Improvijazzation Nation, issue # 096
Slivovitz – HUBRIS: The sheer variety of styles on this second CD from Slivovitz makes the purchase of the album well worth your $$$, even if you’re not a hardcore freak for music that takes you out there (as I am). All the way from the opener’s (which features absolute killer bass by Domenico Angarano) mad-dash middle eastern trek through territory that Zappa trod (track is called “Zorn a Surriento“), at least after some fashion… these guys carry it a step further, though, especially when Pietro Santangelo’s sax assault on your aural appendages makes you realize that there is nothing musical geniuses can’t do! It’s track #6, “Dammi un Besh O“, that wins all my respect, even though it may come across to some listeners as the ultimate personification of the album title – but (as all of us who play know) you can’t really be arrogant unless you’ve got the chops to back up your attitude… I’m hearing snatches of mem’ry here… the violins remind me of the finest gypsy jazz – sort of Django in Diladin spiked with meth, if you will – or even if you won’t! The point here is that if this 7-piece dynamo hum doesn’t get you flying high (without the dope) – YOU are arrogant! I also dug the genuine groove & bump on “Sono Tranquillo Eppure Spesso Strillo“… had me up outta’ my seat dancin’ ’round with th’ headphones as though I was listening to some of the old George Duke craziness – SOLID phunk & fun! If you’ve never heard these folks before, you owe it to your ears to git’ DOW-un on ’em… they’re KILLER (& we’re tellin’ the label we want ALL of their stuff)… not only do they get a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, but they earn the first ever “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 5.00 (on a scale of 1-5, they are at the very top)! Get more information at www.slivovitz.net Rotcod Zzaj
Cara Clarke, Stefan Abuan, Steve Bartlett – BE HEAR (demo): As many who read our magazine regularly know, I seldom review demos… I’d been after Cara to get me something for review, though, for quite some time, & when she handed me this 5-song, I couldn’t pass it up. That’s in great part because of the quality of recording & performance on these tracks… the Abuan original, “Long As I Have Music” is a standout track, & Cara molds it nicely into something of lasting value! It doesn’t hurt one bit that guitarist Abuan & bassist Steve Bartlett are right in her zone, either… this trio has crafted some soulful sounds that will just shine when they flesh this out into a full album. I’ve watched them mature into a trio to be dealt with over the last few months, and it’s been pure pleasure for my aural appendages… their performances at one of our favorite spots in the area (Blue Bottle Cafe) are always pure joy to watch, with Stefan’s hyper-aware licks on lead guitar, Steve’s funk-filled bass both contributing to the soul-filled vocals & performance Cara always pulls off! All the way from that Abuan original to Sly Stone’s “Thank You” will have you up & dancin’, even if you’ve never danced before… this is music that’s full of the joy of soul, & “Be Hear” makes it happen – all night long. I can tell y’all right now, if the CD is anywhere near as funky as this preview, it’ll stay in your collection for years to come. I give it a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, & an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.8 (on a scale of 1-5). Get more information on Cara’s FB page – & tell her I sent ya’! Rotcod Zzaj
Jamie Craig – ILLUMINATION: I reviewed Jamie’s first CD in issue #81, most favorably… and this 2nd effort is no less astounding than “The Lost Dream” was… excellent music that incorporates elements of New Age with jazz, fusion and just inspiring music that will light up your day! His piano passages will blow you away, even if you’re primarily a jazz fan… all “good” music, in our estimation, is about the spirit of the player and how well they’re able to translate their feelings through their instrument(s), and Craig is full well capable of helping listeners soar to the highest planes. While I love his piano work, I’m also intrigued by the string weaves he layers in, especially on tracks like “To Nola With Love”… the chord changes here will make you feel the love he’s feeling as he plays this. For something that takes you a bit further out, you’ll find “Voyager IX” highly attractive to your ears, as did I… lots of variance in the moods here, and all with Jamie’s masterful touch – this one will “fly you to the moon” (& beyond). Many who attempt composing this kind of music get “almost there”, but then fall flat when it comes to execution… not so with “Illumination” – you’ll stay inspired from beginning to end. My favorite piece was one of the slower ones, “Guardian Angel”, which will make a believer out of you… there are higher planes to achieve than this lowly one on the universal scale, and Jamie takes you there. I give this a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED… the “EQ” rating for this is 4.7… right up there with the best! Get more information on Jamie’s MYSPACE page. Rotcod Zzaj
Borah Bergman-Stefano Pastor – LIVE AT TORTONA: Bergman’s piano and Stefano Pastor’s violin truly “make music together”, though it’s not for “tame listeners”… your ears need to be open to the spirit of improvisation in order to enjoy this. Those (like me) who want something different will find this one of the more challenging listens this year… Borah’s expressed sentiment about his keyboard playing is that “each hand can go in its own way when it wants to”… though many pianists want that to happen, few are able to make it happen without sounding like a train wreck. There was a fellow (many years ago) named Greg Goodman who came close to Bergman’s skill level, but clearly there is no one in my recent listening experience who can play this “disjointedly” and still make the visions mesh as seamlessly as this gent. When you pair that up with Stefano’s interjectory strings, you’ll realize that there is be-bop available that ain’t “just the same old thing”. I was especially attracted to the second track, “When Autumn Comes”, probably because of the strong chords that make it “sound like regular jazz”, but it was the marvelous duo on “Crescent” that totally captured me… Pastor’s strings almost sound like a horn (something the liners say he intended)… for the uninitiated, this may remind them of what the inside of a terrorist’s thoughts might sound like, but for those who want innovation in their sonic adventures, this is the cat’s meow! I rate it MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, & award it an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.85… high end pandemonium, no doubt! Get more information at www.mutablemusic.com/tortonainfo.html Rotcod Zzaj
The Joshua Breakstone Trio – NO ONE NEW: Joshua’s works have been reviewed here before, most notably in issue #65 1/2… this 5th release shows why he’s considered one of the best jazz guitarists on the scene today! He’s joined by Lisle Atkinson on bass & Eliot Zigmund’s drums & the trio cooks on all 8 tracks… of course, it’s the original pieces that always keep my ears open… when you listen to the volcanic opener, “Over-Done“, you’ll know immediately why I dig his style so much! Each player has a “voice” in the action, but leaves plenty of room for Joshua’s searing leads… talk about energy – this is (nearly) 8 minutes of high-steppin’ joy, boys! If it’s a more bluesy vein you’re diggin’ for, though, you’ll fall in love (as I did) with “Blues Heretofore” right after the opening line… I mean, if you can’t lay back & enjoy this one, you’re a basket case already… in fact, listening back through all the cuts, I find that this is my favorite on the CD – smooth, yet full of life and energy. His cover of Joe Henderson’s “The Kicker” closes out the album with just the right amount of swingin’ energy to make you keep comin’ back for more – & more & more & more, no doubt in my mind. It’s a most interesting trio (for this reviewer, anyway) because it hearkens back to days when jazz was gentle, but Breakstone & crew spice it up with an energy that’s clearly forward-looking, & not leaning on any kudos for past performance. If you dig straight-ahead jazz guitar with high talent that will make for hours & hours of repeated listening pleasure, you’ll agree with my rating of MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.82! Get more information on this fantastic guitar player at www.joshuabreakstone.com/Biography.html Rotcod Zzaj
