Issue 147 reviews

Our latest and greatest reviews for your reading & listening pleasure

Patrick Yandall – SOUL GRIND:  I can’t be absolutely positive, but I’m pretty sure this one came from some of my RN solicitations… though Patrick’s guitar is played in the “smooth jazz” vein, he has (more than) enough energy going on with his compositions & funky style to keep him being lumped in with all the rest of the M.O.R. artists!  In fact, it’s the intense burn on some of his guitar solos that caught my ear in the first place!  That’s fully evident on the title track, “Soul Grind“… Patrick just keeps the tune movin’ on in th’ down&funky zone… he literally soars on some of his lead lines!  The other major factor in my asking him for his music is that he’s indie… & as many of you know, that’s what this ‘zine is all about… players who aren’t afraid to challenge the “big guys” with high-talent & high-energy music.  Of the fourteen tracks lined up for your listening enjoyment, I found “Saw Ow” to be my personal favorite, again because of the smokin’ lead guitar lines.  I give Patrick a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for jazzers who like a little “bounce” in their listening.  “EQ” (energy quotient) rating is 4.98.  Get more information at Patrick’s RN site.

Patrick Yandall: Soul Grind

Kerry Politzer – BELOW THE SURFACE:  I’ve been a fan of Kerry’s piano work for some many years now, & have reviewed a lot of her CD’s.  She’s joined on this superb CD outing by David Valdez on alto saxophone, Thomas Barber on trumpet,  Andrea Niemiec on bass and George Colligan on drums in a decidedly more “straight-ahead” jazz session than I’ve heard her do in a while.  Tunes like “Dilemma” will hold your ears spellbound, and make you wonder why you haven’t been listening to her as often as I have… the energy is volcanic, and the instruments are totally in balance – the kind of jazz I grew up on.  I loved the percussion feel on “Empty Hours” – it’s not the blues you might think it would be… driving rhythm that will transport you to places you haven’t been as often as you might wish.  The horns are splendid on both the reed & the brass side, and the drumming/bass hold it all together quite nicely.  My personal favorite of the ten tunes offered up is the 5:18 “Echo Says“, which keys in on Kerry’s beautiful piano lines.  I give Kerry & her high-talent group a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for jazz lovers of any stripe; “EQ” (energy quotient) rating is 4.98.  Get more information at Kerry’s webpage for this release.        Rotcod Zzaj

Kerry Politzer: Below the Surface

Snatam Kaur – LIGHT OF THE NAAM – MORNING CHANTS:  I am constantly amazed at the variety and high quality of music that we get these days from individual artists all over the world, and Snatam’s work on this meditative gem is a faithful representation of the music of a very dedicated spirit!  If your only musical “bent” is towards total jazz, or maximum R&R, you may not think that this musical adventure will be something you will enjoy… nothing could be further from the truth… the beautiful (and high-energy) “Take Me In” will captivate you and draw you in!  There are many more songs on this album, but the one that was my personal favorite was the 7:38 “Sat Siree Siree Akhall (Beyond Death)“… excellent vocals, and instruments that gently draw you into their rhythms and wrap you in.  I give Snatam and crew a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) of 4.97.  Get more information at the Snatam Kaur website.        Rotcod Zzaj

Uwe Gronau – THOUGHTS OF TOMORROW:  Despite many reviews in this magazine, I always look forward to something new from Uwe… he always has a new sonic adventure for the ears, and this CD is right up there at the top of all of his efforts!  His keyboards on “At The Beach” are full of light spirit and joy.  “Make It Happen” will have you up & dancin’ ’round the room in only moments… the thing about truly good music is that it can’t be classified or pigeonholed, and that’s what’s so unique about Uwe’s music… it’s not “just jazz”, it’s not “just new age” & it’s not lacking in the energy that is such a requirement for getting a review here.  You’ll find sixteen tunes here… of those, my personal favorite on this go-round is the appropriately titled “Festive Day“… if you haven’t had anything to celebrate all day – you do now… this song will lift you from any trenches you’re in & take you to the clouds.  I give Uwe a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98 on this one.  Get more information at Uwe’s website.      Rotcod Zzaj

