Issue # 163 reviews

Our latest and greatest reviews for your reading & listening pleasure

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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!

We got our first review from a new writer in the last issue – please welcome my newfound musical friend, Jeremy Shaskus, to the “I.N.” fold… he will be writing several more reviews over the coming months, I suspect!

Myriad3 – MOONS:  This highly creative trio is back again… I last reviewed them in issue # 130, where I noted their high degree of creativity together… it’s taken a while for my prediction that you’d be hearing much more from them to come to realization, but as you listen to Chris Donnely’s piano, Don Fortin’s bass and Ernesto Cervini’s drums, you’ll know you are listening to a new jazz force to be reckoned with in the new century!  They’re able to convey moods like you wouldn’t believe – if you’re not sure you believe that, I can promise you a true contact high as you scope out “Stoner“… lol!  If you want something with a bit more musical mystery, I’d definitely recommend the opener, “Skeleton Key“… almost a dirge going on here, but they build slowly and majestically into a full-blown jazz original you will love.  If it’s intricate jazz weave in a most laid-back environment you thirst for, you’ll love my personal favorite of the eleven tunes offered up, “Exhausted Clock“… again, the trio “creates” a mood that will bring back memories for you.  Some of the most highly original playing and creative jazz I’ve heard (yet) in 2016, this gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from me, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Get all the information about the players and the music at the Alma Records page for Myriad3.       Rotcod Zzaj

Jeff Denson Quartet – CONCENTRIC CIRCLES:  Jeff’s bass work is absolutely stunning, and it’s made even moreso with the players he collaborates with- Paul Hanson’s bassoon, Dan Zemelman’s piano and Alan Hall’s drums all join on these Denson original jazz tunes to provide you with a performance you’ll remember (and play over & over again) for years to come!  This is my first listen to his works, even though he’s been on some of the labels that submit music to us here.  As you listen to the totally alive bounce on tunes like “Anticipation“, you’ll realize that these players are able to keep the movement going in several different directions at once, yet keep the listener totally engaged (I just loved Dan’s strident piano style on this tune)!  The “21st Century Blues” isn’t (at all) what you’d expect a blues tune to be, but it still works – in a BIG way.  From an ultimate jazz perspective, it was the the 5:04 “Circle” that got my vote for personal favorite track… each player just shines when it’s their turn at the front on this song!  I give Jeff & his friends a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99 for this high-energy & (very) high-talent release.  Get more information at Jeff’s web pages.        Rotcod Zzaj

The Jackson Whites – HARD LUCK STORIES:  Another totally “indie” submission from a fine little rockin’ band out New Jersey way… they’ve definitely got the energy levels to be playing live, as I expect they do often… songs like the opener, “Water“, take you right back where the “roots” of Americana came from!  If you’re lookin’ for something with a touch o’ blues, you’ll like “Beau Eye Blues” a lot (as did I).  You won’t find a more “cry in yer’ beer” track (today) than the title track, “Hard Luck  Story“… pretzels would go great with this & a coupla’ six-packs.  For some reason, my ears are thinkin’ C.C.R. (that’s Creedence Clearwater Revival for all ya’ whippersnappers) as I listen to the crunchin’ down-home funkiness of “Jealous Bone“… great to ride yer’ Harley with this blastin’ full!  Of the dozen offered up, though, it was the git-on-dow-un “Salamander Moon” that got my vote for personal favorite – takes me way back when.  Definitely a sound to be reckoned with, I give T.J.W. a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97 for this fine release.  You can get more information about them at The Jackson White band page.         Rotcod Zzaj

Noah T – THE SOUND OF RAIN:  The two reasons this got a review here are… 1. Noah is a true indie; 2. Noah has real energy for his playing, and it comes through brightly.  On the negative side, the submission didn’t come with any kind of promo sheet, so there was/is no way to tell (exactly) who is playing what.  SO – on to the music… Noah clearly enjoys creating music, and is quite able to do that.  Is it jazz?  Ah, nope… Is it creative and played with high-energy?  Definitely!  Songs like “One Up” are quite pleasant to listen to, and pieces like “Tonight World” are laid-back but well-paced.  Of the dozen songs submitted, it is actually the title track, “The Sound Of Rain“, that gets my vote for personal favorite… some nice sound-washes in there, and a high degree of ambience.  I give Noah a RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.94 for this enjoyable album.  Get more information on Noah’s page for this release.       Rotcod Zzaj

Coon – THE ART OF MISHEARING:  If it’s “different” you’re listening for these days, this very interesting duo from Norway (Jorund & Erik Berg) have got just what you need!  What’s so fantastic about their work is that you really (REALLY) can’t shove it into any particular pigeonhole… maybe “art rock” would come close, somewhat similar to “Godley & Creme”, but as you listen to pieces like “Brain of Brian“, you will realize they are creating this as they go, on the fly & if your ears are anything like mine, you’ll be flying high after only the 2nd or 3rd measure.  Is it jazz?  Most assuredly not… Is it punk?  Don’t think so… the 4:30 “Anti-loaf” will assault all of your senses in only the first couple of bars, and make you realize that what counts more than anything else is – creativity!  When they label “Greed” as “explicit”, they aren’t kidding, but it’s no more offensive than any of our political candidates are… a most intricate and complex weave that will carry you far, far away.  Of the ten tunes offered up for your musical excitement an enlightenment, it was “Sweet MIG-29” that got my vote for personal favorite, perhaps because of the strident & almost funky bass lines… totally dug this tune.  I give these folks a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  You can get more information on the band’s FB page (tell ’em we sent you, too, please).        Rotcod Zzaj

George Haslam & Mário Rua – MARESIA:   Long-time proprietor of Slam Records George has been out on the circuit playing in a big way… as you listen to his clarinet and Tarogato playing against Mario’s fantastic drums, you will be mightily impressed, especially is you love music/jazz that takes shape as it is played – in other words, improvised!  The 16:58 opener alone, “Cabo Espichel (for Benoit)“, makes this well worth the purchase… lots of room for the duo to explore new directions, as they do so very well – George’s solos on this one are just fantastic, folks!    Of course, if your tastes in jazz are only for M.O.R. hum-drum kinda’ stuff, you now have permission to move on to the next rack.  Of the four extended pieces offered up for those who love freedom and discovery in their sonic adventures, it was the 13:25 closer, “Fleetwood“, that got my vote for personal favorite… again, plenty of space for them to discover and enhance the moods.  I give George & Mario a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98 for this release.  Get more information at the Slam Productions page for this album.        Rotcod Zzaj

Majestica – IN THE MIDST OF STARS:  Multi-instrumentalist Cass Anawaty joins our flutist friend Sherry Finzer in a sonic celebration of joy that you will immediately find yourself immersed in!  Songs like the opening title track , “In the Midst of Stars“, showcase their high-talent ability to put together songs that will captivate and inspire you… my advice for this song as well as for the album itself, is to listen with your headphones on for the entire 45 minutes.  It would have been nice to have one or two more songs (there are nine on this release), but that’s only a minor criticism, since their love of playing together and passing on their inner emotions through the music is best exemplified (for this reviewer, anyway) on my personal favorite track here – the 5:07 “How Does it Feel” is among the best compositions of this nature I’ve heard (yet) in 2016.  This album is MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, and gets an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99 (very near the top of my scale).  You can read more about Sherry, and purchase the release at Sherry’s website.        Rotcod Zzaj

