Issue 125 Reviews

Our latest reviews for your reading and listening pleasure!!!

Alan Holdsworth – HARD HAT AREA:  I’ll tell you right now – if you’re a prog/jazz/rock fan, you’ve got to have some Alan in your collection, & this re-mastered CD is a classic… as I scope out the marvelous changes on “Ruhkukah“, with Alan’s guitar & synthaxe wailin’, I know it doesn’t get any better than this!  Though I’m not sure what the “hard hat” reference is, the coarse introduction to the title track, “Hard Hat Area“, will convince you in only the first few bars that you’re listening to one of today’s top masters… it’s 6:06, so there is plenty of time to ramp up through the changes and capture the listener firmly!  One piece of advice I’ll give – be SURE you listen to this on headphones (at least the first time around).  My own personal favorite track was the closer, titled (naturally enough) “Postlude”… it’s only 5:28, but the sonic swirls & twisting, turning path Alan & his cohorts lead you through will stay in your mind forever.  This gets my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) of 5.00… it’s the “PICK” of this issue for “best progressive jazz/rock”!   Get more information at the MOONJUNE RECORDS page for this great CD!       Rotcod Zzaj

Anna Borges and Bill Ward – RECEITA DE SAMBA:  The word that comes to mind as I groove through Anna and Bill’s decidedly Latin jazz CD is “suave”… 11 pieces that will appeal to jazz listeners, even if they don’t speak Spanish.  One of the prettiest tunes (I thought, anyway) was “Aquele Frevo Axé“… Bill’s piano and guitar are a perfect compliment to the easy and attractive vocal by Anna.  Bill doesn’t hesitate to step out vocally, either, as evidenced on the lilting “Brasil Pandeiro“, a 3:06 gem that was among my favorites… you’ll think you’re way down there in Brazil sippin’ cool drinks & jazzin’ it up in every way.  My personal favorite tune was “Falsa Baiana”, most likely because of the beautiful flute.  Anyway you listen to it, you’ll agree when I declare this MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED… “EQ” (energy quotient) rating is 4.97.  Get more information at their web pages.      Rotcod Zzaj

Ben Powell – NEW STREET:  Years & years of reviewing music make it (fairly) easy for me to “feel” the potential for earth-shatter a new artist in our pool may have… as I listen to the 2nd cut on Ben’s fantastic CD (the title track, in fact), “New Street“, it’s evident that this cat has killer talent and superb jazz violin chops; doesn’t hurt that Ben is joined by Gary Burton on vibes, Aaron Darrell on bass, Devon Drobka on drums & Tadataka Unno on piano… they are “on-time” for every little note, every beat.  “Gary” was a track that Stephane Grapelli wrote for Gary Burton (a long time ago) but that never was recorded before this release… light, gentle, yet full of substance!  My favorite track on the 10-song CD, though, was “Swingin’ For Stephane“… man, this think kicks; it’s only 5:01, but my playlist repeat function keeps it spinnin’ on!  Ben & his quartet/trio formations get my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Get more information at Ben’s website.      Rotcod Zzaj 

Frank D’Rone – DOUBLE EXPOSURE:  There are times when I don’t particularly care for male jazz vocals – but in Frank’s case, he’s so totally cool & laid-back that this isn’t one of them.  The song arrangements by Phil Kelly certainly help, because he rotates moods in a heartbeat… moving smoothly between intimate guitar/vocal tracks like  “Make Someone Happy” (with Frank on guitar) to upbeat & lively pieces like “When The Sun Comes Out” – my favorite on the CD, by the way!  If you’ve even listened to those ’60’s & ’70’s crooners (as did I) like Andy Williams or Perry Como, you’ll already have an idea of the style Frank sings in… the advantage he has, though (in my mind), is that he’s a PLAYER as well as a singer – so he’s not just “accompanying the instruments”.  I give him a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97.  Get more information at Frank’s pages.     Rotcod Zzaj