Uwe Gronau: Thoughts of Tomorrow

Michael Lake – ROADS LESS TRAVELED:  What’s most striking about the songs Michael plays his trombone on (as well other instruments) for this highly energetic jazz CD is that they are from “all walks of life”… crossing genre-bounds, & making each tune a joy to behold.  He’s joined (on bass trombone) by Gerry Pagano, and together they celebrate on tunes like “A Night In Tunisia“, clearly enjoying their play together!  I totally dug the vibrancy on “Love On A Real Train“… you will, too… nice buildup (like when a train is gettin’ ready to roll, of course) and full of spirit.  It was the 6:45 “Painted Desert” that turned out to be my favorite of the thirteen tracks, though…  these guys definitely know how to change your moods for you.  The closer, “I Wuz Ga’zun at the Cajon” came in a close second, though… what absolute fun!  I give Michael & Gerry a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97.  Get more information at Michael’s site.       Rotcod Zzaj

Michael Lake: Roads Less Traveled

Gato Libre – DU DU:  Trumpeter Natsuki Tamura had to reform this group after the untimely passing of bassist Koreyasu.  He did an admirable job of finding the right players… on this first outing for the new formation, he features himself on trumpet, Yasuko Kaneko on trombone, Kazuhiko Tsumura on guitar and Satoko Fujii on accordion.  You can listen to samples of four of the tracks at the SQUIDCO label page for this CD.   There are some truly tasty improvisations; I particularly loved Satoko’s accordion on “Nanook”, though I don’t imagine F.Z. is resting easy as he listens to this.  After having watched Tamara and Fujii live up in Seattle (this summer), I know they are tuned into each other intimately, and know exactly when to play the notes.  I enjoyed the 5:33 “Scramble”, and in fact, this turned out to be my favorite tune of the 8 on the CD.  I give Natsuki & crew a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, especially for listeners with adventuresome ears.  “EQ” (energy quotient) is 4.97.  Get more information at the label page highlighted above.     Rotcod Zzaj

JC Sanford Orchestra – VIEWS FROM THE INSIDEBack (WAY back) when I was growing up & cutting my jazz teeth, jazz orchestras where the “in thing”… JC on his trombone & an entire high-energy orchestra behind him, revives that “large” spirit, and does it with total skill and focus!  Compositions like “2nd and 7th” will introduce you to that great energy… “An Attempt At Serenity” isn’t what you think it is, but it is definitely in the spirit of the moment & captures the “whole buzz”!  The most notable thing (in this reviewer’s opinion, anyway) is that Sanford’s compositions and arrangements cut across all lines, and truly give you that “inside” view he alludes to with the CD title… & that’s nowhere more evident than on my personal favorite of the twelve pieces on the album, “Robins In Snow“… you’ll literally see it in your head as you listen to this tune.  I’m highly impressed, and believe you will be too… I give JC & his full-blown orchestra a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99.  You can get more information at the JC Sanford website.     Rotcod Zzaj

Roger Davidson – TEMPLE OF THE SOUL:  I’ve reviewed Roger’s fine music in many groupings before… trio, quintet and duo, but I believe this is the first time I’ve heard him doing solo keyboards.  He performs some beautiful improvisations, with high spirit and energy that you often don’t find on solo piano albums.  I was very attracted to the title cut and opener, “Temple Of The Soul“, and have no doubt you will be, too.  “Waves of Reflection” puts you in a “water mood”, as I’m sure it was intended to do… if you listen carefully, you will hear & see yourself floating away to your own personal paradise.  It was the 6:24 “Forest Prayer” that got my vote for personal favorite of the dozen tracks Roger puts in front of you for aural examination and enlightenment… full of life and the spirit of adventure that forests can bring to light.  This is absolutely some of the best solo piano work I’ve heard in the last five years, and gets my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for listeners who love solo piano.  “EQ” (energy quotient) rating is 4.98.  Get more information at Roger’s website.       Rotcod Zzaj

Negativland – IT’S ALL IN YOUR HEAD:  Or, if it isn’t, it soon will be, after you listen to this ultra-cool double CD…  I had the chance to talk briefly with Mark Hosler of Negativland during his performance during this year’s Olympia Experimental Music Festival, & he made me aware of this new release.  Atheists will (probably) be ecstatic… fundamentalists will freak out, to be sure… no “religion” goes unscathed, as the band skillfully weaves discussions, sounds and some great music into a sonic collage that will threaten various groups in their conceptions of what “God” is.  Negativland has never been afraid to challenge existent myths, and you’ll walk away from this 103 minute session with all of your realities in disarray… lol!  Songs like “The Way We Know Things” logically pick apart the things you think you know… a superb 9:50 piece.  Be sure to watch the trailer on VIMEO.. it will give you a taste of what you’ll experience on the full album.  If you’ve never heard this high-talent & highly creative group before, this is your perfect opportunity.  In fact, I MOST HIGHLY RECOMMEND it… this one gets an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of (top of the line) 5.00… which means they also get the “PICK” of this issue for “best creative musical experience”.   Get more information at the Negativland site.       Rotcod Zzaj

