Issue 122 Reviews

Our latest reviews for your reading and listening pleasure!

Nick Moran Trio – NO TIME LIKE NOW:  I’ve kind of “pieced” this review together, because there are limited samples available for this early review copy (the CD is scheduled to be released in March).  One of the smoothest cuts on the CD is “Say Hi To Paris“, but this YOUTUBE vid is just pics sliced together (I’ll be looking for the promoter to feed me the links to the videos & sound samples as soon as they’re up).  The title track, “No Time Like Now” is listenable on Soundcloud – but it sounds WAY better on the CD, of course… any way you listen to this one, it’s evident that Nick is just in love with playing, & the organ that Brad Whiteley meshes together with drummer Chris Benham makes this album one you won’t forget for years to come.  If it’s “down & funky” you’re wanting, you’ll just HAVE to have “Slow Drive”… a two-chord wonder that will stick in your head (& your hipbones) for months (if not years) to come – it’s my favorite track on the CD, in fact.  I predict that you’ll be hearing a LOT MORE from this red-hot guitar player over the next year or five…. Nick & crew get a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from my jazzified ears, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97.  Get more information (when it becomes available) at Nick’s site.   Rotcod Zzaj

Tomas Ramirez – TRES:  Here’s a 14-track from Tomas, a jammin’ saxophone player from Texas.  Only one cover, but plenty of punch on it, as on “In My Life“… wailin’ to be sure.  You can tell from the pic on his BIO page that Tomas has “been around the block”, & it comes through (mighty) clearly on heartfelt tuneage like the powerful “Sitting With The King“, one of my favorites on the CD.  He & his mates have definitely GOT th’ FONK dow-un… this is the kind of album you’ll find yourself comin’ back to again & again!  My absolute favorite tune was “Confrontal Obtusion” – but be sure you listen to it with your headphones ON (& LOUD)… sax is supposed to be about BLOWING, & Tomas could DETONATE th’ breathalyzer with this kinda’ reed smokin’!  Best sax outing I’ve heard (yet) in 2012!  I give Tomas & crew a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99!  Get more information at Tomas’s site.     Rotcod Zzaj

Mike Vlatkovich – AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A PRONOUN:  Mike composed, arranged and played trombone and percussion for this (just under) 50 minute recording, his 15th over 30 years.  The player list is far too long, so if you want the detail on who was playing what, go to the label page; of course, you can see most of the players on the CD cover image, but you’ll want to visit the label anyway (this is one of my favorite labels!).  I’m sure one of the reasons why “JMZ part 2” was picked as the sample is because it’s (definitely) in the jazz vein… though “traditional” jazz listeners may not agree, the rhythms on this track are ingenious and totally entertaining!  My personal favorite was the totally jazzed-up “Explain Again Why I Can’t Drive Faster Than The Car In Front Of Me”; & not just because of the “dented” title… this is, in fact, one of the most intriguing pieces of ensemble jazz I’ve heard this decade; all the twists & turns you’d expect on that winding road to nor-ever.   (would be awfully nice to have a link to a sample of it, but I couldn’t find one loaded anywhere).  For experimental & “different” listeners, this gets my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Get more information at the pfMENTUM label site for the CD.      Rotcod Zzaj

Jane Scheckter – EASY TO REMEMBER:  Jane’s excellent jazz vocal CD (17 tracks in all) will be released on the 6th of March, & if you love vocal jazz, this will be a “must-have” for your collection.  Whether it’s the sweet & low melancholy of “I Have The Feeling I’ve Been Here Before“, or the upbeat (& very danceable) “Will You Still Be Mine“, you’ll find yourself enjoying her slick style and sophisticated vocal touch.  Everything about her voice says “quality”, and she has a stellar crew playing behind her.  The recording is super crisp & clear on every track; you’ll find yourself spinning these tunes over & over again… at the top of my playlist from this one is my favorite, the beautiful “I Walk A Little Faster“.  For those who can’t do without some vocal jazz in their life – this comes MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97.  Get more information at Jane’s site.      Rotcod Zzaj

