Issue 149 reviews

Our latest and greatest reviews for your reading & listening pleasure

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Santiago Belgrano – VICISITUDES:    Since the “roots” of this magazine are in the solid soil of self-producers, it’s only fitting that this great little CD from Santiago is the last for this issue… tunes like “Sophia” strongly emphasize the talent Santiago has for keyboards, but also allow the other players (see the player list) plenty of room to show their skills as well (some beautiful electric guitar)!  I’m more than just impressed, I’ve added songs like “Pasitos” to my permanent playlist… the pace is perfect, and the recording provides absolute joy (I’d strongly recommend that you listen to this on headphones, at least for the first sitting).  Santiago and his crew have put together one of the strongest independent jazz releases I’ve heard this year, so they automatically get a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of (a perfect) 5.00 – meaning they also get the “PICK” of this issue for “best new jazz”.   Get more information at Santiago’s website.     Rotcod Zzaj

Eliana Cuevas – ESPEJO:  If lively is your keyword when you’re looking for great jazz to listen to, you won’t find anything more full of life than Eliana’s superb jazz vocal work… whether it’s the the get-down “jump” on “Estrellita“, or the beauty on “Nacerá“, Eliana truly knows how to move your heart and keep you guessing.  The 4:48 “Llegó” picks your spirits right back up again… & it matters not a whit if you understand the particular language she’s singing in – her spirit (easily) conveys exactly what she means…. heck, she even has me typing right along with her high-energy rhythms… one truly cool tune (& the percussion is astounding)!   It was the driving bass opener on “Agua, Cangrejo y Sal” that made it my personal favorite of the ten super-tracks offered up for your jazz listening pleasure… truly swings!  I give Eliana and her cast of musical characters a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98 for this great CD!  Get more information on this superb vocalist at Eliana’s website.       Rotcod Zzaj

Grand Fatilla- GLOBAL SHUFFLE:  This Boston-based group has tagged their music as a sort of “global stomp”… I can get with that, & so will you (be able to) after you scope out tracks like the spirited opener, “Cigansko Oro“… what absolute FUN this music is… they’ll have ya’ up & dancin’ ’round the rug in no time!  You’ll be nearly in waltz-mode as you listen to the splendid “Bebe“… simple, yet well-executed and full of beauty.  Though it’s a studio recording, you’ll feel like they’re live in your living room as you listen to my personal favorite of the even-dozen tracks, the 5:45 “Kasha“… I’m pretty sure it’s the excellent percussion that swayed my vote – jazz gypsies in grand style.  I give this high-talent group a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97.  Get more information at the Grand Fatilla website.       Rotcod Zzaj


Grand Fatilla: Global Shuffle

Nancy Kelly – B THAT WAY:  All I can say is “WOW”!  Nancy belts out some wonderful jazz vocals… this one is known as a “B-3 album”, because she has Dino Losito with her, just “kickin’ it” on the Hammond organ (ergo, the “B” in the title); as well as Jerry Wldon on tenor sax; Peter Bernstein on guitar and Carmen Intorre on drums!  As you scope out the high-energy opener, “Come Back To Me“, you’ll wonder why you haven’t heard this great jazzer before… some of the best female jazz vocal work I’ve heard in 2014!  The rollicking “Common Touch” will set your feet on fire… at the very least, you’ll be tappin’ toes & snappin’ fingers right along with the band.  My personal favorite of the dozen smoking tunes was “The Great City“… this is most assuredly the kind of jazz I grew up with – vocal jazz doesn’t get any better (or more swingin’) than this!  I give Nancy & her cohorts a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Get more information at Nancy’s website.     Rotcod Zzaj