Duke Way – ALLIGATOR WINGS:  There are certain of us, raised in the 1950’s & ’60’s, who know exactly whereof Duke speaks on this wonderful spoken-word/jazz CD.  It’s been many years since I’ve heard fluid lines & strange thoughts as well-spoken as these!  His rant on “Ballad Of The Battle Of Balihu” will just blow you away, without any added substances… lol!  The language occasionally has a little “salt” in it, but nothing that will offend (except maybe a few of the very “straight-laced” folk).  Duke knows exactly how to weave his words to fit right in the pocket for the jazz (& other genres)… as shown on the very humorous “Crop Circles“… I just cracked up on this one.  Some of our readers know that spoken-word is where I started with my own performances…. I played keyboard too, but only way later… I can’t tell you how sweet it is when the words marry up (correctly) with the jazz; but Duke can… just check out the beautiful “Lobster Insect Man Flies Again” (my personal favorite track of the thirteen offered up)… I suspect some of the words came from experiences Duke had during his career with NASA.  You won’t find a more entertaining spoken-word hour than this one, to be sure.  I give Duke a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of (a perfect) 5.00… which means he also gets the “PICK” of this issue for “best spoken-word/jazz”.  Get more information about Duke & his fantastic work at the Startlingly Fresh label page for this great CD!       Rotcod Zzaj

Duke Way: Alligator Wings

Vincent Lyn – LIVE IN NEW YORK CITY:  It was issue # 118 that first brought us the heavy energy that Vincent projects in his music…. his keyboards are in fine form on this new live performance collection, culled from several performances around NYC.  The power demonstrated on “Amor Por Favor” is among the best live recordings I’ve listened to this year.  The beautiful “Secret Garden” shows a more intimate side, and stays right in the “cool jazz” vein that I first heard in his earlier album… nice, clear & crisp recording makes this tune a standout, too.  One of our favorite players from the NYC scene joins this grouping, Shirazette Tinnin (percussion), and I loved what she was doing on the 4:49 “Swan“.  This is an excellent CD that jazz lovers of all stripes will find very pleasant to listen to, and will keep on their playlists for a long time to come.  I give it a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97.  Get more information at Vincent’s website.     Rotcod Zzaj

Vincent Lyn: Vincent Lyn (Live in New York City)

David Haney Trio – DAY FOR NIGHT AT JACKSTRAW:  There are actually two recordings here featuring some great jazz/improv piano work from David & a host of players.  Pieces like “Blues Eventually” and “Elephant of Surprise”  feature Marc Smason on trombone, shofar; Doug Haning doing contra alto clarinet, Dan Blunck playing tenor sax and flute, Frank Clayton on bass, Juan Pablo Carletti doing drums… the music is on the outer edge of the comfort zone for “normal” jazz listeners… of course, none who read this magazine fall in that category, I suspect, so you’ll fall in love with it right away!  The other three tracks were recorded in (about) 2000, and featured Julian Priester doing trombone, Buell Neidlinger on bass in concert with David’s keyboards.  My personal favorite on this one was the lively & rambunctious (yet subtle) “Khartoum“… a great adventure for dedicated jazz listeners everywhere.  I give David & crew(s) a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Get more information at the SLAM Productions label site for this CD.       Rotcod Zzaj

Chiara Izzi – MOTIFS:  When Quincy (as in Jones) likes an artist, I find that I usually do, too!  Obviously, Chiara is from Italy & does some highly lively & energetic jazz vocal work that you’re bound to enjoy.  I loved the floating keyboard (Andrea Rea) & the upbeat feel of “Cantabile“, & have no doubt you’ll dig it as much as I did.  There are a lot of red-hot jazz acts coming to light in “the boot”, & Chiara stands out in front of many of them, to be sure.  If you’re looking for something a little more in a reflective mood, you’ll find “Deep In A Dream” to your liking; it definitely feels like the smoky after-hours joints I used to haunt.  My personal favorite of the eleven tunes offered up was “My Shining Hour“… it just rocks right on out!  I can guarantee you will be hearing much more from Chiara over the next months & years… she’s “got it”.  I give her a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED on this outing, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Get more information at the Dot Time Records label site for this CD.       Rotcod Zzaj