Michelle Qureshi – SCATTERING STARS:  Michelle’s classical guitar roots are clearly evident on this wonderfully inspiring fourteen song release from April of 2016.  She’s actually a multi-instrumentalist, so you are hearing more than just her guitar as well… songs like the 4:32  “New World” are most attractive, and will hold you spellbound as you listen (with your headphones on, please).  The flute on “Chasing the Wind” reminds me of many of the Native American albums from the Makoche Records label that I reviewed back in the early ’90’s… vibrant and full of the spirit of life!  It’s clear that her belief in the power of music to heal and inspire is an “inner thing”, not just something she adopted for a pose as a player.  That is most evident on tracks like my personal favorite – the simply titled “Soon” weaves strings and some awesome percussion together for a most enchanting listen.  I give Michelle a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97 for this fine sonic journey.  Get more information on Michelle’s work (many other albums there, too) at Michelle’s website.     Rotcod Zzaj

Emma Larsson – SING TO THE SKY:  The seven original songs that Emma does vocals on are just jammed full of life; in addition to her powerful vocals, you get piano from Shedrick Mitchell, bvass by Eric Revis, drums from Billy Drummond and some sweet sax work by Kenneth Whalum III – and, it ROCKS!  Emma’s originally from Sweden, but now abides in New York, and she’ got to be “in with the in-crowd” when she pumps out great jazz work like this.  Just check out the great opener, “Many Moons Ago“, and you’ll be totally convinced of her talent!  Even on vocals, my conviction that originals are done with (far) more passion than covers is borne out easily as you listen to the laid-back, yet passionate, “Here’s To Life“… some comparisons might be made to players like Ricki Lee Jones, but Emma has her own “cool” goin’ on, no doubt.  As you listen to the title track, “I Sing To The Sky (When My Soul Cries)“, you’ll hear (in the immediate) why I chose it as my favorite of the nine songs offered up… the only criticism would be that the next release needs a couple more songs.  I give Emma and her high-talent players a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Get more information on this great jazz vocalist at Emma’s website.          Rotcod Zzaj

Marc Enfroy – CROSSROADS:  I often say that “energy” is a prime criteria for getting a review here… as we all know, though, energy can come in many forms and shapes – in Marc’s case, it is the ability to PROJECT raw POWER through his songs… just listen to the grandeur of emotion expressed on “Toxic” to understand why I say that!  In fact, I noted that sometime back in issue # 112… though the liner notes convey a sense of Marc being a “New Age” artist, his skills go much further and much deeper than that label can convey… just listen to the beautiful string work on “Dying in Degrees“, and the mesh of his piano to get a sense of the majestic sonic pictures he is able to paint for your ears.  Is it “jazz”?  Decidedly not!  Is it “New Age”?  Again, no!  In short, it is ORIGINAL, and POWERFUL music that will capture your ears for the ages.  There are a total of sixteen electrifying songs on this album, and none of them are “B-side” stuff… that’s particularly true for my personal favorite, the 5:06 “Wildfire Rising“… a sure sign of music that gives and will keep on giving eternally is a “build”, and this piece undoubtedly is among the best I’ve heard (yet) in 2016 for doing that.  I give Marc a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99 for this excellent album.  Get more information about this fine artist at Marc’s website.        Rotcod Zzaj

Geof Bradfield Quintet – OUR ROOTS:  Geof leads this five-piece jazz marvel on tenor sax, and is joined by Marquis Hill on trumpet, Joel Adams on trombone, Clark Sommers doing bass and Dana Hall on drums/cymbals, and as you listen to the opener, “Adam in the Garden“, you’ll realize that they truly mean it when they say they’re going back to the “roots”; in fact, if Adam/Eve had required a jazz group – they would’ve surely booked this lively group for their first garden party!  Compositions like “Motherless Children” will easily wrap you in the spell, and won’t let go of your head/heart anytime soon – the brass & reed duets on this one are superb.  It was the sheer power of the 6:39 “Clinton Hill” that made it my personal choice for favorite of the dozen excellent jazz compositions on the album, though it was a close call – I also loved the gentle pacing and strong call & response on “Mbira Song“…  any way you listen to it, it will take only a few bars to realize that you are listening to jazz that’s most modern, but bound to be classic in the longer term.  I give Geof & his players a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98 for this fine album.  Get more information on the Origin Records page for this splendid album.        Rotcod Zzaj


Jeff Jenkins Organization – THE ARRIVAL:  For this decrepit ol’ reviewer/keyboard player, nothing’s quite as pleasant for my ears as a good Hammond B3 trio, and Jeff (along with Dave Corbus on guitar and Alwyn Robinson on drums) fills that bill quite nicely!  Doesn’t matter if it’s traditional tunes like “Happy Together“, or git’ down & funky pieces like “Earth Dance“, these cats have their musical act together… though it was released all the way back in October, I’m only now getting ’round to reviewing it, but the music Jeff & his bandmates (from Denver, Colorado) perform here is timeless – an album well worth having in your collection (Jeff’s keyboards on this tune are, quite simply, amazing)!  Of the eleven songs offered up for your jazz listening pleasure, it was the 4:27 high-energy opener, “Braking Bad“, that got my vote for personal favorite… even though it’s one of the shorter cuts, it shows just how seamlessly these folks play together (it was a close choice, though… the dark-mood “Trayvon” came in a close second).  I give Jeff & his pals a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97 for this fine release.  You can get more information about this fine trio on the Origin Records page for the album.          Rotcod Zzaj

John Stowell-Michael Zilber Quartet – BASEMENT BLUES:  After over 25 years of reviewing music, it is always wonderful to hear the latest from artists I’ve been following (and reviewing) for far longer than that.  John’s work was first made known to me on an album he did around 1980 with David Friesen, called “Other Mansions“… I fell in love with his stellar guitar work right away, and ever since he’s been with the Origin Records label, I’ve been privileged to receive most of his new releases from there.  I last reviewed him in issue # 157, also with Michael’s sax work.  You’ll also hear John Shiflett’s lively bass work, as well as drums from Jason Lewis on this newest release.  Songs like the high-energy “Nobody Else But Me” will bring daily inspiration as you hit the repeat play button over & over again!  For ultra-cool flow, I know you’ll dig deep into “Stay Right There“… laid-back in a certain sense, but the players are interwoven so tightly, you’ll feel like they are right there in your living room doing a private performance for you.  Of the ten songs on the album, it was the longest track (8:31), “Stowell Mates”, that got my vote for personal favorite… I found myself coming back to this tune often… lots of time & room for each player to display their creativity – and it’s bountiful!  I give John & the rest of the players a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99 for this fine album.   Get more information about the album and the players on the Origin Records page for this release.         Rotcod Zzaj

