Issue #152 Reviews

Our latest and greatest reviews for your reading & listening pleasure

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The links below are to REVIEWS I’ve written for Cadence Jazz World!!!

Michael Jefry Stevens – Angel’s Dance

Dom Minasi/Blaise Siwula – The Sunshine Don’t Mind My Singing

Dom Minasi/Hans Tammen – Alluvium Sun 

Dario Chiazzolino and Nico Di Battista – Rewriting Song

Dario Chiazzolino – Paint Your Life

Steven Chesne – MOMENTS OF THE LIFE STORY OF STRANGERS PART 1:  It is entirely possible that you’ve heard Steven’s music before (whether you know it or not).  He has composed TV and film scores in the hundreds, and on this outing with his “Luminous World Orchestra”, he will hold you in awe with his wonderful compositions.  I particularly enjoyed pieces like “For When The Love Will Rain Down Upon You“, and found the ghostly and haunting voice-like parts of the 6:36 “Flicker Of The Glistening” very enchanting.  No, it isn’t the jazz that this magazine always has plenty of – but it IS high-energy and full of creativity; and that alone is enough to make it well worth the listening.  My personal favorite of the nine pieces was the nicely titled “Change, Your Oldest Friend“… I give Steven and his cohorts a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Get more information at Steven’s page for this release.       Rotcod Zzaj

Steven Chesne: Moments from the Life Stories of Strangers, Pt. 1

Jamie Dubberly & Orquesta Dharma – LA CLAVE DEL GUMBO:  Totally cool Latin-oriented trombone-led jazz from California… the splendid opener, “Jazzy“, establishes the lively tone for the rest of the nine-song extravaganza.  The 6:30 version of Marvin’s “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout A Thing” is among the best I’ve heard (yet) in 2015 & the vocal is totally killer!  The groove on “West Side Strut” swings just as you might expect it to, & will have you up & dancin’ ’round th’ room in no time.  It’s (most) strongly recommended that you listen to this with headphones for the first sitting (unless you have a house where you can set your amp to FULL TILT – then listen to it that way).  The superb percussion on “Soul Provider” made it my personal favorite, as well as the “party spirit” the group projects.  I give Jamie & his (rather extensive) crew a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98 for this one.  Get more information at the label website.       Rotcod Zzaj

Jamie Dubberly: La Clave Del Gumbo

Expansions/The Dave Liebman Group – SAMSARA:  Readers who frequent our review pages know that  Dave is always welcome here… this latest release features Dave’s reeds, of course, as well as piano by Bobby Avey, sax, flute & clarinet from Matt Vashlishan, bass by Tony Mariono & drums/percussion by Alex Ritz… not to mention a guest shot by guitarist Vic Juris.  Compositions like “Ugly Beauty” will grab hold of your mind and hold you in their spell for the entire 5:41 length.  Bobby’s piano intro on “Liberian Hummingbird” was jam-packed with energy & left plenty of  open space for each of the players to improvise, with a “total jazz” groove, I might add.  The laid-back groove on “Sivad” was totally captivating, & creates one of the best jazz moods you’ll find yourself in for 2015.  It was the 10:37 “Child Refugee” that captured my personal favorite vote, though… if this one doesn’t touch you, nothing will!  I give Dave & crew a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for this one, as well as an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99.  Get more information at the Whaling City Sound label page for this release.       Rotcod Zzaj

Eric Hofbauer Quintet – PREHISTORIC JAZZ, VOL 1:  Eric’s guitar work is very well-known here, & when he hooks that up with such a lovely quintet set of players (Jerry Sabatini on trumpet; Todd Brunel doing Bb clarinet & Bass clarinet; Junko Fujiwara on cello; Curt Newton doing drums & percussion), your ears are in for a total treat.  Though it is the quintet’s debut recording, as you listen to pieces like “spring rounds“, you’ll sense that they are totally at ease with each other’s playing, and full of creative energy.  What stands out most strongly is that spirit of exploration… taking on a “serious” piece of music, but breathing brand-new life into each note, phrase and chord.  For this reviewer, that was best illustrated with the lively action on “the augurs of spring, dances of the young girls“… everything moves with precision, yet loosely enough that you can feel the joy the players are experiencing from performing this marvelous music.  I give Eric & crew a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99.  Get more information at Eric’s Bandcamp page for this EHQ release.    (NOTE:  You can also spin all tunes at the RN site.   Rotcod Zzaj