Terry Marshall – ARRIVAL:  If solid jazz piano is your listening forte, you’ll find Terry’s piano work very pleasing indeed.  Even standards like “April In Paris” are magic in his hands… very nice, to be sure.  He has a full complement of savvy and energetic players with him as well (too long to list here) – & tunes like the title track, “Arrival“, clearly demonstrate how well he plays with others!  You’ll find yourself locking several of his tunes in on your playlists, at least partly because he has put five Marshall originals on here… I was especially impressed with great pieces like the vocal-led “Being Cool” & have no doubt you’ll totally dig them, too.  This is my first review for Terry’s work, but I’ve no doubt that much more will be forthcoming from this high-talent artist.  You can get a preview of Terry & his players from this YOUTUBE vid:

It was the upbeat & peppy “Questions and Answers” that got my vote for favorite of the eleven tunes on the CD.   I give him a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Get more information at Terry’s website (& tell him you read about him here).      Rotcod Zzaj

Terry Marshall: Arrival

Greg Chako – INTEGRATION II:  This excellent CD effort from Greg is (without qualification) the best I’ve ever heard from him!  If you’ve never heard his fantastic jazz guitar work before – this is the ONE, folks!  As you listen to the gentle sway and inherent beauty on “The Sweet One“, you’ll know (in the immediate) why music from Greg is always welcome here!  If your jazz tastes run more towards the “original” jazz, you’ll fall in love with “Afro-Asian Chant” within the first couple of bars.  What I’m unable to figure out is why Greg isn’t riding right up at the very top of the jazz charts ’round the world… his music is truly creative, yet totally accessible (to all ears).  I first started reviewing his work way back in the early 2000’s, & have never stopped listening!  My personal favorite on this CD is “Fine Aussie Weathered“, which features integration of didg with Greg’s scorching jazz licks!  Greg gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED (as he has ever since I started listening to his work), with a perfect “EQ” (energy quotient) score of 5.00 – which means he also gets the “PICK” of this issue for “best guitar jazz”.  Get more information at Greg’s website for this CD.       Rotcod Zzaj

Greg Chako: Integration II

Stockton Helbing – HANDPRINTS:  Stockton’s drums have been reviewed here before, most recently in issue # 131; this new one is among the best I’ve heard him do…. every note is razor-sharp, full and vibrant with the sound of struggles overcome.  Tunes like “Eostre” will make you realize that you’re in the presence of a musical master who lets his inspiration drive his creativity – an excellent piece… the drums are crisp and to the point!  The bass underpinning on the title track, “Handprints“, makes it worth the purchase of the CD… the recording on this track (as well as the others) is crystal-clear.  What distinguishes Helbing & his crew from other jazz bands is the improvised nature of what they do… you just won’t hear a better piece of jazz improv than on my personal favorite, the 7:05 “Mushface“… it’s clear that these folks have been playing together for some time, because it’s not easy to make a tune come off in improvised mode unless you know you can rely on the other players.  I give Stockton & his players a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98 for this one.  Get more information at the Armored Records label site for this CD.    Rotcod Zzaj

The Stockton Helbing Quartet: Handprints

The Mark Lomax Trio – ISIS AND OSIRIS:  Mark’s astounding drum work is complemented strongly by saxophonist Eddie Bayard and bassist Dean Hulett in one of the best jazz performances of 2014… these players communicate (through themselves) right to the corridors of your mind, especially on tunes like the epic (8:03) “Isis“… if you’ve never heard John Coltrane’s work before – you have now… very reminiscent of the tales told by John… Eddie’s sax is “supreme” on this one, to be sure!  The lively pace on “Resurrection” will set you on fire – in the immediate moment… an excellent tune that has spun more than 100’s of times on my player as I got ready to review this CD.  African rhythms pervade, and if you’ve not heard much along those lines before, this is a perfect introduction.  Mark’s been in our pages quite often before, and I’ve no doubt he’ll be back again – no question about it, in fact, when he puts together power jazz like you’ll hear on my personal favorite, “Kemet“… a whole new paradigm for jazz drums that will have you wrapped in on every beat… 11:13 of pure jazz pleasure!  I give Mark & crew a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99.  Get more information at Mark’s website.       Rotcod Zzaj