Laurence Hobgood-Charlie Haden-Kurt Elling – WHEN THE HEART DANCES: This is some of the most poignant trio jazz I’ve heard in years… thought I hadn’t listened to Hobgood’s lively keyboards before, or Elling’s vocals, I had listened to Haden play his double bass with Kenny Burrell (live, in downtown Venice Beach, California, way back in the ’70’s)… this amazing CD brings out every little nuance in each of the trio’s talents! An original by Laurence titled “Sanctuary“, though in a somewhat reflective mood, managed to transition to sheer/clear joy (for this listener, at least), perhaps because of the “blues” imagery his keyboard calls up for my ears. Favorite tune for me, though, is actually the title track, “When the Heart Dances“… Hobgood’s spirit is just bubbling up through his keyboards and the listener can’t help but dance right along, ’round & ’round the floor – even if only mentally from their chair – simple, yet beautiful. Charlie’s original, “First Song“, also features Elling’s emotion-laden vocal & comes in a close second as a favorite. There are 11 wonderful pieces of elegant jazz here that will zoom to the top of your playlists and stay there for years & years to come. This is the kind of album that’s destined to become an “instant classic” – if you don’t believe me now, just click on the samples to hear what wonderment these gents can (& will) inspire for your heart… they will have you dancing! Get more information at the NAIM (label) site for the CD! This one gets an automatic MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.83). Rotcod Zzaj
A New Day – SUMMER REFLECTIONS: “A New Day” is pianist/composer Rob Miller and Ron Heustis doing orchestrations, all to wonderful effect… if you want to know what summer “sounds like” through the ears/eyes & souls of accomplished players, you’ll surely become acquainted with it on this (their second) CD. In some sense, what they’re playing reminds me of the Windham Hill “seasonal” releases… the compositions are highly original, full of spirit and totally engaging. If you’re a “purist” jazz fan, you may not find these as attractive as did I, but even if that’s true, you’ll know you’re listening to high talent. I couldn’t find non-flash downloadables (as you can find when an artist loads their work on AMAZON), but their SOUND PAGE has flash samples of each of the tracks (actually, if you Google them, you can find them on plenty of podcasts). The most attractive piece for this listener was the 6-minute “Early Rising”… I’ve always been easily engaged by the sound of a Kalimba, and they weave it into this composition very nicely… horns, guitar, everything you might imagine as you get up to meet a new day… keyword for this track is “inspiring”! I also loved the full body approach on “Place of Solitude” – the orchestrals are excellent. All in all, this is one of the better New Age recordings I’ve listened to this year – it earns a well-deserved HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, as well as an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.48. Get more information at www.anewday.ca Rotcod Zzaj
Charito – WATCH WHAT HAPPENS: Another laid-back jazz vocalist, Charito joins one amazing pianist/player from France, Michel Legrand… the recording doesn’t “favor” either one, & they’re both able to impress you with zesty talent and powerful playing! I’m telling you right now, when LeGrand kicks in with “scat” on the second track, “Summer Me, Winter Me”, or the duet on “Pieces Of Dreams”, your ears will quickly realize just how astounding life can be when in the presence of musical quality. Charito is from Japan (or at least, she’s based there), & having lived in the Orient myself for nigh on 20 years, I can tell you that she’s “got it”… no pretending or imitating here – she’s the “real thing”. As you read through her BIO, you’ll see that she gets extremely high marks from jazz notables like Nancy Wilson, & I’ve no doubt that doesn’t come “easy”. There are a couple of good introductory vids at ALLABOUTJAZZ on her, though I couldn’t find any downloadable .mp3’s for you – the AMAZON page didn’t have any samples, either. Her voice is full of soul, and she’s easily able to wrap you into her spell… very enjoyable CD, in great part because of Michel’s playing, but Charito is quality vocal jazz… she gets a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from me… “EQ” (energy quotient) rating is 4.45. Get more information at www.charito.com Rotcod Zzaj
Dan Moretti – TRES MUSE: We have reviewed Dan’s splendid jazz works for many years now… all the way back to issue #36 & most recently in issue #93… anything we’ve heard his tenor sax on is the highest display of talent and energy you’ll find on the scene today! On this outing, he’s joined by Marty Richards’ drums & Marty Ballou on electric bass… a superb trio of masterful players who will challenge your ears, albeit in most pleasant fashion… this is the kind of jazz you can listen to for hours (even days) & find yourself coming back to over & over again to taste the essence of tightness – highly impressive and without restrictions. This kind of originality in composition takes me back to my earliest years of listening to jazz – the early 1960’s, when everything I listened to was exciting, because it was fresh & new… tunes like “Mumbo Jumbo” will remind you (as they did me) of great players like Eddie Harris, yet still excite you because the energy is clearly 21st Century! The driving drum intro on “Fais Do-Do” will have your blood pumpin’ at thrice the normal rate and your muses will be dancing as well… it was Ballou’s thumping bass line that made “Guacamaya” my favorite on the CD, though… these guys are right on time every second, & will have you revisiting their muse far more than three times! 11 tracks of unadulterated jazz bliss for those who don’t want their genres “mixed” into some unintelligible hydra… this gets our MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.78! Get more information at www.danmoretti.com Rotcod Zzaj
Fred Simon-Paul McCandless-Steve Rodby-Mark Walker – SINCE FOREVER: There have been some wonderful releases coming in to us from the NAIM label lately… Fred Simon’s piano compositions lead the quartet here, most splendidly. His keyboard style is clearly based on lots of training, but his soul clearly comes through as he leads and backs reeds by Paul McCandless, acoustic bass from Steve Robby and drums/percussion from Mark Walker. The high-flying and jubilant second track, “No War Nowhere” is among my favorites… each player has a part to play, and play it they do… of course, I’m sure the theme has much to do with the emotion you feel pouring out from each instrument! It is the dynamic and mysterious “Even in the Evening” that captures the prize of being my favorite, though… it stays in the jazz realm, but there are moments when I can clearly picture a symphony playing this one as a classic. If you’re inclined to hear something a bit more bright and upbeat, you’ll fall in love with “What’s The Magic Word?” immediately. The keywords for all dozen of Simon’s track are vibrant and essential… nearly 64 minutes of pure sonic pleasure that gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from us and an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.89 – volcanic! Get more information and listen to samples at Fred’s MYSPACE page! Rotcod Zzaj
Christopher Boscole – PRESENTS OF ANGELS: Being a piano player myself, I can tell you that they often have a tendency towards so much introspection that their compositions often sound too self-absorbed – you know, like they’re taking themselves too seriously. That’s surely not the case on Christopher’s wonderful CD! “Joy” is a word often used to describe the efforts of solo pianists doing “new age” works, and (once again), that is often a keyword for listeners to expect over-glitzy passages so far removed from the human condition that they’re not enjoyable at all… Boscole’s playing communicates the vision he wants you to see without any overstatement, and clearly demonstrates talent far beyond the reach of many of those who “think” they know how to put their vision across! This is EXCELLENT piano, something I know I’ll continue listening to for the long term… this is especially true on compositions like “Angel of Bliss“, my favorite on the album. Christopher’s talent goes way beyond the norm for this genre, and pieces like “Knights of Gold“, another favorite, put you in the mood to commune with higher beings! I’m most highly impressed – this CD gets my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, as well as the “PICK” of this issue for “best solo piano”! You owe it to your ears (and your soul) to pick this one up for your collection of favorites! The “EQ” (energy quotient) rating is 4.86 (almost unheard of for solo piano). Get more information at www.christopherboscole.com Rotcod Zzaj
