Issue # 159 reviews

Our latest and greatest reviews for your reading & listening pleasure

(Click HOME to see the index of all issues)



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

Michael Jefry Stevens – Angel’s Dance

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

Dom Minasi/Hans Tammen – Alluvium Sun 

Dario Chiazzolino and Nico Di Battista – Rewriting Song

Dario Chiazzolino – Paint Your Life

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

Rodrigo Bonelli – SEPTET WORKS:  Not only does it work, but features some of the best drum/percussion work you’ll hear this year by Rodrigo.  Tunes like the sure-fire high-energy opener, “Trial By Fire” will get your day off to a rip-roaring start.  The album also features pianist Don Friedman and trumpet player Mike Rodriguez, and they are more together than most players I listen to these days (and, as you probably know, I listen to a LOT of them).  The 5:17 “Bermuda Triangle” isn’t quite as mysterious as it sounds, but it’s super-solid jazz that will make your ears stand up and listen most attentively.  It was the 5:14 “Perpetual Search” that got my vote for favorite of the seven tunes offered up; as a matter of fact, it would have been nice to have a few more tracks on the release, but pieces like this one will whet your appetite for more.  I give Rodrigo & crew a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97.  Get more information at Rodrigo’s website.       Rotcod Zzaj

Fiona Joy – SIGNATURE SOLO:  There are some mornings when nothing will sate a listener’s musical thirst better than solo piano… of course, if you’ve listened to Fiona’s crisp keyboard work before, you will already know that this is what you want to hear.  It’s been a while (issue # 138) since I reviewed her, but she surely shines on tunes like the beautiful “Grace“… the recording is absolutely flawless, and I can guarantee you will listen to these compositions over & over again.  The shimmering vocals on “Once Upon Impossible” will capture your ears and fold you in to Fiona’s magic.  The “movement” she establishes on the 3:28 “Invisible Train” made it my personal favorite of the ten pieces offered up for your long-term sonic pleasure.  Fiona’s music is high-talent and high-energy through and through, and certainly merits the MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED I’m giving it.  “EQ” (energy quotient) rating is 4.98.  Get more information at Fiona’s website.      Rotcod Zzaj

Kenny Carr – IDLE TALK:  This release is (just) a bit more in a “laid-back” groove than the last one I reviewed from him (issue # 158), but it still packs the “punch” I’ve come to expect from his wildfire jazz guitar style.  You’ll get a perfect feel for just how much he gets you in the groove when you listen to THE 8:19 “Reunions“; absolutely superb, yet lively, laid-back jazz!  If you just can’t do without something upbeat, you’ll totally dig down deep into the 6:18 “Anthrozoology“.  I’m always impressed with his talent, and have reviewed nearly all his releases (I think)… if not, you promoters should send me anything I’ve missed from him.  From a purely “hep jazz” standpoint, there’s nothing better than the title track on this nine-song release (the opener), “Idle Talk“… it definitely got my vote for favorite, and spins regularly in my daily lineup of things to listen to… nothing “idle” about this song.  I give Kenny a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99.  Get more information at the Kenny Carr website.        Rotcod Zzaj

Don Aliquo and Clay Jenkins  Quintet – NEW TIES AND BINDS:  As I scope out the tracks (again, for about the 20th time) with Don’s excellent tenor sax work and Clay’s too-talented trumpet, I’m impressed with the high jazz energy levels shining through on each song.  They are joined by Harold Danko on piano, Rufus Reid on bass and Jim White on drums, and songs like the sultry & slinky “Another Cold Front”  will enhance your jazz day for many moons to come!  Don and Clay are confirmed veterans of the jazz scene, and have been friends for many years now – as you scope out their high-energy performance on “The Bandit“, you’ll realize right away that you’re in the presence of true masters of the craft.  This was released in March, 2015, so it’s obvious that it took a while for me to get ’round to, but as I listened to my personal favorite of the eight all-original pieces in the set, “Chest Frenzy“, and absorbed the mellowness there, it was clear to me that this kind of creativity is too rare these days.  I give them a well-deserved MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99.  Get more information at the HB Direct page for this release.          Rotcod Zzaj

The Aaron Clift Experiment – OUTER LIGHT, INNER DARKNESS:  This tasty prog ensemble from down Texas way is the perfect solution for those hard-to-wake-up mornings… The main players are Aaron Clift: vocals, keyboard, organ, grand piano; Eric Gutierrez: guitar, mandolin; Devin North: bass guitar, double bass; and Joe Resnick: drums, percussion (the list of other players is far too long for these pages).  They play hard, but definitely get the message across, especially on songs like the high-power “Fragments of Sleep“… I can guarantee you won’t be nodding off with this tune.  What I especially like about this group is that they aren’t “stuck in one style”… there’s some truly fine piano/keyboard work on “The Last Oasis“, and I loved the vocal on my personal favorite of the eight songs offered up, “Bathed in Moonlight“.  A very versatile group, with solid talent, they get a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from me, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Get more information at Aaron’s page for this release.         Rotcod Zzaj

Kovlo – TIMELAPSE:  Some very interesting rock-oriented music in from Switzerland on this 47-minute release.  Your concept of time will evolve as you listen to each song, particularly pieces like the splendid 5:58 opener, “Walesa“… nothing overly dramatic, with a slow build to full-body.  A full range of emotions is explored and revealed on these compositions, with some nice vocal layering integrated to keep your interest levels up.  I got very involved in the throb & gristle of the 8:02 “Suez“, and have no doubt that you will as well.  Of the five full-length tracks offered up, though, it was the mystery-laden “OPEC Raid” that captured my vote for personal favorite… it’s obvious in just the first few bars that players understand how to create music that reaches out and grabs your ears for the long haul.  I give them a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for this release, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97.  Get more information at the Fluttery Records page for the band.          Rotcod Zzaj

