Issue 148 reviews

Our latest and greatest reviews for your reading & listening pleasure

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Marconi Union – WEIGHTLESS (AMBIENT TRANSMISSIONS, VOL 2):  This CD contains some of the most relaxing music you will ever listen to… don’t let that hold you back from getting it, though – because the energy levels are superb & high!  The gently percussive intro to “Part 1” will hold you spellbound for the entire eight minutes, and then have you spinning it over and over again!  The six tunes were written for a project by Lyz Cooper (British Academy of Sound Therapy).  Their mastery of sound and tone is pure sonic eloquence, and any listener (worth their salt) will become enchanted with their artistry in the immediate!  The real skill demonstrated on these beautiful tunes is knowing where/when to let the silence do it’s magick, though; in that light, I found the 7:14 “Part 4” to be my favorite on the CD.  I think it would be nice to “name” the pieces, too, but that’s purely an artist decision.. matters not a whit, though, as I still give them a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for listeners who love beauty in their listening experience… “EQ” (energy quotient) rating is 4.98.  Get more information at the Marconi Union website.       Rotcod Zzaj

Impulsive Machinations – CONFORMITY CONTORTIONS:  I would expect nothing short of “different” from my (long-time) friend Thollem McDonas – but this is the first time I’ve heard him wander up & down the electronic trail… he’s doing electronic keys, with Sara Lund pounding out some totally advanced drummery – & what a journey it is… “contortions”, indeed!  You won’t believe your ears as you listen to “Anarchy and Molecules“… I had to go back & spin this two or three more times to “grok” what this fantastic duo were doing in their experimental veins… trips past the outer edges & all.  My personal favorite of the seven seances offered up, though, was the amazing “Synaptic Ripples Reverberating”… you travel to OTHER universes as you allow yourself to be absorbed in the sonics they’re painting for you, and as the title implies – there IS no “conformity”… just raw & pure energy!  I give I.M. a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Get more information at Thollem’s page for this release.       Rotcod Zzaj

Bone Cave Ballet – WILL OF THE WAVES:  Change of pace “alert”… I got to watch these folks (& write about them) late this summer… Jaqui Gilroy’s vocals (& guitar) lead the pandemonium that ensues on the totally cool & rawk’in opener, “Breakup Yoga“… the CD was sent to me after I introduced myself to them on FB, & I’ve been listening off & on ever since I got it in for review.  I especially enjoyed the longest piece (and my favorite) on the album, “Shape To Stay“… there’s some excellent flute work there that took me back to my Uriah Heep daze… high-intensity power music that will carry you off to new elevations (& if you were high already – you’ll be higher when the last note sounds); for the next CD, I’d recommend a couple of additional songs to provide a little more length (this one was a little over 25 minutes).  I give BCB a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Get more information on the band at the Bone Cave Ballet site.        Rotcod Zzaj

Bone Cave Ballet: Will of the Waves

Mark Meadows – SOMETHIN’ GOOD:  Jazz vocalists always stand a lot better chance of getting high marks from my ears when they actually PLAY an instrument…. & Mark’s piano work is superb, especially on classics like “Come Together“… strident, yet full of life, this is exactly the kind of jazz I can get down with, and I’ve no doubt you’ll be groovin’ to it too (that sax solo is killer on this track)!  His vocal on the Meadows original, “Rock With You“, demonstrate total grasp of what needs to be done to rock the listener all the way home, as well!    There’s nothing “ordinary”, or “cliched”, in Mark’s performances… he’s able to convey his joy for the music to anyone willing to listen, and it comes across very nicely.  It was another Meadows original, “Way Up Here“, that got my vote for personal favorite of the eleven tracks offered… +, I loved those vibes!  I give Mark & his crew a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Get more information at Mark’s website.       Rotcod Zzaj

Mark Meadows: Somethin

Peripheral Vision – SHEER TYRANNY OF WILL:  The liners have this band pegged pretty well already, when they claim that this quartet is “fearlessly creative”… that’s a very apt description for tracks like the 6:58 opener, “Robbed and Ridiculed“… there are sections here where my ears hear (something a bit like) Sonny Sharrock… some tasty, truly tasty, jazz.  It’s obvious that fresh approaches are nothing new to these players (Trevor Hogg – tenor saxophone; Don Scott – guitar; Michael Herring – bass; Nick Fraser – drums), especially on tunes like my own personal favorite “Charleston Heston“… the sense of joy the players project on this tune is priceless & will yield many hours of listening pleasure. The 7:29 “Wiretap” came in a close second… just loved the crispness of the recording on this tune.   I’m highly excited about getting bands like this in here, & predict that you will be hearing a lot more from these cats!  I give “PV” a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99 (nearly the top).  Get more information about this great quartet at the Peripheral Vision website.      Rotcod Zzaj