Richard Brent Turner – JAZZ RELIGION, THE SECOND LINE AND BLACK NEW ORLEANS: The image you see here pretty much “says it all” about this (very) interesting & engaging book from Richard Turner. The brass band funeral processions are far more than just the “party” that the media shows for the “Crescent City”… Turner is a teacher of religions, and brings a wealth of personal knowledge, as well as direct experience with “the Second Line” that contributes so much to traditions that birthed the jazz we hear today… all the way from the original Congo Square performances to players (like Louis Armstrong, Mahalia Jackson – even the Neville Brothers) whose roots in this music so full of life and healing power helped to create jazz on the wider basis we know it today. He intelligently explains how Voudou & even Catholicism blended elements from the African Diaspora, West Africa & Haiti and fused into a music founded on “resistance” that left even the Jim Crow folks at a loss as to how to “control” it (fact is, they never will be able to control the spirits, as much as they might like to do that). This is the kind of book that you’ll go back & read through again & again… & get something new out of it each time, no doubt in my mind. The beauty of Richard’s writing is that he’s able to tell you his story without getting so scholarly about it that you have to consult a dictionary or Thesaurus for every other page. A thoroughly enjoyable read, with a totally engaging photo section that captures (at least) part of the spirit of the music/religion he’s writing about. I’m impressed enough to give this a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for anyone interested in “digging a bit deeper” into where this “jazz” all came from. Get more information at Indiana University Press – & of course, tell them you read the review here! Rotcod Zzaj
Michael DeMaria – OCEAN: The aspect of Michael’s music that impressed me most on his previous release, “Siyotanka” was his ability to touch the listener with the power needed to heal them… and this new release shows that talent at an even deeper level. Michael tells me in the letter that accompanied the package that the music was “designed to help people relax and let go”… not necessarily the kind of relaxation that puts them so deep under that they want to sleep – more the kind that spurs pleasant brainwaves to help a listener focus on the healing power they have within themselves. I know (from my own experiences/recovery) that this is possible and that the world would be a far better place if more folks could settle down enough to feel the gentle calm that “Moonlit Sea” inspired for me! Well crafted and full of spirit, DeMaria’s music touches your mind through passages that (at times) feel like your brain is being massaged… witness the bass sounds, beautiful flute, dynamic strings and enchanting vocals on my favorite track, “In Search of Home“. This kind of music deserves your undivided attention – it isn’t “background” music, & you should make sure you set aside the full hour for an uninterrupted listen – preferably with headphones on. Be sure to keep your ears on Michael, as you’re going to be hearing more and more from him in the coming years… he gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from me, as well as the “PICK” of the year for “best ambient CD”. This one gets an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.92 (scale is 1-5). Get more information at www.ontosmusic.com Rotcod Zzaj
Tom Braxton – ENDLESS HIGHWAY: One of my promoters took a (real) chance on this one, as the ads all kind of put Tom’s fantastic CD in the “smooth jazz” category… while it has elements of that (you know, stock chords & similar changes), none of the compositions carry that dreaded “lull” that genre category carries with it for many of our readers. Why? Because Braxton’s style on both his originals & those of the other players whose tunes appear here all contain stellar energy for the playing of the music… there isn’t a dull tune on the album! As you might imagine, the title track is one of Tom’s, & it KICKS right in – splendid introduction to his playing, which I’d not heard before, though I’m sure after hearing these spirit-filled tunes, we’ll all be hearing more from him in the future! There’s a clear sense of jumpin’ for JOY on many of the 13 pieces, but nowhere is that sense of just how great life can be was it more evident than on my favorite cut, “Soul Purpose“, another Braxton original… his tenor sax is superb here, and his talent for arranging shines right on through with his horn arrangements. If you want to hear from what jump sounds like, you’ll definitely dig “That Wayman Smile“, by Tom & keyboardist Jay Rowe… gettin’ on up to dance isn’t a question on this one, it’s a mandate. For something that soars, check out “The Journey Radio Edit” – perfect cut for the lead-out on an album that has the high spirit and life-filled energy that is demanded to get a review here. This gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from my ears, & an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.75! Get more information at www.tombraxton.com Rotcod Zzaj
Davey Williams – ANTENNA ROAD: Davey’s back at the improv shrine again – only in this case, we need to bowin’ down to him (it’s just the price of fame, Mr. Williams… ha! ha!). 30 (yes, I said THIRTY) tracks that vary in length from seconds long to minutes long… superb improvisations that will warm the cockles of yer’ heart – unless, of course, you’re in a “smooth jazz” frame o’ mind… then, Davey’s odd-istry may not groove you quite as much as it did me. I’ve known him for a long time (since around 1980 or so, when we played together on a CD called Sdrawkcab Zzaj), & can say unequivocally that this is the best guitar-based improvisation set I’ve ever heard… everything is recorded very clearly, nothing is left to chance. Names like Derek Bailey are often used to make comparisons with Williams, but I can tell you for a fact that you have never heard music like this… all the way from mythical dragons screeching in your ears to ordnance blowing out your eardrums, “Antenna Road” is totally original. In your braincase will roil distant remembrances of players like Beefheart, perhaps Zappa & others too jaded for public consumption, but you’ll know that what you’ve been exposed to is the imagination of a genuine modern wizard, with no punches pulled & no prisoners taken. Unfortunately, the sample trax from this one appear to be up on CD BABY, which uses flash, so no direct downloads were available (damnable FLASH player sucks buttermilk)… guess that means you’ll just have to purchase it – and if you’re a fan of mind-boggling improvised music, you will be driven to purchase this. It is, quite simply, the VERY BEST IMPROVISED GUITAR I’ve ever heard… not only a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, but it gets the “PICK” of this century for “best improvised guitar”! The EQ (energy quotient) is 4.92. Get more information at www.the-improvisor.com/transmuseq/davey/ Rotcod Zzaj
Gene Segal – HYPNOTIC: I’m continually impressed by the high quality of music sent for review these days… this CD is from a Brooklyn-based jazz guitarist (originally from Russia) who has put together an excellent sextet… jazz fans will love his all-original music, as did I! Each & every track is packed with the kind of vibrant energy that only can come from a person who is fully engaged in life! Gene’s excellent guitar is joined by organ from Sam Barsh (I’m just lovin’ his style), drums & percussion by Matt Kane, tenor sax from Mike Sim, both tenor & soprano by Bryan Beninghove, & rounded out by trumpet from Jonathan Powell. There’s a rockin’ undercurrent of uptown funkiness that can’t be resisted, especially on pieces like “Blues Again“… Barsh’s exceedingly talented organ playing is a perfect compliment to Segal’s kickin’ leads, & at 5:25, it’s long enough to make you get on up & step to it! “Alef” leads in with a great call/response funk riff, & when the horns start doing counterpoint, you’ll be groovin’ for sure! My favorite on the CD, though was the last track, “Truth“; each player has a part to play, & they clearly are in tune enough not to be steppin’ all over each other… Gene’s guitar has some scorching leads here, too, which is probably why I dug it so much! I expect I’ll be hearing a lot more from Segal after this stunning debut effort… keep your ears on him, to be sure! I give him a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED on this one, as well as an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.91. Get more information at www.genesegal.com Rotcod Zzaj