Nancy Kelly: B That Way

Michael Dulin – MY BELOVED:  There are times when the only thing that will satisfy my musical appetites is some great solo piano…. as “regular” readers here know, I’ve received a great deal of work from Michael, and I can tell you that since I received this one, it’s been spinning over (& over & over) again.  Pieces like “As Long As We’re Together” clearly let his partner know just how much he cares for her… simple, yet beautiful, work!  One thing that makes Michael’s piano work so well on this sonic outing is that the pieces are all originals… in my mind, for piano work, that’s a very necessary element… and on the dance-oriented piece, “Chanson“, you’ll find yourself stepping out on the floor (even if it’s only mentally).  My personal favorite of the dozen pieces offered up was “She Walks In Beauty“… the recording quality is excellent, and clearly will remind you of all those long strolls you’ve taken with your love.  Michael’s lovely (and loving) solo piano work again gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from me, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of (a perfect) 5.00…. meaning it also get the “PICK” of this issue for “best solo piano”!  Get more information about Michael and his great work at Michael’s website.       Rotcod Zzaj

The Johnny Griffith Quintet – DANCE WITH THE LADY:  Johnny’s sax work (alto and tenor) is impeccable on this recent release.  As you listen to beautiful tunes like “Cinders“, you’ll hear his gentle tones influencing the movement of the rest of the group – subtly, but clearly!  Jazz in the “old style”, yet somehow rendered with the immediacy of the new Century… that’s especially true on the longer pieces like the closer “That Night (Under The Bench) So Long Ago“… what’s clear on tunes like this one is that these folks understand what jazz is really all about – FUN!  It was (definitely) the title track, “Dance With The Lady“, that got my vote for personal favorite of the nine offered up for your aural enjoyment… high-energy, high-talent jazz that will remain on your playlists for days, months & years to come!  I give Johnny & his crew a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99.  Get more information on this exciting player at Johnny’s website.       Rotcod Zzaj

Johnny Griffith: Dance With the Lady

Harmonie Ensemble-New York – MUSIC FROM PETER GUNN:  I can’t possibly remember how many hours I spent in front of the old black/white boob tube in my younger days listening to the background music from Henry Mancini on this show… of course, in those days, we were only watching for the (sometimes) cheezy plots of “theme” shows like this – not realizing how much of an impact tunes like the too-cool “Fallout” were having on us… that wasn’t evident until we started slippin’ & slidin’ around poppin’ our fingers & tappin’ our toes.  It was tunes like “Blue Steel” that gave us our honorary pass into the world of the totally “back-alley hip” crowd… & pieces like “Dreamsville” were my favorite then, as now.  I give this fantastic collection of musical memories from my past a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97.  Get more information at the Harmonie Ensemble page for this release.       Rotcod Zzaj

Alexander McCabe and Paul Odeh – THIS IS NOT A PIPE:  Alexander’s work has been reviewed here since (at least) issue 75, so I’m quite familiar with his excellent sax playing (“not a pipe”, indeed; but a contact buzz is guaranteed).  Paul’s piano joins Alexander on this wonderful and comfortable set, and tunes like the opener, “Miss Maritza“, will reveal the total talent involved in this fine CD!  The “jump” on “Friday’s Good” will have you toe-tappin’ right along with these two brilliant players… they are “right on” the rhythm together on this piece in a near-boogie mode… I just loved the piano on this one, and Alexander keeps the beat going for the entire 4:20!  It was the 8:02 closer, “Minority“, that snagged my vote as favorite of the eight tunes on the CD…  if freedom in jazz is your preferred listening mode, you’ll completely agree when I declare this CD to be MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED; “EQ” (energy quotient) rating is 4.99.  Get more information at Alexander’s website.        Rotcod Zzaj

Alexander McCabe: This Is Not a Pipe

John David Simon – PHANTASM:  There’s always high excitement when I scope out a new CD with mostly originals on it… & John’s jazz compositions are right up at the top of the mark… in addition to John’s superb sax work, he also plays flute, & is joined by some of the best jazz players on the scene today – Pat Bianchi on Hammond B3 organ; Lewis Nash doing drums; John Hart on guitar; Andy Gravish on trumpet & flugelhorn and Michael Boscarino on trombone.  As you listen to rousing tunes like the opener, “New Dawn“, you’ll hear (in the immediate) why I dig his playing so much.  If you love jazz flute, you’ll find yourself enchanted and spellbound as you listen to John play for you on “Inwood“… one of the best tunes I’ve heard this year.  It was the elegant phrasing and high-quality recording on “Black Diamond” that got my vote as favorite of the ten tracks offered up… some wonderful jazz!  I give this one a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Get more information at the John David Simon website.       Rotcod Zzaj