Hristo Vitchev Quartet – IN SEARCH OF WONDERS:  You need search no further than this wonderful (double) CD release from my guitar-playing friend Hristo to find the wonders you’ve been listening for!  He’s joined by Jasnam Daya Singh (Weber Iago) doing piano; Dan Robbins on bass and Mike Shannon playing drums (the same crew I reviewed in issue # 136), and the recording on the new release is even more crisp than that one!  As you listen to tunes like the lively & percussion laden “Almost Home“, you’ll recognize just how wonderful this high-talent crew is, and immerse yourself in the sonic search even further.  The final recording evolved from “on the road” playing, with the best cuts being selected for the final release… of the fifteen original tunes, it is the 9:07 “Without Words, As the Full Moon Shines” that got my vote for personal favorite, though with that many superb songs, you may wind up choosing something different as your own favorite.  What I can tell you is that this lively album is (already) one of the best jazz quartets I’ve listened to (yet) in 2016.  My MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED is certainly merited, as well as an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99.  Get more information on this and many other fantastic releases at the FIRST ORBIT SOUNDS page.        Rotcod Zzaj

Rob Mazurek and Exploding Star Orchestra – GALACTIC PARABLES VOLUME 1:  One of the original foundations of this magazine was improvised music, so Rob’s stellar excursions here are more than welcome (anytime)… many of the same galaxies as Sun Ra and ‘Trane ventured into are visible from this orchestral outing (including players like Pianist Angelica Sanchez, guitarist Jeff Parker, drummer John Herndon, bass guitarist Matthew Lux, and reed expert Matthew Bauder (on tenor saxophone and clarinet), as well as drummer Chad Taylor, Guilherme Granado on keyboard, samplers, synth and voice, and Mauricio Takara on cavaquinho, electronics and percussion, not to mention the great flutist Nicole Mitchell).  This isn’t “back room” improvisation, it’s full-tilt orchestral symmetry, as you can see from the player list, and on tunes like the 20:10 opener, “Free Agents Of Sound“, you’ll know you’re in the presence of a huge team improvisational wizards.  Of the ten (very long) tracks on the 2-disc set, it was the 10:05 “Collections Of Time” that was my favorite.  We have more of Rob’s music coming up for review, but I can tell you right now that this album will be an improv-jazz listeners’ dream!  I give it a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99.  Get more information at the Cuneiform Records Bandcamp page for this release.        Rotcod Zzaj

Hans Christian – NANDA DEVI:  Per the liner notes, this is an “ode to the mountain”… simple, yet full of light and mystery (as well as mastery)… Hans weaves all the elements of “new age” into a most meaningful and enlightening journey through a state many people today have forgotten about – serenity!  Tunes like the deeply moving “Majestic Mountain” will capture your soul and rocket you to new heights – without you even realizing it until you’re far above the peaks of the mountain Nanda Devi (in Northern India).  The shimmering vibrations on “Sunanda” will bring you sonic pleasure you’ve never before realized.  For this listener, it was the wonderful percussion on “Between Dusk and Dawn” that made it my favorite track of the nine compositions offered for your aural awakening… I’ve no doubt that you’ll enjoy this as much as I did.  I give Hans a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98 for this splendid release.   Get more information at Hans’s BANDCAMP page for this wonderful music.      Rotcod Zzaj

Chris McNulty – ETERNALOne of the words from the promo sheets that accompanied the submission for this release describes what Chris is able to do with her vocals… “lush”… & that’s IT, folks!  She’s clearly able to “connect” with any song she sings, and that’s nowhere more well illustrated than on the beautiful “What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life“… if you don’t know when you first start listening – you surely will by the end of this 6:14 gem.  The songs on this release are particularly impressive, as they are about her son Sam, after his passing in 2011.  The stunning movements on “Nature Boy” made it my personal favorite of the dozen songs on the album.  The recording on each song is totally flawless, and captures all the dynamics of Chris’s vocals as they interact with her players – pianist John Di Martino, bassist Ugonna Okegwo and drummer Gregory Hutchinson.  I give this release a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99.  Get more information at Chris’s website.         Rotcod Zzaj

Screens – THE HOODED PINK FALCON:  Since I’m not one who is hung-up on genres, I can’t quite place what this might be called… and, of course, that’s a GOOD thing – because it means what you’ll hear is “new” and refreshing.  I caught their (live) act at my favorite music joint in Olympia, Rhythm & Rye, liked their energy and so asked Allison, the keyboardist, for a review copy. Tunes like the opener, “Netherlandia” (explicit) serve as a perfect introduction to their style & will have you spinning the tune over & over.  I totally dug the ebb and flow of “Machine“, and can guarantee that you will too.  The band has a small footprint (Carlos Tulloss (guitar, bass), Allison Tulloss (vocals, synth, flute) and Doug Port (drums, vocals)), but are able to project pure/raw power, as you’ll hear on my personal favorite tune of the six offered up, “Dexify“… threads of funk woven into tasty beats.  I give them a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, particularly for listeners who love music that isn’t “just the same” all over again.  “EQ” (energy quotient) rating is 4.97.  Get more information at The Screens website.          Rotcod Zzaj

