Issue 141 Reviews

Our latest and greatest reviews for your reading & listening pleasure

Mike Bardash – POLYGON:  What a totally cool CD to close out this issue with… Mike’s piano & compositional work on tunes like the red-hot “Impulse“… one of the best quintet works I’ve heard in the last 10 years!  There are 11 tunes and ten of them are Bardash originals – which means the fire comes from inside the players, since it came from inside them originally!  The driving bass line on “Kenny’s Klave” is just superb, & will remain at the top of your jazz favorites playlist for months (maybe even years) to come.  My personal favorite was the down & funk-driven opener, “Brass Tacks“… it doesn’t get any more real than this tune!  I give Mike & his crew a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of (the very top) 5.00…. which means they also get the “PICK” of this issue for “funkiest jazz”!    Get more information about Mike & his music at Mike’s website.       Rotcod Zzaj

John Brown – QUIET TIME:  John’s bass leads the search for tunes that will take the listener on a “peaceful journey”… and he does it Oh, So Well on pieces like the beautiful & gentle “Lost“, which features keyboards by the composer, Gabe Evans, and some superb alto sax from Brian Miller.  There are no “rowdies” on this outing, with everything focused on getting you to slow down & and smell the roses…. realize your dreams…. & enjoy the company of someone else… pieces like (my personal favorite) John’s title track, “Quiet Time” do this flawlessly and make you realize that life isn’t necessarily all hip-shake & roll.  I give John & crew a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Get more information at John’s website.       Rotcod Zzaj

John Brown: Quiet Time

Harrison Edwards – THE UNDISCOVERED HORIZON:  There’s nothing more inspiring to me than well-played music that reaches for the outer edges of the sonic spectrum – and as you listen to pieces like Harrison’s beautiful opening salvo, “Kilimanjaro“, you’ll realize that he’s already far beyond the edges, but in a totally comprehensible path!  “Arctic Passage” is another fine piece of magic, albeit in a totally different instrumental framework.  It was the high-flying “Eye of the Storm” that captured my vote as absolute favorite of the dozen tunes offered up for your aural enjoyment.  We’ve reviewed Harrison’s work before (“Spirit of the Mountain”), and I’ve no doubt you’ll be hearing him soon again… I give him a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97.  Get more information at Harrison’s CD Baby page.       Rotcod Zzaj

Harrison Edwards: The Undiscovered Horizon

The Ed Palermo Big Band – OH NO! NOT JAZZ!:  If you’re like me, one of those whose mind became terribly “bent” from listening to “Live At The Roxy”, or “Joe’s Garage”, in the earliest days of Frank Zappa’s tenure as the true crazy in the art/rock/jazz field, you’ll love Ed’s Big Band renditions of classic Zappa tuneage like “Inca Roads“… on the other hand, you may find yourself in high spirits (even if you were already in an elevated mood) when you listen to “Why Is The Doctor Barking?“.  Palermo & crew have “nailing” FZ down to a science, & on tracks like “Black Page 2” (my favorite of the 20 offered up), they prove it beyond the shadow of a doubt!  I give Ed & his folks a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) of 5.00 – which means it also get the “PICK” of this issue for “best Zappa renditions”!   Get more information at the Ed Palermo website.         Rotcod Zzaj

Trio Shalva – BREEZA:  If you’ve never heard “jewish jazz” before – this is an excellent choice for a first listen… I especially enjoyed pieces like the 6:14 “H’atzot“… a slow buildup to a full-blown jazz presence that will stun your ears!  The guitar on “Yad Anuga” will make you think that it’s going to be “just another guitar folks tune”, but right at about 1:55, it picks up an undercurrent that propels you off into the future of jazz.  Their rhythm and structure on their rendition of “Eleanor Rigby” made it my favorite tune of the 9 offered up (& that’s different, because I don’t always go for covers)… nicely played and displays stellar energy!  I give this trio a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” rating of 4.98.  Get more information at the Trio Shalva website.       Rotcod Zzaj

