Issue 145 Reviews

Our latest and greatest reviews for your reading & listening pleasure

SPECIAL NOTE:  Click to read my LIVE SHOW review for the 20th Olympia Experimental Music Festival!!!!

Carl Weingarten – LIFE UNDER STARS:  This turns out to be the “sleeper” for this issue, and a perfect CD to close out the issue with… “A Different Rain“… Carl’s beautiful acoustic/electric slide guitars, dobro & keyboards prevail, but he has a whole host of other great players with him (far too many to itemize here).  They are able to create sonic spheres that are “out there” enough to keep them interesting from opening to closing note, yet not so far removed from reality that they’re not accessible!  I was absolutely stunned by “Code Blues“… you’ll hear the ambulances, sirens & doctors screaming in the background… but it was the excellent sound-scape and playing on “Nightwalk” that captured my vote for favorite of the ten tracks offered up – the slow approach reminds you (in the immediate) of how it feels to walk the city streets after the witching hour, in search of nothing in particular.  I give Carl & crew a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Get more information at Carl’s website.       Rotcod Zzaj

Carl Weingarten: Life Under Stars

Joel Harrison:  MOTHER STUMP:  What guitarist Joel does with this excellent sonic excursion is truly different… he creates a unique (yet forward-looking) sound that will stay with you for a long time to come!  No, it’s not “standard” anything… it is, in fact, uniquely Joel, as evidenced on the totally absorbing opener, “John The Revelator“… I just totally dug this one!  Joel is joined by bassist Michael Bates, drummer Jeremy ‘Bean’ Clemons, and keyboardist Glenn Patscha on one of the most intriguing CD’s I’ve heard (yet) in 2014!  The beautiful guitar on “Wide River To Cross” will touch you and bring back sweet (or, mayhaps, bittersweet) mem’ries!  My personal favorite of the eleven great tunes offered up for your aural pleasure was the ultra-cool “Stratusphunk“… this one will most assuredly get you “in the zone” (or, if it doesn’t – you don’t belong there anyway)!  I give Joel & crew a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99.  Get more information at the Cuneiform Records label page for this release!       Rotcod Zzaj

John A Lewis Trio – ONE TRIP OUT:  What an absolutely splendid jazz trio… John’s piano is bold & in the finest traditions of the genre… excellent bass from Lincoln Apeland and drums by Merik Gillett… of course, that’s to be expected…. John has been playing & performing for over 30 years – & with some of the “big stars”.  As you scope out the title track, “One Trip Out“, you’ll hear that those years haven’t dulled his energy (even) one little bit… in fact, if anything, they’ve lent to a style that’s uniquely “John”, & will captivate any jazz listener worth his/her salt!  Every nuance is captured on the recording, too… no “dropouts”, no flaws whatsoever… one of the highest clarity recordings I’ve heard (yet) in 2014.  I also totally enjoyed the shifting sonic landscapes of “Three Shades“… the word (as you might imagine) is “colorful”.  These players are super-tight, and fill in every blank (easily) for you.  My personal favorite of the eleven tracks offered up is the slinky “Def Blue“… pretty, but azure shades abound!  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

John A. Lewis Trio: One Trip Out

Jennifer DeFrayne – BY A WIRE:  If you love well-played piano in a near-classical mode – you will find Jennifer’s beautiful recording to your liking.  Pieces like “Calling Angels” were especially pretty, perhaps because of the violin woven into the fabric.  It’s no surprise, however, that the aural focus remains on the keyboard, because Jennifer knows how to coax the widest spectrum of emotional color out of her instrument.  The recording was done in Will Ackerman’s studio, Imaginary Road”, and turned out flawlessly… I listen to solo piano about three or four times a week, and this is among the most impressive I have heard (yet) this year.  The oddly-titled “Mexican Daydream” turned out to be my personal favorite of the ten pieces offered up… bright tones that will lift your spirits and take you back to simpler times.  If you are a listener who demands excellence in the  piano works you include on your playlists, you’ll agree when I declare this to be MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED… “EQ” (energy quotient) rating is 4.97.  Get more information at Jennifer’s pages.       Rotcod Zzaj