New World Beat – AFTER CARNIVAL:  You can get a very nice taste for what this highly qualified & highly energetic group is all about via the YOUTUBE vid for the opening track, “Beyond The Clouds“… Richard Sprince’s vibe work is at the forefront, as it should be since he’s the leader for this outing.  To learn more about the players, check out their BIO’s… all original music that will make your day, no doubt about it.  Their cover of Metheney’s “Last Train Home” is superb… lazy and langorous, yet full of the melancholy that such trips can evoke.  It was the featured single “The Dance Has Just Begun” that captured my vote for favorite track, though… guest guitarist Gary Damanti kicks some tail on his solo, & the groove factor is top-o-th-line, without question.  I’ve no doubt that you’ll be hearing much more from these dedicated players… they get a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Get more information at their home page.     Rotcod Zzaj

Sue Halloran and Ken Hitchcock – I CAN COOK TOO: Sue’s vocals definitely do NOT sound like someone slaving over a cookstove – but they DO “cook”!  Put that together with Ken’s soprano/alto/tenor/bari sax, flutes & clarinets, & you’ve got th’ recipe for that some of the most delectable tunes (9, on this outing) you’ll hear in 2012.  The sense of joy that’s conveyed on the opener, “Somewhere In The Hills” certainly merits as much recognition as that old classic, “The Joy Of Cooking”.  One of the key ingredients these two (& their other 13 players) understand better than lots of jazz chefs today is:  FUN!  That’s especially true on tracks like “Hey Daddy” – Sue is definitely talking “Warbucks-speak” on this one, & that Rhodes/electric piano is to die for… you’ll know what I mean when you listen to it!  An all-round jazz gourmet experience, to be sure!  This March 2012 release is probably available as I write this, & it comes MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97.  Get more information at Sue & Ken’s site!     Rotcod Zzaj

Heiner Stadler – BRAINS ON FIREI reviewed a monster CD from Heiner (Tribute to Bird & Monk) back in issue # 116, which is where I first became acquainted with his high-talent arrangement skills.  This 2-CD set from the ’60’s & ’70’s expands that exposure and will make you recognize Stadler as a giant – not just “way back then”, but for ages to come.  There are only 4 tunes per CD, but when they clock in at over 24 minutes, like the most adventurous “Bea’s Flat“, you wind up with over an hour’s worth of high-energy music on each CD.  Some of the German players, like Albert Mangelsdorff, are folks I had the chance to listen to & meet in about 1967… too cool.  This landmark CD shows why good jazz never “fades away”… totally timeless.  My personal favorite from the 8 was the 12:38 “3 Problems“…  this one actually features Heiner’s piano, as well as tenor sax & flute by Tyrone Washington, bass from Reggie Workman and drums by Lenny White.  For hardcore jazzers, it doesn’t get any better than this – MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED by my ears, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  If you want to learn more about Heiner, you can check out this short bio!      Rotcod Zzaj

Juhani Aaltonen & Heikki Sarmanto – CONVERSATIONS:  Those who actually play music will understand the dialog these two marvelous players are having – instantly.  As you listen to the opener on this grand 2-CD set, “When I Was With You“, both Juhani’s sax and Heikki’s piano wrap you into their sonic exchanges so deeply that you won’t be able to disengage until the entire 7:28 intimacy is done.  The recording is excellent; every little nuance and emotional shade is captured and preserved for repeated listening.  There are 16 pieces here, each with it’s own dynamic, and you will find yourself spellbound as you listen through each of them (over & over again, I might add).  My personal favorite (it’s difficult to pick just one from that many songs) was the intricately woven “Free Souls“… if you’re seeking music that will truly stand the tests of time and still come out a winner – this is IT, folks!  I give them my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99 – as well as the “PICK” of this issue for “best jazz duo”.  Get more information at the TUM Records site.      Rotcod Zzaj

Joanna Weinberg – THE PIANO DIARIES:  It’s pretty clear that Joanna is far more than just “another piano player” as you listen to her vocal on “Freckled Angels“… of course, as you put her song lyric together with her picture on the CD cover, you’ll know where this song came from – she’s red-haired & truly an angel!  She has a whole crew of players supporting her peppy vocals (Rafael Nazario: keyboards; Kate Adams: cello; Mark Ginsburg: soprano and tenor saxophones, flute; Martijn Hadders: guitar; Jonathan Zwartz: bass; Simon Fishburn: drums; Blair Greenberg: percussion).  I particularly enjoyed songs like “The Artists Are Leaving“… jazzy show tune, if ever I heard one.  That tracks, too, as Joanna is also a film & theater star.  This CD is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, particularly for those who love vocal jazz.  “EQ” (energy quotient) rating is 4.96.  Get more information at the Piano Diaries site.      Rotcod Zzaj