Trio Shalva: Breeza

B.J. Jansen – RONIN:  B.J.’s bari sax work on this one is solid & steady, to be sure… the clear portrait of a musical warrior emerges in full spectrum, especially on pieces like “Blues for C.P.”… one of the best blues tunes I’ve heard (yet) in 2014.  The liveliest tune on the 9-song CD turned out to be my favorite… “Brother Sid” stands out at the very top of the jazz pack, and Jansen jams it chock-full of the kind of jazz energy rarely heard in these days of “machine jazz”… this is an absolutely excellent piece of music.  I’ve no doubt you’ll be hearing a lot more from this rising young star.  I give B.J. & his crew a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97.  Get more information at B.J.’s website.          Rotcod Zzaj

B.J. Jansen: Ronin

Jorge Antunes – IN DEFENSE OF THE MACHINE:  Those jazz fans who are “normal” may not find this electronic CD from Brazilian composer Jorge Antunes their absolute favorite… but adventurous listeners everywhere will dig deeply on pieces like “Irreplaceable 2nd” – one of the most in-depth and penetrating electronic pieces I’ve ever had the pleasure to digest!  There is a certain “intricacy” in these tunes that makes them far more than just “more tape loops” from lonely tinkerers… as well-evidenced by the marvelous “Mixolydia“… totally engaging and an epic 11:25…. you’ve never heard Theremin performed like this, I’ll guarantee you!  It was the totally engaging set of percussion mysteries on “Toccata Irise” that got my vote for favorite, though…. you truly have to listen for each/every little nuance to “grok” this one!  I give this extraordinary CD a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for those interested in experimental music, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99.  Get more information at the POGUS label page for this release.       Rotcod Zzaj

Donna Singer and Doug Richards – JAZZ IN THE LIVING ROOM:  If you could have jazz like this in your living room…. oh, wait a minute – this sounds just like Donna’s vocals & Doug’s excellent bass ARE right there in front of you – which is probably why they titled the CD as they did!  Mighty mellow trax like “As Long As He Needs Me” will give long-term vocal jazz fans the thrill they seek, no doubt.  For the truly hip folks, it will be Donna’s lively rendition of the classic “Route 66” that gets your motor running full-bore!  Of the 14 tunes on the CD, I found Donna’s unique performance of “I Got Rhythm” to be my personal favorite… silky & smooth.  I give Donna & her crew a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) of 4.96.  Get more information at Donna’s website.       Rotcod Zzaj

Doug Richards Trio: Jazz in the Living Room

Masako – CALL OF THE MOUNTAINS:  Here’s (yet) another fine Will Ackerman productions… we reviewed Masako’s earlier CD (titled simply “Masako”) and felt it to be high-energy piano work.  This new release (January, 2014) is again very expressive and insightful, particularly on tunes like the wonderful “Bigfoot Forest“… her careful use of full-blown chords to expand the vibrancy of the compositions is especially effective!  Although a very short piece, “Blue Blaze” contains the kind of power any listener will enjoy to the maximum!  My personal favorite of the 16 tracks offered, though, was the strident, yet beautiful, “Purple Indulgence“…. you can see the pictures she paints for you quite clearly (the strings are stunning).  I give Masako a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, especially for listeners who love well-played and totally expressive keyboard work.  You can learn more about Masako’s projects at Masako’s website.       Rotcod Zzaj

Masako: Call of the Mountains

Dan Chadburn – NOCTURNES:  Dan calls his latest piano CD work a “journey through the night”, and his keyboard amplifies the special time that can be on tunes like the excellent piece, “Abundance“… full of power and promise, without doubt!  For gentle and persuasive forays into what a being can hear at night, you’ll love “Quiet Soul“, an excellent track.  This definitely isn’t jazz for the hardcore jazzhead, but any listener with an  appreciation for high talent and energy will find this a greatly rewarding listen.  My personal favorite of the dozen offered was the beautiful closer, “Sunrise“… a wake-up call to enchantment and the living of life!  I give Dan & friends a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for those who must have some high-talent piano in their listening lineup; “EQ” (energy quotient) rating is 4.97.  Get more information at Dan’s website.       Rotcod Zzaj