David Widelock Trio – SKATING ON THE SIDEWALK: The mark of a true music professional is the ability to flex between different styles of music without “losing” the listener…. David & his trio companions (Fred Randolph’s acoustic & fretless electric bass, & Jim Kassis on drums) have put together a truly attractive 11 song sonic package for your pleasure that displays the highest talent level I’ve heard from a trio in quite some time! All tracks (except 2) are composed by Widelock, which adds an “edge” that’s necessary, at least in some ways, to get a top rating from me… & it goes all the way from straight-up jazz to funk to great Latin-influenced jazz. If you’re looking for “laid-back”, try “A Colorful Dream Underwater“… Randolph’s bass lends a nice loose feel in support of great (& very clear) guitar leads by David. On the other hand, if you’re looking for somethin’ to get yer’ “groove on”, you’ll dig “Peeling The Magic Onion” in a big way… this one’s still playing in my car player – great for the road, I’ll tell you! My (absolute) favorite, though, was “Something Easy“… it’s one of the best blues-influenced originals I’ve heard (yet) this year… absolutely tight playing that will haunt your ears for years to come. Though this isn’t his debut release (his last was in 1985), it might as well be, in my mind, anyway… it paints a very clear sonic image of a player who (though having been around for a good long time) is right in touch with what jazz fans want to hear in the “now”. I give it a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, & will definitely look forward to his next release! “EQ” (energy quotient) rating is 4.86. Get more information at www.beegumrecords.com Rotcod Zzaj
John Wojciechowski – LEXICON: John’s tenor and soprano sax works are (quite simply) astounding! His tone makes it that way – full-bodied and rich all the way from opening note to closing bar. Unfortunately, this one wasn’t up on AMAZON (yet?), so I couldn’t link the samples right in for you, but you can hear 4 or 5 of them on John’s listening page (whoops, I did find some downloadable/playable samples at EMUSIC – our hats are off to those folks for making the links available, even tho’ it does appear to be that abominable FLASH player). He’s joined by Dave Miller on guitar, Ron Perillo on piano/Rhodes, Dennis Carroll on bass and Dana Hall on drums/cymbals; you may not realize it until you’ve listened to him, but he’s been on the jazz scene with lots of players. Nine original tunes keep the energy going at full-bore, especially on compositions like “Jazz Folk Song“, my absolute favorite on the album… at about 2:50, Perillo’s excellent piano chops are joined by a scorching sax lead that you won’t soon forget, & Carroll’s bass introduction provides a driving force that propels it at rocket speed! There are all kinds of player comparisons I could make (names like Getz, Adderley & such come to mind), but what I so much enjoy about his energy is that you can tell everything he plays is straight from the heart… songs like “Jazz Folk Song” are more expressive of the ancient language that music truly is than any I’ve heard in years! If it’s rousing drums and energy that spans the universe you crave, you’ll fall in love with “Pentatonic Tune“… this one just soars! If you’re looking for an album that will become an “instant jazz classic” – this is it!!! I rate it MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, as well as award it the “PICK” of this issue for “best saxophone-based jazz quintet”! “EQ” (energy quotient) rating is 4.96! Get more information at www.jwojojazz.com Rotcod Zzaj
LaDonna Smith – Michael Evans – DEVIANT SHAKTI: Here’s our longtime improvising pal LaDonna creating crystal-clear improvised havoc with her violin/viola in tandem with Michael Evans, doing percussion, drums, electronics & Theremin! As many of you who read this ‘zine on a regular basis may know, I first met LaDonna way back in the earliest days of her label, Transmuseq… I was doing a lot of performance art & played with her & guitarist Davey Williams (also reviewed in this issue). My first listen to this CD was through speakers, & to be fair to the artists, decided right away that it MUST be taken in through headphones… doing the listen in any other fashion takes away from the intense concentration and focus that you must have when experiencing improvised music; and I can tell you that you’d be missing a lot… this is one of the intricately woven sonic tapestries I’ve ever heard from LaDonna… EVERY note has a new adventure, and you’ll find yourself absorbed to the ‘nth degree after only the first 20 seconds. There are “voices” in here that even the most able among us will find difficult to grok, even if we are at the highest levels of “the force”… Smith’s string antics mesh perfectly with Michael’s (r)evolutionary percussion to give you an insight of the language the creators of the universe speak in… what language, you ask? Why, pure and unadulterated music, of course, unfettered by convention or mediocrity. If you are inclined to thinking that artistry can only be “true” if it reflects the conventions man often wants to superimpose over the chaos that life really is – go elsewhere… but if you appreciate sonics that take you to new levels, you’ll have no choice but to get this one! The “EQ” (energy quotient) level on this one is what gives it away as one of the best improvised albums in a long time – it gets a 5.0 (which is at the top of the Zzaj energy scale… you can’t go any higher). It is, of course, MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for those listeners who are unafraid of “different” music, as well as the “PICK” of this issue for “best improvised duet”! Get more information (& listen to short samples) at CD BABY! Rotcod Zzaj
Fra Fra Sound – DYA SO: Having led an “addictive lifestyle” myself for a few years, I know that what often causes folks to get hung on substances is a key element missing in their lives – & that is the joy that comes from a life fully lived… these gents help to inspire such through their music, in a big way! I’m highly impressed, as will any jazz fan who is looking for Afro-Latin sounds that will get both body & mind moving in zones that bring that joy on! To watch a video of them “at play”, go HERE – the feeling there reminds me somewhat of old vids of groups that Joe Zawinul was in, & in fact, Weather Report does come to mind on tunes like “We’ll See You There” (this is at their MYSPACE page… couldn’t find any direct download samples that weren’t using FLASH). We’ve actually listened to (& reviewed) them before, but for some reason, I was unable to find the issue they were in. The FAVORITE track (for me) on this outing, though, was “100% Halal“… in addition to the marvelous horns, there is also some fantastic electric piano work… if this one doesn’t get you up & moving – you’re dead already! Those who want to find jazz that will stand the test of time need only check out the links above… 9 joyous tracks that will be the envy of jazz aficionados ’round the planet. I give them a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, & have told the promoter that we want EVERY release they have (past, present or future) for review! Funk without the fuss – GREAT jazz that gets an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.95! Get info at www.myspace.com/frafrasound Rotcod Zzaj
Three LIVE SHOW reviews for your reading pleasure this time around… the scene around the Puget Sound is definitely “getting better”, particularly in th’ blues/jazz/funk vein… look for more here next issue…
I’d wanted to do a live show review of Paul’s music ever since I first heard his rockin’ folk-oriented originals on Reverbnation… after a couple of gigs I missed out on, I finally got the chance at “The Loft”… the venue has changed significantly (even though it is truly only a “loft space”) since the last time I was there several years ago for some performances by Bob Marsh from San Francisco. This show was decidedly different, focused more on “billy rock”, “straight-out rock” & with a few nice shades of “folk-rock” in between. They had a bit of trouble getting the stage lights working, but finally got that in place – which made a world of difference. The only drawback (I felt) for the venue is that it’s pretty much unheated – “chilly”, indeed!
After introducing myself to him, Paul made sure I got the “Mark of the Beast” stamp they were using as a sorta’ “press pass”… we yakked over cigs outside… it was nice to (finally) meet him face-to-face, as it had all been online up to that point. Typically Northwest start… about 1/2 hour later than advertised, & in-line with most performances in Oly… small crowd to start with, only drifting in & out as I watched the first player (pictured at the top left) playing against a rhythm lick he setup via the pedals… he got some very nice “rounds” going, then slid into some harp accompaniment. Some nice pieces, perfect for starters; heavy on strum, but he also had some nice harmonics going on several of his songs. Not bad…not bad at all!