Peripheral Vision: Sheer Tyranny of Will

Parker Abbott Trio – THE WAYFINDERS:  This new (October 2014) CD is quite interesting, in that it’s duo pianos with drums…. not too often you hear that combination these days, but tunes like “With Robots We Live Forever” offer clear testament to the total effectiveness of keyboardists Teri Parker and Simeon Abbott… this tune will definitely rouse your spirit (& if not, you belong to the zombies already anyway).  The synth & electric keyboard intro to “Coral Castle” is excellent in it’s execution… very nice, VERY nice!  What makes this a truly standout CD is the originality of all the tunes and flawless precision the trio plays with… & that’s totally in evidence on beautiful pieces like (my personal favorite) “Waterfalls and Unicorns”… if you’ve never seen unicorns before, you surely will as you listen to this tune – the changes are grand and swirling!  I give the trio a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97.  Get more information at The Parker Abbott website.     Rotcod Zzaj

Parker Abbott Trio: The Wayfinders

Neil Tatar – WHERE DID THE TIME GO:  After 35 years of music as a life pursuit, it’s no wonder I find Neil’s guitar work, accompanied by cellist David Darling (and a few others), so aurally attractive.  The beautiful and soul-filled expression on pieces like the title cut, “Where Did The Time Go“, will have you thinking back over your years and realizing that life can be as beautiful as the music these folks are playing for you.  If you’re looking for something a bit more mysterious and enchanting, you’ll love the excellent “Garuda” as instantly as I did; it definitely demonstrates total talent and musical skill across a wide spectrum of styles.  It’s clear (to this reviewer, anyway) that Neil (and his cohorts) enjoy creating music that excites both the mind and the spirit!  It was the oddly titled closer, “Celebration of Dudek“, that got my vote for favorite of the nine tunes offered up for your long-term listening pleasure!  I’ll tell you now, I believe you’ll be hearing much more from Neil, a true musical creator.  I give Neil and his friends a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) of 4.98 for this splendid musical adventure.  You can get more information about Neil and his music at the Neil Tatar website.   Rotcod Zzaj

Neil Tatar: Where Did the Time Go

James Asher & Sandeep Raval – DRUM TRAVEL:  A whole host of players joins James percussion, keyboards and various other instruments on this most pleasant excursion into the upbeat and inspiring journey across various styles of all-original music that will hold you spellbound through it’s entire 140 minute length.  I was especially entranced on pieces like the 5:22 “Beside The Blues“… very nice jazz flavors, but it holds true to the “drum” focus you’d expect with a CD title like this (Simon Brewin’s guitar and bass make this one feel very “uptown”, if you will).  The other thing that makes this double-CD such an attraction is the flawless recording… nothing is left to chance, and every little nuance is easy to hear… of course, for your first few sessions I would recommend that you listen with headphones on!  If you’re interested in pieces that allow you to stretch out and improve your mental posture, you’ll find the 8:08 “If The Earth Could Speak” very much to your liking – in point of fact, it’s my personal favorite of the twenty high-energy tunes offered up for your enlightenment.  Total talent and inspiration for the joy that music can bring allows me to declare this great sonic adventure a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99 (very near the top of my scale).  Get more information on this excellent CD at James’s webpage for this release.        Rotcod Zzaj

Novox – OVER THE HONEYMOON:  If the end of the honeymoon is signified by pure funkification, then this one is truly over.  As you scope out the high-energy moves on “Betty’s Back“, you’ll understand why this band from Lyon, France can claim ‘da funk turf as their very own!  The horns on “Blue Merry Jane” are excellent & truly tell the story.  When you’re in a par-tay mood, you’ll be spinnin’ the jumpin’ “Clanga” over & over, too, I’ve no doubt… some hella guitar solos on this one, & the Fender Rhodes work is par excellence!   It was the alley-cat creepin’ from the Rhodes on “The Juice” that made it my (absolute) favorite of the fourteen great tracks offered up… very danceable and full of the aura of life!  I’ve not heard this kind of jump-funk out of France before, but I’ve no doubt that these kats will be back again soon; they get a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99.  Get more information at the Z-Production label page for this group.       Rotcod Zzaj