Todd Mosby – ON EAGLE MOUNTAIN:  Many readers here know that on occasion I will “jump” a musical adventure to the very top of my (rather long) list, and this 2016 release (produced by Will Ackerman and Tom Eaton) certainly merits that!  Todd’s excellent and well-paced guitar work is joined by these players – Noah Wilding: vocals; Premik Russel Tubbs: woodwinds, EWI; Charlie Bisharat: violin; Tom Eaton: synth pads; Eugene Friesen: cello; Michael Manring: fretless bass; Tony Levin: fender bass and Jeff Haynes: percussion, and the recording is full of life and living to the fullest!  On pieces like “Eagle Mountain“, you “experience” that majestic bird’s flight as you commune with the sky.  I’m pleasantly amazed at how high you can fly with “Spirit Dancer” (I just loved the “hint” of vocals on this one).  You get a total of eleven musical marvels to enjoy for eternity… my personal favorite is the opening track, “Spirit of the Mountain“… though one of the shorter tunes, it’s full of mystery and high-end musical wizardry.  I give Todd and his crew a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99.  Learn more about this master-player at Todd’s Bandcamp page for this release.           Rotcod Zzaj

Neil Tatar – LEARNING TO FLY:  If it is well-played and heartfelt piano and guitar playing that floats your boat, you’ll love Neil’s style.  He’s joined on this outing by several other players, and they speak to each other, and to you the listener, in ways that will have you rejoicing.  The opener along, “Wait For Me“, is well worth the purchase of the album.  Neil’s guitar on “Twilight Dance” will energize your soul… the bass playing evoked memories of some of David Friesen’s great songs.  What sets Neil apart from all the other players is that he seems to have an innate sense of how instruments fit together… pacing is paramount, and nowhere better expressed than on my personal favorite of the nine tracks offered up for your enjoyment, the 6:13 “Ode to My Mentors“!  I give Neil and his players a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99 for this splendid release.  Get more information about about Neil and his music at the Neil Tatar website.   Rotcod Zzaj

Le Folli Arie – LE FOLLI ARIE:  This prog-pop band from Italy definitely provides some punch to my morning… they have a strong command of their instruments (particularly the guitar) as I listen to “Bellezza“… simple structure, but full of beauty.  They definitely know how to handle some percussion, as evidenced on “Fuori!”, and they have a totally jazzy feel on the intro to “Quello che ho” & then move right on into some great guitar lead work… “enchanting” is the word for the vocals on this song.  I’m very impressed with this band, & that’s a rarity when it says “prog-pop”… what makes them unique is the “prog” part of their performance!  My personal favorite of the thirteen pieces offered up is “Il giardino della mia follia“… I’m not sure what the words mean exactly, but they “speak” to me, & I’ve no doubt they will to your ears as well (not to mention your “madness”).  I give these folks a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97 – tasty & creative music that you’ll enjoy!  Get more information from their Press Kit page.              Rotcod Zzaj  

Gundriver – WHAT’S INSIDE:  There are times when you’ve just GOT to rawk-it!  & if that’s what yer’ up for, you’ll totally dig tunes like Gundriver’s stunning opener on this release, “Rip It” – it’s totally suited for ridin’ that mean mo-chine yer’ ridin’ (the lead guitar on this one just SCREAMS, peepz’)!  You might think that titles like the closer, “Before The Sun“, would be melancholy, but there’s definitely evidence of life well-lived here.  Since I’m more inclined to searing energy, though, it was the rockin’ 5:41 “Let Me Rock You” that got my vote for favorite of the nine tracks offered up for your edgy sonic experience.  Is this the kind of sound you’d play for dear ol’ mom?  Doubtful, unless she’s the one who taught you the intricacies of cuttin’ yer’ lines, lol; but as rawk goes, this one gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for all those who need to krank on down th’ road.  “EQ” (energy quotient) rating is 4.98.  Get more information at the GUNDRIVER MAIN ReverbNation page.       Rotcod Zzaj

Velocity Duo – DICHOTOMIES:  It’s been a few years since I’ve heard vocal/bass improv, but this debut release from vocalist Lauren Lee and bassist Charley Sabatino speaks for itself… especially on tasty explorations like “Cacophony“, where Lauren gets into a nice scat situation that will keep you engaged from the opening note to the very end.  The titles evoke moods for the listener, no doubt, as in “Melancholy“, and talent for the music of the moment shines clearly on this tune.  One thing that distinguishes them from all the “other vocal duos” is that they don’t fall into the trap of improvising that sounds like chanting… that’s especially well evidenced on my personal favorite of the dozen tunes offered up, “Insecurity and Substance“… definitely jazzified and full of brimming life!  I give the duo a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, especially for listeners who love a solid sonic adventure, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Get more information about this project at Lauren’s website.   Rotcod Zzaj

Andrzej Rejman – COLLECTED PIANO PRELUDES:  If beautiful piano work is what you’re seeking out, you won’t find anything more soothing than Andrzej’s keyboards on this release.  As the title indicates, these are “preludes”, meaning they’re bound to be short, but his talent and energy exceed all boundaries… his touch on the ivories is svelte, yet full of life, particularly on tunes like “Calm Saturday Evening” – if you’re not at peace after listening to Andrzej’s mastery on this tune, you never will be.  The 2:11 “Snow” is another engaging piece, and due to his skill at pacing, you’ll feel like this goes on forever (in a very pleasant way, of course)!  My personal favorite of the twenty one tracks is “Water Reflections“… simple, yet inspiring – truly some of the best piano playing you’ll ever hear.  I give Andrzej a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99 on this fine release.  Get more information at Andrzej’s website.        Rotcod Zzaj