Dan Chadburn: Nocturnes

Janice Borla Group – PROMISES TO BURN:  Many times, CD’s that are vocal-focused omit the “jazz side”, as the players are not given much emphasis…. when a balance is struck between those extremes, you wind up with vocal/jazz that you can listen to over &  over again… this balance is clear on tunes like the opener for Janice’s March 4, 2014 release… “Funkallero” starts off with a cute little scat section that jumps right into a very nicely crafted lyric.  Janice’s crew (Scott Robinson on tenor sax/flute; Art Davis doing trumpet/flugelhorn; John McLean on guitars; Bob Bowman on bass & Jack Mouse on drums) gets “equal time” with the singer, making for a session you’ll scope out over & over again on your playlists!  My personal favorite was the highly energetic “RunFerYerLife“… vivaciousness & verve packaged very nicely together!   I give Janice & her folks a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, particularly for folks who love vocals with substance.  Get more information at Janice’s website.       Rotcod Zzaj

Janice Borla Group: Promises to Burn

Tyrone Birkett/Emancipation – POSTMODERN SPIRITUALS…. THE PROMISED LANDA rather long title for a CD that may be one of the best “sleepers” for 2014 (it was released on 25 March)… as you listen to pieces like the excellent “Freedom Dreaming“, ;you’ll realize you’re in the presence of soul genius (Paula Ralph Birkett’s vocals on this one are priceless & full of raw power)!  It was the fantastic & funky opener, “The Departure“, that captured my ear (for every second of it’s 8:20 length)… Tyrone’s reeds on this one are nothing short of amazing & will embed in your mind relentlessly for the next several years!  I give the whole crew a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99.  Get more information at Tyrone’s website.       Rotcod Zzaj

Tyrone Birkett: Postmodern Spirituals: The Promised Land

Judy Philbin and Adam Levine:  KEEPING IT SIMPLE:  This splendid January 2014 release (self-produced) from Judy on vocals and Adam doing guitar shows the beauty of simple music that’s done with talent and high-energy for the listener… nothing “hard” or “difficult” here at all, as evidenced by the excellent opener, “A Wink and a Smile“…. it just doesn’t get better than this, even on a sunny day!  The joyous pace on “Django’s Delight” will have you up & hop/skippin’ ’round the room in a matter of only 2 or 3 notes – absolute fun!  If mellow is your mood right now, ;it will only be enhanced by my personal favorite of the dozen tracks, “Skylark“… mighty fine jazz!  I give Judy & Adam a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for listeners who demand a bit of vocal jazz in their listening experience.  “EQ” (energy quotient) is 4.98.  Get more information at Judy’s website.   Rotcod Zzaj

Judy Philbin: Keeping It Simple

Shawn Maxwell – SHAWN MAXWELL’S ALLIANCE:  Here’s a totally lively one… Shan’s altor & tenor sax, along with his flute & clarinet, are joined by a whole host of other players to bring you jazz you’ll not soon forget, as evidenced by the high-spirited “From Parts Unknown“… I haven’t heard jazz with this “fun quotient” in a long, long time!  The opener, “Fun Five Funk“, is definitely down, & you’ll be spinning this great 5:27 track over & over again, guaranteed.  It was the total talent from all players on “Bitty Bitty Beep” that got my vote for best of the 18 tunes offered up… solid jazz with character.  I give Shawn & his Alliance a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97.  Get more information at Shawn’s website.        Rotcod Zzaj


Shawn Maxwell

Michael Vlatkovich Quartet – YOU’RE TOO DIMENSIONAL:  If you’ve listened to Michael’s trombone work before – you’re in for a very pleasant surprise…. it’s always good to listen to him, of course, but this is the most solid jazz set I’ve every heard him on before, as witnessed by the great “Fools, Drunks and Angels” track… 6:36 worth of seconds packed with true sonic adventure!  I also found the tune “The Curious Intensity of a Refrigerator Defrosting” to be most aurally attractive.  With all that said, I’ll toss in a cautionary note…. if you think you’re going to escape this with your mind intact – you’ve got another think coming – this isn’t “just jazz”, “smoove jazz”, or any other “jazz nonsense”…. pure, straight-ahead jazz exploration for those with adventure in their blood!  I give Michael & crew (Michael doing Compositions, Trombone; Jim Knodle doing Trumpet; Phil Sparks doing Bass; Greg Campbell doing Drums, French Horn) a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Get more information at the pFMentum label page for this CD.         Rotcod Zzaj