Janice Finlay – ANYWHERE BUT HERE:  What the cut-sheet said that’s most evident in these 9 absorbing tunes (eight originals & a remake of “Bye Bye Blackbird”) is that Janice “knows jazz”… one listen through the upbeat “The Houston Shuffle“, & you’re totally in love with her sax.  She’s a music teacher, but there’s none of that “high & stodgy” attitude coming across in her wonderful playing.  She also plays some beautiful flute & clarinet… it only took a moment to realize that her flute on the title track, “Anywhere But Here“, was destined to stay at the top of my Zen Touch 2 playlist for years to come… lazy, loose & beautiful is the way I must describe it!  It was her classic throaty sax on the most dynamic “The Pillaging Pug” that got my personal vote for favorite, though… wonderful changes through the entire 8:08 track!  I give Janice my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, particularly for those who love woodwind-fronted jazz.  “EQ” (energy quotient) rating is 4.99… & she gets my “PICK” of this issue for “best woodwind jazz”!  Keep your ears open – you’ll be hearing MUCH MORE from this talented young lady!  Get more information at Janice’s music page!     Rotcod Zzaj

Bill Barner – TEN TUNES:  Easy to tell (from looking at Bill’s photo on the cut sheet that came with the review copy), even without reading the bio sheet, that tunes like (the opener) “Opening Gambit” would be far more than just “another clarinet player”… ‘coz Bill (& his pals Stan Smith on guitar, Roger HInes on bass & Danny Aguiar on drums) know what the KEY ingredient in any jazz CD is – FUN!  You don’t have to know them in person, they will have you rapt in only moments!  Ten all-original tunes that will warm the cockles of any woodwind listener who loves jazz… just listen to the different vibe on the 4:30 “Squeaky Rico” & you’ll catch Bill’s vibe!  If you love high-energy jazz clarinet, then you’ll certainly agree that this is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97.  Get more information at Bill’s website!      Rotcod Zzaj

Frank Walton – THE BACK STEP:  Frank’s trumpet, along with alto sax from Jaleel Shaw, tenor sax from Lance Bryant, bass by John Lockwood, piano from James Williams and percussion from Yoron Israel, take you on a jazz journey you won’t ever forget… it’s amazing, ‘coz there are only 5 tracks on the CD, but when you listen to the bass intro (& the rest of the players) on “The Move, Part 1“, you’ll realize that you’re in the presence of true jazz masters… he has performed with a wide variety of big-name jazzers, but that hasn’t cramped his own personal jazz style – not even a little bit… these pieces all show total knowledge of what jazz was when it started, what it should be now & what it will be in the future!  I just loved the 10:09 “Mamacita“, & keep wanting to think about Donald Byrd & folks like that – it’s pure Frank, though, & is definitely my favorite track on the CD (it’s spun already about 100 times on my primary playlist).  Frank & his crew get a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from my ears, as well as an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99.  Get more information on Frank’s FB page!      Rotcod Zzaj

Gary Smulyan – SMUL’S PARADISE:  Try as I might, I can’t help but think back to my first introductions to Jimmy Smith’s organ playing in dark little bars near Virginia Beach (in the mid-’60’s).  Gary’s baritone sax fronts some superb Hammond B3 from Mike LeDonne & drums by Kenny Washington… guitarist Peter Bernstein also joins in the fun… just listen to the groove they grab for your ears on the opener, “Sunny“… yes, it’s trad, but they give new life to the tune, to be sure.  I also loved their groove on the marvelous & bouncy “Blues for D.P.“, especially when Peter’s svelte guitar kicks in at about :37… killer stuff!  There are only 8 tunes here, but none are less than 4:00, & they pack a lot into each note/bar… my personal favorite was the title track, “Smul’s Paradise“… everybody gets a chance to shine, & by the end of the 8:27 opus, your whole aura is lit up – & Gary makes that bari WAIL, man!  I give them my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Get more information at Gary’s siteRotcod Zzaj