Mark Wingfield – PROOF OF LIGHT:  As always, our friends at MOONJUNE have released new music that is deliciously deviant from the norm!  As you listen to tunes like the astonishing opener, “Mars Saffron“, you’ll know that Mark’s guitar is going to take you to spaces you’ve never explored before… the bass from Yaron Stavi and drums by Asaf Sirkis only amplify the joy you experience on this fine 6:10 tune.  The gentle swaying vibrations on “A Thousand Faces” will bring back memories only you are privy to – “How does he do that”, you’ll be asking yourself.  This is Mark’s debut release, but I predict you will be hearing a WHOLE lot more from this high-talent player.  There will be no further proof of musical excellence required after you listen to “A Conversation We Had“, one of the most insightful guitar pieces I’ve listened to in the last couple of years.  It was the intergalactic power of the 8:37 “Voltaic” that made it my personal favorite of the nine original tunes offered up, though… well-woven, yet full of musical power.  I give Mark & crew a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99 on this one.  Get more information at the MOONJUNE page for this smokin’ release.Rotcod Zzaj

MOPDTK (Mostly Other People Do The Killing) – BLUE:  If you’ve listened to this group from Moppa Elliott before, you’ll be surprised when you listen to this ’round… it features Peter Evans (Trumpet), Jon Irabagon (Alto Saxophone), Ron Stabinsky (piano), Moppa Elliott (Composer), Kevin Shea (Drummer), and it’s the closest to trad-jazz I’ve ever heard from MOPDTK!  The opener, “So What“, just SMOKES… these folks got their chops well-honed before they recorded this one!  These are some of the best renditions of those old Miles tunes I’ve EVER heard (not just this year, or last, but “ever”)!   Their 11:37 performance of the classic “All Blue” will put you right in that mood & won’t let go anytime soon… these guys nailed this one!  As always, Moppa & crew have put their own “spin” on it, but like I said, this is the “real deal” insofar as jazz is concerned.  Of the seven tunes offered up, my personal favorite was “Freddie Freeloader”… surely brings back some great old memories.  I give Moppa & his folks a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, as well as an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of a (perfect) 5.00 – meaning that this also gets the “PICK” of this issue for “best all-around jazz”!  Get more information at Moppa’s pages.       Rotcod Zzaj

Alex Weiss and Outhead – SEND THIS SOUND TO THE KING:  I have a feeling most of the kings of yore wouldn’t quite be able to “grok” what Alex & his bandmates (fellow saxophonist Charlie Gurke, bassist Rob Woodcock, drummer Dillon Westbrook and special guests on guitar and vocals) are doing here.  I was strongly attracted to the spoken-word they have going on with tunes like “A Made Truth“, but the jazz (in the tradition of players like Ornette, Rhassan Roland Kirk & players of that stature) is paramount in what they’ve put together for your aural excitement!   The opener, “Ode to John Denver or How I Learned to Stop Worrying About Death“, will totally blow you away… holding you spellbound in the process (nothing like you imagined when you saw that title (lots of tension/release to keep you wondering, too).  It was the 8:01 “The Chairman” that got my vote as personal favorite of the seven pieces offered up… I give Alex & his fantastic crew a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for jazz lovers who want something different; the “EQ” (energy quotient) rating is 4.99.  You can get more information at Alex Weiss’s website.       Rotcod Zzaj