Jennifer DeFrayne: By a Wire

Tom Chang – TONGUE & GROOVE:  On this very refreshing CD, tenor saxophonist Jason Rigby, alto saxophonist Greg Ward, acoustic bassist Chris Lightcap and drummer Gerald Cleaver join Tom’s incendiary guitar on ten compositions that are truly in a “different” jazz turf than you’re used to hearing.  From listening to as many debut CD’s as I do, I can tell you that this is among the best I’ve heard (yet) in 2014!  Pieces like the meandering “Bar Codes” will have you wondering where this guy’s been all your life.  The whole concept, in fact, is to express “new ideas”, & these folks do an excellent job of that.  I found “Scatterbrain” to be totally engaging, and have no doubt you’ll get wrapped up in it right away as well.  The beauty of their playing is that though they are exploring new territory, it’s still totally accessible for any jazz listener worth their salt.  It was actually the title track, “Tongue & Groove” that held me spellbound, though, & got my vote for personal favorite… just superb timing & rhythm work.  I give Tom & crew a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99.  Get more information about Tom and his too cool music at his MS site.      Rotcod Zzaj

Tom Chang: Tongue and Groove

The North – SLOW DOWN (THIS ISN’T THE MAINLAND):  What an absolutely splendid trio this is… pianist Romain Collin, bassist Shawn Conley and drummer Abe Lagrimas Jr, join forces to bring you one of the most pleasant jazz listens you’ll have in 2014!  The recording is one of the clearest and most dynamic I’ve heard (yet) this year, especially on pieces like the oddly-titled “Humpty Dumpty“, and there’s jazz energy that you seldom hear these days.  A very talented trio who work very well together, and always are thinking/playing a few steps ahead of your mind.  When you listen to this the first time, you need to do it with your headphones on… as I listen to my personal favorite track, the 5:01 “Yann’s Flight“, it’s easy to hear why I’ve listened to it (as well as the other nine tracks so often since getting it in for review (the instruments just work SO well together on this one, folks)!  I give these three a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Get more information at The North trio website.      Rotcod Zzaj

Tohpati – TRIBAL DANCE:  I’ve been a fan of this fantastic guitar player ever since my friend at MoonJune (Leonardo) sent the first one to me….  what I am (now) after this (is the third already) CD, is – hopelessly ADDICTED!  OTOH, that’s not a “bad thang”… When you listen to the too-cool “Spirit of Java“, you’ll find yourself transported to a place WAY on the other side of Java (or anywhere else, for that matter)!  Tohpati’s guitar is joined by Jimmy Haslip on bass guitar and Chad Wackerman on drums, for a sonic excursion takes me back (in a certain sense) to my earliest listens to Jimi’s trio work, but Tohpati has definitely morphed the sound into a clear leader for the new Century!  If that isn’t “Gourd” speaking on the intro of “Supernatural“, then I’m completely befuddled… 6:42 of pure red-hot guitar abandon that will surely set your ears on fire!  If you’re looking for pure and steady-state bliss, though, the title track, “Tribal Dance” will be your favorite (as it was mine)… this IS the 21st Century, in all-instrumental sonic glory.  I give this one my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, as well as an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of (the very top) 5.00.  That means it gets the “PICK” of this issue for “best progressive jazz guitar trio”.  Get more information at the MoonJune page for this CD.       Rotcod Zzaj

Nancy G – I WANNA’ BE YOUR STAR:  As you listen through this splendid jazz vocal CD from Nancy G., you’ll know that she can be a star anytime she wants to be!  Per the promo sheet, she’s one of NYC’s freshest singers, and it’s easy to know why when you listen to “Almost Like Being In Love“… this is some of the most personable, yet high-end/uptown, female jazz vocals you’ll hear on the scene today!  She also plays electro-classical guitar (on the CD), so you’ll get a taste for her abilities in that arena, too – “Milonga” is just beautiful, in great part due to her readily apparent guitar skills.  Man, has she got the fire going – just listen to her energy on the closer, “The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea“… easy to tell that she simply loves what she’s doing; this track is my personal favorite of the ten offered up for your listening (& maybe even dancing) pleasure!  You owe it to your ears to get (and keep) this one spinning… some of the best jazz you’ll hear (this year, or any other).  I give Nancy & her cohorts a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99.  Get more information at Nancy’s website.    Rotcod Zzaj