Manner Effect – ABUNDANCE:  One of the first things my ears seek out when listening to a new group or player is the amount of original content on the CD… this group pushes nine solid originals as well as three superb covers.  One of the hottest covers I’ve heard this year is Manner Effect’s rendition of Michael Jackson’s “Earth Song“… Sarah Elizabeth Charles vocal on this one exemplifies unique!  Logan Thomas (keyboards) brilliant energy just shines through on “X Marks The Spot” – if you love jazz with high talent & energy that won’t anytime soon fall off your playlist, this is the ticket… it’s my favorite track on the CD, in fact!  One of the best debut CD’s I’ve heard (yet) this year.  This is a group I can guarantee you will be hearing more from… inspired jazz that will heighten your spirits on all levels!  They get a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from me, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Get more information at their web pages!     Rotcod Zzaj

Tim White & Joe Paulino – INHALE SLOWLY:  When I was in therapy (yeah, all us “boomers” have stories to tell – but that one’s too long for this ‘zine) music like this was a part of the healing process.  Tim’s wood-flute, guitar & other strings along with Joe’s piano/synth & other keyed instruments, takes you towards the Nirvana you’re supposed to achieve, no doubt!  The opening track, “Morning Chai“, is one of the best examples I’ve heard of music that captures your attention without forcing it’s will on you – simple, beautiful & totally inspiring.  My personal favorite, though, was the 8:42 “Island Pulse“… I can’t really nail down what is so calming about this track, but you need to listen to it – WITH your headphones on, no question.  I give Tim & Joe a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97 – & the “PICK” of this issue for “best meditative music”.    Get more information on their REVERBNATION page.     Rotcod Zzaj

Arturo Mayorga – LUCID DREAMS:  Arturo is no stranger in our pages… we reviewed his “CASCADES” CD a while back (issue #97, to be specific).  This new effort has 11 tracks loaded with high energy and passion for the music being played.  This is very nice for a lazy (and thoughtful) afternoon session…. some great strings are woven in & through the compositions, which adds real body to the piano work.  I especially enjoyed “Looking” for the penetrating horns and suspect many of you will as well.  It was the totally engaging & mysterious weave on “Eastern Pulse” that captured my vote for personal favorite, though.  Anyone who loves music that stirs the soul will agree when I declare this one to be MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.96.  Get more information at Arturo’s site (& be sure to let him know that we steered you his way, please).     Rotcod Zzaj

Hackdaddy – REFLECTIONS:  Mike Hackbert is Hackdaddy, & his horn shines on this self-produced CD!  You’ll find 10 cool tunes full of life & energy, like 0ne of my favorites, “Noche Caliente“.  Mike is a truly independent player, but with the kind of jazz chops that make him a natural for jazz audiences of all flavors & stripes.  The title track, “Reflections“, is as introspective as you might have imagined, but without any “sad songs” or “artist hangups” getting in the way of your listen… this is a player who knows exactly what he wants to say, & has no problem saying it.  The slow bass-lead intro on “7-11” is a bit deceptive, as it washes over into some superb synth work that made it my favorite tune on the CD – & when the pace picks up, this zugger RAWKS, folks!  Mike’s first CD release here at Zzaj Productions gets my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Get more information at Mike’s REVERBNATION site (& be sure to tell him I sent you his way).     Rotcod Zzaj