Outhead: Send This Sound to the King

The Allison Au Quartet – THE SKY WAS PALE BLUE, THEN GREY:  Allison’s alto sax work is strong and full-bodied and when you add in her bandmates, pianist Todd Pentney, bassist Jon Maharaj and drummer Fabio Ragnelli, you’ve got a jazz combination that can’t be beat!  Tunes like the opener, “Birdy“, will capture your ears in the immediate moment (& won’t let go anytime soon).  It’s very clear that Allison has this sonic adventure all mapped out, as every note is played with total precision.  I definitely enjoyed the bass/piano intro to “Tired Face“, and the mood that’s established once Allison rolls in on her reeds is laid-back & subtly enchanting.  It was the high-energy on “The Bridge At Night” that made it my favorite on the seven-song excursion; again, the playing is fully on-point and in a high-energy zone you won’t always hear from debut artists.  I give Allison and her fellow players a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99.  If you get a chance to listen to this band, make sure you do it.  You can learn more about this high-talent artist at Allison’s website.        Rotcod Zzaj

Allison Au Quartet: The Sky Was Pale Blue, Then Grey

Andrzej Rejman – E.A.R. (Electroacoustic Roar):  I’d already run a couple of brief posts about this group as a result of hooking up with Andrzej (from Poland).  He later gave me the link to this project, and my “ears” are simply amazed as I listen to the sixteen wonderful songs featuring his keyboards and vocals from a true artiste, Ewa!  The beauty they convey through the music they play will hold you completely spellbound and overwhelm you with emotion; that’s especially true on songs like “Peace“… this is an “instant favorite” here at my studios!  One of the most notable things about their music is the natural “pacing”… they aren’t rushed in any way, yet convey a sense of pure joy… you’ll hear that on “In The End/Pop Pastiche“… true players, through & through, & certainly worthy of your attentive listening for the entire sixteen-song set.  My personal favorite on this outing is “Fire And Sun“… you owe it to your ears (& your heart) to listen to this entire album.  I give Andrzej, Ewa and bassist Raf a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99.  Get more information about this highly talented player and his fantastic body of work at Andrzej’s CD BABY store!       Rotcod Zzaj


Dead Cockroach – DEMOCRACY IS OVER:  There are (essentially) two reasons why a new release can “jump” up in my QUEUE; the band/artist(s) energy is kosmick!  Or, they’re totally D.I.Y., & truly into what they’re doing!  We don’t often review straight-ahead rock here, quite simply because we don’t get a lot of submissions for it.  This came direct from the artist (not sure where they got referred to us from, though they are on REVERBNATION, so perhaps that’s where this came from).  Tunes like “Happy Pills” definitely WILL rock your world… this takes me back to the early days/bands in the rock genre I was weaned on… totally diggin’ it!  I also dug “Walking Dreams“, mainly because of the high-flight guitars & rampant energy the group is able to project.  Of the seven tunes offered up, though, it was one of the shorter tracks, “Western Gods” that captured my vote for personal favorite.  Flawless execution and dynamic presence make this band well worthy of the MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED I’m giving them.  “EQ” (energy quotient) rating is 4.98.  Get more information at the aforementioned RN site. (& when you message them, make sure you tell them you read about them here)!         Rotcod Zzaj

Dead Cockroach: Democracy Is Over

Thomas Marriott – URBAN FOLKLORE:  If they’d had music like this in the ‘burbs I grew up in, I wouldn’t have had to search far & wide for “cool”…. Thomas’s penetrating trumpet work on tunes like the fantastic opener, “Apophis“, are definitely the stuff of jazz legend… his choice of Orrin Evans on piano, Eric Revis on bass & Donald Edwards on drums shows total talent (just in the picking of the players).  If it’s magic or a spell that needs to be cast, you’re certain to dig deep down into the almost mystic “Mo-Joe“… these guys can rock it out, to be sure!    The bass intro on “Living On The Minimum” is among the best bass work I’ve heard (yet) in 2015, & the tune cooks right along through all 6:01; simply splendid jazz for the dedicated fan or the jazz novice.  My personal favorite of the nine tunes offered up, though, was the well-cadenced closer, “Washington Generals“… displays total cool and a total understanding of what jazz is meant to be.  I give Thomas & his crew a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99.  Get more information on Thomas and his fantastic music at Thomas’s website.       Rotcod Zzaj