[Novox]: Over the Honeymoon

Jonn Serrie – DAY STAR:  If music that reaches out and touches distant stars is what you’re after, you’ll surely enjoy this second in Jonn’s series of intergalactic trips to other worlds!  Pieces like the beautiful “Galaxy Prime” will easily suck you into their vortex and let you lose yourself in timeless sonic motion.  This far exceeds what you’ve been trained to think of as “electronic” music… Jonn brings whole worlds into your mind and unleashes his magical powers of sound to enthrall you (deeply, deeply).  Just imagine yourself on a journey through distant nebulae as you listen to the swirls and swarms on my personal favorite, “Quantum Seas“… let yourself go, or rather, let Jonn help you let go… obviously, this one should be listened through (in its’ entirety) to with the headphones on!  For sheer sonic power, this CD gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from me, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99.  Get more information at Jonn’s website.       Rotcod Zzaj

Pat Hall – TIME REMEMBERED (THE MUSIC OF BILL EVANS):  Pat’s trombone work is just “kickin'” on this great tribute to the music of Bill Evans.  …and very nicely complemented by organ from Greg “Organ Monk” Lewis, guitar from Marvin Sewell and drums by Mike Campenni.  Tunes like the splendid opener, “Gloria’s Step“, will bring memories of jazz the way it was meant to be!  Solid jazz that will please your ears & have you finger/toe tappin’ right along with these excellent players.  I’ve reviewed various CD’s with Greg’s organ on them, & this is definitely among the best.  I totally dug the vibe on the laid-back & bluesy “Spring Is Here“… a very nice groove to be in.  The 8:42 “Peri’s Scope” got my vote for favorite track of the seven presented for your jazz listening pleasure.  I give Pat & crew a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97.  Get more information at Pat’s website.         Rotcod Zzaj

Pat Hall: Time Remembered: The Music of Bill Evans

Lutalo “Sweet Lu” Olutosin – SWEET LOU’S BLUES:  As I said when I reviewed Lu’s first CD (issue # 111), “this cat can HANDLE jazz vocals”.  This outing heralds some big changes for him, though… he (like I did, back in April) is retiring from the U.S. Army… one thing that’s just so absolutely cool is that he’s already embarked on what he’s wanted to do for a long time now – SING that JAZZ!  As you listen to his high-spirited vocal on tunes like the ultra-cool “Be My Mamacita“, you’ll realize right away that this is a perfect journey for him to take… some of the best jazz vocal work you’ll hear in 2014!  His scattin’l on “Call Him Blackjack” takes me back years, to little joints where I heard Donald Byrd play… excellent piece of music, perfectly executed.  My personal favorite of the nine tunes offered up for true jazz listeners to enjoy (now & for a long time to come) was “Those Lagos Blues“… this one alone makes the purchase of the CD well worth it!  I give Lu & his excellent crew a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” rating of a (perfect) 5.00; which means that this one also gets the “PICK” of this issue for “best jazz vocals”.   Get more information at Lu at his Sweet Lu Music site.        Rotcod Zzaj


Kelly Suttenfield/Tony Romano – AMONG THE STARS:  It’s been quite a while since I reviewed Kelly’s jazz vocals (issue # 100); Tony’s guitar sounds very nice with the standards Kelly sings (though it did seem like there was a fair amount of “echo” in the recording… on the other hand, that seemed to create a feeling of intimacy between the singer and the guitarist).  Tony’s guitar intro on “People Will Say We’re In Love” is excellent, and it’s clear that this duo enjoys playing together.  My pick for favorite of the ten tunes offered up was the beautiful “Try Your Wings“… a jazz vocal lover’s dream, to be sure!  I give Kelley and Tony a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.96.  Get more information at Kelley’s website. Rotcod Zzaj