Mike Longo – STEP ON IT:  This is definitely the kind of jazz that will “get your motor running” & make you keep your “pedal to the metal”, especially on tunes like the opener, “Impressions”…. steady & solid jazz, as we’ve (always) come to expect from this high-talent composer/player!  The “movingest” tune, though, was the title track, “Step On It”…. the whole set of players (Bob Cranshaw on bass and Lewis Nash on drums) is totally together!  What’s so unique about Mike’s piano playing is just that – it’s UNIQUE… though you’re listening to 11 “standards”, they all sound like brand-new tunes, because of Mike’s personal touch and talent!  I give Mike & crew a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99 for this one.  Get more information at the JazzBeat web page for this CD.       Rotcod Zzaj

Joe Sullivan Quintet – WHISKEY JACK WALTZ:  Joe does some excellent trumpet/flugelhorn work on this totally professional recording… as you listen to pieces like the opener, “Khivan Adventure“, you’ll realize that the energy levels are at max, and that this quintet (Lorne Lofsky, guitar; Andre White, piano; Alec Walkington, bass; Dave Laing, drums) love to play – and it shows!  “Le Bash” reaches right out and grabs your ears – this one will stay on your playlists for a long, long time to come.  Every note is precisely sculpted to give you a maximum jazz experience, especially on tunes like my favorite of the 9 offered up, the 7:09 “Stealth”.  Joe & crew get a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from my old ears, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Get more information at Joe’s website.       Rotcod Zzaj

Joe Sullivan Quintet: Whiskey Jack Waltz

John Stein – EMOTION:  I just can’t tell you how many times John’s fantastic guitar work has been reviewed in these pages – because it’s so many times & CD’s!  There’s a decidedly more “latin” feel in this great music, as evidenced by one of the most beautiful tunes you’ll hear in 2014 – “”Empanadas“…. the flute may well bring tears to your eyes!  i loved the raw energy on “I Thought About You“… nothing overly complicated here; just wonderful jazz that will stick to your ears.  It was the lively rhythms and total concentration on the playing that made “Steppin’ Stones” my personal favorite of the 10 tracks offered up for your listening pleasure… jazz guitar just doesn’t get any better than this.  I give John & crew a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99.  Get more information at John’s website.        Rotcod Zzaj

Mary Halvorson; Michael Formanek; Tomas Fujiwara – THUMBSCREW:  This is actually a very pleasant and energetic improvised jazz CD that will capture your attention – even if you’re not strictly a fan of such music.  That’s because tunes like the opener, “Cheap Knock Off” abound with creativity and spur-of-the-moment movement that will hold your ears spellbound!  Mary’s guitar is silk-smooth, and with Tomas’s drums & Michael’s bass work, this will be a sonic delight for all but the most “stodgy” of jazz fans.  There is change at every junction, and from having listened to hundreds (if not thousands) of improvised CD’s, I can say without qualification that this is among the best I’ve heard.  My personal favorite was “Goddess Sparkle“… marvelous flow and constant moments inspired by the muse.  I give this one a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 5.00 – which means it also gets a “PICK” of this issue for “best improvised jazz trio”.   Get more information at the Cuneiform label site for this CD.       Rotcod Zzaj

Keith Taylor Trio – AND SO IT IS:  Yet another great jazz CD in from Alabama… Keith & crew are from over Athens way; Keith’s great jazz acoustic piano is joined by joined by Tom Branch doing drums, Jim Cavender on bass and Greg Chambers doing sax.  The 5:49 opener, “Notepad“, takes me back years to a (then) young Avery Burdette… though their keyboard styles don’t sound exactly the same,   If you’re looking for something with super bass lines, you’ll love “I Suppose“… smooth flow and great energy on this track, to be sure!  My own pick for favorite (of the 12 tracks offered up) was the swingin’ beat on “Monk K” – it’s a sure winner for jazz lovers of all stripes & persuasions.  I’m highly impressed, and give this one a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97.  Get more information at the label site, Startingly Fresh Records (& be sure to tell ’em Zzaj sent you).        Rotcod Zzaj.      