The Mark Lomax Trio: Isis & Osiris

The Jefferson Rose Band – SEISMIC:  This all-instrumental CD was passed to me by Jefferson during their last performance at Rhythm & Rye… it was in addition to their latest release, which was reviewed in issue # 144… though the instrumental settings are significantly different than their new release, this CD shows the vibrant & driving funk beast they’ve got going for them.  Jefferson’s bass is a strong feature, of course, but tunes like “Little Funk Monster” also show off the skills of all the players!  What’s clear on both sonic adventures is their strong spirit and love for playing…. any way you listen to this, it RAWKZ!  I loved the percussion on “Mama Africa“… a definite gem.  No matter what your sonic orientation is, you’ll find something to love in these nine great songs… my personal favorite was the dynamic closer, “Sleeping Giant” – at 6:02, it’s the longest song on the CD, allowing for plenty of “build” in the momentum, & the guitar lead solos are excellent.  I give Jefferson & his crew a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97 for this one.  Get more information at the Jefferson Rose Band page.      Rotcod Zzaj

The Jefferson Rose Band: Seismic

Dave Kain – RAISING KAIN:  Dave (on jazz guitar) & his krew (Thomson Kneeland on bass and Joe Abba on drums) do their level best to enhance your jazz day on this splendid 11-song gem!  Pieces like “Hall Pass” will have you struttin’ through the halls with a clear smile on your face – no doubt!  If the title of “Miley Cyrus is the Devil” doesn’t have you up and dancing, the sweet jazz issuing forth from Dave’s strings certainly will.  This is, in fact, one of the better jazz trios I’ve listened to in 2014… lots of original work makes it a stand-out from all the other “guitar trios” you’ll hear this year.  The recording is clear, crisp and is definitely one you’ll want in your collection for the long haul… my own personal favorite was one of the shorter tracks…. “On The Scene” just scrabbles right along at a high-pace & is better than a double (or triple) latte…. you’ll be spinning this one time & time again!  I give Dave & friends a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99.  Get more information at Dave’s website.      Rotcod Zzaj

Dave Kain: Raising Kain

Isabel Stover – HER OWN SWEET WORLD:  & as James said – “How Sweet It Is”…. Isabel describes jazz (in the promo sheet) as her “comfort food”…. I don’t think it could be described much better’n that, eh?  You’ll love what she cooks up on the totally cool & laid-back “Feelin’ Good“, I’ve no doubt…. surely makes me comfortable.  She’s got a stellar crew knockin’ out the licks behind her shining vocals…. tunes like “Never Let Me Go” will make you realize just how much Isabel loves the jazz that’s her “go-to” music for any & all moods.  She’s performed all over California, and made her mark quite nicely, I’d say; it was her vocal skill on “Softly As In A Morning Sunrise” that made it my favorite of the eight great tunes offered up for your aural pleasure.  It would have been nice to have a couple more tunes on this outing…. I give Isabel a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Get more information at Isabel’s website.     Rotcod Zzaj

Isabel Stover: Her Own Sweet World

Holly Hoffman – LOW LIFE (THE ALTO FLUTE PROJECT):  Holly’s back on our pages in excellent form (as she always is, of course).  She’s playing this time with Mike Wofford, John Clayton, Jeff Hamilton & Anthony Wilson…. if you follow jazz (even a little bit) today, you’ll recognize all those names…. must be nice to be in the company of such jazz giants!  As you ride the groove on “Cedar Would“, you’ll know exactly why I’m so hyped about getting this one in for review…. it’s bound to become a collector’s item, with some of the most poignant and heartfelt jazz flute playing you’ll ever hear!  The lilting cool on the opener, “Jack of Hearts“, will stay in your head for days & days, & Anthony’s guitar solo on this one just shines.  It was the git-down-&-funky on the 5:50 “Soul-Leo” that struck my fancy & won my vote for favorite track of the 9 offered up for your listening pleasure…. probably the best flute jazz tune I’ve heard (yet) this year!  Holly & her famous partners get a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from me, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of (a perfect) 5.00 – which means it also gets the “PICK” of this issue for “best flute-led jazz”.  Get more information at Holly’s website.        Rotcod Zzaj