Kelley Suttenfield: Among the Stars

Ed Stone – KING OF HEARTS:  This is my first listen to Ed’s superb (smooth) jazz guitar work… as many of our readers know, “smooth” doesn’t always get high marks here, as it often means too many “standard riffs” & nowhere near the energy that free or improvised jazz can bring… in Ed’s case, though, he makes up for it with full-tilt energy and clear direction for his compositions!  He doesn’t just “slide” through the groove on “Treat Her Like A Lady“… his strings are succinct and full of life on this one (Ron Otis’s drums make their mark on this track, too, quite nicely).  The title track, “King Of Hearts“, is another groove-laden winner, too… totally dig-able!  My personal favorite of the eleven tunes offered up here was “The Rhythm Is Gonna’ Get You“… if you can’t hip-shake on this one, you’re without a heart, anyway, so forget it.  I give Ed & crew a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97.  Get more information about this great guitarist at Ed’s website.      Rotcod Zzaj

Ed Stone: King of Hearts

McTuff – VOL 2 AFTER THE SHOW:  You’d be too worn out from the solid groove Joe Doria puts down on his killer B3 to make any “after-parties”… folks, I’m tellin’ ya’, when it comes to organ – it don’t get NO BETTER than this!  Joe & crew just PUMP out the JAM on the opener, “Uneasy Rider“, & it doesn’t stop (till th’ end) after that (Andy Coe’s guitar leads just SMOKE on this one)!  Fortunately for me, Joe is from Seattle, so I’ve even had occasion to review him (see this issue’s Zzajrant) in live performance.  I can tell you right now, though, once you put this on, you won’t stop listening until the party’s over…. & then you’ll turn right around & play it over & over again…. when you listen to the driving drum interactions from D’Vonne Lewis on my favorite track of the dozen on the CD, “A Shiv Is Made“, you’ll know you’ve made it to band heaven & won’t be coming back for a while.  Pure high-talent funk ROOLZ here, & McTuff lives up to the legend of bein’ the TUFFest around!  I give this great band a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with a (perfect) “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 5.00… which means it also gets the “PICK” of this issue for “best organ-driven funk jazz).  Get more information about McTuff, Joe & his great music at Joe Doria Music!       Rotcod Zzaj   

McTuff: Vol. 2: After the Show

Rotem Sivan – FOR EMOTIONAL USE ONLY:  This wonderful CD features Rotem’s soothing guitar with Haggai Cohen Milo on bass and Mark McLean on drums… it’s definitely not “just another jazz guitar” CD!  The recording is flawless, capturing every little nuance of the great interplay between the players, especially on tunes like “Spirals“… what a great piece of music.  The bass intro on the title track, “For Emotional Use Only“, sets the pace for the tune and will wrap you up and not let you go for the entire 3:32 (no one would complain if this piece were a bit longer, either).  It was the 9:01 “Pass It On” that got my vote for favorite of the ten tunes offered up, though… great opening, great build and total freedom on this one!  I’ve no doubt you’ll be hearing lots more from Rotem & his cohorts… this gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Get more information about this (truly) rising star at Rotem’s website.       Rotcod Zzaj

Adam Andrews – ROAD TO AMBO:  Adam’s solo piano work is notable because he has no hesitation in proclaiming (though the keys) who he is, and that he is full of spirit and giving.  I just love his firm and forthright playing style!  Tunes like “Unknown Hero” make your ears perk right up and take notice.  If you’re inclined towards the more gentle side, you will fall in love with “Faces We See” immediately.  Adam’s music is both healing and inspiring, especially for listeners who love solo piano with personality.  My personal favorite of the eleven tracks offered up is the 4:39 “Hope and Joy“… tasty introduction to his daughters and his love for them – the overtones are marvelous!  I give Adam a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97 for this wonderful piano album.  Get more information about him at Adam’s website.       Rotcod Zzaj