Pat Battstone and Richard Poole – MYSTIC NIGHTS:  I’m not (even a little bit) sure what “Scottish Heather” looks like, but after listening to this opening track, I surely know what it SOUNDS like!  Richard’s vibes meld perfectly with Pat’s piano on all 14 pleasureful tracks, especially on pieces like “Undertow” – one of my favorites – Jaws on steroids, you might say.  This isn’t music for casual listeners, though… you must allow yourself to become totally absorbed in the musical conversations they are conducting for your ears, or you will miss the intent.  If you want your jazz “sculpted” from too familiar patterns, you’ll have to move on to another venue.  I found “Magical Morning” to be my favorite piece, clearly the type of adventure I’d like to wake to on each new day.  I give these gents my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for listeners who are adventuresome and won’t tolerate “ordinary”.  “EQ” (energy quotient) rating is 4.97.  Get more information at Pat’s site or Richard’s site.      Rotcod Zzaj

Jose Luis Serrano Esteban – A NEW HORIZON:  Jose’s “special edition” is just that… truly special… as I listen to the synth washes on the second track in, “Coming To Life“, and Jose’s guitar work on it, I feel renewed – fresh!  Another composition that really caught my ear was (simply) titled “Planet Earth“… melancholy mixed with a sense of hope is the way I would describe it.  Production values far exceed the norm on this recording, and that will make it a favorite… each of the 14 tracks (plus two bonus tracks) have their own unique flavor and clearly express the message of new horizons and opportunities.  This is a very well done musical effort… my personal favorite on the album was the 4:55 “Solar“, which makes you feel like you’re out in deep space (on a mission from God, maybe… lol).  A beautiful musical experience that gets my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for listeners who demand more than cliche in their aural experiences.  “EQ” (energy quotient) rating is 4.97.  Get more information at Jose’s site.      Rotcod Zzaj

Lisa Casalino – INTRODUCING LISA CASALINO:  When you put a young new vocalist together with powerful jazz players, you’ve got a combo that can’t be beat.  Lisa’s voice is sultry, to be sure… just check out this vid clip for her performance on “The Good Stuff“… the tune, in Lisa’s most capable hands, has her vamping better than any of those old-days teasers!  “Easy Street” carries that trad right on down the road… smooth & sexy, from the opening note to the last chord!  The guitar intro on “Dream Dancing” is simply beautiful, and the tune moves with high energy all the way through… great track & great vocal.  Any way you listen, this is jazz with taste, & it will stay high on your playlists for a long time to come.  I give Lisa & crew a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, especially if vocal jazz is what you love.  “EQ” (energy quotient) rating is 4.97.  Get more information at Lisa’s page.   Rotcod Zzaj

Talking Cows – ALMOST HUMAN:  Though I couldn’t find specific samples from this Dutch jazz group (for this CD, anyway), you’ll enjoy their promo video for “Almost Human”… it’s very clear that they don’t mind poking fun at themselves… even more evident on this CLIP!  This quartet is great… it features Frans Vermeerssen on tenor sax, Robert Vermeulen on piano, Dion Nijland on bass & Yonga Sun on drums.  There are ten totally enjoyable tunes (all original, which makes the experience even better).  I was able to find several (linkable) clips at their website, but unfortunately none of them were directly related to this CD (if the promoters, or anyone else, knows where there are sample clips or vids from this particular CD – please let me know).  The “moos”, errr “muse”, definitely struck as I listened to the splendid opener, “Hurdles In Three” (on SoundCloud)… you’ll hear the total talent and fluidity of the players there, and will realize immediately that these folks are completely comfortable playing jazz!  My personal favorite piece was the totally upbeat & straight-ahead “Mooing Around”… it starts on a high energy curve & doesn’t quit (at ALL) through the entire 3:46!  I give these folks a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, particularly if a listener is looking for jazz that makes one feel good!  “EQ” (energy quotient) rating is 4.97.  Get more information at the Talking Cows site linked in above.     Rotcod Zzaj