Alex Goodman – BORDER CROSSING:  Though the liner notes make this sound like it’s a “chamber jazz” set, it goes far beyond that label… when the vocal from Felicity Williams kicks in against Alex’s guitar on the opener, “Acrobat“, you ears will realize that you’re in for a sonic treat not soon to be put down – in fact, I listened through all seven songs on the first sitting (& have been spinning them over & over again since that first ’round; that’s probably because parts of the work reminded me of way earlier works from Gabor Szabo, back in the day).  There is real life in these compositions, bubbling over with energy, as on the 9:17 “With Thanks“, which is definitely one of my favorite tunes (yet) for 2016 – Alex’s guitar work is among the best in jazz today!  His ability to express emotions through music is best shown (for this reviewer, anyway) on my personal favorite track, the 6:57 closer, “Pure Imagination“… a sure sign of high talent is being able to raise levels through a slow build, and this piece does that so very well – it will be spinning on your player many times, I can assure you!  I give Alex and his musical friends a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98 for this fine release.   Get more information at the Alex Goodman website.        Rotcod Zzaj



Autobahn Trio – OF THE TREE:  If you are looking for some jazz that is definitely not “ordinary”, you’ll love this trio from Toronto, without question.  The short opener (1:56), “Grounded“, will give you an insight into just how jaded jazz can get, but then when they whip into “Primrose Princess (Part I)“, your ears will perk up & dance right along with them!  The trio is Jeff LaRochelle on sax and bass clarinet, James Hill doing piano, with drums from Ian Wright, and they absolutely COOK on pieces like the 6:12 “Bird Fight“… VERY impressive, folks.  The slower pieces, like “Tribute“, change the mood, but not the fervor of high-energy and dedication to creating music that will wrap you up in the trio’s ability and talent.  Of the dozen tunes offered up, it was the percussion intro and intricate weave they created on “Slow Dance” that made it my personal favorite… an entire range of emotions is covered in 6:50, and your ears will keep coming back to this stellar piece.  I give these folks a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99 for this fine jazz adventure.  Get more information on this and their other releases at the Autobahn Trio site.        Rotcod Zzaj

Marc McGrain (M.O.B.)  O.H.O  O.H.O is the latest digital release from Trombonist Marc McGrain’s group M.O.B. on Immersion Records. Unfortunately, to my disappointment, this title has nothing to do with the Tupac song. In this case M.O.B. is an acronym for the members of the group; (Marc ) McGrain – Trombone, (Nobu) Ozakai – Bass and (Marcello) Benetti on percussion/drums.  Upon listening to the album I was vaguely reminded of Seattle musician Marc Smason. The biggest difference; all the compositions were improvised and (thankfully) this Marc showed some restraint and did not attempt to sing. What stood out to me most on this album is that there is a clear time restraint on all of these pieces, generally lasting from 3 to 4 minutes each in what I would think to be the perfect length for this style.   I have to give McGrain credit for a valiant attempt. This instrumentation is hard to pull off especially with such a technically demanding and goofy sounding lead instrument, along with the esoteric nature of improvised music. Without a clear melodic point of diversion, or theme, how can one expect the audience to follow unless, again, you are one for reading liner notes but even then I’m still failing to see the overall narrative. As I said before, the strongest point of the album is the time constraint BUT like with everything there’s always a few other spots worth mentioning.  The first is “Adventurism”. “It calls relentlessly–will not take “no” for an answer. “Jump in–let’s go for a ride.” Suddenly weightless then careening past complacency and smack into the next curious thing”  is the blurb McGrain gives for the improvisation and this somewhat is a fitting description as this is hands down the most adventurous piece out of the bunch.  The second, “Vasco’s Dance”. Here McGrain draws you in with a catchy figure but all is lost after the first minute or so due to the unknown thrilling abyss that is improvisational composition.  Overall I was left wanting more presentation of vocabulary with in this style. You know; multi phonics, dissonant pads, melodic metric impositions and other unorthodox or “advanced” devices. After all with such a stable foundation set up with the drums and bass I can’t help but feel cheated by the over simplified “melodies”. I guess that’s why you have to be savvy and always watch out for a mark.     It gets a RECOMMENDED from me, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of  4.0/5.  Get more information athe CD BABY page for this album.       Jeremy Shaskus

Terceto Kali – TERCETO KALI:  So, you say you’ve been looking for some “new jazz” to listen to, eh?  Well, guitarist Jason McGuire (aka El Rubio) and his playing friends definitely provide that… I’m listening to this on a Saturday morning with the heat rising in the Great Northwest, and Jason’s high-energy flamenco-based music is the perfect accompaniment for this.  The 7:14 opener, “Zardoz (Bulerias)“, starts off with a penetrating flamenco solo that quickly evolves to some of the most unique and exciting guitar-based jazz you’ve ever listened to.  One thing I believe helps is that all ten of the pieces are originals by Jason, and that’s especially evident on percussion-driven tunes like “Mira Mira (Rumba)“… the band will sway and swirl it’s way into your soul & have you up & dancin’ ’round the room in no time!  My choice for personal favorite was easy to make, as it kinda’ “repeated itself” on my player numerous times… an amazing piece called “Ratones Ciegos (Tangos)“… just loved the unique stylings on this song.  I give Jason & his crew a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98 for this excellent second release.  Get more information on this great artist at the Kate Smith Promotions page for the CD.     Rotcod Zzaj

Tim Ray Trio – WINDOWS:  Tim’s wonderful jazz piano work on this Whaling City Sound debut release is totally charged up & fully complimented by bassist John Lockwood and drummer Mark Walker in a trio effort you’ll not soon relegate to the “played” stack… tunes like the jumpin’ boogie-oriented “I’ve Been to Memphis” take me all the way back to my earliest days in jazz, & the trio just KICKS it on this one (I got my keyboard playing start in straight-up boogie-woogie, so this is near & dear to my heart, for sure)!  If you’re looking for something a bit more laid-back, with great piano lines, you will fall in love with the dynamic “Peace” (a Horace Silver tune).    As so often happens when I’m reviewing a new artist, I found Tim’s original “DE-Train” to have perfect symmetry – he’s truly “up & down” that keyboard on this one (though it would have been nice if it ran just a bit longer than the 3:49 it clocks in at)!  I give Tim & his compatriots a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98 for this excellent album.  Get more information at the Whaling City Soung page for this release..   Rotcod Zzaj


Andréa Petrity – IT’S ABOUT TIME:  Indeed it is about time, and this wonderful jazz pianist has every note right ON it, folks – her piano style is totally unique and full of energy!  Andrea’s stellar piano is joined by Stefano Valdo on bass and Robin Tufts on drums, as well as Saxophonist Pat Belliveau on a few of the tunes… songs like “Unbroken Promises” will fill any strong jazz lover’s heart with joy… the downright funkiness expressed on this one is fantastic.  I also found “Szerettem Egy Barna Kislányt“, based on her arrangment of an old Hungarian folk song, to be most pleasurable… full of emotion and the spirit of life well-lived… Pat’s sax on this one is great.  From my perspective, it was the 5:35 title cut, “It’s About Time“, that got my vote for personal favorite of the seven tracks offered up… by the way, it would be nice to have a couple more tracks on the next release, Andréa.  This is an all-around musical adventure that comes HIGHLY RECOMMENDED by me, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97.  Get more information at her web page for this release.        Rotcod Zzaj   