Next up was a young singer from Portland named Kari Newhouse… high talent on display, to be sure! Her vocal style reminds me of all the folk/rockers back in the day (my day, that is… ladies like Joni Mitchell & Janis Ian come to mind immediately)… excellent playing with sweet overtones and plenty of spirit along with well executed harmonics! There’s an almost “jazz” feel to many of her compositions, though she brings it all back to earth with her penetrating and well-crafted lyrics. I’m quite impressed with her stage presence. It’s clear (to this reviewer, anyway) that Oly is missing out by not being here in full force… this kind of music brings out the magick for the listener & is very inspirational – we clearly need more of such in our world today – her performance was only about 20 minutes – would like to hear more from her next time. Excellent performance, & I’ll be watching the boards/sites to catch her again!
Paul Mauer is up next, the “draw” for me coming down here to listen & review… he leads in with a heavy strum tune, lots of raw energy & total involvement in his performance. His vocals remind me (for some strange reason) of Jethro Tull… a kind of “gnarly” tone, yet infused with inspiration for the listener. I think the keyword for me when listening to his songs is “enchanting”. He definitely gets involved with his audience, too – not coming across as “performer” so much as one of us regular folks – who has been gifted with lyrical and vocal skills at levels a bit higher than us. Another thing I totally enjoy about what he’s doing is his ability at creating several overtones at once, while managing to keep rhythm going strong… it’s almost orchestral in spots – very pleasant listening! Since Paul grew up in old Olympia, I’m sure some of that ol’ “hippie” vibe has rubbed off on him, as you can’t sing & play with this kind of committment unless you had some exposure to that time of free-thinking… it’s great to see such spirit on the public stage again in my adopted ‘ville! I slide out after 3 or 4 tunes, as the lack of heat is beginning to “chill me out” more than I’d like, but this was a great set, & I’m sure they danced well into the night as the other players took their turn! GREAT show, Paul!
Leroy Daniels & Jared Dines, Blue Bottle Cafe (Yelm), 10/9/2009
The “draw” for me on this one was that Michelle had it posted on her calendar as “jazz”… it was that in a way, but the focus from Leroy & Jared was clearly on their religious experience… after sitting down close to the stage, she introduced me to Leroy (the keyboardist) & he invited me up to play… I forego that to listen to his chops, & then to Leroy’s warmup with Jared’s guitar. Yamaha keys & acoustic guitar with a pickup… they only had one large speaker (would be better with separate speakers… Leroy’s vocal was “submerged” a bit because of that common mix-through). Both gents seem quite comfortable with each other & right “on-key” during the warmups…
Leroy leads in with all original tunes… nice jazzy keyboards against his own lyrics (which he does all the singing on)…. “My Life Depends On You” represents that jazz approach quite well, & while I dug the song, the message came across as (just) a bit “preachy”… what saves him from being turned off by my ears, though, is that his “soul” comes through clearly. Nice strong gospel rhythms…. everybody needs a “shot of gospel” now & then & Leroy serves it right on up there with the best of ’em. Several more R&B rhythms with generous infusions of jazzy keyboards keep everybody listening (of course, the audience seems to be made up of members from the local “congregation” – not sure)… in some ways, I’m reminded of the vibe I imagine Stevie Wonder would generate were he playing a small room like this… cool!
The duo is up after about 20 minutes of Leroy’s solo works… I listened to some of Jared’s other solo work on a demo CD, & it’s markedly different from what he’s doing here… the word that sticks in my mind as these two young guys play together is “joy”. It’s clear they enjoy crafting pieces together, & Dines’ folk-rhythms drive the performance in a different direction than Leroy’s solo singing. I especially enjoyed a tune called “Fly Me Away”, on which Jared’s acoustic guitar leads were very pleasant. With time & maturity, I’ve no doubt that this duo will realize that their message can be conveyed more powerfully if the focus is more on their musical skills than verbalizations of faith… nonetheless, this was an enjoyable (short) set that showed significant skill & love of playing!
As I’m prone to do, scanned the Entertainment sections (online) lookin’ for music to listen to… a totally new series popped up on the radar (click on the Eastside Club link above to check more out)… maybe Olyjazz ain’t “dead” yet…
I left the house about an hour & a half before the show was scheduled to start (9:00, but that usually means at least 9:30)… wanted to get the “lay of the bar”, so to speak. I’d been in this club (way back) in the late ’70’s (or whatever was there then), & if I remember correctly, they used to have some live entertainment (but that was a while ago, so I may have the wrong venue). After settling in at the bar, struck up a conversation with (who else) the bartender… turns out he’s the guy responsible for booking the acts in here, so I got lucky. If you go to their club link above, the schedule is posted there, & they’ve got real variety, so I’m lookin’ forward to hitting a few more of their acts over the next couple of months. Thanks for all the information Andy…
As always, did too much coke (naw, the “liquid” kind, volkz, nothin’ “exotic”). This is clearly a beer joint (as you’ll see from all the posters & signs on the wall behind the players… band starts rolling in around 8:25, do a quick meet/greet with the bassist, Dave Kurtiak, & he says it’s cool to take a few pics, do a review, etc. No stage, they just slide the ping pong table off to the side & begin to lay their gear in… Ooooohhhh… my favorite instrument – a Rhodes, to be played by Marc Hager… superb, defintely my instrument of choice! You can see from the pic that the “aura” of this place ain’t “high falutin”, just us regular folks, out for a beer or 10 & havin’ some fun… it takes the guys a while to get it all setup, so I get to chat with them a bit more out on smoke breaks & such… just the general “who do you know that I do”, “what style we play in” & that kind of thing.
They’re charging a $4 cover… certainly reasonable & the music director says they couldn’t have the music in here unless they did that… no objections on my part if the band is cool. After that smoke break with the band, wandered back to my seat only to find that some RUDE lil’ cutie-pie has moved my stuff… mumbles some lame apology, & rather than stir it up, I move to a better vantage point… 9:50, they start the train… NICE phonky start on the opener, plenty of silky Rhodes & pop bass… all th’ players are right on th’ rhythm… their claim to “sounds like” AWB ain’t too far off th’ mark, but they DO have their own original sound, ‘specially with that Rhodes… just think Ohio Players with Joe Zawinul (i.e., Marc Hager) & bass that tends to remind me a bit of Weather Report… especially once those reeds start blending in… these guys have some very smooth moves & Oly couldn’t ask for much more in the way of improvised funk/jazz…. Matt Rankin’s sax & his (Oly local) partner Brad Schrandt work very nicely together with drummer Donovan Pfeifer to keep the ride goin’ ON!
Rankin leads in on the second tune with a nice little riff that is greatly enhanced by the bass & Rhodes support… just th’ kind of music “beer crowds” will dig on… plenty o’ bump & funk, to be sure! It was actually the 3rd track of the set that I dug the most with a subtle but driving line that melds quite nicely into a groove that even the real cokers could groove to. I’m quite impressed with the scene “HNBC” helps to create in this little club, & encouraged to see that this kind of music is happening in our little City. You can bet I’ll be back for more, especially if the rest of the bands they’re hiring on understand how to ride the groove as well as “How Now Brown Cow” does! Lotsa’ fun!
INTERVIEW with Cara Clarke
I’m honored to have Cara respond to my request for an interview… her music was what first “won me over” for a fantastic little gem of a place called the “Blue Bottle“, out in Yelm, Washington! She’s pictured here with her latest musical group, “Be Hear” (one of my favorite local groups). She’s led a rich and full life, and continues to do so… in fact, LIFE is what she’s really all about… heavy energy for whatever she’s doing, & a performer of great magnitude! If you live in this area, or even if you’re just passing through, you’ll want to make sure you make time to catch her gig & make her acquaintance – I know I’m glad I did!!!