Steve Khan – PARTING SHOT:  If totally professional jazz guitar is what you’re looking for, you can’t do any better than Steve – I reviewed a whole slew of his releases (several issues back) and fell in love with his smooth, yet energetic & lively, style.  & as I listen to the opener on this 10-track CD, “Chronology“, I can’t help but thinking – this BETTER NOT be a “departure album”… this is way cool stuff!  Steve hearkens back to my days of DOW-un & FONK-ee with the jiggle-bounciness of “María Mulambo“… just love this tune!  It was the driving beat on the 4:52 “Blues Connotation” that got my vote for favorite track, & racked up (literally) hours on my Zen Touch 2… some of the most unique jazz guitar work you’ll ever hear!  This CD gets my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for those who can’t do without a bit of guitar and novel playing in their jazz; “EQ” (energy quotient) rating is 4.99… & Steve/krew get my “PICK” of this issue for “best jazz guitar CD”.  Get more information at Steve’s full-page for this CD  Rotcod Zzaj

Noah Kaplan – DESCENDANTS:  I could only find a couple of downloadable samples (at JAZZLOFT), but as soon as you hear “Pendulum Music” and “Esther“, you’ll know you’re in for an exciting improvisational ride!  The problem, of course, is that today’s listeners (except for many of our readers, of course) do not understand that improvised music generally requires letting yourself become absorbed  in the sonics… Noah’s tenor/soprano sax lends itself to deep listening, and the weave that guitarist Joe Morris, electric bassist Giacomo Merega and drummer Jason Nazary contribute will have any listener who understands the idea of “settling in” to the music enthralled in only moments.  My personal favorite (not, apparently, available in sample format anywhere) was the second cut, the 12:03 “Descent”… I just loved Joe’s guitar intro, and all the other players are right there too, without being too much “in your ears”… a great tune, one of the most enjoyable I’ve heard (yet) this year.  I give these guys a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, though not for the “casual listener”… “EQ” (energy quotient) rating is 4.97.  Get more information at Noah’s page for this CD.     Rotcod Zzaj

Skaller-Holt Duo – MUSIC OF MARK DRESSER:  If you haven’t gotten your daily (or weekly, or monthly or yearly) dose of different, this duo serves it up quite nicely!  There was only one track (that I could find) available for direct interface, the opener, “Flac“, & it very well represents their tribute to Mark Dresser – in the best tradition of deconstruction (or, as Mark says in the online liner notes – they “de-constructed” his deconstructions”).  The sheer beauty conveyed by Phil Skaller & Danny Holt on their rendition of (slow-waltz jazz) “Para Waltz” made it my clear favorite… unless you’re so hung up on form and tradition that you (just) can’t tolerate music that takes you down new paths and new modes of thinking/hearing, you will love this 10:40 gem, too.  This is, in fact, one of the best improvised albums I’ve heard (yet) this year, & gets my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Get more information at the pfMENTUM page for this CD.       Rotcod Zzaj

Lynette Washington & Dennis Bell – LIVE AT THE X:  I first encountered Lynette’s fantastic & lively vocal jazz back in issue # 103; I was impressed on that CD & am (even) moreso on this superb live set (2 CD’s, basically) that features Lynette with producer/pianist Dennis & a whole cast of other players that give you some music that will stay UP on your playlists.  Scope out their rendition (6:44) of one of my favorite tunes, “Walkin‘” to get a taste for just how lively it can get!  Lynette’s vocal just shines on “The Best Is Yet To Come“, & the band is at full-tilt behind her!  On Shirley Horne’s “Return To Paradise“, Lynette’s full-throated voice makes you realize why live performance is so key to really understanding jazz – it’s my favorite tune on the double-CD set.  You get 19 tunes that will spin over & over again on your playlists.  I give Lynette & Dennis another MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97.  Get more information at the Dennis Bell Jazz NY and Lynette Washington page on FB.      Rotcod Zzaj

Copernicus – CIPHER AND DECIPHER:  If you’re yearning for something truly “different” that includes a bit of jazz, a bit of rock & some seriously jaded rant/spoken word mixed in, you’ll find this fellow’s CD to your liking.  My latest review of his work is in issue # 93, but my first exposure to his wild (yet meaningful) performances was in only the 1st or 2nd issue of this ‘zine (unfortunately not digitized; lost & gone forever).  “Free At Last” will take you through a mental torture chamber, something along the lines of F.Z’s “The Torture Never Stops”, that never truly resolves into the “answer”… for a part of “C’s” message (in my mind, anyway) is that freedom doesn’t come until you realize that there ARE no answers, except inside yourself.  It was the totally rhythmic 5:14 “Mud Becomes Mind” that held me spellbound, though, & certainly got my pick as favorite.  There are 10 eminently engaging adventures here for you to absorb, & they each get my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for those attracted to poetry/music!  “EQ” (energy quotient) rating is 4.98.  Get more information at the MOONJUNE Records page!     Rotcod Zzaj