John David Simon: Phantasm

Beat Funktion – MANDY’S SECRET:  I’ve reviewed a couple of CD’s from this great jazz group, most recently in issue 145; they seem to only get better with each release!  This new CD pays homage to some of the great funk & soul music from the ’70’s, and as you listen to the 5:07 “Snap To It“, you’ll hear that they’ve got that FUNK dow-un to a “T” (I just totally dug the organ on this one)!  For total laid-back groove, you’ll love “Are We Done?” (dance to it with your favorite lady, too – just make sure the lights are down low).  The absolute killer for this reviewer was “Thunderlips“… if you think “Shaft”, you’ll have it pegged quite clearly!  I can tell you now, you’ll be hearing more from this group (composer Daniel Lantz is putting it together as I type).  I give this great Swedish group a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Get more information at the Beat Funktion website.       Rotcod Zzaj

Beat Funktion: Mandy

 The City Boys Allstars – BLINDED BY THE NIGHT:  If good ol’ get-down blues is just what you’ve been lookin’ for, you won’t be able to do without this CD; not only that, but as you listen to “Testimony“, you’ll realize that this was recorded LIVE… & the recording is flawless, so you’ll be “right there”!  The songs & the energy certainly bring back mem’ries of ol’ Leon Russell & Paul Butterfield Blues band live shows… especially on tunes like the instrumental slippin’ & slidin’ “Funky Peaches“… I’m just lovin’ this CD – it’s been spinnin’ over & over (& OVER) again on my player.   It was the juke-joint jumpin’ closer,  “City Boy Blues“,  that got my vote for favorite of the nine tracks laid down for your long-term blues pleasure, though… when it comes to blues, these boys surely know how to DO it!  I give the CD a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Get more information at The City Boy Allstars website.       Rotcod Zzaj

The City Boys Allstars: Blinded By the Night

Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra – THE L.A. TREASURES PROJECT:  For jazz lovers who have been diggin’ ’round for buried gems for so many years, this CD will yield up what you’ve been looking for!  Tunes like the lovely & lively “Love Being Here With You” are true gems, and will stay in your head for days (if not months & years).  The rabble-rousing on “The Jug And I” will have you dancin’ in the immediate moment; just the right combination of blues & vocal!  I’ve been on a few of these kinds of bluesy excursions myself (many years ago).  Barbara Morrison’s rendition of “Fever” just smokes it…. her vocal is sultry & total cool.  It was the 4:36 closer, “Jazz Party“,  that turned out to be my favorite of the thirteen, in great part because of the reed work, but also because you could feel the “live vibe” on this tune.  I give this excellent jazz CD a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99.  You can get more information about this at the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra pages.        Rotcod Zzaj

Charlie Apicella & Iron City – BIG BOSS:  There’s no need to introduce Charlie & his great jazz guitar in these pages… he’s been here before – a LOT!  On the band’s latest release, they’re smokin’ it (as I’d expect).  As you listen to the excellent organ on “In The Grass“, you’ll know that you’ve latched on to pure (jazz) sonic joy that will be in your collection (& spinning) for an eternity… totally tight & in the groove from the opening notes to the very end.  If you’re a bit more in the mood for blues, you won’t be able to do without the power-packed “Spoonful“… the trumpet on this one is absolute killer!  It was the poignant percussion on “Idris” that made it my favorite of the eight tunes offered up… back to an era when you could even dance to jazz!  If you demand jazz that has solid groove for your listening pleasure, this is MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED… “EQ” (energy quotient) rating is 4.99.  Get more information at Charlie’s Iron City pages.       Rotcod Zzaj