Adrienne Fenemor – MO’ PUDDIN’:  Adrienne says she got most of her Hammond chops from listening to older albums by Jimmy Smith, Joey DeFrancesco & other greats on the instrument!  When you listen to her high-talent & high-energy on pieces like the dow-un & fon-kee 4:54 “Back at the Chicken Shack“, you’ll realize that your ears are in for a genuine jazz treat!  She’s joined (as you can see on the CD cover) by Peter Bernstein (guitars)& Willie Jones III (drums), and folks, they kick some jazz tail, to be sure.  Her original, “Minor Mixup“, is about as uptown & major as it can get when it comes to professional sounding jazz, and I guarantee that if you’re the big jazz fan you claim to be, you’ll love this one as much as I do – the trio’s rhythms on this one are total cool.  Of the nine pieces offered up, though, it was the closer, Bobby Timmons “Moanin’” that got my vote for personal favorite… they definitely rock it out on this tune.  My only critique would be that it would have been nice to have a dozen or so tracks, but I’m sure you’ll be hearing from Adrienne again in the near future, so maybe next time.  Overall, this fine organ-led trio gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99 from these old ears.  Get more information about this great artist and all her work at Adrienne’s discography page.        Rotcod Zzaj



Lenny Marcus Trio – MOVING FOURTH:  Lenny’s absolute-cool keyboard work has always gotten high marks here, most recently in issue # 134.  On this July 2016 release, the energy is even better than his previous releases… standards like Ramsey Lewis’s “The In Crowd” get re-charged for the 21st century and will “wow” your ears, I’ve no doubt; tasty & soulful, to be sure!  One thing you can always count on with Lenny’s music is that it won’t be “just another jazz set”… the rockin’ movement on “Beethoven’s Blues” will let you feel what the master was feeling… super tune.  His homage to Tyner on “Ode To McCoy” will get your blood moving to the point you won’t even need your Lisinopril, lol.  Most readers who have been here for a while know that my preference on any album, whether it be rock, soul, jazz or blues, is the original, and Lenny’s ultra-hip “Mocha” was my personal favorite of the thirteen offered up – it’s short (3;26), but jammed with life.  I give Lenny & his crew a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99 for this great album.  Get more information on this & many more releases at Lenny’s website. (& tell him you read about him here, please)       Rotcod Zzaj

Bill Leslie – ACROSS THE WATER:  It’s been a bit since I last reviewed Bill’s highly emotional music – issue # 140, to be precise.  On this late 2015 release, Bill’s piano, keyboards, guitar, and Celtic whistles are joined by a whole host of players… Brian Dunning (flutes, pipes), Joseph Akins (piano), John Brown (bass), Brandon Bush (accordion), Jennifer Curtis (violin), Nancy Green (cello), Melanie Wilsden (oboe), and Anita Burroughs-Price (harp), and it’s clear they all enjoyed playing Bill’s sensitive & sweet songs, especially when you listen to pieces like “The Boatman“… wonderful piano on this one.  The guitar and string intro on “Gaelic Ghost” lead right into some magical flute… highly impressive work, this.  Of the dozen tunes offered up, it was the simple, yet powerful, “Irish Girl“, that gets my vote for personal favorite… though I don’t remember any Irish women my past, this tune certainly evokes memories of some of the beauties I’ve been with over the years.  I give Bill and his cohorts a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98 for this fine release.  Get more information at Bill’s website.        Rotcod Zzaj

Seay – IN THE GARDEN:  If your schedule hasn’t permitted you to commune as fully as you’d like with the beauty of nature lately, just kick back with a glass of your favorite, lay the headphones down on your ears & kick back for nearly an hour’s worth of music that Seay has created for you… her powerful vocal work on pieces like the opener, “Beautiful Earth“, will thrill you to your core, and let you know the love she is able to project – the strings on this one are better than most!  The 6:09 “Oceanus” uses some excellent echo techniques to enhance the feeling of riding the waves without ever leaving the shoreline.  Though this is definitely not jazz, our criteria here (as most of you know by now) is the “energy” an artist or band puts into their music, and compositions like my own personal favorite of the dozen offered up, “We Are One“, clearly demonstrate a love for connecting with the listener through music in a most personal way.  If your ears & heart are yearning for “something more” in your listening experience, this album comes MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED; “EQ” (energy quotient) rating is 4.98.  Get more information at Seay’s main page for this project.       Rotcod Zzaj


Peter Sterling – SACRED VISIONS:  I was first exposed to Peter’s excellent harp work back in issue # 136… his new sonic adventure took him to Sedona, Arizona, where he engaged the spirits in the red-rock formations and produced marvelous sounds like those you’ll hear on the opener, the 6:56 “Sedona Sunset“!  You will definitely be transported to a land where your dreams take precedence (not your nightmares, but your most pleasant visions of life on our planet).  Peter is joined on this effort by some superb players – new age guitarist Bruce Becvar, string master Hans Christian on cello and sarangi, Richard Hu.dy on soprano sax and native flute, new age 4nd smooth jazz icons William Aura(bass) and Craig Dobin(piano) of 3RD Force, and you’ll realize their collective dream as you listen to sonic wonders like my personal favorite of the nine offered up, “Eclipse“… their work together goes far beyond “just New Age”, and even approaches (the edges of) jazz in some spots.  I feel greatly privileged to be able to listen to music like this… it certainly merits the MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED I’m giving it, as well as the “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Get more information on Peter’s page for this release.         Rotcod Zzaj

Carter Calvert – IT’S A MAN’S WORLD:  Noone would know better than Carter about this being a world of men… she’s been ’round the globe (South Africa, Greece, Bermuda – all OVER the globe)…. & she’s GOT the soul it takes to sing her way through it all.  Just listen to the opener (& title track), “It’s a Man’s, Man’s, Man’s, World“; man, she ROCKS that tune!  Her rendition of Stevie’s “Don’t You Worry ’bout a Thing” is pure perfection… wonderful piano/bass/drum intro & a lilting & gentle vocal startup… when the rhythm change hits right at about 4:45, Carter carries you off into a state where you truly won’t be worrying anymore – simple, yet lovely!  Of the dozen mighty hip tunes offered up, though, it was the down & funky “Take Me to the Pilot” that won my vote for personal favorite… she just SHINES on this track, folks. Like any top-of-the-line vocalist, she’s able to create the moods you’re most familiar with through her magical voice.  I’m very, VERY impressed – enough so that I’m giving Carter & her crew my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99 for this astounding vocal jazz adventure.  Get more information on Carter’s website.       Rotcod Zzaj