Walls Of Genius – MEETS HARRY SMITH:  I can (just about) guarantee you won’t find this release on the racks at your favorite local record store… which makes it all the greater.  WoG is Evan Cantor (“Head Moron”), Little Fyodor (“Assistant Head Moron”), joined by Ed Fowler on electric guitar.  This comes across as sorta’ “alien country-folk” with a twist of “super strange” tossed in for good measure.  If you’re not already prepared for musical rapture to the edges of the galaxy, you will be by the time you finish listening to the great guitar work on “The Old Lady & The Devil“.  As most readers here know, genre is unimportant at this magazine… it’s the energy level projected by the players for what they’re doing (or what they’re inflicting on you – you choose, lol), and when it comes to galactic shine, they surely prove they have it on tracks like my personal favorite, the 12:23 “The Titanic“… will you listen to it day & night?  Mayhaps not, but when you do, you’ll feel great.  I give WoG a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97 for this one.  You can get more information at the WoG Bandcamp page for this release.          Rotcod Zzaj

Dana Gaynor Band – POWER TO THE PEOPLE:  This great PA-based band includes Dana Gaynor (guitar & vocals) Tony (T-Bone) Mancino (bass & vocals), Frank Zelasny (drums & vocals), and the Michael (Pozz) Pozzebon (kybd & vocals); they definitely know how to “rock it out”!  Michael’s organ/keyboards add a firm dimension to blues that rocks on tunes like “Black Moon” (‘course, since I play keyboards myself on occasion, it’s a given that I’d love the organ).  The guitar leads on tunes like the 5:00 “Money City” put you in the right frame of mind to get on out to yer’ local ‘tonk & KICK IT!  It was the high-energy (not to mention the horns) on “The Damage Is Done” that made it my personal favorite of the fourteen splendid rockers offered up for your ‘ridin & ‘dancin’ pleasure.  I give Dana & her high-talent crew a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98 for this fine release.  Get more information about this total-cool band at Dana’s bio page.        Rotcod Zzaj

Pat Battstone and Kit Demos – FROM DREAM TO DREAM:  Pat’s unique piano style and Kit’s marvelous bass work join to make this one of the most memorable sonic adventures you will experience in 2016 (or any year, for that matter).  All the way from the laid-back pacing of the opener, “Arrival“, to the lively and stimulating rhythms of “Ashokan Dance“, you’ll find your aural appendages totally wrapped (& rapt) in the magic spell(s) they  weave on each of the seventeen “conversational improv” pictures they paint for you.  I’ve been reviewing Pat’s music for a long time now, and can truly say that this is his best work to date!  The recording of each piece is totally flawless, and their pacing together will capture you & never let go.  It is strongly recommended that you map out an hour (or so) in advance to listen to this with your headphones on (at least for the first round).  Tunes like my personal favorite, the 5:16 “Broken Promises“, take you to another sonic realm and will influence your listening habits for months (if not years) to come.  I give these fine players a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of a (perfect) 5.00 – meaning that this release also get the “PICK” of this issue for “best conversational jazz”!  You can PURCHASE this CD direct from Pat at his website.  Learn more at Pat’s page for this release.       Rotcod Zzaj

Christine Jensen & Maggi Olin – TRANSATLANTIC CONVERSATIONS:  This is one of the finest jazz ensembles I’ve ever heard (11 folks, including Maggi Olin on piano, Christine Jensen doing alto/soprano sax, Sofie Norling performing vocals, Fredrik Lindborg on tenor/baritone sax, Henrik Frisk’s tenor sax/bassclarinet, Karin Hammar & Christine Carlsson doing trombones, Fredrik Norén on trumpet, Torben Waldorff on guitar, Mattias Welin on bass and Daniel Fredriksson’s drums).  The fact that this is recorded live makes it even more vibrant, as you’ll hear on “Swirl Around“… if musical movement is what really counts, then this is the perfect sonic experience for you (Sofie’s vocal work on this tune is astounding).  The near-funk intro to “Octo Folk” made it my personal favorite of the eight pieces offered up for your aural enjoyment… GREAT rhythmic changes throughout!  If you’re looking for solid jazz talent to listen to for the long-term, you’ll totally dig this album.  I give these folks a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99.  Get more information at their CD Baby release page.       Rotcod Zzaj

Brian Keenan – FITS & STARTS:  This is Brian’s second sonic outing, and if you enjoy full-tilt talent in various & sundry styles, you’ll dig this as much as I did.  The November 2015 release features Brian Keenan on Vocals, Guitars; Jen Keenan doing Vocals, Keyboards; James Preston on Bass; Kirk Schoenherr doing Guitar; Rob Heath with Drums, Percussion; Steve Schiltz on Guitar and Alex Lipsen Engineer).  The lead guitar on “You Caught Me Off Guard” is stellar, and the excellent recording quality makes it really shine!  There’s a sorta’ “funkified country” vibe on “Glassy Eyed“, and the vocal work is superb on this tune.  It was the Stephen Bishop-like energy on “When the Balance is Off” that captured my vote for personal favorite of the ten tracks offered up for your aural pleasure (though the heavy-energy guitars on “Cross Paths“, along with the vocals, made it a close runner-up).  I give Brian & crew a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97 for this fine album.  Get more information at Brian’s Bandcamp page for this release.        Rotcod Zzaj

Shimon Ben-Shir – IV:  If you’re looking for gentle (yet power-packed) bass/guitar work, Shimon will (more than) fill the bill.  It’s been a while since I reviewed him (issue # 116), and this 2015 release gets just as high marks as that review did.  Songs like “Breathe In The Air” sway you gently into the day, with the promise of new vistas (both sonic and life-wise).  The upbeat & jazzy “In My Kitchen” will force you out of any misery you’ve been in and get you ready to dance ’round the floor – tasty, indeed.  Of the nine tracks offered up, it was the lively sax work on “Blues For Roxanne” that got my vote for favorite!  A fine sonic experience that gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from these ol’ ears, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Get more information about Shimon and his delicious and high-energy (not to mention high-talent) music/work at his Bandcamp page.        Rotcod Zzaj