Nancy Goudinaki: I Wanna Be Your Star

Beat Funktion – VOODOOLAND:  If you’re lookin’ for jazz that will “pep you up”…. you need look no further, I can tell you that with absolute certainty!  Heck, the brass on the opener, “Nights Out With Billy“, make the CD worth the purchase price!  Jazz-funk supreme from Sweden that will cast it’s spell on you (& your hips) in the immediate… very danceable, actually!  You’ll definitely feel like you’re back from the future, with John (as in Travolta) at one of those late-night live-band disco thangs…. lol.  I just loved the funk percussion on “Bongo Universe“, and unless you’re determined to stay down inna’ dumps – you will 2.  The guitar leads just soar!  Make no mistake, though… this isn’t just a re-hash of ’70’s disco… there’s clear & solid jazz talent in this group, as evidenced by my review of them in issue 138.  The electric keyboard on the title cut, “Voodooland“, made it my favorite of the eight tunes offered up (once again, the guitar leads are stellar).  I give Beat Funktion a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” rating of 4.99.  Get more information at the BF website.       Rotcod Zzaj

Beat Funktion: Voodooland

Peter Calandra – INNER CIRCLE:  This wondrous CD came from a promoter who often highlights New Age, but the liner notes also clarify that Peter’s piano work crosses style lines in many ways… listening to the dynamic arrangements on the opener, “Clyde and the Pearl“, I must say that is huge understatement… the edges of jazz abound on this one, & I fell in love with it immediately!  With a whole host of guest players, he has created one of the most attractive recordings I’ve heard (yet) this year.  The strings on “The Wayfarer” are both enchanting and intense, and there’s a beautiful energy build that will captivate and hold your attention for the entire piece.  My personal favorite of the thirteen tunes offered up was the beautiful “A Quiet Spark“… some absolutely amazing harmonics on this piece.  I give Peter and his folks a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Get more information at Peter’s website.     Rotcod Zzaj

Peter Calandra: Inner Circle

Gary Hassay – EMANATE:  Readers who have been with me for a while know that Gary’s works are always welcome here… On this session, bassist William Parker and multi-instrumental Daniel Carter join Gary’s beautiful alto sax in an absolute celebration of what can happen when the spirit is free (and freed)!  This is from a live gig they did in Easton, Pennsylvania – and it’s definitely the kind of playing that will make you wish you had been there for the session.  There’s no “fancy-dancy” packaging, or gimmicks involved here – just two (very) long tunes (one is 27:15, the other clocks in at 47:46) that will wrap you right in & warp your mind… (unless, of course, you’re an “MOR” (middle of the road) jazzer – but if you fell in that category, I’m quite sure you wouldn’t be reading this magazine (lol).  My thanks to Gary for sending this one – if ;you’re in love with free-energy jazz, and love music that challenges your ears (among other parts), you’ll agree when I declare this MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED; “EQ” (energy quotient) rating is 4.98.  Get more information about this fascinating artist at Gary’s FB page.       Rotcod Zzaj

John Chin – UNDERCOVER:  I reviewed an earlier CD from John in issue # 80; this new outing creates a standard of jazz excellence that others should surely be aiming for!  John’s  fantastic keyboard work is joined by Orlando le Fleming (bass) and Dan Rieser (drums)… and they SMOKE together!  Just scope out the excursions on “Caravan“… they trek right on through it, most deliciously so (I totally dig the bass on this one).  If you’re looking for slightly lighter fare, you will fall in love (right away) with the pleasant atmosphere created by “Smile“… some of the most beautiful jazz piano you’ll ever hear.  Recorded without edits, it’s a perfect testimony to what can be achieved when the players are all right in synch with each other.  My personal favorite of the eight tunes offered up was the 6:16 closer, “Countdown”… jazz just doesn’t get any better than this.  I give John & his mates a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99.  Get more information at John’s website.  Rotcod Zzaj

King William Jazz Collective – KING WILLIAM JAZZ COLLECTIVE:  No “names” I recognized on this one, but they surely DO know how to play solid jazz that will have you up & dancin’ in only moments!  Sax is right on time & full of super sound on the energy-filled opener, “Billy Boy“…. in fact, if you’re just introducing a “jazz novice” to the genre, I would think this would do the trick – in a big way!  For a taste of jazz “country”, I’d definitely turn them on to “Sweet Pumpkin“.  The group hails from San Antonio, Texas, & that’s a good reason to go south… if you’re in the neighborhood, you’d better look them up!  The totally peppy & horn-filled approach on “Tenor Madness” made it my personal favorite of the even-dozen tunes they offer up for your jazz listening pleasure.  I give KWJC a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Get more information at the KWJC website.       Rotcod Zzaj