Cowboys and Frenchmen – RODEO:  What most qualifies these cats as “cowboys” is that they are all young & full of the vim & vigor one would expect from the frontier… Owen Broder’s reeds, as well as Ethan Helm’s are joined by piano from Chris Ziemba, bass by Ethan O’Reilly & drums by Matt Honor, in a clear celebration of the discovery that good jazz offers up!  It takes them only a few bars to dive deeply into the bronco ride they will take you on with the opener, “Jazz Styles“… & they do indeed take you through various styles; some you’ll be familiar with & others that are uniquely their own.  Their short rendition of “Because” will bring a tear or two to mind; the ultimate in bluesy desert trek – I loved Chris’s piano on this one.   Of the eight great songs offered up, though, it was the 9:24 “Man of Constant Sorrow” (written by Owen) that got my vote for personal favorite… the recording is flawless, and each of the instruments gets their turn to shine.  I’m impressed, to be sure, and have no doubt that you will be as well.  I give these young players a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98 for this fine album.  Get more information at their website.       Rotcod Zzaj

Dave Hosley – LOVE FOR SALE:  Dave’s vocals will (like, TOTALLY, grrrl) surprise you on this (after 40 years of playing) release, which also includes some FANTASTIC keyboard work from Greg Sankovich; just listen to the opener… Carole King’s “I Feel the Earth Move” will definitely move you in new ways… just loved the percussion on this tune, & Greg’s organ kicks some MAJOR tail, too.  It’s easy to realize why the liners proclaim that Dave’s been packing audiences to capacity – he’s got something that many jazz singers these days know little about – SOUL!!!  The arrangements (as well as the playing, of course) make “Blue Skies” a tune you won’t soon forget – in fact, I expect you’ll be hitting replay over & over again!  The ten songs offered up for your sonic enjoyment are all pretty much “standards”, but the arrangements & the energy with which they are played will make this one of the most enjoyable sessions you listen to this year… especially on pieces like my personal favorite, the 4:42 “Crazy“… superb jazz all the way!  I give Dave & his excellent crew of players a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97 for this fine debut.  Get more information at Diamond Dave’s website.       Rotcod Zzaj

Mac Gollehon – MAC GOLLEHON AND THE HISPANIC MECHANICS:  As is always the case with Mac’s music, his trumpet, trombone & vocal work is “different”, with (very) unique twists & turns, both rhythmically and sonically on this 9th release with him as a leader.  It’s been a while, since I last reviewed him in issue # 129… but, as you listen to tunes like “Amor Tragico“, you’ll hear why he keeps coming back for reviews… heavy Latin influences, and rhythms that just won’t quit!  I just loved the bass intro & the ecstatic horn penetration on the 4:58  “Elegancia“… when you listen carefully, you’ll also hear his excellent vocals woven in on this one.  Mac has played with musicians/groups as diverse as David Bowie, Rick James & Mick Jagger, and that heavy background & experience is most clearly demonstrated on tracks like my personal favorite of the ten tunes offered up, the jumpin’ “Dale Jamon“… highly impressive horn work on this one… I give Mac & his Mechanics a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99.  Get more information at Mac’s page on the True Groove Records label.         Rotcod Zzaj

Olayimika Cole – L’IFE:  For listeners not normally all that attracted to vocal jazz, you’ll want to try this great all-original set from Olayimika… she says she is “seeking to write new standards”, and she certainly accomplishes that on tune like the mightily mellow “Journey of You“… & she keeps the spirit of jazz totally “on” with some wonderful flute accompaniment on this track!  The cast of players she has with her is stellar, but too long to list here – check it out at the CD Baby page for this album.  Though short (2:56), “Coffee Shop” just jumps, & will get ever-more repeat play on your device – her scat work on this one is amazing.  Since my major instrument is keyboard, it was very easy to fall in love with “Adore“, for the electronic keyboard alone – the “church” sound is prominent, too, and it’s really a strong piece.  Of the sixteen songs offered up for your sonic pleasure, though, it was the heavy rhythm & spoken word on “Energy (Orchestra of African Rhythms/Spoken Word version)” that made it my personal favorite… man, this piece is truly A-LIVE!!!  I’m totally impressed with Ms. Cole’s work, and give it my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, as well as a (perfect) “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 5.00 – making it my “PICK” for this issue for “best vocal & spoken word jazz”.  Get more information at Olayimika’s website.      Rotcod Zzaj

Matt Criscuolo – HEADIN’ OUT:  I’ve been a big fan of Matt’s alto sax work for many years now, having reviewed a lot of his albums… this one from 2015 (March) is among the best from him, to be sure… he’s joined by Tony Purrone on guitar, Preston Murphy on bass & Ed Soph doing drums… as you scope out tunes like the 6:50 opener, “Enchanted“, you’ll find yourself transported to new realms (if you don’t lose your head first – sorry, Matt, couldn’t resist).  Matt plays jazz that’s “beyond cool”, and always does it with the kind of “verve” that created that jazz label way back in the day… just check out the rabble-rousing energy on “Sippin’ At Bells“… you’ll get a real taste of what late-night cruisin’ is all about – & it’s clear on this song that these cats just LOVE playing together!  My personal favorite of the nine offered up, especially from the point of “cool”, is “Little Niles“… this will give you something to spin over & over on your playlists… I loved the arrangement & the interplay between all the players on this one, & Tony’s guitar just KICKZ’ IT.  I give Matt & his pals a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98 for this fine & exciting jazz experience.  Get more information on Matt’s discography page.        Rotcod Zzaj  

Pedro Giraudo Expansion Big Band – CUENTOS (STORIES):  All the way from Argentina comes Pedro with his bass & his big-band to enchant your ears, and it’s a musical tour-de-force you’ll not soon stop listening to – there’s really only one word for Pedro’s music – DAZZLING!  My advice on this one is (most definitely) to listen to it with your headphones, at least for your first sitting… songs like the gigantic opener, “Muñeca“, will fill your spirit with buoyancy and life & have you gliding ’round the dance floor with glee.  The gentle sway and laid-back bluesy feelings on “La Ley Primera” will make it one of your favorites in only the first few measures; the interaction between the piano & bass (as well as the horns) is timeless.  Of the nine pieces offered up, though, it was the dazzling percussion and arrangement on the 7:05 “Push Gift” that made it my choice for personal favorite on the album… though billed as a “big band”, this is more like a fantastic jazz concert in your living room… just LOVED this tune.  Pedro & his compadres get a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from me, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99 for this splendid release.  You can get more information on the Zoho Records label page for this album.        Rotcod Zzaj

Steve Johns – FAMILY:  You’ll definitely feel like you “belong” as you listen to Steve’s masterful drumming, percussion & band-leading skills on this ultra-cool nine-song release from 2015 (yah, I’m still catching up from my operation – sorry, Steve).  It certainly doesn’t hurt that he has some “big names” (like Dave Stryker on guitar, & Bob DeVos on guitar), either, especially on songs like Steve’s original, with Dave Stryker, “Bogie and Bacall“… the laid-back atmosphere created on this one certainly takes me all the way back to my lazy-day growing up years!  Dave’s own composition, the 6:23 “Came To Believe“, is one of the coolest tracks I’ve heard in a long time… & all the players get a piece of it, just like family, eh?  Of all the tunes, though, it was Steve’s opening tune “Sleepwalk” that energized me to the point where it was an instant favorite (I believe Debbie Keefe Johns’ sax work had an awfully lot to do with my liking this tune so much, and bass from Daryl Johns, too – truly a “family thang”, eh)!  In the overall, this is one of the best “debut releases” I’ve heard in a long time… it gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from me, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of (a perfect) 5.00 – meaning it also gets the “PICK” of this issue for “best drum-led jazz group”!!  Get more information at Steve’s website.     Rotcod Zzaj