David Arkenstone & Charlee Brooks – INAMORATA:  David’s wonderful keyboard/orchestral works are a perfect fit with Charlee’s great (and very inspiring) vocals.  While you can’t (exactly) define this as “jazz”, you can’t tag it as “new age”, either… it’s somewhere in between, with very high energy and performance values that totally exceed the norm!  Pieces like “Did I Make The Most Of Loving You” will thrill you to the core, and you’ll find yourself listening to (or humming) this over & over again… simple, yet full of beauty.  The string intro on “Beautiful Storm” will overwhelm your senses and put you in a zone you’re not often fortunate enough to visit.  I know (from previous reviews) that David often does live performances – so, if you get a chance to go to one of his shows – don’t pass the opportunity up.  It was the high-energy vocal (as well as the orchestral majesty) on “Great Love” that made it my favorite (even though it was one of the shorter pieces on the release.  I give David, Charlee & crew a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Get more information at Charlee’s website.       Rotcod Zzaj

Dan Siegel – INDIGO:  Dan’s jazz piano work on this October 2014 release is, quite simply, astounding!  I’ve reviewed him before, of course, though I couldn’t locate the earlier reviews… this is his 20th release.  Every note he hits invokes strong emotions, especially on tunes like the opener, “To Be Continued“… total jazz spectrum, rich and full-bodied on each of the ten tunes offered up for your aural delight.  The laid-back approach on “Beyond” will capture and hold your attention, and you’ll find yourself hearing this in your head for days (if not months) to come.  The well-established groovin’ on “Spur Of The Moment” made it my favorite on the release… if you can’t get your “funk” on with this tune, you might as well sign into an old folks home somewhere & watch reruns all day long.  The novel approach to jazz on the 4:14 title track, “Indigo“, made it a close runner-up for favorite, too.  I’ve no doubt that you’ll want this one as soon as you listen to the samples… I give it a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Get more information at Dan’s website.      Rotcod Zzaj

Dan Siegel: Indigo

Joe Sample NDR Bigband – CHILDREN OF THE SUN:  It’s been a good long while since I listened to all-original music by Joe, but these lively songs will bring many memories of his great talent back for you!  You’ll hear that high-spirit very clearly on “Buttermilk Sky“, one of my favorite tracks (of the eleven) on the CD.  Down-low & funky beat stuff on “Rumfire” may be your swing point… I certainly enjoyed this one; the horns just KICK on this tune, by the way.  You’ll even get some retrospect on Joe’s work with The Crusaders on pieces like the wonderful “Gold In The Cane“, especially after the bluesy intro… truly fine jazz work from one of the masters.  My personal favorite, though, was the great “Blue Abyss“, where Joe does his best work at integrating the blues with the jazz he’s so famous for.  I give Joe & his crew (he’s also got drummer Steve Gadd and trombonist Nils Landgren on this session) a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, as well as an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99.  Get more information at Joe’s website.        Rotcod Zzaj

Charles Ruggiero – BOOM BANG, BOOM BANG:  If th’ cockles o’ yer’ jazz heart don’t reflect the title after you listen to Charles’s high-energy jazz drum works on this superb little release, you don’t really know as much about jazz as you think you do!  This is his debut, though you’d not know that from listening; it sounds like he’s been “on” the scene for years & years!  Tunes like the energetic opener, “Little Green Men“, are what makes Charles’s music so attractive… super players, all right-on-time & totally together!  The funky feeling they generate on “The One Step” is so cool you won’t be able to get this one from poppin’ back up on your playlist every day.  The only drawback to the release is that there were only six songs on it… would recommend (at least) nine on the next go-round.  That’s not enough of a criticism to stop you from getting this one, though, as evidenced by my favorite on the CD, “Elmhurst“… the keyboard/flute combo on the intro is among the best such I’ve heard (yet) in 2015.  I give Charles & crew a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4,98.  Get more information about Charles at the Rondette Jazz label bio for him.      Rotcod Zzaj