Zzaj: I’m sittin’ here listening back through the DEMO CD of yours I reviewed in this issue, Cara… while your music surely “tells the story”, our readers would also like to hear it in YOUR WORDS… where you were born, where you went, where you are now… in other words, please give us some bio to tell us who Cara really is!
Cara: Wow! A Bio… How much time do we have? I was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois. I attended DePaul University majoring in Journalism because I had high hopes of reporting my take on current events to the world! That was back in the early 80’s and my friends and I got into the drug scene… So one night at a party I looked around and realized that wasn’t what I wanted to do with my life. So – I whispered very softly so no one would hear… Help! No kidding Dick, I just whispered help and the very next day I decided to relocate to Portland, Oregon. I had distant relatives there that had offered to let me come and stay for a bit to see if I liked it after finishing school, so I called and they were ecstatic that I wanted to come out. Talked with my parents and they too were thrilled – they knew I was on a downward spiral. So for two weeks I packed, waiting for my last day of work. I had come up with the great idea that I was going to see the country so instead of flying I was taking the greyhound bus out – Not a good idea! Two days before leaving I got a call from my cousin Jay that Mount St. Helen’s had blown! There was Ash everywhere so they wanted me to postpone my trip for another two weeks, but I was ready to go… So, he suggested I check out Seattle for a week and then come to Portland… I did check out Seattle Stayed at the YWCA til’ I found a place and work. I loved it so much that I never made to Portland!
I was extremely shy, I know that’s hard to believe now, but finding myself in a brand new place was like being able to reinvent me, so I decided I was going to come out the closet and sing – My first love.
Now I have to tell you this one story that changed my life. How when you reinvent yourself and change your character how quickly things happen. So – I met this guy and told him I was a singer and he told me about a jam session, now mind you I didn’t really know what a jam session was at that time, I’d seen all the jazz greats with my parents both jazz lovers, but I didn’t know what a session was. So, this fellow tells me about a jazz jam session at the Olympic Four Seasons Hotel of all places, a professional jam session at that, and I figured how hard can it be, right? I pick a tune out that I love and decide I am going to go and sit in,.
By this time I’ve met a friend and she’s going with me for encouragement, not knowing that I have never done this before. So I go up and put my name on the list and the tune I’m going to sing – “Lush Life” – yep – I don’t remember the entire combo, but the drummer was Dean Hodges, a Seattle favorite; these cats were Seattle’s best at the time.
I stepped up on that stage and took a look at those real players I was in awe… Wishing my parents were there to see this. The musicians were checking me out too, knowing either I was going to blow the heck out of the tune or NOT… But my bet was that they thought I was some Jazz vocalist from someplace special, I looked the part. Excitement was in the air and everyone was all ears – I’m not kidding. They really didn’t know what to think when they asked what key and I said, “Any Key”! Yep, I did. Oh! Man, my knees buckled and the first few verses were okay, but when those changes got to coming it ALL fell apart! It was a hot mess! I realized then that singing with live musicians was nothing like singing with a record, especially jazz! I made an awful mess out of it, went back to my seat and just as I was about to sneak out of the club to hide my shame, Mr. Hodges came over to me touched my shoulder and said “Go home and learn the tune in that key and come back”, “You got something there girl!” Blew me away. I never went back to that Four Seasons jam, but I worked on the tune and a few more. I actually ended up gigging with my own band at the Four Seasons a few years later and even hired Dean Hodges for a few gigs, his son played with my band “Caraplane” back in the day. Later I would find a signature tune to do at Jam sessions and I’ve always tried to remember the keys I sing in. That tune is on the demo and I know it front and backwards and I always do it in the key of F, thanks to Dean Hodges advice. The Girl from Ipanema, nothing like some Antonio Carlos Jobim. I have NEVER tried to sing “Lush Life” since… “Hummmm” Maybe we’ll have to put it on the CD.
After that it was vocalist meets guitar player…They form a band, gig all over the place, get married… “Divorce”, split the band in two…Band wars…Girl relocates, works with child development and special needs children, relocates again, remarries has another daughter…Becomes despondent with the life she has without music…Pushes on to survive…Music…Motherhood…Motherhood…Single parent life…wakes up years later and opens up to her musical dreams again…We’ll probably touch on some of this during the interview….smiles
Zzaj: You’ve mentioned to me that you spent a lot of time in the Orient… tell us a bit more about that… what took you there… how long you stayed… why you came back… & what you got from being there…
Cara: I met this guitar player. I would go to his gigs and just sit and watch the band. I’d smile at him, he’d smile at me from the stage, but I thought something was missing… So one night I fixed him a really great dinner, cuddled up real close to him and in my sweetest voice mentioned that I would just love to try a tune with his band. He said, “Sure Sweetie” I had listened to & practiced a few jazz tune/songs, paid attention to the progression of chords and the instrumentation of the musicians and was itching to try it with some “Real” players.
The first time I took to the stage there were three patrons in the club, a few seconds into my tune one of them walked out! It was the “Old Timer’s Cafe” in Pioneer square and the club owner at the the time, “Juan” came up to me after the set and asked if I would join the guys at their next gig! I thought he was joking… That was the beginning of my hot little band “Caraplane”… we played all over Seattle. Those few tunes turned into a few more and with lots of long solos and we made it through many a gig. The guitar player and I got married. I begin gigging with my band and also on the side with a band called “The Forty-seven Street Players”, mostly ski resorts with them. I was loving my life! “Caraplane” was doing sort of the Jazz circuit, clubs in Pioneer Square and Capital Hill, Jazz Alley in the “U” district and one of the coolest Jazz spots I’ve known, “Parnell’s”. I occasionally helped out as a waitress at Parnell’s. It was a great place to get up close and & personal with the Jazz musicians that came through the NW on tour.
It was a fabulous time in my life. I got to meet and hang out with the likes of Dizzy Gillespie, Wynton Marsalis, Jimmy Smith, Eddie “Clean-Head” Vinson, Lorez Alexandra, Lionel Hampton, Billy Higgins, Ahmad Jamal, Max Roach, Abbey Lincoln, Chet Baker, Jack McDuff, Slim Gaillard & Etta James, Ester Phillips, Julian Priester to name a few – I forged quite a few friendships in those amazing times.
One night I’m there working at Parnell’s and a call comes in for me… This guy from California on the line saying someone told him about me and he has a gig in Japan, would I be interested. So I think it’s a joke and start playing with the caller. I go on and on about how great I am and what my repertoire is and how I would really be interested and he could come and see me at my gig that weekend at the Pioneer Square Tavern a cool little dive at that time. All the while snickering to myself.
You know Dick, I’m listening to what I’m saying and seeing we really do create our reality! My husband and I had a great laugh over this “Who the heck calls someone they never heard before about a gig in Japan”, because at that time Japan seemed like some far off exotic place that I would never get to… But the truth is I had actually “thought” about Japan, I just hadn’t mentioned it to anyone. It was sort of like a fantasy, one of my high school friends had gone to live there for a year and really loved it! So that weekend I’m doing my gig and on my break this guy walks up to me and introduces himself from Belmont Agency, he hands me a contract to look over and tells me to get back to him in a week, if I’m interested!