Lou Caputo and The Not So Big Band – UH OH:  It may not be “all that big” (an even dozen players), but multi-instrumentalist Lou makes sure that your ears will be a-rockin’ & jazzin’ the whole night long on this high-energy album.  They’ve all been playing together for over 10 years now, & that certainly is apparent on tunes like the 7:14 closer, “Busy Busy Busy“… you’ll definitely hear the “meat” of the mighty saxophone on this track!  The opener, “Black Nile“, will make you feel like you’re in one of those ’30’s speakeasy night clubs… pure & raw power is a big part of this 6:08 tune. The album hit the streets in June of this year (2016), so you should be able to get a copy fresh off the rack… this dozen-song jazz powerhouse is definitely a “must have” if you’re a serious jazz listener, & that’s especially true for pieces like my personal favorite, the totally alive “Festival“… if you’re not up & dancin’ around by the time this track comes up on your spin, you certainly WILL be as soon as you start listening to it.  I give Lou & his crew a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98 for this fine release.  You can get more information on Lou’s website.        Rotcod Zzaj

Bob Mintzer – ALL L.A. BAND:  Bob’s superlative sax work has been reviewed many times here, most recently in issue # 139; this is my first listen to him as a leader, though, and he & the band just KICK tail on it!  On tunes like the opener, “El Caborojeno“, the Latin jazz energy projected in the performance will have you up & dancin’ ’round the room in no time!  He’s joined by his long-time pal Peter Erskine (they go back nearly 50 years), and on songs like the 6:10 “Original People“, you’ll realize just how close they’ve become together as both friends and players… his is absolute killer jazz – I loved this song & it spins over & over on my player.  The promo sheet emphasizes the “big band” aspects, and while it’s true that this is far more than just another “combo” set, their talent makes it music that you can (& will) latch onto for the long term, especially on compositions like my personal favorite of the ten offered up, the scorching “Latin Dance“… if your spirit isn’t just soaring after the first four bars, get your doctor to check you out (to make sure you’re still with us).  I give Bob & his band a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99 for this fine album.  Get more information on the Fuzzy Music label page for this release.        Rotcod Zzaj

Arturo O’Farrill – BOSS LEVEL:      What struck me most about this record at first was its title. Being a failed gamer, I knew to give this a listen and keen to say, it did not disappoint.  The title does in fact have to do with video games, however the metaphor is lost to those that are not interested in reading liner notes. Perhaps for its esoteric nature, this recording can be a difficult listen.  What stood out to me most about this recording was the openness and communication between the instrumentalists. No note or phrase goes with out intention and appropriate reaction. Clearly, these are musicians of the highest level.  Even with the intended loose atmospheric feel, this band is able to tighten the reigns when needed, thus operating like a cohesive unit exploring spaces between groove and texture, like that of Miles Davis’s 2nd Quintet but with a lain tinge. Again, the only downside to this album is that I felt that I had to be in a specific head space to really appreciate the music; but how is that not the case for most things nowadays?  Overall I would recommend giving this album a listen and give it an over all EQ rating of 4.5 out of 5.  You can get more information at Arturo’s website.       Jeremy Shaskus

Ben Adkins – SALMAGUNDI:  Ben’s most dynamic drums lead this session in a powerhouse jazz session that you’ll be playing over & over (& OVER) again!  Tunes like the high-energy “Fungii Mama” show off his skill, and give plenty of room for the other players (Trumpet and Flugelhorn – Alphonso Horne; Piano and Rhodes – Joshua Bowlus; Guitar – Paul Miller & Bass – Stan Piper) to shine brilliantly, as well – I truly loved Horne’s keyboard work on this track)!  This is Ben’s debut release, and songs like “Five in Time” will prove to you that he’s “got it” for the long haul, and Joshua’s guitar just SMOKES on this one… rest assured, you’ll be hearing much, MUCH more from this high-talent player, & I’ve no doubt you will be hitting the “replay” button many times on all ten of these highly creative tracks.  It was the 6:36 opener, “Lucky“, that made my day & got my vote for personal favorite of the ten offered up… truly some of the coolest jazz I’ve listened to (yet) in 2016!   I give Ben & his players a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99 for this stellar debut release.  Get more information at Ben’s music pages.      Rotcod Zzaj

Flaunt – RAVE NOIR:  Gems are hidden in the stacks (every once in a while), & this little duo from Maine & Colorado, Justin Jennings and Joseph Vitterito, is definitely a shimmery diamond!  Their forte is creativity, and when you listen to tunes like the rockin’ “I Don’t Want To Fall Asleep“, you’ll waken up to their flow right away!  Odd sounds & mixes, along with a haunting vocal, will attract your ears in the immediate to “Jungle“… & Justin’s guitar work on this track just KICKZ’ it, people.  Definitely indie in spirit & presentation, they go far, far beyond the “average” for that label affixed to so much music these days – & what’s truly unique is that they don’t get stuck in any “molds”; high variance in style – too cool.  It was the excellent mix & rhythmic performances on “Kill With Honey” that made it get my vote for personal favorite of the eighteen pieces offered up for your aural enjoyment… this one reminds me a great deal of some remote music I made with Dan Susnara way back in the day, albeit with more emphasis on the guitar and vocals from Flaunt!  I give these gents a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Get more information at their Soundcloud page.        Rotcod Zzaj

Steve Cole – TURN IT UP!:  Definitely a wise piece of advice for Steve’s stellar sax work on this release; from looking at my database, this is the first time I’ve reviewed him, and it’s purely a pleasure!  Songs like the high-flying “Bright Side” will make you fall in love with his playing style immediately, and the opener, “Sidechain“, has some superb keyboard work on the intro (as well as throughout).  The title track, “Turn It Up!” will make you do just that… for the entire album, you’ll want your headphones on!  If it weren’t for Steve’s vibrant energy on each cut, the album might fall into the dreaded “smoove jazz” hole, never to return (& certainly it wouldn’t be reviewed here if it were that)… instead, what you wind up with is one of the best sax-led funk & rhythm albums you’ll ever have in your collection, especially on tunes like my personal favorite, “Life Is a Groove“… if you weren’t groovin’ when you turned this on (& UP), you will be after the first four bars, I’ll tell you!  The only complaint I have (& it’s minor) is that it would be nice if some of the tracks, like “Workhouse“, were just a tad longer… if you listen to the entire set of ten songs, though, you’ll find yourself hitting the replay button over & over again.  I give Steve & his crew a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98 for this fine album.  Get more information on this high-energy, high-talent saxs player at Steve’s website.        Rotcod Zzaj