Tony Monaco – CELEBRATION (LIFE – LOVE – MUSIC):  There are times when you can tell if an artist is a “genuine” person (or a poser)… this double-CD set claims a celebration of all that we hold dear, & then packs the 2 CD’s with 35 jammin’ tunes that you’ll be groovin’ to from now ’til the next century.  Since one of my prime criteria for reviewing music is it’s “energy quotient”, tunes like the 4:29 “Aglio e Olio” are what convince me of Hammond-meister Tony’s sincerity… this cat is DEFINITELY REAL.  I used to encounter this kind of enthusiasm for jazz & the playing of it only on foreign shores (like in ’60’s Germany), but Mr. Monaco has got this “jazz life” thing down to a science (without being too scientific about it, of course).  The down & funky “You Rock My World (Asako)” is among my favorite tunes thus far in 2012.  In the end-run, though, it’s track 2 on the second CD, “Backward Shack“, that took my vote for best on the CD(s)… if you want to intro a friend to the best that jazz has to offer – use this tune!  Tony gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 5.00 (the top rating), as well as “PICK” of 2012 for “best Hammond B3 jazz”!  Get more information at Tony’s pages.      Rotcod Zzaj

Lenny Marcus – DISTANT DREAM:  Folks, it just doesn’t get much mo’ down & phonk-y than this… you’ll be hooked (as was I) from the opening bar of “Seven Ate Nine” right to the last note of “Ode To The Night“… 16 tracks that will have you in jazz heaven (somethin’ to do with dreams, maybe?) perpetually!  Lenny’s keyboards are joined by a whole host of “on” players, & the recording is superbly done.  The sax work (Tom Artwick) on the opening to “Five Little Stars” serves as a perfect opening for each of the other players to show their jazz skills… simple, yet beautiful jazz that you won’t soon forget.  My personal favorite tune was “Happy Blues For Two“… this is an all-round jazz journey that gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from me, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97.  Get more information at Lenny’s site.        Rotcod Zzaj

Karl-Berger—Dom-Minasi – SYNCHRONICITY:  One of the “markers” for truly great improvised music is when the listener (& maybe even the players) don’t know that it wasn’t scripted.  As you listen to the intricate vibe (Karl) and guitar (Dom) work on “Echoes“, for instance, you’ll be hard-pressed to hear anything other than pure mesh… complete perfection in the flow.  I would advise listeners (whether veteran or novice to improvised music) to “do” this with your headphones on – you won’t want to miss any of the little nuances or shadings.  As you scope out the various washes on “Waterfall“, you’ll realize why it’s my favorite improv (yet) in 2012… crystal-clear recording and an approach to the music that welcomes the listener.  There are times when improvs come across as nothing more than mindless wandering, but on this CD, the weave and timing all come together for one of the best (& most adventurous) listens you’ll have this year.  I give this one a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99.  Get more information at Dom’s page for this CD.     Rotcod Zzaj

Judith Miller Band – LET’S HAVE FUN, BABY:  There’s one thing that makes a band a “hit” here – when they know how to have FUN with the music – & if there’s one thing Judith & her pals know how to do, it’s just that!  The title track, “Let’s Have Fun, Baby”, proves that beyond any shadow of doubt… excellent recording, with Judith’s bouncy energy right up “in your ears”, so to speak.  If “mellow” is more what you’re in the mood for, you’ll surely dig on “Sad Affairs“… that’s about as laid-back as you can get, & has been spinning over & over on my playlist.  This CD is the second in a package Judith sent, & it’s my favorite (so far)… 10 great tunes that jazz lovers will zone in on right away… this one gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Get more information at the CD page for this album.    Rotcod Zzaj

Heatwarmer – HEATWARMER:  Wow – all I can say is “woo-hoo”!  This Seattle pop band is inspiring in a 21st Century kinda’ way, but they also take me back to the mid-1960’s, when I first listened to a group called “Touch”.  Listening to “We’ve Got The Beat” makes me feel like I’m right back at that transitional ’60’s moment when I first scoped out that great “Touch” group… forward looking & full of creative vocal work, as well as some great sax, this tune is too cool.  I’m seldom in to what’s labeled as “pop” music these days, ‘coz it doesn’t seem to have the verve & creative power of those olden dayz…. but THIS DOES!  7 too-cool tracks from a band I expect you’ll be hearing a lot more from in the next years!  My personal favorite track is the 5:48 “Weird Shower“… truly invigorating creativity is alive & well.  I give the band my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Get more information at HEATWARMER’s page!      Rotcod Zzaj