Charlie Apicella: Big Boss

Kevin Cline – MAKE UP YOUR MIND:  You won’t have any trouble making it up after you listen to Kevin’s stellar keyboards (and trombone, as well) on this excellent debut CD.  Tunes like “A Shot of J & V” will warm the cockles of your lil’ jazz heart & make your ears obey his every command.   Kevin is joined by a whole host of players (notably, Bobby Shew on trumpet, but there are far too many other players to itemize here).  The 6:04 “Beware The Snake” will ensure you stay out of the bushes, but it will also have you dancin’ ’round the firelight until dawn.  He’s been on the scene for more than 30 years, but just now getting around to putting his talent out there for us all to enjoy… & if you’re a true jazz lover, you’ll find (my personal favorite of the fifteen tracks) the title track “Make Up Your Mind” to be among the most solid jazz tunes you listen to in 2014!  Joy abounds here, and the spirit is definitely moving… I give Kevin & crew a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Get more information at Kevin’s pages for this self-released gem.        Rotcod Zzaj

Kevin Cline: Make Up Your Mind

Thrasher Dream Trio – WE’RE BACK:  I reviewed Gerry Gibbs first recording for this great trio in issue 138, where they got very high marks for the precision playing they’re known for!  Gerry’s drums are joined (as they were last time) by Kenny Barron’s piano and Ron Carter’s bass, along with a few other high-talent guests.  Their rendition of Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” is unparalleled in my experience… total energy (& some EXCELLENT organ (Larry Golding), I might add)!  If you want something a bit more laid-back (but still swingin’), you’ll love their performance on Stevie Wonder’s “My Cherie Amour“… doesn’t get any sweeter than this when it comes to great jazz.  My personal favorite of the fifteen high-energy R&B & soul tunes offered up was the 5:45 “Mighty, Mighty“… man, this thing rocks it right on out, people!  This CD gets my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of a perfect 5.00 – which means it also gets the “PICK” of this issue for “most energetic jazz”!  Just a super sonic experience.  Learn more at the Whaling City Sound label page for this great release.       Rotcod Zzaj

Fletcher Brice Jozwiak – NICK OF TIME:  On this stellar trio release, you get to hear Mike Fletcher on Alto sax/Flute, Olie Brice on Bass and Tymoteusz Jozwiak doing Drums in a session you’ll never forget; truly some of the best sax-led jazz you will ever listen to!  The bass solo intro to “What Remains Is Still To Come” is pure perfection, and gently melts right into Mike’s sax as the 8:33 piece matures… by the time it reaches 3:00, these cats are already “in the zone”, & will keep you there until they’re ready to let go.  It’s the 11:43 title cut, “Nick Of Time“, that gets my vote for personal favorite of the six tunes offered up for your listening pleasure, though… far more than “just another improv session”, this is jazz with a true edge – razor sharp.  Loved the crystal-clear recording… all the nuances are captured, & you will revel in them for years to come.  I give this trio recording a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97.  Get more information at the SLAM PRODUCTIONS label page for this release.       Rotcod Zzaj

Satoko Fujii New Trio + 1 – SHIKI:  Long-time readers of this magazine know that I’ve been following and reviewing Satoko & her husband’s (Natsuki Tamura) work for many years now… I can honestly say that for fans of “out” music – this is among the very best in the musical universe!  The title track alone, “Shiki“, makes the CD worth the purchase price… it lasts (just under) 40 minutes, and absolutely brims with life and the evokes images that each listener will visualize differently… it’s highly recommended that you make sure you well settled-in (with your headphones on) before you listen to this piece.  You will hear many guest soloists (mostly from the NYC area) in all their sonically extravagant glory… Satoko’s piano and Natsuki’s trumpet form the nucleus, with the soloists contributing freely and voraciously to one of the strongest pieces of music you will ever listen to!  As you might imagine, with a full 40 minutes to explore in, this is a truly epic tune… it was my favorite of the three on the CD; I give this one a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, especially for listeners who love to explore the sonic unknown.  “EQ” (energy quotient) rating is 4.99.   Get more information at the SQUIDCO label site for this release.         Rotcod Zzaj