Rocker-T – RETURN OF THE TRU GANJAMAN:  If yer’ wonderin’ where he’s been, it’s definitely off in Reggae-land; lots of original tuneage here, with plenty of Ganja fueling it (I’ve no doubt).  He has a whole host of names unfamiliar to me, but famous in the circle.  Tunes like “Need Some” (featuring Gappy Ranks) will have you swingin’ & swayin’ with th’ best of ’em, mon!  Loved the rhythm on “Herbalist“, which features Mama-T… if you’re not up & dancin’ in seconds, you’re already one o’ th’ zombies – ultra-strong drums & percussion backing Mama up here, too.  You even get a president on “Blazing Everyday” (Prezident Brown), doing some very rhythmic rants about some weed that just won’t quit.  Of the sixteen pieces offered up, though, it was “Chillum” (with Skip Wicked) that came across with the most power for what’s being presented here… primary note for Rocker-T’s music, though… be SURE you’ve got your headphones on at full blast, & leave plenty of room ’round you for dancing!  I give this one a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Get more information at the Rocker-T website.        Rotcod Zzaj


Wally Schnalle – IDIOT FISH 3Ever since this album fell through the mail slot (or in this case, I think it may have come digitally; no, whoops, it was hard-copy), I’ve been listening to it over & over again… he got top marks from me in issue # 151 for the first IDIOT FISH release, and this one is even better!  Wally’s superb drum work is again complemented by guitar from our pal Hristo Vitchev and bass by Dan Robbins.  The trio lays no claim to “star territory”, playing straight-ahead and energy infused jazz that will capture your heart & soul, as on the gently swaying 8:53 “Roses Are Drugs“… sections on this long track remind me of some of Santana’s better guitar work, thanks to Hristo’s electric guitar expertise.  The short track “Spun” introduces you to their technical skill, in an almost robot-like techno piece… would have loved for this one to be just a tad longer than it’s 2:07 length… either way, the bass & drum interplay is without equal on this tune (think Funkadelics on steroids).  My personal favorite of the eight tunes offered up is the oddly titled “Fieldwork“… free-range jazz fish, indeed, lol.  Any way you listen to it, this is a highly impressive group that you’ll be hitting “replay” on often.  I give Wally & crew a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99 for this fine album.  Get more information at Wally’s Idiot Fish website.        Rotcod Zzaj

I.P.A. – I JUST DID SAY SOMETHING:  All I can say after listening to the first three measures of this most powerful jazz assemblage from Scandanavia, is – W.O.W.!  They start off in what sounds like “free-jazz mode”, but then meld vibes into the tune to make it a much more accessible tune on the 6:21 opener, “Kort Hilsen“… the quintet features Oslo-based Atle Nymo on tenor saxophone and bass clarinet, Norwegian-born, Austin, Texas-based bassist Ingebrigt, Håker Flaten, Trondheim drummer Håkon Mjåset Johansen, and Stockholm’s Magnus Broo on trumpet, with Mattias Ståhl on vibraphone rounding it all out!  The horn & vibe interplay on “Globus” will make any jazz fan proud to have this album in their collection!  I totally dug the bass work on “Barbro Violet“, a 6:33 gem that reminds me a whole lot of some of Miles’ albums as the horns begin their overlay.  From the standpoint of “jazz buildup”, and high-energy playing, though, my choice for a personal favorite was easily narrowed to “Sayembara“… part of that is because of the length of the tune – 8:11 gives each performer a chance to state their musical case, and by the three minute mark, you know this is one of the best jazz pieces you’ve heard (yet) this year.  I give I.P.A. a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98 for this splendid release.  Get more information at the Cuneiform Bandcamp page for this release.        Rotcod Zzaj

Geoff Hall – UNDERSTANDING THE SIGNS:  Though billed in the promo as “new age, orchestral-ambient”, Geoff’s wonderful debut release tends most strongly to the orchestral side of things, with some totally moving percussion woven in, around and through it!  I fell in love with it on the first tune, the 4:33 “The Run“, i think because of the percussion weave he is so excellent at… tasty orchestral patches on this one, to be sure.  His works have far more energy than the average “new age” recording, and tunes like the striding string title cut, “Understanding The Signs” will make you realize his total talent at composition right away… it could have gone on for an hour, though, rather than the 2:19 it clocks in with.  The 4:08 “Knowing” is simple, yet full of the power of spirit; I loved this one, too.  Of the eight enchantments, it was (again) the longest song on the album that caught my ear most strongly and made it my absolute favorite… “Gone But Not Forgotten” will take you back to memories you’d thought long lost, no matter what they may be, and overwhelm you with them.  I give Geoff a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of a (perfect) 5.00; meaning it also gets the “PICK” of this issue for “best orchestral composition”!  Get more information and listen to samples at Geoff’s page for this stellar release.       Rotcod Zzaj 

Cynthia Hart – I REMEMBER:  I’m not sure if Cynthia remembers me – it’s been a long, LONG time since I reviewed her music, way back in issue # 66.  This release seems to be more “earth-oriented”, if you will!  She does some beautiful vocal work in front of a whole host of instruments/players, and songs like “Lemurian Dreamer” will make you realize (right in the immediate) that she’s far more than “just another singer among many”.  The highly rhythmic “Atlantis” won’t be quite what you think it would be… some great guitar and percussion work, as well as her high-spirit vocal will enchant you on the very first bar!  It was the longest song on the CD (8:51), “Sisters of the Moon“, that got my vote for personal favorite of the ten beauties offered up for your aural pleasure, though… I believe the length of the piece gave plenty of room for development, and the players were totally relaxed on this one.  Cynthia is an amazing vocal talent that certainly merits the MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED I’m giving her for this excellent album.  “EQ” (energy quotient) rating is 4.98.  Get more information at her website,  or via e-mail to     Rotcod Zzaj

Oscar Perez – PREPARE A PLACE FOR ME:  Being a perpetual late riser I couldn’t have thought of a better way to begin my morning/afternoon than by listening to Oscar Perez’s latest release Prepare a Place for Me. As I sipped my coffee, my cynicism and nicotine addiction pushed aside, for the moment, by the up lifting energy of Perez’s group. Through out the entire album Perez and his cohorts make even the slowest tempos dance, filling every space with an uplifting energy that’ll make even the most stoic of listeners bust a move; thus, capturing the very essence of why a person decides to create and share music in the first place.  Perez’s stellar piano playing is not only matched but in complete sync with his great sense of composition and arrangement; albeit subconscious in this open format. A stand out number is his rendition of Round MidnightTypically this ballad, as every other ballad, is very slow moving but Perez’s boundless imagination and partnership with his side men cause this 5 minute track to move effortlessly through time and space keeping up the euphoric momentum that makes this album such a fantastic listen. I would also be amiss if I were not to mention a very important facet; the Drum and Bass team Thomas Kneeland and Alvester Garnett. With out such a solid core all could be lost.   The addition of Alto Saxophonist Bruce Williams on 5 of the 9 pieces is a nice touch and adds an extra bit of momentum and variation in what would have otherwise been interesting, yet very traditional (in the sense of modernism) trio album. Williams approaches the music with a deep sense of understanding, referencing saxophonists from all of the 2nd half of jazz’s evolution such as MBase players like Steve Coleman, Greg Osby to Kenny Garrett, and Vincent Herring to even the icons of the tenor sax such as John Coltrane, Wayne Shorter and everything in between; to be expected when working with musicians of this caliber.  What I found most interesting about this album, and perhaps most recent releases, ended on a softer note. Perez decided to close with a ballad titled Song for Ofelia’. This is the most thoroughly composed tune of the bunch and the most different. ‘Song for Ofelia’ truly is a work of beauty that could have gone for an extra 5 minutes with out notice, in my humble opinion.  Over all I would highly recommend adding this album to your collection, giving it an over all rating of 4.8/5…  Jeremy Shaskus