Keith Taylor Trio: And So It Is

PJ Rasmussen – ANOTHER ADVENTURE:  The great opener on this one, “Full Speed Ahead“,  makes it clear that you’re in for a trip that will be the ultimate!  All I can say is “WOW”; if you’re not a jazz guitar fan already – you will be by the time this 8:02 killer is over! For something with a bit more gentle touch, though not lacking in energy, you’ll love “Under A Wave“… I know I certainly got in the groove on this one – you can almost feel yourself on that ancient ship, moving right toward the adventure.  It was the 6:32 “Out Of Phase” that got my vote for favorite of the nine tunes offered up… I can tell you right now, you’ll love this CD!  I give it my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, as well as a 5.00 “EQ” (energy quotient) rating – which means, of course, that it also gets the “PICK” of this issue for “best guitar-led jazz”.  Get more information at PJ’s website.         Rotcod Zzaj

PJ Rasmussen: Another Adventure

Herb Silverstein – MONDAY MORNING:  Herb’s jazz piano on this 10-song January 2014 release is superb, and he and his partners make music you’ll never forget.  Just scope out the highly energetic opener, “Zorro“, to get a taste of this player’s ingenuity and instinct for jazz that works – you won’t be disappointed & your ears will thank you over & over again!  “Blues At 75″ will put you right in “that mood”, & you’ll find yourself hearing this one plenty of times on your playlists – laid-back, but still full of punch.  My personal favorite, though, was the 2-cool “Chilly Summer”…. this is the kind of jazz I cut my teeth on way back in the day.  I give Herb & pals a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Get more information at Herb’s website.       Rotcod Zzaj

Herb Silverstein: Monday Morning

Jon Di Fiore – YELLOW PETALS:  This March 2014 jazz release from Jon (drums), Aridan Morning (bass) and Billy Test (piano) can be described in one word “graceful”, & that’s especially true on pieces like the stunning opener, “Demise“… the players fit together like hand & glove.  You’ll find yourself spinning back on the playlist over & over again to tunes like “Live For Tomorrow, Forget Today“… the bass is just excellent on this one!  There was no doubt in my mind about which tune to pick as my favorite, though… the drum/percussion-driven “Orange” won that honor hands-down.  Great jazz, great spirit – this 9-tune instant wonder gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Get more information at Jon’s website.        Rotcod Zzaj

Jon Di Fiore: Yellow Petals

Carol Fredette – NO SAD SONGS FOR ME:  It’s been a while since I reviewed a CD from Carol – but she’s got that jazz vocal stuff right on DOWN!  Her opener on this 13-song vocal adventure, “I Am In Love” is the best female jazz vocal I’ve heard (yet) in 2014 – & since there are thirteen full-blown songs, you’re bound to find something you can pick as a favorite for your playlist!  The peppy & upbeat “You’d Better Love Me” will floor you & have you dancing ’round the room all night.  It was actually the swingin’ vibe on “Havin’ Myself A Time” that won my vote for personal favorite (but like I said, with that many tracks, you may find a different fave).  If you just love smokin’-hot female jazz vocals, you’ll agree with me when I say it’s MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED… gets an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 5.00 (the very top) – which means it also gets the “PICK” of this issue for “best female jazz vocal work”.  Get more information at Carol’s website.       Rotcod Zzaj

Ian O’Beirne – GLASSWORK:  Ian’s tenor & alto sax are among the best I’ve heard (yet) in 2014… “Sea of Stars” proves that beyond any shadow of a doubt – easy & laid-back, yet jam-packed with the kind of jazz energy that made the masters back in the 50’s & 60’s.  Tim Wendel’s guitar shines on the beautiful “Duel“, and will totally blow you away.  I just loved Tim Brey’s Fender Rhodes on “Dreamwake“, and Kurt Kotheimer’s upright bass supported the tune quite nicely.  The tune that got my vote for personal favorite of the 11 tunes offered up was “Sapporo“, in great part due to the crisp drums from Matt Scarano.  I give Ian & crew a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Get more information at Ian’s website.        Rotcod Zzaj