Lawson – TALES FROM THE LAND OF LAWSON:  This little gem is in from our new friends at the TABLE AND CHAIRS label (you’ll be reading reviews of several more artists from this great Seattle label over the next few issues – they sent me (nearly) their entire catalog).  On the intro to this Lawson CD, which clocks in at 10:50, “Drifting By The Lodestar“, you float along with sax by Jacob Zimmerman (& many others – you can read the credits on their BANDCAMP page, as well as listen through flash versions of all the songs) through territory easily imaginable as outer space!  Though much shorter (3:01), I fell totally in love with “Rain Shadow“… in great part because of the synth work – I am a keyboard player, after all.  I’m highly impressed with Jacob/crew’s work & give them my HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, especially for those listeners who have the spirit of adventure flowing through their veins.  “EQ” (energy quotient) rating is 4.97.  Check out their BANDCAMP page for more information.      Rotcod Zzaj

Hristo Vitchev Quartet – SONG FOR MESSAMBRIA:  Hristo is (yet another) artist who has been showing up in our review stacks a lot lately… my latest review of his works was in issue # 124, where he got high marks from me.  On this beautiful CD, he and his player pals (Weber Iago on piano, Joe De Rose on drums and Dan Robbins on bass) astound your ears with pieces like the moody but lovely “Sad Cloud” – the recording quality is stunning, and Hristo’s guitar takes you through one of the nicest jazz tunes you’ve listened to lately.  If you’re looking for something with a bit faster pace, you’ll love the 6:50 “Dali In Bali” – it’s my favorite on this 10-song adventure.  San Francisco is blessed to have great artists like Hristo & friends & this, & they merit (once again) my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for jazz lovers of all stripes the world ’round!  “EQ” (energy quotient) rating is 4.98.  Get more information at Hristo’s site!      Rotcod Zzaj

Halme-Innanen-Korpipää – PIKNIK:  You’ve no need to fear ants on this outing – as Halme-Innanen-Koripaa lay down these 22 most interesting sample trax, you’ll realize the tasty morsels they’re playing for you are enough to sate even the most jaded jazzer!  You can delve into this stranger-than-strange buffet by clicking here!  Being an old experimentalist myself, I can tell you that this is among the most intriguing listens I’ve had (yet) in 2012.  & that’s saying something, ‘coz I’ve listened to a LOT of material over these so many years.  The pieces are so short, yet so well woven together that it’s impossible to pick a favorite – this is one of my favorite CD’s this year, however, & gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for any listener who isn’t afraid to embrace “different” for a little over 43 minutes.  “EQ” (energy quotient) rating is 4.97.  Get more information at the Digelius Music site.       Rotcod Zzaj

Jazz Punks – SMASHUPS:  There’s a catch-phrase in the promotion sheet that absolutely captures the essence of this superbly H-O-T jazz quintet – “Sick Bebop Chops”… lol… I just love that one!  & as you listen to tracks like “Led Gillespie” get mixed in with rock beatz that just won’t quit… slices of Tunisia (Dizzy) meld together with Zeppelin’s mistiness to take you on a sonic dream-ride that won’t stop anytime soon – for jazz purists, this will be like the train from hell, no bout-a-doubt-it!  The thing that stands out in front of ev’ry note these guys play is that they KNOW which tunes can be mixed together, shaken & stirred without making it sound like some garage band who hasn’t a clue what they’re doing with the music.  My personal favorite of the 10 amazing tunes is “Heavyfoot“, which makes an adorable mesh of Shorter’s “Footprints” & the Fab Four’s “She’s So Heavy”.  Bands who love to have fun always are winners here at I.N., & J.P. are definitely in the inner circle… they get my MOST HIGHLY RECOMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 5.00 (the top rating)…& finally, they get the “PICK” for “best twisted jazz of 2012”!  Get more information at their website (& tell ’em we sent you to hear them).       Rotcod Zzaj

