient at what they are doing, especially the leader, guitarist Matti Wallenius.  My personal favorite tune was the totally cool “Camel Riding Music“… lots of rhythm interchange on this one… you’ve never heard or seen camels like this.  This CD gets a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from my ears, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97.  Get more information at the Tunto website.       Rotcod Zzaj

Gina Carey – FUNK, RHYTHM & SOUL:  The promoters who have worked with me over the last 25 years will tell you that most CD’s never get “jumped” to the head of the line.  In the case of Gina’s CD, though, it certainly merited it – ‘coz it runs right at the FRONT of the pack (at least for this ol’ soul(er))!  Some of that prob’ly has to do with the fact that we don’t (very) often get such fonk-ee vocals in here… as I listen to “On & On” (third time, listening again), I’m reminded of some of the energy we heard back in the late ’60’s all the way up through the early ’80’s… bands like “Graham Central Station” & (even) shades of the old “Funkadelics” are cruisin’ through my mind as I scope this track out – absolutely cool (& makin’ me shuffle on ’round th’ room – ha! ha!).  Ultra-hip rhythms will make ya’ shake it while you’re listening to the 3:48 pure pleasure of “Hot Summer Nights“… where you BEEN all this time, Gina?  It was the keyboard, along with Gina’s silky-smooth vocal on “Love Heals” that got my vote for favorite of the eleven exciting tracks, though… excellent soul, mighty fine spirit that merits my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED… “EQ” (energy quotient) rating is a top-o-the-line 5.00… which means that this one get the “PICK” of this issue for “best funk, rhythm & soul”!  Get more information at Gina’s bio page.     Rotcod Zzaj

Gina Carey: Funk Rhythm & Soul

John Luttrell – A SENSE OF IMPENDING LEVITATION:  Yet again I find myself listening to pure beauty and highly talented work from John… of the four or five downloads I snagged when John gave me entry for a CD (I did in an earlier review), the title of this sonic adventure caught my eye – & now my ear.  As I listen to the mystery being explained on the grand opening track, “The Sense“, it’s clear that we WILL rise beyond the petty concerns that plague so many millions.  On “Side Trip“, grand swirls and birds in full twinkle take you to realms you didn’t even know existed.  As you can tell from the past 3 issues (or so), I’ve been enjoying a lot of what John does, and I’ve no doubt you will too.  My personal favorite on this ten-song magical journey is “River’s Edge“… our world today needs to eat, sleep & breathe music like this.  I give John another MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, particularly for listeners who demand “breadth” and “depth” in their listening lives.  “EQ” (energy quotient) rating is 4.98.  Get more information at John’s website (& tell him I sent you).        Rotcod Zzaj

John Luttrell: A Sense of Impending Levitation

Jeremy Fox – WITH LOVE:  This jazz vocal-centered CD serves as the perfect Saturday morning sonic enhancement… he doesn’t actually perform – he coaches several outstanding vocalist… like Rose Max, on “Dindi“, one of the sweetest tunes you’ll hear this year… even though it’s not in English, you’ll enjoy every note of the song.  It’s perfectly clear that Dr. Fox knows what love is all about, and how to bring it to your ears with his own unique style.  On “Get out of Town“, with Derek Fawcett, you’ll be thinkin’ “Frank” (as in Sinatra, of course).  My personal favorite features Lauren Kinhan singing “Moonray“… 6:01 minutes of jazz perfection.  You get a total of eleven super-sweet jazz winners that will rise to the top of your jazz vocal playlist – & stay there.  I give Jeremy and all his minions a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for this extravaganza… “EQ” (energy quotient) rating is 4.97.  Get more information Jeremy’s website.  Rotcod Zzaj

Pat Battstone and Richard Poole (with Todd Brunel and Chris Rathbun) – THE LAST TAXI:  I received a pre-release copy of this excellent jazz effort… the playing is “on time” all the way through all eleven songs, and you’ll find yourself waiting anxiously for the “next movement” through each and every track.  With the rather extensive background I have in improvised music (having done a bit of it myself over the years), I can tell you that tunes like the 7:15 “A Night At The Hotel Avery” will hold you spellbound… of course, you must be the type of listener who stays “actively engaged” with the playing… this isn’t “cocktail-party background” music!  Pat’s piano is crisp, yet somehow floating ever-so-gently… Richard’s vibes are mellow to the ‘nth degree… the reeds from Todd are magic, and the bass from Chris holds the bar all the way through… & that’s especially true on tunes like my favorite, the 9:33 “Still Floating“.  This amazing CD gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from me, with an “EQ” rating of 4.99.  Get more information at Pat/Richard’s REVERBNATION page for this release.        Rotcod Zzaj

Geni Skendo – ACOUSTIC COWBOY:  Our long-time flute-playing friend has just put this one up for review… Geni is a true master at the flute… a part of the Press Release says that the style of music is ““as if Jazz & the World had a baby”… there is some absolutely fantastic guitar work from Ben Levin on the title cut, “Acoustic Cowboy“… all integrated very nicely with gentle (& at times not quite so gentle) flute from Geni.  They are joined by Takeshi Ohbayashi on Piano/Keys, Bruno Raberg on Bass, Noriko Terada on Percussion and Dave Fox on Drums for a rousing set of tunes that you won’t soon let drop off your playlists!  The 5:16 “Old City” is among my favorite tunes (yet) for this year… this will definitely take you to more pleasant times.  It is the bass intro (& playing) on the beautiful “Why Cry” that gets my vote as favorite track of the six offered up for your listening pleasure… absolutely sweet playing, totally balanced and pure joy to listen to!  I give Geni & his crew a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of (the very top) 5.00 – which means that it also gets the “PICK” of this issue for “best flute-led jazz”!  Get more information at Geni’s page for this release.       Rotcod Zzaj

Geni Skendo: Acoustic Cowboy

Yolanda Duke – TE LLEVO BAJO LA PIEL:  Many of the jazz favorites we enjoy today came from the “Latin” side of jazz… so, what Yolanda has done here is taken songs like the title track, “Te Llevo Bajo La Piel (I’ve Got You Under My Skin)“, and re-energized them by singing them in her own language… how cool THAT is!  What’s so elegant about this is that you can still “understand” the song, even though you may not know the words (as she sings them)… for it’s the SPIRIT she sings with that makes them come so much alive.  My personal favorite of the ten songs offered up was “Eso Que Llaman Amor (What Is This Thing Called Love?)“… this is just totally exciting… like having her join you in your living room to present her own vocal concert.  You’ll spin this gem over & over again, I can guarantee you.  I give Yolanda & crew (which includes Arturo Sandoval on piano) a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97.  Get more information at Yolanda’s website.       Rotcod Zzaj

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