Christopher Zuar – MUSINGS:  I won’t itemize the 20 (or so) musicians who played on this fine release… you can check that out at the Sunnyside Records label page for the album.  Though Christopher doesn’t actually play on the eight songs, he composed and arranged them all, and acted as the conductor for this April 2016 musical extravaganza.  As you listen to the rolling and swirling environment he and his players create on the 7:53 “Vulnerable States“, it will be easy to understand why I consider him to be one of the brightest young talents on the jazz scene today!  The gentle, yet powerful, moods expressed on the emotionally laden “So Close, Yet So Far Away“, will bring back memories for each and every listener – in fact, from a musical standpoint, this reminds me of my first listen to a most memorable album from Stan Gets (way, WAY back in the day), with Eddie Sauter.  It was one of the shorter pieces (5:51), “Ha! (Joke’s on You)“, that got my vote for personal favorite, though… very upbeat & full of the hip & funky confidence of youth.  I give Christoper and his orchestra a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99 – an absolute MUST-HAVE for your collection.  Get more information at the aforementioned Sunnyside Records label pageRotcod Zzaj   

Alchemy Sound Project – FURTHER EXPLORATIONS:  This is decidedly one of the best jazz albums I’ve listened to (yet) in 2016!  Five composers at the “edge” of their craft do tunes that will truly make your day… Erica Lindsay, Sumi Tonooka, Samantha Boshnack, David Arend, and Salim Washington are featured on this ’round, and it’s some of the most inspiring jazz you’ve ever heard!  Erica’s 8:38 title track, “Further Explorations” is hauntingly mysterious and totally engaging… I just loved the bass on this one, but every instrument projects beauty in a manner both improvised and well composed!  Samantha’s work is always a “hit” for me (since she’s from Seattle, I’ve had many opportunities to listen to her energy live), but that’s especially true on another of my favorites from this album, “Alchemical“… the “groove” portion inspires some super solos from the other players.  Of the ten performances offered up, it was Sumi’s “Waiting” that got my vote for personal favorite… all the elements of truly “classic jazz” are contained in this piece… mood shifts like you wouldn’t believe.  In the overall, this is a superb aural adventure that gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from me, with a (perfect) “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 5.00 – which means that it gets the “PICK” of this issue for “best jazz ensemble”.  Get more information on the Alchemy Sound Project pages.       Rotcod Zzaj

Mike Jones – ROARING:  I’m not always immediately drawn to albums that suggest re-hash of an era of music (like the Roaring Twenties), but after listening to the opener, “Yes Sir, That’s My Baby“, it was clear (to me) that this one isn’t “just another remake”… Mike’s piano is full of the raw energy that time in our country invoked!  The work of supporting players – bassist Katie Thiroux and drummer Matt Witek – makes this a most memorable trek into times long ago, especially on tunes like “I’ll See You In Cuba“… just loved Katie’s bass on this one!  I’d actually reviewed Mike’s work (a while back) in issue # 139, so it’s possible that influenced my thinking somewhat.  Of the ten songs offered up for our sonic enjoyment, it is the 7:13  “If I Had You“, with that totally laid-back groove, that was most attractive to my aural appendages & got my vote for personal favorite.  All around, a fine album that gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Get more information at Mike’s website.      Rotcod Zzaj

Ameet Kamath – INTO THE NIGHT:  A most interesting pop-oriented album that transports the listener into the deepest and darkest regions of the time after sundown… songs like “San Francisco” do a great job of incorporating the sounds of that city after dark.  I’m not normally a fan of pop stuph, but Ameet’s vocals are infused with the kind of energy that make the music come across as far more than “just pop”.  The 4:23 “Cold Night” is easy to visualize as Ameet vocalizes it… & that’s his strongest point… he’s able to guide the listener into the spaces he sings about.  It was the (very) laid-back atmosphere he creates on “Say My Name” that got my vote for personal favorite of the thirteen tunes offered up… he’s clearly done a fine job of integrating into this new culture (he’s originally from India), and absorbing all of the nuances and influences of the night.  I give him a HIGHLY  RECOMMENDED for this penetrating high-energy release, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.95.  Get more information and listen to samples on Ameet’s Bandcamp page.        Rotcod Zzaj


Ameet Kamath

Mimi Jones – FEET IN THE MUD:  ’tis absolutely hard to believe that this young bass player has been “on the scene” for so long… twenty years & counting… if I haven’t reviewed all of her releases, I’ve gotten to most of them!  On this new release, she’s joined by pianist Jon Cowherd, drummer Jonathan Barber, and saxophonist Samir Zarif (as well as others, I believe)… songs like “Happy” will show you just how skilled she is at conveying whatever mood is upon her at the time, and her vocal on this just SHINES… in fact, that’s one of the things that was so truly attractive about her earliest work – her vocal skills are just getting better & better on each new release.  The liner notes aren’t just more “hype” in this case, either… Mimi is the real deal, & this really IS her most powerful album to date (keep your ears on her, she will be offering many more sonic creations, I’ve no doubt).  One of the jazziest tunes I’ve heard (yet) in 2016 is “One 4JB“… each of the instruments is just ROCKIN’ out on this tune, & it was easy to decide that it is my personal favorite of the dozen offered up… she has a kind of “swirling” thing going on with the vocals, perfectly interlaced with the expert playing going on around her!  I can say, without qualification, that this is MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED – it also gets a (perfect) 5.00 “EQ” (energy quotient) rating, meaning it also gets my “PICK” of this issue for “best bass-led band”!  This ROARS, peepz!  Get more information at Mimi’s website.        Rotcod Zzaj

Mark Wade Trio – EVENT HORIZON:  Here’s a great (2015) release from bassist Mark Wade – he’s joined by pianist Tim Harrison & drummer Scott Neuman in a most pleasant session that will help you understand just why the trio format can be such a good one for jazz!  The CD contains eight original compositions + one by Harold Arlen… songs like the 7:40 “Tossed” will give you a new faith in the power of the bass, though Tim’s piano and Scott’s drums are poignant in the mix as well… my attraction to this tune is based on the fact that it’s an original, no doubt… their playing on this one is just absolute ON for the entire length of the tune!  If you’re wanting something to listen to that leans a bit more towards the “blues side of things”, you’ll definitely enjoy “Valley and Stream” – the piano intro is solid & strident, and when Mark’s bass kicks in, you’ll be able to visualize the trout jumping out there in mid-stream… a simple, yet beautiful, composition.  It was the opener, “Jump For Joy“,  that got my vote for personal favorite track, though… despite the title, this doesn’t just “jump in” & attack you with energy… it’s a slow build to sheer sonic wonderment, & I totally dug this one.  I give Mark & his pals a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98 for this fine release.  Get more information on Mark’s page for the album.        Rotcod Zzaj