Adam Andrews: Road to Ambo

Erik Scott – SPIRITS:  Erik’s creativity and energy for his bass guitar (as well as steel guitar, medieval violin & fretless bass) playing just shines through on this excellent 13-track CD.  He’s been ’round the block & full-circle is what I’d say… he (and a whole host of other players, too numerous to list here) invoke the power of those spirits the CD title refers to in some of the most pleasant and engaging sonic journeys you will ever hear.  The beautiful instrumental “Free” is a perfect example of artists who aren’t afraid to reach down deep inside and let you witness what can happen when the inner voice is listened to closely.  The music on this one goes far beyond any “space age” or “new age” labels that can be attached to it (except, perhaps, “unconventional”)…. when you listen to the superb percussion intro and haunting vocals on the lead-in to “The White Mouse“, you’ll realize just how timeless Erik’s music is!  The cosmic nature of “Other Planets” made it my favorite of all thirteen tracks… this new release definitely merits my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, as well as a (near perfect) “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99.  Get more information about Erik and his superb music on his FB page; there’s also some great information in his WIKIPEDIA entry.   (be sure to tell him you read about this CD here!)   Rotcod Zzaj

Erik Scott: Spirits

Patrick Yandall – THE WINDOW:  I reviewed Patrick’s excellent guitar work in issue # 147 with high marks.  That’s a bit of a rarity, since “smooth jazz” doesn’t often get reviewed here… what separates him from the rest of those (often) M.O.R. players, though, is high-energy and totally evident enjoyment of playing.  Tunes like the groovin’ “Tower of Soul” set Patrick’s music far above the rest… maybe it’s the air around San Diego, I’m not sure… more likely his years of experience at it, I suspect.  I just loved “La Jolla” for it’s breezy atmospherics, & expect you will too.  It was the rockin’ vibe (as well as the background vocals) on “Hope For Haiti” that made it my favorite of the dozen songs Patrick offers up for your long-term enjoyment… you’ll play these over & over, I’ve no doubt (just as I did).  I give Patrick a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97 for this great little CD.  Get more information about him at his REVERBNATION site.       Rotcod Zzaj

Patrick Yandall: The Window

Matthew Schoening – NARROW PATH:  This is truly one of the best CD’s I’ve listened to (yet) this year…. totally solo cello, but you will (at times) think you’re listening to the whole orchestra.  Tunes like the beautiful “Odyssey” tend to remind me of artists from an earlier day, like David Friesen… Matthew’s abilities are supreme when it comes to using loops to convince your ear that you’re being exposed to many more players than you think you are!  I was completely in awe on the upbeat “Structure“, and have no doubt that you will be, too… think Jean-Luc (as in Ponty) in higher-energy mode… this is my personal favorite of the nine exciting tracks offered up for your spiritual enjoyment and (of course) enlightenment.  If you like longer pieces, you will absolutely become immersed in “Breathe“.  I am far more than (just) “impressed”… this is pure bliss for listeners who love overtones and harmonics, and gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from me, with a (perfect) “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 5.00… which means it also gets the “PICK” of this issue for “most enjoyable 53 minutes of your life”.   Get more information at Matthew’s FB page.      Rotcod Zzaj

Donna Singer – DESTINY/MOMENT OF JAZZ:  I reviewed Donna’s fine jazz vocal work back in issue # 141; enjoyed it greatly, and her high-energy is even more upscale on this album! She’s backed by the Doug Richards trio, & that adds a “real jazz” dimension to her zesty performances.  It takes a bit of suave to get me enthused about vocalists, probably just because there are so many of them on the scene today.  As you groove along with her to “Sweet Destiny“, though, you’ll realize this IS the kinda’ jazz your pops used to listen to… very comfortable & swingin’!  Her rendition of “Yesterday” is uniquely hers… she’ll easily wrap you into her svelte voice & bring back all kinds of memories.  My personal favorite of the nine tunes offered up for your groove is “Time After Time“… I totally dug this one.  I give Donna & crew a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Get more information at Donna’s website.       Rotcod Zzaj

Donna Singer: Destiny, Moment of Jazz

David Rosenboom – ZONES OF INFLUENCE:  If your head is not “influenced” by this marvelous sonic adventure, then you’re beyond all hope, to be sure.  David calls this music “a propositional cosmology activated in music”…. hmmm…. wonder what that means?  As all of you know, my ears are totally jaded… I’ve listened to many parts of the sonic range that others can’t lay claim to…. & this one still threw me for a loop!  Perfect evidence of David’s penchant for blowing you mind can be found on the opener, “The Winding of a Spring: The Stochastic Part“… if you’ve ever wondered what a spring sounds like (no, not the one with water in it) – you’ll “get it” when you scope out this one.  Though the CD is computer/electronic/percussion, it sounds more advanced & full-bodied than much of such music being produced today.  I especially enjoyed the roaming nature of “Given the Senses the Real Pregeometry“… in fact, it’s my favorite on the CD… rhythm changes that will lead you (either) to madness, or complete synch with the universe.  Decidedly not “jazz”, this experimental gem still merits my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for listeners who like to live “on the edge”.  “EQ” (energy quotient) rating is 4.97.  Get more information at the POGUS label page for this release.   Rotcod Zzaj