Jamie Ousley – A SEA OF VOICES:  My first encounter with Jamie’s marvelous bass talent was back in issue # 105, & his double bass is just as captivating on this new 10-track (January 2012) release (5 are originals from Ousley, too).  Though you won’t feel like you’re in church, “Hymn of the Tides” is totally inspiring, with great work from the rest of the players, too (Joe Davidian’s piano, Austin McMahon’s drums, Nanami Morikawa’s vocal (on the beautiful & haunting “Shenandoah“), Carlomagno Araya’s percussion & Gabriel Saientz’ piano on the regal “Alfonsia Y El Mar” that closes this great musical adventure.  As always happens, I found my ears tuning in to Jamie’s original compositions first, & the winner out of the 5 on this CD was “Steam“…. 5:26 is the time, but the tune is timeless jazz!  I give Jamie & crew a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97!  Get more information at Jamie’s site.       Rotcod Zzaj

Mike Wofford-Holly Hofmann Quintet – TURN SIGNAL:  The promo sheet calls Mike & Holly a “power couple”, & that couldn’t be more evident than on their opener, a tribute to Horace Silver called “The Dipper“… Mike’s piano reminds you (stylistically) of Silver, but this is all “Mike’s personality” comin’ through!  Holly’s extreme flute skill is completely “on” as you listen to the opening bars (as well as the rest of this 9:34 track) on “Esperanca” – this is just the kind of jazz that gave the genre it’s name… mighty mellow, yet full of vibrant life!  Terrell Stafford’s solo brass on “Karita” is excellent, & there’s solo space for everyone… Rob Thorsen’s bass & Richard Sellers’ drums just KICK!  My favorite cut, though, was the the totally upbeat/uptown 4:41 “M-Line“… as sweet as jazz gets, this one will stay on the charts forever!  I give the band a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97 – this is truly one of the most exciting quintets you’ll ever hear.  Get more information at Mike’s or Holly’s sites.       Rotcod Zzaj

Post Jazz Mistress – GLOBAL WARMING:  ’tis a mix of all forms you have here… a bit of prog rock together with world & (certainly) jazz (else it wouldn’t have made the cut for review here) – they call it “crossover jazz”, btw.  The 4:56 “Waltz for Her” is especially laid-back & will last you for many listens (it’s been up near the top of my jazz playlist since the promoter sent it to me).  A great bass intro leads into “Greetings From Fairbanks“, though I’d probably class this more in that progressive vein than jazz (though there are elements there… free & loose).  The orchestral opening on “Silent Movie” will intrigue you (as it was meant to).  The piece that turned out to be my favorite, though, was “Dancing on a Lonely Wave“… tasty lead guitar (Osvaldo Di Dio) with gentle double bass (Vincenzo Virgillito) and drums that lead you to paradise from Antonio Fusco!  I give these folks a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.96.  Get more information at their POSTJAZZMISTRESS site.    Rotcod Zzaj

Acoustic Reign Project – ARC:  Jack Gold-Molina is interviewed in this issue, so (orb-viously) that’s why I held back on my review of this fantastic improvised CD from his A.R.P.  “ARC” is their second release, but it’s been a “l-o-n-g time” since it was released (I reviewed it in issue # 64).  This second round features the same players (Jack on drums, Jim Knodle’s trumpet, bass from Reuben Radding, Brian Kent on sax & (original Heart) guitarist Roger Fisher).  The pieces are long, none less than 6 minutes), and totally engaging… the thing that’s most notable about these players (especially on tracks like my personal favorite, “Cold Rain”) is that you never feel like you’re being “taken hostage” – you’re free to join them on their improvised ride, or you can move on to something else; but you’ll find yourself so enchanted that you’ll listen to all 5 tunes over & over again!  There was one full sample available (Jack sent it to me) for their “A9-B9” track… check it out (great sound on this one, too)!  Solid expansionary music from a Northwest group that personifies freedom in all senses of the word.  I give this one my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Get more information at Jack’s SOL DISK site!      Rotcod Zzaj