Amazing right, so for the next month I scrambled to learn tunes, have charts made up and put a band together to go to Japan. Our first trip over was to Osaka, we spent 6 weeks. The pay was poor, the accommodations were lousy and I got homesick. Aside from that I had studied little of the culture. I was confused and bewildered by the unknown ways and customs of this society and had more than my share of mishaps! I returned home that first trip broken from the experience but determined to make good on my sharing my music with this Asian culture. Before returning to America, I secured another gig at nicer club with wonderful accommodations and better pay because I would be using Japanese musicians this next time. I hadn’t used my entire visa time up so I was able to return within a few months…I had no idea the my next trip over was going to be one of the greatest adventures of my life! Right before I was to leave I fell ill. I went to a Doctor who assured me that all I had was a bit of stomach flu. Strange thing was he had me take an ultra sound for precautionary measures. The results were to be back in a week or so, but he assured me there would be no problem going to Japan for my 12 weeks tour. Well I went! Long story short! 11 weeks into a 12 week gig I gave birth to a very premature baby! We pretty much figured out I was I must have been about 15 weeks pregnant when I left Seattle. The club owner never believed that I didn’t know I was pregnant. It was a hit with the newspapers though. My oldest daughter Mica weighed one pound two ounces at birth and was born at Yodogawa Christian Hospital in Osaka, Japan that June at 27 weeks gestation! I gigged all over Japan for the next 6 months in between visiting her at the hospital. I FINALLY got a chance to throw myself into the culture of the society. I learned a bit of the language, ate the food and made friends. The year was 1983 and that was when the aids epidemic was occurring but they had not begun testing donated blood. Mica required several blood transfusions, all from her Father because they shared the same blood type and he had flown over to be with me. I like to think that perhaps this had something to do with all that happened.
In our mail when we returned home from Japan was a letter from the Doctor that he had been sadly mistaken, I WAS pregnant. I never called him back. Mica is 26 and a collage graduate… living and working in Seattle, Washington now!
I’ve performed maybe 6 more times in Asia, Indonesia, Hong Kong and the Philippines! One of my favorite places on the Planet is Bali, Indonesia! Aside from the Netherlands, where I have also gigged, Washington state is the best, that’s why I’m here, but if I wasn’t living here, that’s where I would want to be. What I learned from the Orient, while there was a lot, but my biggest lesson (and this took several trips) was that women can lead by sometimes appearing as if they are following. I learned that just because folks don’t hoop and holler when you are playing that doesn’t mean they aren’t listening and enjoying. The Japanese are very polite people. It took a bit of time before I realized they really did like me, they clapped very gently as if not to upset the flow in the room. I am forever grateful for the expertise of those Doctors who cared for my child during her hospital stay, especially one female Doctor that gave birth to her child shortly before we returned to the States with Mica in tow.
Zzaj: There are always players we fancy ourselves to be like, whether it’s a guitarist, a piano player or a vocalist… who is that for you? How/why do they most inspire you?
Cara: There are a few musicians that I have heard that seem to resonate with me on different pages of my life. Their frequency in their music is a match for mine… the deep sorrow in Chet Bakers playing and singing, the heartfelt delight in guitarist Pierre Bensusan’s voice and guitar, the rich soulful story telling of Phoebe Snow and the fun time that is had by all with Bette Midler to name a few. I bet you thought I was going to say Aretha, Chaka or Ella, Carmen, Billy, Sarah, Rachelle Farrell or Dianne Reeves; those are my sisters and my roots! They are the “Healer” voices that assisted me in getting my life back on track. Doris Day! I have to say this – I loved Doris Days voice!
Zzaj: I’ve watched you perform on many occasions now, & it seems (to me, anyway) like you’re a “natural” performer… that’s not something that comes easy… what/who in your earliest days helped you to see that this is something you SHOULD be doing?
Cara: Actually Dick, it wasn’t a person that inspired my love for music first, it was a the first time I heard a song. I remember it oh so well. I was sitting in front of my grandmother’s house in Louisiana and heard “Sherri Won’t You Come Out Tonight”. This song just came through the air landed in one ear and went out the other. I mean it, I felt it and saw it! That’s how I remember it as a child of three. This stuff that had words that weren’t just talking but doing something else, flowed through my ear and it tickled and made me laugh and it was at that moment that I knew I wanted to be that whatever it was. I wanted to BE music!
My Father, Pierre was a classical violinist our personalities were very similar. He was really encouraging with me when it came to my love of music. Music was my Dad’s “Happy” thought. If he was playing, talking or listening to music his eyes twinkled and he became very animated in his ways. My Mother Revah, an Educator, on the other hand, had very high hopes my excelling academically I’d always done well in school. She discouraged my desire to sing, that was of course unless I wanted to pursue Opera! The odd thing about that was my Mother had this incredible voice with really wonderful vibrato that she she only shared with her children. I used to love to hear her sing lullaby’s and later in songs from Mary Poppins, The Sound of Music and her favorite jazz albums; because it was “Natural” and quite beautiful. She also loved to whistle through jazz changes! I remember listening to her sing shortly before her death and asking her why she never pursued a career in music. Would you believe she told me…After years of chastising me for not following the straight and pursuing a professional career to her likening? “That’s what I have you for!”, and then she tells me, “Don’t you ever forget where you got it from.” How’s that for for famous last words??? That was in 2007. I guess after you live so long you realize that the day gig you work is really so you can support whatever your real passion is until it gets going. I would like to think that my Mother realized that in her prime. It’s about following your bliss, but so many of us get caught up in possessions that we forget what it is we really love doing and don’t realize it until it’s almost all over.
Zzaj: “Spirit” in music is something I believe counts more than anything else… I don’t just mean “soul”, “R&B”, or some particular genre… it can be any kind of music, as long as the players/performers have the right ENERGY comin’ through. How do you see it? Where does your particular energy come from (‘coz you surely GOT it, lady)?
Cara: Thank you, that’s beautiful. I love singing and I love humanity. I particularly love the players I am working with right now, we seem to be on the same page, so there is so much joy for me when I’m on stage imagine I’m doing what I love with who I love and the feeling is mutual – The audience can’t help but become effected if they are open to receiving this, and once they are than it’s one great big love fest! No judgments, come as you and and leave as you wish to be. To be more specific though, this energy you speak of…When you use your mind in the way where you don’t judge a situation, you allow your joy of performing the music to unfold and let the “Spirit” of that music take you where it will. I find that “Omniscient Spirit” present whenever I remember to have “No Doubt” and allow, allow, ALLOW and have fun with it.
Zzaj: As mentioned, your DEMO CD is reviewed in this issue… can you tell us when you think the full CD may be released? You know, give our readers a little “inside scoop”, ‘k?
Cara: Here’s the inside scoop on “Be Hear”, Stefan Abuan (guitar/vocals/composer), Steve Bartlett (bass/vocals) and myself had hoped to go into the studio the end of October and work diligently on tunes finishing up by the end of November. We were working on Stefan’s latest original, “Your Love is Like Soul Music”, which is incredible, and Steve came up with the idea that we should create songs with powerful musical and lyrical content such as this song. It’s so simple, but the melody and lyrics really hit home.
As a collective we’ve decided that we just didn’t want a CD to sell, we would create a CD that would hopefully make a difference. We have four originals that we are tightening up before we go to the studio and all of us, including Steve’s wife Jan, are listening to tunes that we might like to cover. We will finish around the end of January early February. It’s a little bit longer but worth the wait. I think you are going to be very surprised by one of the songs we are covering if it works out as planned. My youngest daughter Asantewaa has gotten into the mix of music now that she’s begun music theory and made a major suggestion that I’m quite excited about, Stefan agreed to work out the arrangement and well if all works out as planned this should be a goodie!