Sounds del Mar – MIAMI VICE’N:  I don’t get a lot of releases in that are as “poppy” as this… takes me all the way back to the early ’60’s, no doubt.  A debut album from this Austin, Texas band… interestingly enough, on songs like “Helicopter“, they get a fairly funky groove thang goin’ on.  I liked the synth intro on “Bad News“, and they get a good beat established, to be sure.  For that pure ol’ ’60’s rockin’ ballad kinda’ thing, you’ll like “Overgrown” a lot… strong bass and great lead guitar work on this one; in fact, the bass and the heartfelt vocal made this one my personal favorite of the nine R&R tunes offered up.  I give these folks a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED if you’re looking for some sonics that will bring back great ’60’s & ’70’s memories.  “EQ” (energy quotient) rating is 4.96.  Get more information about the band at the Sounds del Mar bio page.        Rotcod Zzaj


LaDonna Smith-Davey Williams – SEQUANA SESSIONS:  Readers who have been with this magazine for a few years will be well aware that these two players (my good friends Ladonna on violin/viola and Davey on electric Steinberger guitar & objects) are the KING & QUEEN when it comes to improvised music, especially when playing as Transmuseq!  I have an “inside track” since (way, WAY back when) I used to perform with them, but I can tell you now, even the butterflies will love “Exiting the Chrysalis“… they don’t just dig down inside the cocoon – they TEAR it wide open.  You may well avoid your postal carrier after you’ve listened to their “Suspicious Package“…  if you even think you’re interested in music that rips the boundaries out – GET this one!  It was one of the shorter compositions, “Salted Ether“, that got my vote for favorite of the nine tracks offered up, though… “etherspace” indeed!  I give this marvelous duo a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of (a perfect) 5.00 – meaning that they also get the “PICK” of this issue for “best improvised music”.  Get more information at LaDonna’s store.       Rotcod Zzaj

John Otott – COLORS:  What especially sets John’s engaging piano playing apart from all the others is the beautiful interwoven string work… that’s especially audible on tunes like the closer, “Soaring“… I’ve no doubt you will love this one as much as I did. The chordal magic John works on “The Journey” will definitely transport you the (musical) land of milk, honey and colorful memories – a truly inspiring tune.  My personal favorite of the thirteen tunes offered up for your long-term aural pleasure is “The Wind Song“… very easy to imagine/see yourself floating over the calmest of seas on this one.  I listen to hundreds of piano artists in a year, and definitely believe John’s work to be above the norm… I give him a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98 for this stellar release.  Get more information at John’s page for this release.        Rotcod Zzaj

Joanne Lazzaro – UNDER THE STARS:  You won’t get big-band frenzy on Joanne’s great flute album, but you will surely hear music that’s played “from the heart”.  Her most obvious talent on this debut release lies in interpreting feelings through her breath via the Native American flute.  I was especially impressed by cosmically-inclined songs like “Sky Chief“, & loved the echoes/overtones on the tune.  Joanne establishes a light-hearted tone on “Rabbit Tracks“, welcoming spring to the planet.  I would strongly recommend that you do your first sitting with your headphones on (& time set so you won’t suffer interruptions). If you enjoy deeply moving music that penetrates and heals, you will find my personal favorite, “Zuni Sunrise“, to your liking.  Jazzers who are “stuck” in one form of music and not looking for sonic adventure may move on to the next music rack, but I give Joanne a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Get more information about her projects at Joanne’s website.       Rotcod Zzaj

Harvey Valdes – ROUNDABOUT:  Though this is my first listen to Harvey’s magical guitar work, I can honestly say that it’s some of the mellowest work I’ve heard in 2015.  His playing on standards like the opener, “All the Things You Are“, is both enchanting and mysterious.  He plays with deep, rich tones (and overtones) that will hold your ears spellbound.  The 5:47 “Invitation” will hold your attention and make you thirst for more… it’s almost as if he’s playing right there in your living room in a personal concert kinda’ way!  It was his unique rendition of Victor Young’s “Stella by Starlight” that got my vote for personal favorite of the nine great tunes offered up… “approach” is everything with solo guitar, and Harvey’s laid-back performance style makes him a favorite (of mine) already.  I give Harvey a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99 for this great solo guitar release.  Get more information about this high-talent jazz guitarist at Harvey’s “about” page.         Rotcod Zzaj

Steven Davis – WHAT HAPPENED TO ROMANCE:  This one takes me (way, WAY) back to the days of $.099 LP’s in the Woolworth racks (some of you won’t even know what I’m talking about).  Steven belts & croons those old ballads out in fine form – & something like that is hard to get me to say, because I’m not a big fan of lounge music.   What keeps his music from going into the “non-review” bin is his vibrant energy for what he’s doing, as well as the high-end big band he has backing up his vocal work.  Tunes like the title track, “What Happened To Romance“, will force you to toss those logs on the hearth and curl up with your favorite wine night after night.  Of the fourteen tracks offered up, I found the swaying Latin feel on “Perfectly Perfect” to be my personal favorite… cool, hip & definitely “with it”.  I give Steven and his backup band a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.96 for this release.  Get more information at Steven’s music page.       Rotcod Zzaj

Dave Luxton – FUZZY MUSIC:  Readers who’ve been with this ‘zine a long time know that the original submissions were (practically) all from indie artists; & of course in those days of yesteryear, they were on tape, not digits.  Original music, no matter what the genre, is always preferable here, and the marvelous work Dave (a local artist and label owner from Olympia) puts forth on this release will astound you, especially compositions like “Cascadia“… his synth/string work on this is superb, full of light & life.   A dozen original songs, with high-end recording and full of the kind of musical talent that you find yourself coming back to listen to over & over again… my personal favorite on this release is the 5:12 “When Waiting Becomes All That You Do“… the string washes on this are full-bodied and will carry you away to the outer edges of the galaxy.  I give Dave a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99.  Get more information about this fantastic artist at Dave’s bio page.        Rotcod Zzaj