Noel Akchote Henri Roger – SIDERRANCES:  Henri’s engaging piano pieces are very nicely complimented by nicely textured contrasts from guitarist Noel Akchoté on this tasty release!  The fourth tune alone, “A louer“, makes the album worth purchasing… though it is improvised, there are moments when you’ll think you’re at some kind of a concert!  If you’re looking for one of those pieces that will hold you spellbound for more than the normal “3 minutes”, you’ll love “Libellules“… I am definitely hearing strains of players like Davey Williams (one of the best improv guitarists in the world) on this piece…. rather long, at 13:06, so be sure you’re in the “zone” before you sit down to listen to this (with your headphones on, of course).  The “supreme” opus, though, & my favorite of all the songs, is the one on CD 2, titled “Pierre immobile“… if you’ve never listened to improvised music before, this is MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED… “EQ” (energy quotient) rating is (a perfect) 5.00 – meaning that Noel and Henri also get the “PICK” of this issue for “best improvised jazz”.  Get more information about these folks at Henri’s page for this release.       Rotcod Zzaj

Albare – TWO DECADES OF JAZZ:  When it comes to jazz guitar, listening doesn’t get any better than this… a double-album release with most of the tunes picked by the great guitarist himself.  Stunning and refreshing pieces like “Brazil Blues” make you realize this is music you can’t do without in your daily jazz routine.  Albare & his compatriots dig down deep into the heart of the jazz and make you feel every note on tunes like the lively and upbeat “Journey” – some of the most refreshing jazz I’ve listened to (yet) in 2015!  Some very “out of the ordinary” moments occur, too, as on “Acid Love“… super energy happening on this great tune.   It was the 10:01 “Long Way” that captured my vote for personal favorite of the twenty sonic offerings… and if you can’t find something to love here, you’re not the jazz fan you pretend to be.  I give Albare & all his players on this great release a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  You can get more information about this stunning player at the Albare site.        Rotcod Zzaj

Eric Hofbauer – AMERICAN GRACE:  My first review of Eric’s stunning guitar (for this series of 3 releases) was in issue # 67… & as with the  earlier CD, this one contains hundreds (if not thousands) of intricate and intimate little nuances that your ears will treasure for many years to come – as you listen to his rendition of the classic “Dear Prudence“… the clear and definitive expression of “perfect guitar”, I’ll tell you!  If you’re in the mood for something bluesy, you’ll love listening to “West End Blues“… and, at least for the first rounds, I’d recommend you do it with your headphones on!  If you’ve got a student of jazz guitar who needs something to inspire them, you’ll want to steer them to my personal favorite piece (of the nineteen) on this album, the beautifully sensitive “True Colors”… your aural appendages will thank you (for years to come).  I give Eric a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99 for this great jazz guitar CD.  Get more information at Eric’s page for this release.  & be sure to tell him you read about him here.       Rotcod Zzaj

Eric Hofbauer: American Grace

Chelsey Green – THE GREEN ROOM:  All who frequent these pages know that I often encounter a CD that got buried in the stacks for far too long – but then when I open it up & sit down to write the review (on the fly, no preconceived ideas), I find that I’ve been overlooking a gem!  That’s clearly the case with Chelsey’s excellent violin/viola playing on the opener, “Dr. Funk“… she (and the great players behind her) just KICK IT on this fine piece of jazz.  Yes, the violin will make you think of other players – but she clearly has her own talent and style – I just love this one!   Chelsey’s vocal on the classic “Autumn Leaves” will make you fall in love with her husky tones and vibrations… she makes it very clear that she understands how fully jazz can affect the soul – totally impressive.  Of the ten tunes offered up, though, it was the jubilance on “Party Song” that made it my personal favorite… this is exactly how jazz should be performed.  I give Chelsey and her high-energy players a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of (a perfect) 5.00 – meaning that she also gets the “PICK” of this issue for “best violin-led jazz”!  Get more information at Chelsey’s website.          Rotcod Zzaj