King William Jazz Collective: King William Jazz Collective

Stefano Pastor & Charlotte Hug – PARAGON D’ARCHI:  Arches, indeed… Stefano’s inspired violin and Charlotte’s viola/vocal work will hold you spellbound through the entire hour!  As you listen to the intricate interplay on “Volta“, you won’t believe your ears… like the sounds Tesla heard when he was dreaming of current spiking ‘cross th’ land (there are sections on this one that remind me of another improvising friend of mine, LaDonna Smith).  It was the same intense concentration in the vocals on “Inflesso” that made it my favorite of the seventeen tracks.  If you’re a fan of improvised music, you will totally agree when I declare it to be MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED; “EQ” (energy quotient) rating is 4.97.  Get more information at Stefano’s pages.     Rotcod Zzaj

John Luttrell – THE CORRIDORS OF TIME:  John’s work here is, in fact, timeless!  Exactly the kind of music that will stay with you for years to come… in your waking hours, when you’re walking through the woods, and any other time you’re in need of the comfort that well-played music can bring to your soul!  You won’t believe how beautiful things can be until you’ve listened all the way through “Earth Dance“… I love this one!  When he gave me access to pull down his latest release, reviewed in an earlier issue, I listened through several of the others, and picked this as one that certainly merited a few words.  As you listen to my personal favorite of the fourteen tunes offered up, “New Life“, you’ll hear why.  I give John a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, particularly for listeners who want to hear the sonic secrets of the universe.  “EQ” (energy quotient) rating is 4.98.  Get more information at John’s website.       Rotcod Zzaj

John Luttrell: The Corridors of Time

Jim Clayton – SONGS MY DAUGHTER KNOWS:  If you’re looking for songs that will attract your kids to jazz – get this one!  His piano work is vibrant and full of life, and the songs are ones that appeal to kids everywhere (even if they’re 67, like me).  They’ll feel like they’re doin’ the hokey-pokey on “Inside Straight“… totally cool tune, to be sure!  For something a bit lighter & airier, they’ll love “Flight Of The Foo Birds“… I did!  As mentioned, listeners of all ages will be diggin’ this; my personal favorite of the ten tunes offered up was “Little Leo” – the key ingredient for great jazz is very much present here – FUN!!!  I give Jim & crew a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97.  Get more information at Jim’s blog.    Rotcod Zzaj

Jim Clayton: Songs My Daughter Knows

Ron Jackson – AKUSTIK INVENTYOURS:  Listeners who have read my reviews of Ron’s previous works (issue 118, for instance), will realize on first listen to tunes like the marvelously soothing “Your Eyes” that he’s playing from a totally new & fresh approach!  Absolutely excellent finger-style work that shows his true mastery of the guitar… I can guarantee listeners who are in love with well-played and high-talent guitar – this one is a KEEPER!  My ears fell in love immediately with his deliberate (yet soothing) chords on the beautiful “Park Slope“… definitely my personal favorite of the fifteen-track excursion.  This one gets my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of a perfect 5.00 – meaning that it’s also the “PICK” of this issue for “best guitar CD of 2014”.  Get more information at Ron’s website       Rotcod Zzaj.

Ron Jackson: Akustik Inventyours

Matt Garrison – PATCHWORK:  Matt’s sax work (tenor, baritone and soprano) on this outing is just excellent!  In fact, I’d say you’d be hard-pressed to find better on the market today.  I was especially enchanted with “Ceora“… full and rich body, with an astounding vocal from Melissa Morgan.  The lively jive he & the group have goin’ down on “Steppin Up” is just what jazz listeners seek out for long-term entertainment.  He’s no stranger here, as I reviewed him in issue 108.  For pure jazz “verve”, my favorite of the nine tunes offered up was the lively “When Eyes Meet“… just love the together sound of the band on this one…. you couldn’t ask for a better tune.  I give Matt and his crew a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED on this one, as well as an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Get more information at Matt’s website.       Rotcod Zzaj

Matt Garrison: Patchwork

Doc Stewart – CODE BLUEIf ever you need a total “jazz fix”, Doc & his crew are the right place to get it, I’ll tell you!  It’s a followup to his 2005 CD that paid tribute to Cannonball Adderley – & this outing ROCKS, folks!  Pieces like “Ironman Blues” will surely set your socks afire & require a visit to get you back in order again!  I truly loved the funky environment of “Snakin’ The Grass” – but not to worry, Doc’s got the cure, so wander right along with the slithery beats (some GREAT keyboards on this tune!!!).  Of the 11 tunes offered up, my personal favorite was the back-alley flavor on “Bohemia After Dark“… Doc’s woodwinds administer just the right amount of musical meds to make this one of your favorite CD’s of 2014 (& for a long time to come).  I give Doc & crew a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, as well as a perfect 5.00 for “EQ” (energy quotient).  That means it gets the “PICK” of this issue for “best high-energy jazz band).  Get more information at Doc’s website.        Rotcod Zzaj

Doc Stewart: Code Blue!