Zzaj: It may just be coincidence, but I’m reading a book about “New Orleans jazz” that talks a lot about some of the “black tribes” that do street music (even voodoo) down there… they allude to some quite heavy mixing with Native American folk… seems like you’ve told me you had some roots in that direction… tell us what you can about that, please? (in the interest of cultural diversity, of course, since that’s something I think is quite important for our country).
Cara: Certainly! I have a pretty incredible ethnic background! My Mother was born in the Bayou in Louisiana, she has always had fond memories and fascinating stories of her life there. This upbringing allowed her to be precise in her senses and non-traditional in her thinking because when you live in the Bayou you have to be able to tune into sounds around you to protect yourself from predators especially snakes and alligators. You also have to become sovereign to the land. They healed themselves naturally and made their bread, wine and beer. She was an exceptional cook. I was lucky to have a free thinker for a Mother when I was younger, of course over the years she went with higher education over educating herself and losing some of that. My Mother’s ethnic background was Louisiana Creole (Colonial French, Black and Native American) and Irish. My Father was Black and Choctaw Indian – his roots were in Arkansas but he grew up in Chicago, Illinois. His upbringing was totally different from my Mother’s though. My Paternal Grandmother was a student in one of (I believe) the first colleges to allow Black student entry into a nursing program in Florida. The program was discontinued almost as quickly as it was opened. Only the students that had been allowed the initial entry were allowed to continue and ultimately finish. My grandmother received her RN and was able to afford violin lessons for my Father, which was pretty amazing seeing as they lived through the depression. Cultural Diversity runs deep in my family. There were no color barriers. Where there was racism I was taught early on that was just ignorance. Skin color is not a representation of who you were aside from your genetic make-up, add to that the environment and the culture you were brought up in which add more components to your personality…But your personality isn’t EVEN who YOU are…You are an incredible light having an experience on this playground we call earth.
Zzaj: At one time, you played with a lot of Seattle players (& others, I’m sure); who were some of them? & tell us what you see comin’ down the pike for Cara, musically, please…
Cara: Yes, Seattle had and has some magnificent players and I’ve gigged with some of the greatest there! I know after this interview I’m going to come up with more,..
Let’s see Seattle’s Blues Great Isaac Scott, Saxophonist extraordinaire Lonnie Williams, Dean Hodges (drums), Clarence Acox (drums), Merwyn Kato (drums) he’s on our demo, Doug Barnett, Steve Banks (drums), Deems Tsutakawa (piano), Gerald Gipson (Saxophone Wow!) Curtis Bringle (piano), Buddy Catlett (bass), Roger Pegues (piano), Steve Nowak (guitar), Jay Thomas (sax); Jay Maudlian (drums)…Bernadette Bascom (vocals)… I was briefly married to guitarist Michael Powers, who is my daughter Mica’s Dad. Michael Golden (piano), John Bishop (drums) along with Mikel Rollins (bass)… went on my first tour of Japan. Cietta Fay Tappin (piano), Dan Hammond (sax), Byard Beutow (guitar), Bea Smith (vocals), “Little” Bill (bass and vocals), Janice Lakers (vocals), Diane Schure (vocals) – Man…”Diddles” (Diane Schure) use to show up at my gig and start singing at the door of the club…Great resonance in her voice. I’d high tail it to the side of the stage to watch as she made her way to the piano and would proceed to “Blow” the entire audience away with her singing and playing. That is when I learned to take a break after a really great musician has sat in and moved the room. Let the energy of sit with the audience for a while…I know I’m forgetting some.
What’s coming down the pike, well to be honest what you’ve got coming is a seasoned vocalist that is ready to have some real fun with some incredible musicians with our new band “Be Hear!” As I said before we are dedicated to making a difference and giving the fans what they want. It’s fun for us when you’re having a great time! As Steve Bartlett puts it, our drummer hasn’t found us yet. “Be Hear!” came together in a most magical way. Our soulful music just makes you feel good, and we want our drummer to know (just in case he’s reading this) to hurry up and get here. We’re leaving the light on for you.
Zzaj: Do you play an instrument? If so, what is it? For both instruments and vocals, how extensive has your musical training been? In that sense, what’s more important? The music, or the training? Or, both?
Cara: I took piano lessons when I was younger, I had no desire to play then but I do now! I have had a few vocal lessons. For vocalists, breath control and enunciation techniques really help. I am from a musical family, everyone played something. I’ve been discussing with the fellows about me picking up the guitar!…smiles… You know that Zimbabwean quote, if you can walk you can dance if you can talk you can sing. Musical theory and training are wonderful, but I have heard some of the most accomplished musicians and vocalists perform technically great pieces without an ounce of feeling in the music. I’ve seen them get standing ovations for technique and that’s all well and fine but when it come to music, I want it to touch my heart and soul. Ultimately I feel a balance between the two would be wonderful, but for me I just love raw talent! Guitarist Wes Montgomery comes to mind, he played complex riffs by ear!
Zzaj: There seems to be a real “surge” in musical output these days… at least, I find myself getting deluged with a LOT more music to review… being a player/singer isn’t always an easy life… what are your words of wisdom for those who are thinking about pursuing music as a career? Is it worth the sacrifices?
Cara: Well Dick, it’s like I said earlier. If you are not born wealthy your day gig is what you do to support your passion until it gets going and if music is your passion my suggestion is that follow your bliss as you work to keep food on the table till it takes off.
Take some time and sit with yourself to see yourself as you wish to be, don’t just go haphazardly out there wishing and hoping and dreaming see it and then work towards that all the time focusing on it! Hold on to those thoughts until they appear! It will!
Don’t give up on your dreams to support someone else’s! Help others but remember your life is just that YOUR life!
If you find someone that discourages you from you passion…RUN!
Last but not least BE GRATEFUL for it ALL and DREAM BIG!
The music we are hearing now is for our transforming times. Our society is in an economical slump, we have earth and consciousness changes that abound. People have to express these feelings and what better way to get it out than through music?
Music is a universal language. Musicians don’t have to speak the same language to play together, isn’t that amazing!
The music you are receiving now is the Birthing of a New World – Like John Lennon’s Imagine or Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” during the Viet Nam war era… “Be Here’s Stefan Abuan’s lyrics on “Long As I Have Music”, speak to these times! People losing jobs/Can’t pay their bills/No money to feed their little children/But as long as we’ve got music/It gives it hope for another day.
It’s been a pleasure Dick, thanks for having me.
Guideline for artists SUBMITTING to us: We do NOT generally review .mp3 files/sites. Being an active artist myself, though, I understand the need for the use of Internet sites as a “staging ground” for reviews! You are encouraged to email us your .mp3 links… we will visit the site/link, & if we like your energies, we will contact YOU! (We will NOT respond to followup inquiries about .mp3 files, though!!! p.s. If you EVER e-mail me .mp3 files, you will be BLACKLISTED on this site!!!)
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Long-time reader and musician Dave Fuglewicz: I.N. was one of the first ‘zines to respond to my work. It was a great ‘zine way back then and has maintained the highest of standards every step of the way. ‘Zines have come and gone, some with great fanfare, some with quiet aplomb, but few can match the Zzaj for the dedication and fortitude it takes to keep cranking it out. Diversity and … originality are recognized and applauded, that, in my opinion has always been one of I.N.’s greatest “traits”. Number 93 brings us all ever closer to the magical 100th issue. I highly recommend a visit and a read. Y’all get there now. 🙂
Music promoter Ann Braithwaite’s followon to Dave’s comment: Couldn’t agree with you more, Dave. And have you heard Dick’s music? Great!!