Tron Syversen – PEACEFUL JOURNEY:  In these often-troubled times, this is the kind of music a person needs to listen to… soothing, yet full of life and energy!  One of the tunes I particularly enjoyed was “Rivers“… as the title implies – something that flows!  Tron’s from Norway, where I imagine he sees (more than) a few sunsets such as those you see pictured on the CD jacket, so it seems only natural to my ears that he would have a firm handle on pieces like “The Beginning“… if we could find a few more folks (like Tron) who are able to put their emotions into action, instead of those (like politicians) who use their words to paint pictures that seem “right”, but are rather masks for their greed and avarice, this world would truly be a better place for us all.  I believe Tron’s music should be piped into grade-schools ’round the world, in an effort to reverse the disastrous trends we see (and hear) ’round us today.  I give Tron a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, particularly for listeners who understand that music (like this) is a key ingredient in realizing our better selves.  “EQ” (energy quotient) rating is 4.97.  Get more information at Tron’s page for this CD.      Rotcod Zzaj

Alan Silva & Burton Greene – PARALLEL WORLDS:  The improvs on this masterpiece 6-song set could very well have accompanied the latest sci-fi flick quite nicely.  Burton writes in the liners that he and Alan have (what some folks call) “dated” electronics… but as you listen to the opener, “North American Indian Reflections“, you’ll realize immediately that the work they’re doing is timeless!  You won’t soon purge these tracks from your “strange” playlist – & that’s especially true on the elegant closer (my favorite on the CD, without doubt), “String Beings“… this monster demonstrates the total talent of this duo, without scaring the listener off… flawlessly executed and strongly pleasant to listen to.  For those who pursue excellence in improvisation, this comes MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!  “EQ” (energy quotient) rating is 4.99.  Get more information at the LONG SONG RECORDS site.      Rotcod Zzaj

The Jens Wendelboe Big Band – FRESH HEAT:  Jen & his music, particularly his big bands, have been reviewed in our pages for sometime now… the energy levels on tunes like the opener, “Joy Spring“, will thrill jazz lovers to the core, I can tell you!  The player list is far too long to itemize here, so you’ll need to go to Jen’s CD BABY page to check out all the names joining Jen on this crazy & wonderful trip!  8 super tunes, most of them of significant length, will keep your mind hoppin’ & your feet ready to get on up & dance!  From the perspective of “in your ears” big band jazz, “No Mercy” was one of my favorites, to be sure (probably in great part because it’s an original from Jen)!  The true standout for this listener, though, was the 9:08 original “Suite To Bjorn“… the time & rhythm changes on this one (alone) make it worth the purchase of the CD… truly one of the best big band tracks I’ve heard (yet) this year.  I give Jens & his 16 players my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99.  Get more information at Jens’s Crazy Energy site.     Rotcod Zzaj

Erik Austin Deerly – LIMBIC:  You can listen to a few samples of Erik’s work on this home-produced CD at his project site (these were all in FLASH, so I couldn’t link them in by title).  I first encountered his work in issue # 123 and was impressed enough to ask him for more; unless you’re a TOTAL jazz purist, you’ll enjoy what he’s doing here, too.  In further researching the many interesting things Erik is doing, I happened on this YOUTUBE vid of his work as well – most interesting.  I would recommend that on further projects there be vids posted on YOUTUBE as well as full (linkable) sound samples, so reviewers can highlight selected tunes.  My personal favorite on this 9-song adventure was the middle-eastern-sounding “Neda“, but since his sonic portraits are so vivid, you may find something else you prefer.  I give this outing a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, especially for listeners interested in new sounds.  “EQ” (energy quotient) rating is 4.98.  Get more information at Erik’s site.     Rotcod Zzaj