Ajeet Kaur – AT THE TEMPLE DOORAjeet’s beautiful vocals mesh perfectly with finger-style guitar from Todd Boston on this excellent recording/performance!  You don’t have to be a fanatic (of any stripe or color) to appreciate the sensitivity and expression Ajeet demonstrates on the wonderful opener, “Ong Namo“.  This is definitely some of the most high-spirited “new age” I’ve heard in some years.  No comparisons to other artists need to be made, as the vocals carry emotions on wings that will spirit you to the highest points of your life (both now and in the future).  I especially enjoyed the sounds that are woven in between Ajeet’s vocal and the guitar on the title track, “At The Temple Door“… some fantastic overtones and echoes make this one of the most spiritual pieces I’ve listened to (yet) this year… this one was my favorite of the seven tracks offered up for your (long-term) enjoyment and enlightenment.  This album is a must-have for listeners who like to delve a little deeper and gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from me, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97.  Get more information at the Spirit Voyage site.      Rotcod Zzaj

Ray Spiegel – MOKSHA:  This is some totally engaging music, without doubt!  The opening/title track, “Moksha“, shows Ray’s total skill at tabla and percussion… high-energy and high-talent are on display throughout the eight tunes; the vocal adventures on this track are enough to make the whole album worth the purchase.  He’s joined on full-bodied tunes like “Soul At Sunrise” by his recently departed friend Stephen James (on Sarod)… is it jazz?  Well, no, but it is (for SURE) the kind of universal and healing music that more & more folks need to be exposed to these days… especially our children.  The heavy rhythm on “Connect The Dots” was invigorating… but it was the sound effects and beautiful buildup on “Wild Mushrooms at Telluride” that got my vote as favorite.  Ray’s music is full of life and adventure, and certainly merits the MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, as well as the “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98 I’m giving him.  Get more information at Ray’s page on the Simalhouse label.       Rotcod Zzaj

Ray Spiegel Ensemble: Moksha

Dunmall Sanders Mapp Dvorak – CHERRY PICKIN’:  Our (longtime) friends at SLAM PRODUCTIONS surely know how to “pi ck ’em”…. lol!  The combination of Jim Dvorak on trumpet & voice, Paul Dunmall on tenor sax & saxello, Chris Mapp on bass and Mark Sanders doing Drums is a clear winner, no matter what color of jazz your ears are.  The opener, “Ed’s Muse“, is certainly a stand-out that will hold your attention, even if you have a severe case of J.D.D. (jazz deficit disorder)… the recording is so crisp you’ll feel like you’re right there in the room with these cats.  The music is all original (except for track 7), so that’s an immediate draw for this listener.  The spoken-word on “Gettys Mother Burg” made it my personal favorite… takes me way back to when I first started listening to poets & jazz… in point of fact, this is among my favorite pieces for the entire year of 2014.  I give this stellar crew a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99.  Get more information at the SLAM PRODUCTIONS page for this release.       Rotcod Zzaj

Chris Greco – STANDARDS, VOL 1:  This one is definitely a winner for jazz lovers who can’t go a day without some reeds blowin’ in their ears!  This is my first listen to Chris’s work, and I’m more than impressed… tunes like “Bye-Ya” are played flawlessly, with some of the highest energy I’ve heard (yet) in 2014!  There’s a wonderful balance between the players (Tom McMorran on piano, Chris Colangelo on contra-bass & Otis Hayes on drums), and it’s clear they know the language of jazz, & know how to use it to get you excited as well.  The 8:45 “In Your Own Sweet Way” will hold you spellbound from the first note… a true jazz lover’s dream… you won’t hear reed playing this sweet very often – so get it now!  My personal favorite of the nine tracks offered up was “Solid“… strong emphasis on Chris’s reed work, but with total focus and collaboration between each of the other players as well.  A totally excellent jazz listen for an afternoon that gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from me, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Get more information at Chris’s website      Rotcod Zzaj