Phil Haynes & No Fast Food – IN CONCERT:  Drummer Phil Haynes outdoes himself on this excellent double-CD jazz excursion… it just doesn’t get any tastier than this… Phil’s drums are joined by tenor/soprano sax by David Liebman and bassist Drew Gress to form a trio (most of which is recorded live) you won’t soon forget.  The mystical opening and deep-delving “Zen Lieb” will pull you into the jazz vortex and keep you there for many eons to come!  If it’s something more in a blues vein you’re looking for, you’ll totally zone out on “West Virginia Blues” (the pace on this one picks up rapidly after Dave’s opening solo intro).  These guys are totally together & will have you ridin’ their groove in only moments.  Tunes like my personal favorite, the 8:05 “Last Dance”, are a jazz lovers dream, and will stay high on your playlists for the long-term.  I give Phil & his com-padres a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Get more information at Phil’s website.       Rotcod Zzaj

Phil Haynes: No Fast Food (Workin

Maria Jacobs – HERE COMES WINTER:  I last reviewed Maria’s softly sweet vocals in issue 132, so it’s been a bit.  On this round, she’s still in fine form, especially on little gems like “Til’ Forever Comes“… very nicely done!  All the tunes are of the “laid-back” variety, yet Maria still manages to wrap your ears quite effectively in her magical spell.  Another beautiful song she conveys with full spirit is “In My Room” (wasn’t that Carole King’s writing?)… Maria definitely “owns” it on this version.  My personal favorite of the eleven offered up is “From Both Sides Now‘… gets right down deep in your soul and may even bring a tear to your eye.  I give her a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98 for this fine vocal album.  Get more information at Maria’s website.       Rotcod Zzaj

Ken Thomson & Slow Fast – SETTLE:  I can promise you this… you won’t be “settling” any time soon as you listen to this outing; Nir Felder on guitar, trumpeter Russ Johnson, bassist Adam Armstrong, and drummer Fred Kennedy join reedman Ken Thomson in a splendid jazz outing that you just won’t be able to stop listening to…. the rapid pacing on the title track, “Settle“, opens the CD, and your ears will be struggling to stay apace, even if you’re a die-hard jazzer from way-back-when!  The oddly-titled 9:42 “Welding For Freedom” will capture your attention as if you were in the mystifying light of an arc-welder…. the stilted pace of the intro only serves to whet your appetite for when the sparks really start flying (right about at 5:30).  It was the 10:03 “Spring” that turned out to be my favorite of the six pieces offered up, though.. a truly intricate and sensitive tune.  This is definitely one of the tastiest jazz CD’s I’ve listened to (yet) in 2014!  I give Ken & his crew a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99 on this release.  Get more information at Ken’s website.       Rotcod Zzaj

Ken Thomson and Slow/Fast: Settle

Prabhu Nam Kaur – ARDAS (PRAYER):  No music could be more appropriate for an early, shiny, Sunday morning than this series of prayers from Prabhu.  As you listen through “Ardaas Bhaee“, you’ll hear why I say that… it’s a long one (11:15), and requires intense listening, so make sure you’re undisturbed and have your headphones on when you listen to this the first time.  Eastern and Western instruments are melded together very nicely to give you an unforgettable sonic experience.  I can tell you now that if your only aspiration is to listen to something that will tear things down, this isn’t the music for you… rather, as you experience the slow and deliberate devotion of tunes like my personal favorite on this CD, “Sopurkh“, you will find yourself wrapped in new attitudes and reverence for all that’s been created.  I give this 7-song adventure a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, particularly for meditative listeners, and an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Get more information & listen to samples at the SPIRIT VOYAGE label site for this release.        Rotcod Zzaj

Tom Wolfe – SOLEROVESCENT:  If you’re looking for some absolutely satisfying jazz guitar, you’ve reached your destination with Tom’s splendid playing… tunes like the high-energy opener, “Midnight Sushi“, will have you tappin’ & (maybe, even) dancin’!  Folks, I’m just lovin’ this stuff; it doesn’t get any better than this when it comes to music full of life & energy!  Tom’s guitar/guitar synthesizer are joined by Ken Watters on trumpet/flugel horn, Tim Goodwin & Chris Kozak doing bass and Danny Gottlieb’s drums in a musical adventure that will attract your ears immediately, and hold them for a good long time.  Tracks like “Sidetrack” just won’t let go of your soul, & will stay on your playlists for years to come.  It was the 7:28 “La Luna Llena” that got my vote as favorite of the ten tracks offered up for your jazz pleasure, though… all the players are right ON the mark on this piece, and I totally dug it… mighty mellow guitar here!  If you don’t get another jazz guitar CD this year – get this one… I give it my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99.  Get more information at Tom’s web page for this release.       Rotcod Zzaj