Chelsey Green and The Green Project: The Green Room

Dylan Ryan/Sand – CIRCA:  The press sheet that accompanied this said it is “guitar drenched”, & I don’t think describe the trio better… Dylan does drums & percussion, with guitarists Timothy Young & Devin Hoff smokin’ their strings for the mutual rockin’ benefit of all ears in attendance!  Tunes like the stellar power opener “Trees, Voices, Saturn” will scorch your ears and have you thinking back on the great groups of the ’60’s – just excellent energy.  The thick guitar leads on “Mortgage on my Soul” had me reeling, & you’ll be as affected as I was, I’m sure.  The rushes you’ll experience with the ten tunes on this emotionally charged album will make you forego all others for at least a few days, as evidenced by pieces like my personal favorite, “Pink Noir“… smooth, silky, yet raw with energy that’s near a nuclear scale… this one also comes closest to being in that jazz vein that we all so love here at this ‘zine.  If you want to be impressed, you’ll get this great CD.  I give Dylan & cohorts a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99.  Get more information about Dylan and his fine music on the Cuneiform label page for Ryan & his releases.       Rotcod Zzaj

Gabriel Espinosa-Hendrik Meurkens – SAMBA LITTLE SAMBA:  Hendrik’s great jazz harp/vibe work is no stranger to our pages, though this is the first time I’ve heard Gabriel’s bass & vocal.  Tunes like “A Night In Jakarta” will propel your dreams away into some of the most pleasant Latin-based jazz you’ve heard this year!  The laid-back atmosphere created by “A Song For Ray” will remind you why you fell in love with jazz in the first place (I know it did that for me).  Hendrik’s harp on “Encuentro Maya” will make true jazz lovers set this on “replay” again & again… a totally lovely piece of jazz that’s a winner in every way!  Maybe it was just what I was looking for, but it was the title track, “Samba Little Samba” that brought back memories of Stan Getz & Astrud Gilberto & made it my personal favorite of the ten superb tunes offered up for your listening pleasure.  I give these gents a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, of course; the “EQ” (energy quotient) rating is 4.98.  Get more information about this November 2014 release at the Zoho label page for this release.          Rotcod Zzaj

Gabriel Espinosa & Hendrik Meurkens: Samba Little Samba

Hal Galper Trio – O’S TIME:  Hal’s piano is just fantastic on this great jazz trio CD, also featuring Jeff Johnson on bass and John Bishop’s drum work.  Crisp recording makes it a true pleasure to listen to, but it’s the shining talent of all three players that makes their music work so well.  The energy is palpable on pieces like the grand opener, “Like Sonny“… just loved this one… the bass solo is quite simply astounding!  The group literally shines on tunes like the high-energy title track, “O’s Time“… what’s most noticeable in their playing is the sense that they’re “joined at the hip”… not one single note escapes their attention, but they be-bop right on along the whole way through this 8:23 masterpiece.  It was the 9:04 Shorter tune, “Wildflower” that got my vote for favorite of the half-dozen (all long) pieces offered up for your aural pleasure, though… just the kind of intricate jazz involvements my ears grew up with back (ah, WAY back) in the day.  I give Hal & his partners a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for this one, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Get more information at the Origin Records label page for this fine release!       Rotcod Zzaj