Ian O

Stranahan – Zaleski – Rosato – LIMITLESS:  With Colin Stranahan on drums, Glenn Zaleski on piano & Rick Rosato on bass, your ears will be more than pleased, especially if you love drum-led jazz trio works! That’s most evident on tunes like the opening title track, “Limitless“… these guys absolutely cook together on this one!  If you’re looking for something a little more laid-back, you’ll love “Cyclic” – beautiful bass lines on this one!  The trio definitely  creates it’s own “flow”, and you’ll float right off into jazzland with them – no question about it!  My personal favorite of the 9 tunes offered up was the movement-full “Forecast“… solid, SOLID jazz that shows skills far beyond the norm!  I give Colin & the trio a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Get more information at the Capri Records site for this CD.       Rotcod Zzaj

Timothy Wenzel: River Serene

Barbara Levy Daniels – LOVE LOST AND FOUND:  When you’re in the mood for great female jazz vocals, you’ll queue up Barbara every time – guaranteed!  She’s an expert singer in every genre she performs in, as well-evidenced by her silky-smooth & totally professional rendition of “Say It Isn’t So“…. what chops!  When she croons “I Got Lost In His Arms“, you’ll stay with her for every note, every captivating phrase.  Barbara’s intro to recording was by no less an artist than Ray Charles, and that’s something you’ll “grok” right away when you listen to my personal favorite of the 13 tracks offered up, the laid-back & bluesy “Willow Weep For Me” – jazz vocal work doesn’t get any better than this!  I give Barbara & crew a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99.  Get more information at Barbara’s website.      Rotcod Zzaj

Barbara Levy Daniels: Love Lost and Found

Fernando Ulibarri – TRANSFORM:  This music will transform you, even if you’re a veteran jazz listener – no doubt in my mind.  Fernando’s jazz guitar is sweet, mellow and full of mystery, as you’ll hear (most) clearly on the wonderful “The Left Side“… 7:01 of pure, unadulterated, pleasure!  His musical partners (Jim Gasior on piano/keyboards; Josh Allen on upright bass; John Yarling on drums) are right “in tune” with Fernando’s keen sense of musical wonder, and the quartet pulls this adventure off with high talent and adept jazz licks!  My pick for favorite of the 9 tunes offered up was the laid-back & bluesy “The Fire Will Burn Us Both”… it doesn’t get much better than this for jazz listeners of every stripe & hue.  I give Fernando & his partners a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Get more information at Fernando’s websiteRotcod Zzaj

Fernando Ulibarri: Transform

Darlene Koldenhoven – TRANQUIL TIMES:  I listen to a lot of piano works from all types of artists… new age, straight solo, ragtime and good ol’ boogie-woogie… but there are certain players, like Darlene, who know how to use the instrument to bring your emotions to the very surface (even if you’re pretty good at suppressing them).  She’s already well-known for her vocal work, but her piano on pieces like the splendid “Lucid See” make her talent one you’ll never forget, and will seek out often!  She’s joined by guests lik flautist Courtney Jacob and guitarist Mike Miller, and tunes like “Surrender” show just how wonderful that can be.  My personal favorite of the eight tunes offered up, though, was the beautiful “Hypogeum“… one of the most striking songs I’ve heard in the last 5 years.  I give Darlene & her guests a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Get more information at Darlene’s website.       Rotcod Zzaj

Darlene Koldenhoven: Tranquil Times

Matt Criscuolo – BLIPPITY BLAT:  I get lots of pleasure from writing this magazine, and one of the most distinct is reviewing artists (particularly those who do most of the production themselves – almost like the old “home-taper” crews, except that most of these new CD’s are digitally produced from the git.  Matt’s excellent (& mighty mellow) sax work is proof of how excellent it gets, especially on tunes like the swingin’ opener, “Shuckin’ The Cobb“… 2 cool, fer’ sure!  Matt’s joined on this outing by Larry Willis – Piano; John Clark – French Horn; Billy Williams – Drums; & Gerald Cannon – Bass, & these guys COOK together.  The fully jazzified sax tune “Somethin’ Like That” turned out to be my absolute favorite of the 10 premiere tunes offered up for your aural enjoyment!  I give Matt & his totally talented crew a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 5.00 – which also give him the “PICK” of this issue for “best sax-led quintet”.  Get more information on the CD at Matt’s liner notes page.        Rotcod Zzaj

Matt Criscuolo: Blippity Blat