The Lindsey Blair Quartet – A NEW DAWN:  It certainly sounds like a new day for this splendid quartet… Lindsey’s jazz guitar work is totally solid and his mates (Clay Ostwald on keyboards; Nicky Orta on electric bass; Carlomagno Araya on drums and percussion – as well as special guest Richard Brado for hand percussion on some of the 11 tracks) are all “right on time”, so to speak.  After listening to thousands of jazz guitarists, I can tell you right off the bat that Lindsey “has it”…. all the energy & verve you would imagine it should be when something “new” is happening, especially on lively pieces like “Aquarius Island“… truly fun, yet jazz that will stay right up at the very TOP of your playlists!  Another very notable thing about this quartet is that they know how to play in many different styles… not variations on the “same old” tired themes… their originality and creativity shine right on through.  The 5:38 “Dayspring” is a perfect example… none of the dreaded “slow jazz” licks plague the listener bar after bar, but the spirit glistens… you can tell (easily) that they love what they are doing.  It was the down & funky “Nocturnal Vision” (a Blair original) that got my vote as personal favorite… clean, yet razor sharp & full of pleasant twists & turns (I just loved the keyboard solo on this one).  I give Lindsey & crew a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Get more information at Lindsey’s website.    Rotcod Zzaj

Nate Najar – AQUARELA DO BRASIL:  Nate’s music has been reviewed in our pages before (issue # 130), so his spirited guitar work is not at all “strange to our ears”.  His page declares that he is a “determined musical interpreter”…. & I couldn’t think of a more apt description as I listen to the clear and present beauty on Carinhoso, truly one of my favorite tracks on the CD.  The excellent sax work on “Ligia” can easily be compared to some of the stellar sessions Stan Getz used to record!  Nate understands the strong impact that music (particularly the Latin jazz variety) has on all of us, and plays his heart out on all ten tracks.  The title tune, “Aquarela Do Brasil (Brasil” just knocked my socks off, and had me ready to order a tall & cool Cuba Libre (not to mention, slide my dancin’ boots on).  My personal favorite on the album was the upbeat & (very) lively “Fotografia“…. cool jazz for cool folks…. this one will stay right up at the top of your playlists for months (if not years) to come!  I give Nate & crew a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Get more information at Nate’s website.       Rotcod Zzaj

Steven Vitali – LANGUAGE OF THE SOUL:  The way things are lining up in my queue, this definitely seems to be a time for introspective and beautiful music… Steven’s keyboards, synths and strings do definitely speak to you, and if you don’t hear the sonic adventures he’s painting for your ears – you don’t have a whole lot of soul.  Pieces like “Be The Miracle” tell the story well, and will thrill you to the deepest parts of your heart.  We have all listened to music that purports to be “new age” – the latest and greatest – but what Steven is able to do with compositions like the high-energy “Creative Soul” will carry you away to regions you never knew existed… it’s only 4:35, but very full of life and the living thereof.  Of the seventeen tracks offered up, it was immersion in the 6:15 “Soul Healing” that made it my personal favorite, though… a fully engaging listen, and well thought-out movement; loved this one!  I give Steven a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97 for this session.  Get more information at Steven’s website.       Rotcod Zzaj

Ancient Future – YEARNING FOR THE WIND:  Our long-time acoustic guitar-playing friend Matthew Montfort has been sending us wonderful music for many years now… this newest EP is (without question) the best music I’ve ever heard him play!  The 9:37 “Yearning For The Windis “the” piece… Matthew is joined by Vishal Nagar on tabla, and they clearly show (sonically) the joy than can be achieved by well-placed and strictly focused music.  The tabla percussion makes it far more than “just another raga”… I’m very strongly impressed and moved by this single piece of music…. you’ll find yourself spinning it over and over again.  In fact, I would love to hear a full-CD album by these gents (just as soon as they can produce it and put it out there).  For listeners who have no fear of exploring beauty, and need variety in their listening experience, this gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from me, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Get more information at the Ancient Future website.      Rotcod Zzaj