Garrison Fewell & Boris Savoldelli – ELECTRIC BAT CONSPIRACY:  This release is probably the first time I’ve heard Boris in such a “gentle” mode… his vocal work is always “sensitive”, but often far more high-energy than on this intriguing outing with Garrison’s guitar work.  The astonishing vocal on “No Evil in Prison” just blew me away; it’s only 3:04, but shows the sheer genius of these two gents artistry!  The nearly invasive tones on “Softly As In A Morning Sunrise” will make it clear that love songs come in all different colors, to be sure – the weaving of the guitar, bells and the vocals make this a true gem.  I found the “rattle” intro to the title track, “Electric Bat Conspiracy” very intriguing (if you didn’t have “bats in your belfry” before listening – you will after this one – lol).  It was actually the opener, “Perfect Day” that got my vote for favorite of the ten creative compositions… Garrison’s guitar is at it’s finest, and the pacing is perfect.  I give this fantastic guitar & vocal duo a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED; “EQ” (energy quotient) rating is a near perfect 4.99.  You can get more information on this and many other releases at Boris’s website.        Rotcod Zzaj    

Garrison Fewell: Electric Bat Conspiracy

Michele McLaughlin – UNDERCURRENT:  It is on early chill-edged mornings that I’m inclined to listen to beautiful solo piano works, and Michele’s new release fits that mood perfectly!  Her style on pieces like the opener, “11000 Miles“, makes the listening even more memorable!  The gently persuasive melancholy provoked by compositions like “The Space Between” is sure to bring nostalgic memories of siblings and other family members.  The brightness conveyed through “Starstuff” (inspired from a quote by Carl Sagan) will help you to realize just how connected you are to everything around you.  The high-spirit joy on “Melody In Motion” made it my personal favorite of the thirteen tunes… if you can’t feel the possibilities that are open to all of us as you listen to this wonderful piece – well, we won’t go there!  I give Michele a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, especially for listeners who know that solo piano can be a true inspiration when in the hands of a master like Ms. McLaughlin.  “EQ” (energy quotient) rating is 4.98.  Get more information about Michele and her work at Michele’s page for this release.       Rotcod Zzaj

Michele McLaughlin: Undercurrent

Greg Abate Quartet – MOTIF:  This high-energy jazz release features Greg’s wonderful alto, soprano, & baritone sax, as well as flute… joining him are John Lockwood on bass, Mark Walker on drums and Tim Ray on piano.  He’s been recording & releasing great jazz albums since the early ’90’s, & I can say (for sure) that this is one of his best yet!  Tunes like “Buddy’s Rendezvous” will inspire all jazz lovers to turn the volume up… in point of fact, I’d recommend this CD be listened to with headphones, at least for the first listen, so the band’s strong aura can be totally absorbed.  I just loved the interplay on the 7:11 “Snowfall“; highly charged, with strong emotional pulls.  It was the deeply moving “Conflict” that made the mark as my personal favorite of the eleven cuts offered up… the piano runs from Tim on this track are right “on time”, & Greg’s reeds just wail!  I give Greg & crew a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for jazz listeners of all persuasions, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of (a perfect) 5.00… meaning that this one also gets the “PICK” of this issue for “best quartet jazz”!   Get more information about Greg & his music at the Whaling City Sound label site for Greg.       Rotcod Zzaj

Frank Kimbrough – QUARTET:  This highly-charged release features Frank’s excellent keyboards, and includes hand-picked players Steve Wilson, Lewis Nash and Jay Anderson… what’s so nice about their music is that they are forging their own path across the jazz landscape… there’s nothing here that’s “standard”, as evidenced by the engaging opener, “The Call“… this requires your rapt attention from the opening note to the closing bar.  The mood they establish on “November” is melancholy, to be sure, yet fully charged with life & the living of it.  It was the use of unique rhythms on “Blue Smoke” that captured my vote for personal favorite of the ten wonderful pieces offered up for your sonic enjoyment… they keep you guessing where the changes are going at each bar, and will keep your mind engaged for every delicious note of this song.  I give Frank & his crew a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99 for this fine release.  Get more information about Frank & his music at Frank’s website.       Rotcod Zzaj