Donna Singer & Doug Richards – TAKE THE DAY OFF:  The idea of quitting for a day (or more) is most appealing, under any circumstance – but as I groove to Donna’s vocals on her totally hip rendition of “The More I See You“, accompanied by pianist Roy Singer (her husband) & bassist Doug Richards, the temptation is ever stronger to take that holiday (like, forever, folks… lol).  Another tune that’s definitely hittin’ th’ groove for me is “Paradise“… smooth & silky, with hints of th’ blues we all love so well.  A total of 14 tunes makes this most appealing for jazz vocal lovers th’ world ’round.  I enjoyed the bouncy “All Right, OK, You Win” the most, in fact it was my favorite.  I give Donna & Doug a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, particularly for listeners who have gotta’ have a toke of cool vocals each day.  “EQ” (energy quotient) rating is 4.97.  Get more information at Donna’s page.      Rotcod Zzaj

The Bill Harris Quintet – INSIDE OUT:  You don’t “just get” superb jazz like Bill & his pals play unless it’s from a veteran… Bill has been playing woodwind instruments since the late 1950’s, and that clearly shows on tracks like “Boston After Dark“, one of my favorites on the CD!  The mighty mellow tones on “A Sleeping Bee” will help you to shake the “bad” from your day, no doubt, & the pace changes are smooth as silk – great rhythmic moves on this one.  If you’re just starting to listen to jazz, this is one of the CD’s I would recommend right away; of course if you’re a long-time jazzhead, I’ve no doubt these 10 tunes will rise to the top of your playlists (& stay there).  My personal favorite was the perfect closer, “Little Rootie Tootie“… much fun for all on this Harris original!  I give Bill & his players a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Get more information at Bill’s site.     Rotcod Zzaj

Lisa Maria Baratta – SUMMERTIME JAZZ:  If it’s sweet reed music you’re lookin’ for to while away a lazy summer afternoon – Lisa has it in spades!  Scope out the opener, “Unforgettable“… this is some of the coolest sax-based jazz I’ve heard in the last couple of years.  Her partners on this venture add much to the mood (Don Turney on piano, John Hettel on bass & Andrew Eberhard on Drums); she selected them well, to be sure!  Lisa plays flute on “Fly Me To The Moon“… simply beautiful, I’ll tell you… every note is flawlessly executed – this takes me back years & years to my first listens to the jazz masters.  11 wonderful tracks, with my pick for favorite being “Black Orpheus“… sweet is the best word I can think of for this high-talent, high-energy performance.  I give Lisa & crew my HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97.  Get more information at Lisa’s site.      Rotcod Zzaj

Eyal Vilner Big Band – INTRODUCING THE EYAL VILNER BIG BAND:  Eyal & crew’s music really needs no introduction for the thousands (maybe millions) of big band jazz fans out there ’round the globe.  As they groove right along on the all original “Your Eyes“, you’ll feel like you’ve known this monster band all your days.  The high-energy displayed on Bud Powell’s “Un Poco Loco” will dispatch you to big-band heaven from the first bar – Eyal’s alto sax on this one is simply stunning!  I counted fourteen players (though there may have been more), so you’ll want to visit their site to see the credits.  Another Eyal original, “Night Flight“, gets my vote for favorite track.  All in all, this CD is among the best (for any grouping) I’ve heard (yet) this year, & gets my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED… “EQ” (energy quotient) rating is 5.00… & the “PICK” of this issue for “best big band jazz”.     Rotcod Zzaj