Triologos – TRACES OF CHANTS:  This is one of the tastiest jazz trios I’ve heard in a while… features Paolo Cerboni Bajardi doing tenor and soprano saxophones; Bruno Cerboni Bajardi on percussion and Mirco Ballabene doing double bass, and as you listen to tunes like “Punay (Atahualpa Yupanqui)“, you’ll understand why I’m digging this little group so much; certainly more than just “traces” of our ancestral roots here, you’ll actually hear these cats sit down & build the ceremonial fire.  All eight tracks were well-executed, with high energy and high talent, but it was the spirited sax playing on “Amor Mi Fa Cantar (Ancient song)” that received my vote for personal favorite (and, as on all the compositions, the bass and percussion play seamlessly throughout).  I’ve no doubt you’ll be hearing more from these folks… they get a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from me, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Get more information at the Slam Production page for this excellent release.        Rotcod Zzaj

Amy Faithe – THE ASCENT:  Though Amy’s background is in jazz & R&B, she does a masterful job on the vocals for this seven-song ambient/New Age debut release.  What is most striking is her ability to project total power without seeming to “try too hard” (a common problem, in my experience, for players who don’t understand that sincere is better than “wannabe'”)… the 10:09 opener, “Moments“, alone, is worth the purchase of the album.  The supreme beat on “Peace Be Mine” makes this a unique sonic experience that you’ll treasure – and also makes it “not just another ambient” album (I truly loved the synth washes behind her vocal on this one – think Alan Parsons).  The most healing piece (for this reviewer) of the tracks was my personal favorite, the 6:42 “Day Break“… if this tune doesn’t calm your heart, nothing (musically, anyway) will.  I give Amy a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97.  Get more information on this fascinating and talented singer at Amy’s website.          Rotcod Zzaj

Bad Jazz – BAD DREAMS IN THE NIGHT:  This release features Public Eyesore label owner Bryan Day on “invented instruments”, as well as Tania Chen doing Electronic Toys, Bells, Piano and Ben Salomon with Invented Instruments, Feedback, Percussion – and despite the band name & title – it’s not “b-a-d” at all.  It’s a CD-R, but with VERY high sound quality, and on songs like “Polonaise“, you’ll quickly appreciate the sonic intricacies of this kind of playing; odd, but quite comforting!  My personal favorite of the ten songs offered up was also the longest one on the album – 7:21 – and as you listen to the aural exploration on “Firefly“, your ears will light up, without doubt.  If you’re at all into “different” songs, you’ll get this one and treasure it for many eons to come. I give these folks a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for listeners who yearn for experimental with true taste… “EQ” (energy quotient) rating is 4.98.  Get more information at the aforementioned Public Eyesore page for this release.        Rotcod Zzaj

Logan Hone – SIMILAR FASHION:  There are moments on this fine jazz release where I get rather strong impressions of a sort of “Zappa-esque” style, particularly on pieces like “Snapshoot“… on the other hand, this tune rocks & rolls right on over into a very accessible “avant-pop” kinda’ thing!  The key factor with their music (featuring Logan Hone on Alto Saxophone, Bass Clarinet; Lauren Baba doing Viola; Gregory Uhlmann on Guitar and Mike Lockwood doing Drums) is that the energy levels stay true to whatever “form” they’re playing in… strong hints of rock, lots of jazz licks and some tracks that are downright in the “funk zone”, like “Fresh and Clean” – one of the best tunes I’ve heard in 2015 (or 2016, for that matter) – you can watch a video of this one right here:

  I’m impressed, and know you will be, too, if you dig exploration and adventure in your listening!  I give Logan & crew a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Get more information at the pFmentum Records page for this release.   Rotcod Zzaj


Yagull – KAI:  Most folks who have been reading my thoughts about the music I receive for review know (by now) that original compositions are what I believe to be the most “packed” with energy, and this duo (Sasha Markovic on guitar/bass/percussion and Kana Kamitsubo on piano) offer up 10 of the 12 songs on their sophomore release were penned by them.  Songs like “Dark” display talent and sensitivity far beyond the norm… and they do this with a whole host of players (too many to itemize here), for total listener satisfaction!  I reviewed their first release in issue # 130, where they got good ratings, and this album is even better.  Even the cover songs, like Free’s “Wishing Well” are full of expression and sensitivity… my personal favorite of the dozen tracks offered up, though, was the gently swaying “Omniprism“, which comes close to expressing blues sentiments… the guitar and the piano really mesh together well on this beautiful piece, and the subtle percussion is simple, but full of life.  I give Yagull a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98 for this fine listening adventure.  Get more information about them at the Moonjune Records page for this release.        Rotcod Zzaj

Tom Collier – ALONE IN THE STUDIO:  I’ve always loved to listen to solo performers, and when they play more than one instrument (in this case, Tom plays vibraphone, marimba, piano, drums, bass & synth), then you’ll find this to be sonic heaven; that’s especially true on tunes like “Double Bars“, one of the absolute best high-energy tracks I’ve listened to in 2015.  The swirling synth sounds you hear on “Orbital Dance“, the closer, are phenomenal, and will hold you absolutely spellbound.  In the end-run, though, it was the laid-back & bluesy “Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most” that got my vote for personal favorite of the eleven tunes offered up for your aural pleasure.  I’m highly impressed, and have no doubt you will be too; Tom gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from me, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99 for this great release.  Get more information at the Origin Records page for the album.        Rotcod Zzaj