Dennis Rea – VIEWS FROM CHICHENG PRECIPICE:  You will definitely find yourself on the edge as you listen to the drums on “Bagua – Eight Trigrams“… Dennis (and his significant crew) have outdone themselves in bringing you music that will orient you towards the East, yet allow you to hear the beauty without any hint of pretense.  It comes across as raw and powerful, yet with that whole undercurrent of “gentle” that music in my neck of the woods (Korea and China) purveys.  “Aviariations on “A Hundred Birds Serenade the Phoenix“” gives you (a bit over) 6 minutes of bird like you’ve never heard – lol!!!  My favorite on the CD, though, is the 15:55 “Tangabata“… the bell/chime sounds morph into some totally enchanting changes.  This effort from Mr. Rea gets my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, but only for listeners who aren’t afraid to hear something different; “EQ” (energy quotient) rating is 4.97.  Get more information at the MOONJUNE Records page for this CD.    Rotcod Zzaj

Allan Holdsworth, Alan Pasqua, Jimmy Haslip, Chad Wackerman – BLUES FOR TONY:  This magazine is very fortunate – we get the best of “every genre”, since our main criteria for writing a review in the first place is “the energy”… Allan & crew reunite to pay tribute to “The New Tony Williams Lifetime” (mid-70’s fusion killer)… the 2-CD set starts off with the title track, “Blues For Tony“, an 11:12 epic that features all four players right up in yer’ FACE… Allan’s guitar, Alan’s keyboards, Jimmy’s bass & Chad’s drums will just blow you a-way!  These performances were live, so you get a real taste of what the audience was hearing on these excellent recordings!  The bass solo/intro lines on “It Must Be Jazz” set the song up for some of the most scorching guitar solo lines you’ve ever heard Allan play… absolutely my favorite track on the dual-CD package!  I give these guys my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED (especially for fusion-heads), with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 5.00 (the very highest)!  They also get the “PICK” of this issue for “best guitar-fronted fusion jazz”!  Get more information at the MOONJUNE Records page for this CD.     Rotcod Zzaj

Harry Allen – RHYTHM ON THE RIVER:  If you’ve never been on a “river jam” before, Harry & his friends can put you in the right frame of mind for it, no doubt… just scope out the opener, “Riverboat Shuffle” to get the feel – & it feels GOOD, volkz!!!  This is clearly “where jazz came from”, & Harry’s sax work, piano by Rossano Sportiello, bass by Joel Forbes, drums from Chuck Riggs & cornet by Warren Vache will thrill you to your jazz bones.  Something a lil’ more laid-back?  Try on “Cry Me A River“… that deep & moody sax will have you cryin’ in seconds!  As you might imagine, every song title has something to do with a river… my particular favorite was the sultry “Blue River“… nothin’ tired here, it’s very upbeat, but still expresses that good ol’ “blues feeling” quite nicely.  I give this energetic & talented band a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97.  Get more information at Harry’s CHALLENGE Records page.     Rotcod Zzaj

Tohpati Ethnomission – SAVE THE PLANET:  Any listener (but especially those who claim to love jazz) who doesn’t find this CD totally interesting is less than interesting themselves, no doubt… just grok the title cut, “Save The Planet“, a 9:01 masterpiece of change and high energy… twists & turns abound, keeping the listener totally engaged!  Originally from Indonesia, his guitar work is full of new ideas, especially for listeners who haven’t lived in this region of the world before.  On the other hand, tunes like “Ethno Funk” capture a spirit of evolution (& perhaps revolution) that can’t be beat… constant movement & oh so excellent arrangements will keep you spellbound, as it did me (this is my favorite track on the CD by the way).  I’ve listened to this entire 1:07+ CD at least twenty times (yes, all 11 songs), & Tohpati is among the best jazz guitarists I’ve ever heard (be looking for much, MUCH more from this cat, to be sure).  I give him a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Get more information at the MOONJUNE Records page for this CD.    Rotcod Zzaj