David Friesen Circle 3 Trio – WHERE THE LIGHT FALLS:  This one didn’t actually get “jumped” to the head of the line… it’s here because this came from a brand new promoter/label (well, new to us, anyway)… the other reason is because I fell in love with David’s amazing bass playing many years ago.  On this totally fresh (double-CD) excursion, he’s joined by pianist Greg Goebel, Charlie Doggett on drums and Larry Koonse doing electric guitar on several of the tracks.  As you listen to the heavy-duty playing on “Left Field Blues“, you’ll know why David is one of my favorite jazz players of all time… as I said, innovative, creative and fresh!  The drum intro on “Zebra” segues sweetly into perfectly timed bass from David… an amazing tune that will have you boppin’ right along with the players!  It was the 8:36 “Counterpart” that got my vote as favorite of the nineteen excellent pieces offered for your sonic enjoyment… it all comes together on this one!  I give David & his totally talented crew a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of (a perfect) 5.00… which means that they also get the “PICK” of this issue for “best bass-led jazz CD”.  Get more information at the Origin Records label page for this release!   Rotcod Zzaj

Adam Meckler Orchestra – WHEN CLOUDS LOOK LIKE THIS:  Adam conducts, arranges and plays solo trumpet on this little gem from August 2014.  As you listen to the opener, “Busta Jones“, you’ll hear right away that you’ve hit the jazz jackpot.  An absolutely wonderful and fresh approach to jazz in orchestral mode.  The trumpet lead-in to “Sparkly Eyes” will quench your thirst for brassy jazz that stays with you for the long haul… this tune won’t come off your playlists anytime soon… everything is recorded flawlessly, and the energy levels are stellar through every tune!  Though there are only six tracks, none of them are less than 8 minutes, so you get to explore right along with the artists as the tunes mature.  My personal favorite was the swingin’ “Beautiful Beatrice“… if you can’t get your toes tappin’ to this – you’re not the true jazz lover you claim to be.  I give Adam & his orchestra a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99.  Get more information at the Adam Meckler website.       Rotcod Zzaj

Copernicus – IMMEDIATE ETERNITY II:  I’ve been reviewing this cat since my ‘zine was started up in 1990 (actually, in 1988)… this outing is closer to jazz, i.e., “laid-back”, as is clear on the opener, “Beautiful Humanity“… I truly can’t remember when I’ve heard him do lyrical adventure so “jazzy” – with strong elements of high-end rock (of course).  On “Free Of Me“, you’ll hear something that’s definitely akin to a “lizard lounge” think – until the background/lead guitar kicks in.  “Regular” listeners will probably move on down the racks to escape the poignant messages that Joseph Smalkowski (aka Copernicus) drills into your mind.  I’m not quite sure how the band was able to extract such volcanic energy from a title like “Dust“, but as you scope this one out, you’ll know that you’re witness to severe changes in the atmospheric density that makes up your mind – in a very, VERY jazzy fashion – this one is, without question, my favorite Copernicus tune for 2014! I give Copernicus & his crew a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99.  Get more information at the MOONJUNE RECORDS site for this release.       Rotcod Zzaj

Steven Halpern & Michael Diamond – AMBIENT ALCHEMY:  As the CD title implies, this is not just “pretty” music, it possesses those magical qualities that allow you to escape the la-di-da and ho-hum of the everyday… I’ve been reviewing Steven’s work for a long time now, and can honestly say that this pairing his keyboards up with Michael’s guitar work is the best I’ve ever heard from him.  As you listen to the marvelous percussion and sweeping sounds on “Return to Shamballa“, you’ll realize you’re in the presence of musical magicians who can create new and mysterious worlds for your ears.  The synths on “Above The Clouds” will transport you to the absolute beyond… and all the way back.  It was the recording perfection on “Rain Dream” that won my vote for personal favorite of the fourteen splendid compositions offered up for your listening pleasure… definitely among the best ambient works I’ve heard (yet) in 2014.  I give Steven, Michael & crew a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99.  Get more information at Steven’s website.        Rotcod Zzaj