Dana Landry Quartet – STANDARD ELEVATION:  Some very tasty jazz licks on this new release from Dana & friends (well, not “new”, exactly… it’s a March 2015 release).  Dana’s piano, guitar from Steve Kovalcheck, bass by Erik Applegate and drums from Jim White are combined to give you a very solid jazz listening experience, especially on tunes like “My One and Only Love”… pacing is totally laid-back, yet the full spectrum of jazz energy is there!  The one drawback for the album is that I was unable to find any samples available on the web… & that’s a shame, as pieces like my personal favorite of the nine on the album, the super-energy “Pure Imagination” deserve to be heard!  I give Dana & friends a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97 for this one (it would have been a higher rating if samples were available on Amazon or CD Baby).  Get more information at the Artist Alliance label page for this release.        Rotcod Zzaj


Shana Tucker – SHINE:  Shana performs some truly brilliant vocal work on this release… as she’s a high-talent player as well (cello and guitar), her work gets even more credibility with this listener!  This becomes totally clear as you listen to one of my favorite tunes for 2015, “A Secret That I Keep“… man, the energy is palpable on this great tune.  You’ll know that you’ve gotten a true gem when you hear “Fast Lane” the first time – talk about music that moves your heart.  If “laid-back” is what you’re looking for, you’ll totally enjoy “Lazy Afternoon“… if you can’t relax to this tune, you’re beyond repair.  It was the funky jazz feel on “Just Go” that got my vote for personal favorite of the thirteen high-talent tracks Shana offers up for your long-term aural pleasure… loved this one.  I give Shana a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98 for this fine music.  Get more information about this great artist at Shana’s website.        Rotcod Zzaj

Erwilian – MIDWINTER’S NIGHT:  The line in the promo materials that really stuck with me as I listened to this was “blissed-out bluegrass”… there’s nothing better than that description… songs like the lively opener, “In Convivio“, will have you up & dancin’ ’round the room after only a few bars.  The fact that it’s a live recording make the energy shine through even more… this is most evident on tunes like my personal favorite of the eleven tunes offered up, “Wandering“… & since this group is very near to my abode, I’ll be making it a point to get up to Seattle during my own travels in the coming spring/summer seasons.  I give this group a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97 for this splendid release.  Get more information at Erwilian’s page for this release.        Rotcod Zzaj

Lalama Brothers – THE CREPUSCULE VARIATIONS:  I’ve reviewed these brothers before (quite some time ago, in issues # 131 and # 112); Dave’s piano, together with brother Ralph’s sax, make for some of the best jazz I’ve reviewed in 2015.  Vocalist Nicole Pasternak-Lalama certainly adds to the excellent energy projected, especially on tunes like the classic “Embraceable You“… a totally lush experience from the great American Songbook.  As you can see from the cover, these guys grew up with great jazz in a solid family environment, and it certainly shows on their rendition of Stan Getz’s “The Shadow of Your Smile“; this turned out to be my personal favorite of the thirteen great songs offered up for your long-term jazz listening pleasure.  I give them a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Get more information at the Lalama Music site.        Rotcod Zzaj

Chris Biesterfeldt – PHINEAS:  Chris got great marks from me in issue # 138 for his fine jazz mandolin work… & this release is even more jam-packed with what makes jazz great – HIGH-ENERGY playing (this time on guitar)!  Tunes like the mellow “Sugar Ray” will cheer you up in a heartbeat & have you dancin’ right on ’round the room!  He’s joined by bassist Matthew Rybicki and drummer Jared Schornig in a display of very high talent… I just loved the punchy “Caravan“, which gets down & funky!  The title is due to this set being dedicated to the memory of jazz pianist Phineas Newborn, Jr, and tracks like my personal favorite, the 5:47 “Manteca“, do Phineas great honor… the pace on this tune is just killer!  I give Chris & his totally capable crew a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Get more information at Chris’s bio page.       Rotcod Zzaj

Jus – OBSESSION:  What makes this rap artist stand out is his ability/talent at weaving his dreams into sequences that feel very “orchestral”… yes, it’s beat-driven, and there is some language, but on pieces like “Made“, he includes some great R&B-based vocal work that makes it feel like the good old days.  The drawback for this listener is that even though there’s clear talent displayed here, it’s only an “EP”, clocking in at just over 20 minutes; this music certainly deserved a full release.  I included it in the review queue (even though I normally don’t review “EP’s”) because Jus has full-blown energy for what he’s doing.  It was the closer, “Love Songs“, that got my vote for favorite… a truly strong tune, with great music.  I give Jus & crew a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97.  get more information at Jus’s Bandcamp pageRotcod Zzaj

Heklaa – SONGS IN F:  The old “one-man band” cliche comes to mind on this excellent chronicle of Sébastien Touraton’s second trip to Iceland… he’s got all the elements for a majestic trek on this extended four-track set.  I loved his keyboard and synth work on the opener, “Thousands of Comets Are Falling Down On Earth“… the keyword for this full-bodied track is “power”!  The keyboard work on “Oceans” will let you know just how talented this player is, and let you join in the joy he’s able to create… this is, in fact, my favorite of the four compositions on the album.  I’m highly impressed, enough so that I give this release a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Get more information about this powerful artist at the Fluttery Records page for this release.       Rotcod Zzaj