Gary Gray – SHADES OF GRAY:  As you listen to Gary’s rousing clarinet, you’ll probably wonder if this is jazz, or “something else”… it’s a bit of both, with jazz being the primary experience in your listen.  He’s got easily recognizable players on here, too, like Bill Cunliffe and Kenny Burrell, and tunes like the 5:33 “Blue Muse” will convince you that this is definitely in the jazz realm… absolutely lovely guitar on this one!  If you’re looking for something with “definite pep”, you’ll dig down deep on “Cunliffe 1” & maybe even whip out your dancin’ shoes… joy is easy to recognize on this one.  My personal favorite track is Gary’s version of “Lush Life“… this just exudes the jazz spirit… very pretty indeed!  Gary’s reeds are totally fluid and full of vibrancy… this seventeen song jazz/classical extravaganza gets a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from my ears, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Get more information at the Centaur Records label page for this fine release.      Rotcod Zzaj

Gary Gray: Shades of Gray

Bija – BIJA:  The promo sheet indicates that the title means “seed” – and this Italian trio certainly plants some ideas with their excellent playing… drums & percussion from Francesco Pellizzari, guitar & loops from Gabriele Di Franco and trumpet/flugelhorn from Marco Puzzello (as well as guests Emanuele Coluccia on sax and Stefano Luigi Mangia on vocals) is some of the best jazz I’ve heard coming from this label (MORE, George)!  Tunes like “Ampolla” will hold you spellbound, waiting for each ensuing note – truly tasty!  The gentle opener, “Cipolla“, also had me hanging on each phrase… I listened to this one over & over again, & have no doubt you will too!  It was the 7:31 “Apnea” that I chose as my personal favorite of the nine well-composed jazz pieces, though… all the instruments work flawlessly together for your enjoyment… I give these folks a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Get more information at the Slam Productions page for this great release.

Harnam – ALL ROADS:  Though this is clearly a “new age” label, Harnam’s vocals also have elements of folk in them, particularly in the guitar parts.  You could almost picture yourself at a concert by Dylan or (even) Peter, Paul & Mary as you listen through the six tunes offered up here.  It’s not that strange a parallel, actually, since both types of music were “growing up” around the same time I was.  I especially enjoyed pieces like “I’ll Be Fine“… at the same time you have a clear chant-time going on, the lyrics remind you mightily of some of the better singers in that folk era.  It was the wind instruments on “Wahe Guru Wahe Jio” that made it my personal favorite, though… eight full minutes of joy – and it’s easy to tell that it’s the kind of joy that comes from inside – making for very high energy moments.  A very nice CD for kicking back and relaxing with, I give it a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97.  Get more information at the Spirit Voyage site for this release.

Rik Wright’s Fundamental Forces – RED:  This is some of the best jazz you’ll get in the Great Northwest (my adopted home)!  Rik’s guitar shines (as always) on pieces like the stellar opener, “She’s So Fragmented“… what’s so cool about Rik’s music & composition is that it’s really hard to “distinguish” betwixt his rock & jazz influences… & the result is some of the most fluid work you’ll ever hear in either arena.  The nuances and little “hidden sonics” on “Subtle Energy” will have you listening with rapt attention for the entire 13:15 length… some truly tasty moments on this tune!  Rik’s joined by some of the most notable players on the scene up here, too:  James DeJoie (alto & baritone sax, clarinet, flute); Geoff Harper (bass); Greg Campbell (drums, percussion).  My personal favorite of the five (long) pieces offered up for your enjoyment is “Synesthesia“… in great part because it’s not what you think it is!  If you’re a true creative jazz fan, you’ll agree when I declare this to be MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED… “EQ” (energy quotient) rating is 4.98.  Get more information at Rik’s Bandcamp page for this release.         Rotcod Zzaj

Rik Wright