Whiteboy Slim – AKA WHITEBOY SLIM: One of our main squeezes, W.S. has graced these pages several times before; his harp is in grand style on the opener, “It Ain’t Art“, & he slides right on over into the more rock-oriented side o’ thangs with th’ slip-slidin’ “Blue Murder“.  Maurice Libby (as he’s also known) has one of the key ingredients going for him when it comes to musical adventure – he knows how to have FUN with it, & not get too serious.  On the other hand, the funk-driven beat on “It’s Strange Out There” expresses th’ kind of contemporary rockin’ blues we’ve all come to expect from him.  My personal favorite track on the 13-song CD is th’ jumpin’ “You’re Perfect, I Love You, Now Change“… ain’t that always th’ way thing are (make ya’ wanna’ HIT somethin’)?  Whiteboy Slim is a favorite on our playlists, & certainly merits my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97.  Get more information at his OFFICIAL SITE.       Rotcod Zzaj

Devin Gray – DIRIGO RATAPLAN:  Devin’s skills on drums are clearly in evidence on this excellent debut CD, particularly on pieces like “Quadraphonically“, the epic opener… Elleryu Eskelin’s sax, Dave Ballou’s trumpet and bass from Michael Formanek all join to make this a most memorable 55 minute listening experience.  Unfortunately, that was the only direct link I could find… there are several other playing formations on YOUTUBE, as well as a sampler from the album at REVERBNATION though, so you can get a bit more of a taste for Devin’s skill.  What impressed me most about this grouping/recording is that the players are all open with each other… no “crowding”, no “pushing each other out”, and the recording itself is flawless.  I give Devin & crew a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Get more information at Devin’s site.     Rotcod Zzaj

Chaise Lounge – INSOMNIA:  We’ve certainly all suffered a night or two when sleep was elusive, but as you groove to the title track opener, “Insomnia“, the groove will automatically have you counting sheep (or nymphs, if you prefer – lol).  When the crew hits the full-boogie tilt of “43 Good Excuses“, you’ll be reminded of every late-nite diner along route 66, I’ve no doubt.  An even dozen stories in song that will keep you eternally awake as you let the buzz flow through your headphones.  There’s a real original feel on the jazzy & upbeat tunes that I found very attractive.  Strangely enough, I found Chaise’s rendition of “Ode To Billie Joe” to be my favorite… “bouncy” is the keyword.  These folks get a definite HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from my ears, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.96.  Get more information at the Chaise Lounge website.     Rotcod Zzaj

Aaron Novik – SECRETS OF SECRETS:  It will be no secret that your first impulse as you listen to the opening bars of “Secrets of Creation“, you’ll find yourself reaching for your Yarmulke – whether you’re Jewish or not – lol!  Aaron has a ton of names you’ll recognize (Fred Frith on guitar, Carla Kihlstedt on violin/vocals, just to name a couple).  He compares the recording part to “cooking”, whereby you create something new & tasty out of “normal” ingredients… just scope out the magical sounds on the 11:40 “Secrets of Divine Chariot” for a ride you won’t soon forget… I truly dug this one, in great part because of the “build” from start to finish… for those who love improvised beauty, this is THE ticket, my favorite track on the 5 (long) song CD.  If you’re only a “standard” jazz listener, you may not agree when I declare this MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, but we don’t have too many “standard readers” anyway.  “EQ” (energy quotient) rating is 4.98.  Get more information at Aaron’s site.    Rotcod Zzaj

Hendrik Meurkens-Gabriel Espinosa – CELEBRANDO:  Though I couldn’t find any direct-link sound samples for this one (they may be out there – if you know where, let me know right away, please), but there were at least a couple of vids on YOUTUBE for them; most notably the hot & bouncy “She Lives In Brazil”…  Hendrick’s harmonica on this (as per usua) is killer – I’ve grooved to/through this tune (literally) hundreds of times already.  Another very nice performance on the tasty “Maya Roots“.  My absolute favorite tune on the CD, though, the beautiful “Slow Breeze”, wasn’t linkable – a pity.  The real deal, though, is the music that Hendrik (& his crews) consistently turn out… high quality, high talent and delectable all the way through. I give him another MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED (especially for those who love a little Latin flavor in their jazz), with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Get more information at the Zoho label page for this CD.    Rotcod Zzaj