Le Rex – WILD MAN:  HEAVY on the horns, as you’ll see from the player list!  Alto saxophonist Benedikt Reising, trombonist Andreas Tschopp, tuba player Marc Unternährer, drummer Rico Baumann, and the primary composer, tenor saxophonist Marc Stucki, join together in a most powerful demonstration of just what those horns can do.  Tunes like the bouncing/jouncing “Le Clic“, where the horns lead a most percussive backbeat, will blow you totally away.  The beat-driven “Riff Raff” will have you reaching for your dancing shoes & gliding ’round the floor, no doubt.  It was the 7:06 “Anchor” that got my vote as personal favorite of the thirteen songs on the album… plenty of time for the theme to develop and swing you away into the heart of the night.  I give Le Rex a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98 for this release.  Get more information at the Cuneiform Bandcamp page for this release (where you can also purchase the CD).       Rotcod Zzaj

White Sun – WHITE SUN:  If you’re in a mood for something meditative and inspiring, you’ll definitely want to check this fine release from the Spirit Voyage label… I’ve reviewed quite a few of their albums over the last year or so, and found this to be one of their more energetic projects.  Songs like “Rakhe Rakhanhar” integrate modern rhythms with ancient ideas and you’ll find them “sticking in your head” if you listen more than once – great percussion on this tune, too.  The vocal work on “Mul Mantra” is (quite simply) stunning and most memorable.  It was the 4:22 “Aap Sahaee Hoa” that I chose as my personal favorite of the fifteen tunes offered up, though… meditative moods, yet full of the vim and vigor of life!  I give this one a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Get more information at the Spirit Voyage Records page for this release; you can also purchase this album on this page.     Rotcod Zzaj


Leapfrogtown – DREAMING IN PUBLIC:    If you’re in the mood for a bit o’ rockin’ energy, you’ll dig down deep into this English band’s eclectic release.  They’ve got an “edge” that sets them apart from all the other rawkers, especially on tunes like “Seven“; this one smokes (I loved the raggy barrel-house keyboard sound on this one)!  The title track, “Dreaming In Public“, though only 2:58, will surprise you with high energy & zoom you off into something different that you thought from the title.  It was the bass intro on “Enough Is Enough” that made it my favorite of the fourteen tracks offered up for your rockin’ & jivin’ pleasure… just think early ’70’s, like Bowie, & you’ll hear what I’m talking about.  I give Leapfrogtown a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97.  Get more information at the Coffee Jingle Records page for this release.       Rotcod Zzaj

Tymon Dogg – MADE OF LIGHT:  Here’s some tasty music from a Paul McCartney discovery, in a decidedly “non-jazz”, yet high-energy mode.  More along the lines of “protest”, or “for the folk”, and though this isn’t my normal listening fare, I’m truly digging tunes like “Made Of Light“… well-constructed, and well-sung, to be sure!  From a subtle percussion standpoint, I totally dug “Rock Box Hammer“… at only 2:30, it leaves you thirsting for more.  …and if you’re looking for lilting instruments with meaningful sense of life and the living of it, you’ll find “That’s The Way It Is” to be your  favorite of the eleven tracks offered up for your enlightenment, as did I.  If you’re looking for fresh talent with excellent creative energy, you must try this November, 2015, release out.  I give Tymon & crew a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” rating of 4.98.  Get more information at Tymon’s page for this release.       Rotcod Zzaj 

Mark McGrain and PLUNGE – IN FOR THE OUT:  Ah, mostly “out”, ha! ha!  Mark’s fantastic trombone & alphorn work are complimented by organist Robert Walter, electronic percussionist and drummer Simon Lott, Kirk Joseph on sousaphone, Tom Fitzpatrick  on flute and tenor sax, the late Tim Green on baritone sax and saxello, and James Singleton  on double bass in what can only be termed “party mode”!  Robert’s organ work on “Monkey Mitts” exceeds all expectations, yet remains at the very “edge” of out… if you’re listening for “different” – GET this one!  The drum work on “The Speed of Darkness” will definitely spirit you away to places you’ve never conceived before; & when all the players/instruments converge (at about 3:25), they tear the ROOF off.  It was the 9:34 “Birmingham Songo” that got my vote for personal favorite of the fifteen tracks offered up for your aural diversity, though… I can guarantee you’ve not heard “diverse” until you’ve plunged into “In For The Out”!  I give this a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99.  Get more information at the Plunge website.       Rotcod Zzaj 

Bob James & Nathan East – THE NEW COOL:  Jazz honkers who only believe in “bursts” of jazz energy may not grok this most beautiful music when they first listen to it… of course, if they do tunes like “Oliver’s Bag” with headphones on, that could change… truly one of the funkiest orchestral-backed jazz pieces I’ve heard in 2015… Bob’s keyboard just cooks on this one!  If you want to hear well thought out bass work in Latin groove mode, you will totally dig on “Canto Y La Danza” (as did I).  There were hints in some of the press that this could be perceived as “scholarly” jazz… & I pronounce a definite “no” to that… it is, rather, just what the title claims it to be – “cool” jazz!  It is for the highly impressive interplay between the piano & bass that I chose the title track, “The New Cool“, as my personal favorite… these cats exemplify cool, as you’ll hear on this tune.  I give Bob & Nathan 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 piano/bass duo jazz”.  Get more information at the Yamaha Entertainment Group page for this release.        Rotcod Zzaj

John Calvert – MANDALA:  If finger-style guitar is a preference for you, I can guarantee you will love what John is doing here!  All originals, except for the traditional songs, you will find compositions like “Lu” to be as relaxing (yet inspiring) as any other guitarist on the scene today!  Relationships and the emotions that go with them are explored with high talent and energy on all the songs… I found the 5:59 “Flight” of particular aural interest, but with eleven songs, you may opt for something different as your personal favorite.  Though quite short (3:29), “Sally Cornuts” was the best representation (for this reviewer, anyway) of John’s superb ability and talent… it was my choice for personal favorite, to be sure.  I give John a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98 for this release.  You can get much more information about John at his bio on RS Promotions.       Rotcod Zzaj