Ellynne Rey – A LITTLE BIT OF MOONLIGHT:  If you aren’t happy after listening to Ellynne’s too-cool vocals on the opener, “Make Someone Happy“… you never will be!  She has stellar players behind her (Paul beaudry on bass, Gene Bertoncini on guitar, Tony Jefferson doing drums, Bennett Paster on piano and Daniel Sadownick doing percussion), and the recording is superb.  Tunes like the laid-back “Dindi” will capture your heart and have you humming right along.  My personal favorite of the fifteen songs offered up for your listening pleasure is Mal Waldron’s “Soul Eyes“… the timing was perfect, and you can hear Ellynne’s sultry skill shining through on every note (of course, with that many tracks, you may find a different track that’s your favorite – totally up to you).  I give Ellynne and her high-energy players a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, especially for listeners who demand perfection… “EQ” (energy quotient) rating is 4.98.  Get more information at Ellynne’s website.      Rotcod Zzaj

Ellynne Rey: A Little Bit of Moonlight

Orbert Davis – SKETCHES OF SPAIN REVISITED:  Obviously, Orbert plays trumpet… his June 2014 release is together with the Chicago Philharmonic, so you get the full Matilda, no doubt about it!  In the spirit of Miles (no relation), Orbert approaches this (totally) with his own spirit, and gives you his own take on the original compositions (with two new ones as well).  The 17:57 “Concierto de Aranjuez” provides plenty of room/space for Orbert to wrap you up in his magic horn, and I can guarantee that “true” jazz lovers will have this tune on their playlists for a long time to come (it’s been stuck on mine ever since I received it)!  You will hear more than shades of creativity on this CD… pieces like the wonderful “Solea” (my favorite of the five offered up, by the way) are played expertly and with some superb changes – this tune is among the very best trumpet-led I’ve heard (yet) in 2014.  I give the CD a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97.  Get more information at Orbert’s web page for this release.       Rotcod Zzaj

Orbert Davis

Jill Haley – MESA VERDE SOUNDSCAPES:  I first listened to and reviewed Jill’s beautiful piano and oboe work in issue # 129… she got high marks on that one, and this new CD takes her work up to yet another level… some truly beautiful music on this 14-song CD.  The gentle calm she projects on “Curves Of Burnt Orange” will soothe even the most savage of us.  What Jill knows how to do (that some other players don’t) is take advantage of the “silent spaces” and let the listener fill them in with their imagination… her husband David’s guitar on “Towers and Kivas” is totally fulfilling, and will be listened to over and over again – it certainly was by me.  My personal favorite on the album was the slow-paced ‘Vibrant Mesa Blossoms“… it digs right down into your soul and fills your spirit with the same vibrancy those blossoms must have conveyed.  I give Jill and her musical pals a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  You can get more information about this totally talented player at Jill’s website.       Rotcod Zzaj

Jill Haley: Mesa Verde Soundscapes

Tal Gur – UNDER CONTRACTIONS:  This is some very interesting, and very different, jazz… it won’t “hit” in all listeners’ ears as the perfect session… OTOH, for my jaded old ears, this superb quartet is IT!  Tal’s straight alto & soprano sax work lead the group, and especially on tunes like the 6:12 “Missiles Up, Missiles Down“, you get a really strong sense of their jazz diversity.   This is no “tired” or “old” jazz… it’s the stuff that the 21st century will be made of, musically anyway (the bass solo at around 2:00 is just excellent).  There are “angles” in many of the compositions, as you might expect when many of the tunes are about the war in Tal’s “zone” (Israel, of course)… my personal favorite was the ultra-high-energy “Time For Fight“… if you can’t get a sense of the improvisational ecstasy in this group’s playing from this great tune, you’ve been wearing them brown shoes too long, pal.   I’m highly impressed… Tal’s CD gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from me, particularly for listeners who aren’t afraid to explore the depths of improvised music; “EQ” (energy quotient) rating if 4.97.  Get more information at the Tal Gur website.    Rotcod Zzaj

Tal Gur: Under Contractions