Alexis Parsons, Connie Crothers – HIPPIN’:  For some reason, there was no promo sheet with this one, but since I’ve reviewed both of these ladies before, I’ve got very good ideas about what it is they do.  Connie’s piano is solidly behind the spoken-word Alexis is doing, especially on pieces like “Exactly… what?”  If you’re not a spoken-word fan, you may not (exactly) “grok” what the duo is doing – but I can tell you, as an early proponent of spoken-word, that on this tune, Alexis rolls all the way from free-form to great blues form, & projects her power all the way!  It’s the title cut, “Hippin’“, that floats my boat in finest form, though… similar, in fact, to some sketches I’ve done before…. totally cool stream-of-consciousness event!  Connie’s piano is pure improv on this one.  I give Alexis & Connie a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for listeners who demand something different in their sonic adventures.  “EQ” (energy quotient) is 4.97.  Get more information at Alexis’ website.       Rotcod Zzaj

Juhani Aaltonen – TO FUTURE MEMORIES:  Juhani’s sax blends perfectly with the beautiful keyboards of Iro Harlaa on this TUM Records release.  This perfect marriage is especially audible on “Reminiscence“… among my favorite tunes (so far) for this year.  There are some truly forward-looking instrumental accompaniments & high-energy playing on pieces like “Haze“, with a whole host of contributing players that stand out as excellent (visit the TUM Records page for this release to look at the player list).  My personal favorite of the seven pieces offered up was the 8:07 title track, “To Future Memories”… it has everything a solid jazz piece should have, and will stay in your mind for days (if not months).  Juhani & crew get a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from me, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Visit the TUM Records site (linked in above) to get more information.     Rotcod Zzaj

Pete McGuinness & The Jazz Orchestra – STRENGTH IN NUMBERS:  There is some superb and very beautiful jazz work on this album.  I first heard & reviewed Pete’s work in issue 138 (where he got a “PICK” of the issue for his truly inspired jazz vocal work – the CD was called “Voice Like A Horn”).  He is also a very accomplished trombonist, as tunes like “Bittersweet” prove (beyond the shadow of any doubt); man, his technique on that ‘bone is solid, and his arrangements leave nothing to be desired!  “The Swagger” steps right out in front of you & will lead you down roads similar to those Basie traveled.  It was “Nasty Blues” that won my vote as favorite, with totally upbeat tempo and solid swing!  I give Pete & crew a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99.  Get more information at Pete’s web pages.       Rotcod Zzaj

Kris Adams – LONGING:  Some absolutely pleasant jazz vocal work from Kris.  Tim Ray’s piano compliments her well on the opener, “The Glide“, & her scat on this one reminds me of some of the late ’60’s music along those lines.  This is her third release, and tunes like the down & funky “Pulled Pork” will allow you to hear her rhythmic perfection (not to mention a trumpet solo from Greg Hopkins that is memorable).  She’s a master of moods, and her talent shines brightly on this outing.  My personal favorite of the 11 songs she offers up for your listening pleasure is her 5:15 rendition of “All Of You“…   you’ll enjoy this for a long time to come – I give Kris & her crew a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97.  Get more information at Kris’s website.       Rotcod Zzaj

Kris Adams: Longing

Leslie Pintchik – IN THE NATURE OF THINGS:  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve reviewed Leslie’s beautiful jazz piano work over the last 30 years – but it’s been many – but what I can say is that she’s always a pleasure to listen to!  The 5:58 opener, “With You In Mind“, is a perfect example of her high-energy playing, and how tight her bands are (every time)!  If you thoroughly enjoy bright & bubbly tuneage, you will play “Sparkle” over & over – champagne or not, it’s inspiring intoxication for the true jazz listener.  My personal favorite was “I’d Turn Back If I Were You“…. vibrant & alive that totally disproves the “jazz is dead” theories!  I give Leslie & crew (Steve Wilson, Ron Horton, Scott Hardy, Michael Sarin and Satoshi Takeishi) a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99.  Get more information at Leslie’s website.    Rotcod Zzaj