Chris Greco: Standards, Vol. 1

Julia Karosi – HIDDEN ROOTS:  Julia’s second CD (though my first exposure to her wonderful singing) shows off some significant jazz vocal skills.  Her sliding scat work on “Floating Island” will have you floating right along with her… the drums and percussion  on this tune are superb, and mesh right in with all the other players.  Unfortunately, the players in the quartet weren’t listed in the promo sheet, but I can tell yhou that I absolutely loved the keyboard players work.  The title cut, “Hidden Roots“, has some very nice moments… sultry jazz that will melt in your mind.  It was the  4:04 opener, “The Miraculous Deer“,  that won my vote as favorite track of the eleven offered up… all the instruments are highlighted, and you can hear that they just love playing together.  This one is kind of a sleeper… I had only listened once before sitting down to write the review, but found Julia’s voice simply stunning when I got back ’round to it.  I give Julia & crew a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) of 4.99.  Get more information at the Dot Time Records page for this release.       Rotcod Zzaj

Ciro Hurtado – AYAHUASCA DREAMS:  I’ve reviewed Ciro’s music many times before, most recently in issue # 128… very favorably, I might add.  Ciro’s guitar (and all the other instruments imaginable) is timeless, especially on pieces like the beautiful “Andean Blues“… his ability to translate songs from his native Peru (& that region) into music that people around the world shows total skill and a love for the music that has enabled him to help others in their journey to spiritual wisdom and peace.  I just loved “Dulce“… though I didn’t necessarily know the words, I certainly knew what the singer was telling me.   I can say, without qualification, that this is the most sensitive playing I’ve heard from Ciro… though I also predict that you’ll be hearing much more from him in the coming months & years.  My personal favorite of the eleven tunes offered up was ‘Physician Poet“… full of life and energy, this instrumental just shines!  I give Ciro a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Get more information at Ciro’s web page for this release.        Rotcod Zzaj

Ciro Hurtado: Ayahuasca Dreams

New York Horns – NEW YORK HORNS:  I got this in via John Isley from a routine RN solicitation… these players just SMOKE it…. as you might imagine from the title, it’s full of high-energy horns, and it’s anything BUT routine.  You won’t hear one single note of synthesized brass or reeds… this is most assuredly – the REAL thing!  There’s some FINE organ on here, especially on tunes like “Morningside At Midnight“… in fact, this is one of the best horn-based tunes I’ve heard (yet) in 2014!  You get a full dozen energy-packed songs on the CD, and every single one of them is a true “keeper”.  I especially enjoyed the percussion on “Little Miss Thing“… down & nuthin’ BUT fon-kee… & it proves these players understand the KEY ingredient in music – FUN!  You can get more information about the players in this super-strong horn section at the New York Horns page… & believe me, you’ll want to after you scope out my personal favorite of the dozen tunes on the CD, “Under The Hood“… life don’t get no better than the horn-struttin’ you’ll hear on this one.  I give NYH a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of (a perfect) 5.00 – which means that it also gets the “PICK” of this issue for “best horn-led jazz”.       Rotcod Zzaj

New York Horns: New York Horns

Jaggery – FOR THE RECORD LIVE:  I had opportunity to witness this powerful Boston group up in Seattle this summer; it’s a set one won’t soon forget.  Singer Mali handed off a copy of the CD to me & it went in the queue.  It took me a couple of weeks to do my preview, & what was evident was that the recording they made was recorded in a room far more amenable to the kind of power projection the band is into than the venue I saw them at (the recording was done during a live performance in Cambridge, MA).  The keyboards and Mali’s vocal on the simple, yet clearly powerful “Crux” will give you clear insight into why this group merits high placement on your playlists.   Is it jazz?  Not exactly… Is it creative?  You BET!  Just scope out “O Scorpio” to get a taste of why I totally dig this band (& I’ve no doubt that you will, too)… some great piano on this track, too.  It was the almost operatic vocal from Mali, along with the excellent musicianship on “”War Cry” that won my vote for favorite, though… you can almost “see” the battle ensuing as you listen to this.  I give Jaggery & their excellent cast of players a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, especially for listeners who want some serious depth in their listening experience.  “EQ” (energy quotient) rating is 4.98.  Get more information at the Jaggery website.       Rotcod Zzaj