Nadaka & Gopika – SURYA (CHANTS OF LIGHT):  What’s so nice about this world-music-oriented CD is that it is all original… & therefore, something you’ve never heard before…. which, of course, makes it a “natural” here at our magazine!  Pieces like “Arogya Mantra” will hold you spellbound, and enhance your perception of the world around and within you!  This is their first performance together as a duo, and it shines… your spirit will seek out these mantras over & over again, and help you carry on this adventure that life can be for the enlightened.  I particularly enjoyed the deep flowing streams on “Surya Namaskar“… the beauty in the simple chanting of a salutation to our sun is inescapable and very compelling.  I give Nadaka & Gopika a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, especially for listeners who demand something new in their sonic experience.  “EQ” (energy quotient) rating is 4.97.  Get more information at their FACEBOOK page.     Rotcod Zzaj

Nadaka & Gopika: Surya

Ideal Bread – BEATING THE TEENS (The Songs of Steve Lacy):  Quite an interesting group here – as is obvious from the title, these are (sort of) “recreations” of Steve Lacy songs… but, the group has become “larger than itself” (in a certain sense)… tunes like “Obituary” remind you (in the immediate) why creativity and a free exchange of musical ideas are so important to jazz… totally fun, yet deep enough into jazz turf that it never (ever) will be boring or passe!  It’s a two-disc set, so you will have opportunity to delve deeply into bari sax from Josh Stinton (the bandleader), cornetist Kirk Knuffke, drummer Tomas Fujiwara and new-found member. bassist Adam Hopkins’ broad expanse of experience and joy in playing.  I particularly dug the 7:09 “Roba“… it’s my favorite track of the thirty offered up for your aural adventure.  I give this group a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97.  Get more information at Josh’s website.       Rotcod Zzaj

Rob Garcia – THE PASSION OF COLOR:  Rob’s excellent drum work is joined by Noah Preminger’s totally cool tenor saxophone, Dan Tepfer’s fine piano and Joe Martin’s superb bass in a nine-song jazz extravaganza that your ears won’t soon forget.  The beautiful closer, Jimi’s “Little Wing“, ranks among the best bass-intro tunes I’ve heard (yet) in 2014.    The high-energy drums on “The Still Standing Blues” are perfect, and this track spins over & over again on my jazz playlists (on the tablet, as well as the house player).  Since these tunes were all inspired by impressionist paintings & music, it kinda’ follows that my personal favorite on the CD was the upbeat & lively “The Caterpillar Vs. The Butterfly“…  absolutely pure jazz that is “on” from the first note of it’s 7:27 length!  Rob and crew get a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from my ears, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99.  Get more information at the BJU Records site for this release.     Rotcod Zzaj

Rob Garcia: The Passion of Color

Jeff Colella and Putter Smith – LOTUS BLOSSOM:  Jeff’s keyboards & Putter’s bass work really (REALLY) well together in this 8-song intimate session that will thrill any serious jazz lover out there in listener-land!  The classic “All Blues“, in their hands, will convince you to hit the BUY button immediately!  What makes this session so unique is their ability to turn the “quiet spaces” into new jazz realms that the listener can fill in with their own imagination… “Desert Passes” is a wonderful example of how fluent they are in the language of “spaces”!  The best tune I’ve heard (yet this year) in that vein, though, is “The Very Thought Of You“…. this one is my favorite on the album, & may well turn out to be yours as well.  I give Jeff & Putter a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, as well as an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97 on this one.  Get more information about this CD at Jeff’s website or at the Capri label site.

John Luttrell – UNDERWATER FLYING LESSONS:  This is the last in a package of CD’s John sent me at the beginning of this summer…. as with any work John does – more are always welcome.  The full-bodied approach and rich keyboard washes (not to mention the percussion) on “Bank Shot” make it worth the price of the album; what’s conveyed here is a sense of how spirit can overcome any of the daily trials that are pushed it’s way… highly inspiring music that will remain at the very top of your playlists for a long time to come!  The swirling synth sounds on “Rooftop Ballet” made it my favorite of the seven compositions… in fact, on this one, I can (easily) see my friend Harlan Mark Vale collaborating with John… they would surely make sweet music together.  If your only passion is be-bop, or hardcore free-jazz, then you may want to look/listen elsewhere… but if your ears love new sonic adventures, then John’s music comes MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED; “EQ” (energy quotient) for this great CD is 4.98.  Get more information at John’s websiteRotcod Zzaj

John Luttrell: Underwater Flying Lessons