Leslie Pintchik: In the Nature of Things

Reginald Cyntje – ELEMENTS OF LIFE:  This great CD has been spinning over & over (& over) again ever since the promoter sent it… in great part, that’s because I had reviewed Reginald’s earlier CD in issue 140, & loved it!  As you might imagine from the album title, this outing covers a broad range of the pieces, like earth, air, fire & water, that can make life so wonderful.  If you can’t see bright blue vistas as you listen to the beauty of “Sky“, you’re bound to a life of regret – Reginald’s trombone is full of the wonderful spirit of jazz on this one & it will stay right up at the top of your playlists for months (if not years) to come!  It was the high-energy “Wind” that got my vote for personal favorite of the nine tunes offered up for your long-term listening pleasure – the vocal work alone makes it worth purchasing this CD.  I give Reginald & his crew my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99.  Learn more about this fantastic player on Reginald’s website.      Rotcod Zzaj

Reginald Cyntje: Elements of Life

Joe Beck Trio – GET ME:  If you’re a guitar jazz fan, then you already know Joe… if you’re not, you will be after listening to his last album, recorded live at Anna’s Jazz Island in Berkeley.  Everything is tasty here, but Joe’s performance on  “Corcovado” will make your ears truly grateful; one of the most beautiful renditions you’ll ever hear!  As you listen to “Joe Speaks:  Jobim“, you’ll just crack up… some really intimate conversations from the master of jazz guitar!  My personal favorite of the thirteen tracks offered up is Joe’s too-cool rendition of “Georgia On My Mind”… you’ll have no doubt, after listening over & over again to this, who the best jazz guitarist on the planet is/was.  I give Joe a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 5.00 – the very top – and, of course, that makes it my “PICK” of this issue for “best jazz guitar ever”.   Get more information at the Whaling City Sound page for this release.        Rotcod Zzaj

Peter Kater & R.Carlos Nakai – RITUAL:  Peter’s creative piano and R. Carlos’ beautiful woodwind work are a marriage made in musical heaven – no doubt at all!  It’s been over 10 years since they collaborated together, but it’s clear they (still) stand on the foundation of sacred music that reaches right out and touches your soul with all shades of emotion difficult to convey except through music.  Compositions like “Standing As One” are solid proof that they understand how to open the listener up to the possibilities that exist all ’round our souls.  My personal favorite of the seven pieces offered up was “Offering“; if you’re not in a state of reverence after this one – you never shall be.  I give this album a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) of 4.98.  Get more information about their work together at the DISCOGS page outlining their work.      Rotcod Zzaj

Libby York:  MEMOIR:  Jazz vocalists have a tough time of it here at my ‘zine; unless they possess the “full pizazz”, they often get marked down a bit.  In Libby’s case (& especially since I had reviewed her “Here With You” CD in issue 80), her totally smooth style and energetic interpretation of jazz standards like “Give Me The Simple Life” made it easy to know that this would be a winner. The fantastic energy on “Put It There” is just what the original jazz fans had in mind when they said somethin’ was “too cool” & “copacetic”!  It was actually the Latin-flavoried “My Little Boat” that got my vote for personal favorite of the eleven tunes offered up for your jazz listening pleasure.  I give Libby & her crew a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Get more information at Libby’s website.       Rotcod Zzaj

Henrik Otto Donner & TUMO – AND IT HAPPENED:  You seldom hear jazz/music these days that has as much “happening” as this total gem from TUM Records in Finland.  The CD features sax work from Juhani Aaltonen, as well as flute, with vocals by Johanna Livaneinen and is conducted by both Henrik and Mikko Hassinen.  “Close Your Eyes” is a smooth standard that has silken vocals from Johanna, as well as “Junnuda“, which I thought was the better of the two.  The orchestrals on “For Friends and Relatives“, along with the full brass sound, made it my personal favorite of the eight tunes offered up, & once the intro is done, it kicks you right into the jazz stratosphere!  I give these folks a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Get more information at the TUM Records page for this release.       Rotcod Zzaj

Glen Hall, Bernie Koenig – OVERHEARD CONVERSATIONS:  I believe you’ll be amazed at the fluidity with which these reed/drum/vibraphone conversations are conducted.  Pieces like “The News Isn’t Good” make you feel just like the title of the conversation indicates… anticipating!  “Look At Her” will make you stand up & take notice, no doubt about it.  Glen’s reeds join Bernie’s drums/vibes in a very pleasurable improv session that you won’t soon forget – and will, in fact, find yourself coming back to often.  The vibes on “Things Are Looking Up” made it my favorite piece (it’s also the longest, so maybe that had something to do with it).  At any rate, for listeners who love improv, this comes MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97.  Get more information at the Slam Productions page for this release.       Rotcod Zzaj